Website Content Design Goals and Teamwork

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“Building a web site requires teamwork. Although I’m your facilitator in building your web site, the web site is an extension of your company, it still needs your work to be successful. I may be your biggest fan, but you definitely know your company better than I do.”

This may come as a surprise to some in the audience, but I’ve said that on occasion to clients in the past. When it comes to web sites, it really does require teamwork from all sides to make it successful.

I hear common questions from clients about what is required to make a successful site. Time and time again though, I have to stress that there are certain processes to web development that are done by certain people and these separations are usually, unfortunately, not common knowledge. So allow me to spoil some important secrets and provide a good foundation for those of you who are interested in creating a new company web site or looking to redesign your company’s web site.

“What does research tell us is the #1 ‘make or break’ thing we need for our web site?” Good content. Studies time and time again show that content is more important than navigation, visual design, functionality and interactivity. 1 To put it into perspective, content is what drives people to your site in the first place whether on purpose or by accident. Content is what people will tell other people about your company’s web site. When I advise someone to buy a book off of Amazon.com, I just told someone about the content. When I share a link with someone to read an article at BBC World News, I just advertised about the content. When I search a search engine to find an answer to my question, I’m in desperate need to find content about my question.

Beacon can provide the most exceptional, functional, useful, marketable, and pleasant web site for you, but if people don’t have a reason to use it, they simply won’t be using it. Beacon can advise you to add certain pages in your site like a “Site Map”, “Privacy Policy”, or “About Us” page, but you know your company a lot better than we do. If your company is all about selling different types of brick, only you will know if it’s important to have content on that web site explaining the different types of brick you offer and what your customers expect to see. Would they like to see photos of the different bricks? We don’t know, and we’ll suggest these things to you, but you have a much better perspective on it than we do. Just remember that your customer/audience is your #1 knowledge bank and the answers to their questions are usually necessary content material for your web site.

“What are some things we can do to improve our content?” General tips on improving your content:

  1. You may be better off hiring at least one writer to write your content. There are actually businesses devoted to writing content for the Internet you could look into.
  2. Build credibility within your content by providing articles with references, show author’s/company’s credentials, make sure it’s up-to-date, and provide links to outside resources. 2
  3. Provide the content based on whether it will be read on screen or printed. Generally, if you want people to read it on the monitor, and therefore quickly, keep it concise. 3
  4. Avoid jargon, use familiar words, use abbreviations sparingly, use an active versus a passive voice, and make first sentences descriptive within paragraphs. 4
  5. If all else fails, you may need to reinterpret the feedback you are getting from your customers. “Customers can’t tell you how to fix a problem; they can only tell you that the problem exists.” You may have to rethink what they’re trying to tell you. 5

“We loved reviewing the analysis documents with you; we never thought about this aspect before. Was there anything we could have done to foreshadow this?” There are many ways to help the success of your site and ease the analysis process. Here are some things you should consider before starting work on the site:

  1. Think about your company’s web site as a medium to become an advertisement, a brochure, a customer service representative, a call center, a store, a face and a reference to your company. It can be all the things that make up your company. If you think about the web site as a separate entity from your company, then it will never be successful, it won’t work for your company. Make sure to plan your web site into your company’s business, marketing and long-term strategies before looking to create it. 5
  2. “It’s a good idea to communicate these things to, and develop consensus from, management and those working as representatives during the development process later.” 6

The most important thing to remember is teamwork - when everyone involved does their best, the site will always be successful! What questions did you have regarding things you could do to improve the success of your site?

1 Asher, 1980; Badre, 2002; Baldwin, Peleg-Bruckner and McClintock, 1985; Celsi and Olson, 1988; Levine, 1996; Nielsen and Tahir, 2002; Nielsen, 1997b; Nielsen, 2000; Rajani and Rosenberg, 1999; Sano, 1996; Sinha, et al., 2001; Spyridakis, 2000; Stevens, 1980; 2 Fogg, 2002; Fogg, et al., 2001; Lightner, 2003; Nielsen, 2003. 3 Shaikh and Chaparro, 2004. 4 Cockburn and Jones, 1996; Evans, 1998; Horton, 1990; Mayhew, 1992; Morkes and Nielsen, 1997; Morkes and Nielsen, 1998; Nall, Koyani and Lafond, 2001; Schramm, 1973; Spyridakis, 2000; Tullis, 2001; Zimmerman and Prickett, 2000; Zimmerman, et al., 2002; Furnas, et al., 1987; Kucera and Francis, 1967; Leech, Rayson and Wilson, 2001; Spyridakis, 2000; Whissell, 1998; Ahlstrom and Longo, 2001; Evans, 1998; Morrell, et al., 2002; Nall, Koyani and Lafond, 2001; Nielsen and Tahir, 2002; Tullis, 2001; Flower, Hayes and Swarts, 1983; Horton, 1990; Palermo and Bourne, 1978; Palmquist and Zimmerman, 1999; Redish, Felker and Rose, 1981; Smith and Mosier, 1986; Spinillo and Dyson, 2000/2001; Spyridakis, 2000; Wright, 1977; Zimmerman and Clark, 1987; Bailey, Koyani and Nall, 2000; Lynch and Horton, 2002; Morkes and Nielsen, 1997; Morkes and Nielsen, 1998; Spyridakis, 2000. 5 Lee Gomes, “Good Site, Bad Site: Evolving Web Design“. 2007, The Wall Street Journal. 6 Badre, 2002; Coney and Steehouder, 2000; Detweiler and Omanson, 1996. All references, with exception to Gomes, have been  obtained within the research of Shneiderman, “Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines”. 2007, U.S. Government Official Edition. ISBN: 0-16-076270-7