Vesta Digital Blog

Creating Relevant Web Content

Posted on: May 4, 2010

Web ContentOnce you’ve determined your website strategy and created a clear site map, you will need to collect and organize content for the website. Developing content (text, photographs, links, etc.) for your website requires some careful thinking and planning to ensure that you meet the needs and interests of your primary audiences.

1. Develop Content Goals

The first step is to develop your content goals – what you want the content of your website to communicate to your audience. Keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Reflect best practices in web writing.
  • Be informative and engaging.
  • Accurately portray your mission in action.

2. Adhere to Best Practices for Website Content

Content for your website may come from a variety of sources – print collateral, an existing website, other media. Or, the content could be brand new, generated from web team meetings to develop your website strategy.

Appearance

  • Chunk content in paragraphs of 100 words or less.
  • Introduce key points with descriptive headers and subheads.
  • Include bulleted lists to help readers slow down and make text easier to read.
  • Use embedded links in body text sparingly. Links interrupt flow, and often distract from the main point.
  • Use “printer-friendly” page options when your pages exceed five paragraphs or more than 500 words.

Tone

  • Write in “news style” – put the facts up front. State the main point right away – additional details can follow.
  • Write for your audience – content written for fifth-grade students should be significantly different from content written for donors. Remember to consider the reading level and literacy of your audiences.
  • Reserve “feature-style” writing (narrative, descriptive writing) for testimonials and stories of your mission in action.
  • Be sparing with adjectives. Too much advertising and promotion can affect credibility.

Length
Pages one or two clicks away from the home page of a comprehensive website should be concise. Pages four or five clicks away can be lengthier. Readers who decide to dig that deep into your website are usually committed to a particular topic. Include “Back to Top” links on pages with longer text – especially if the user will need to scroll more than one screen length to read the full text.

3. Engage and Organize Help

Developing content for a website is rarely a one-person job. Create a “content task list” to help keep your content providers to task. Crucial categories for the content task-list include:

  • Where does the content fit on your website? (Use your site map as a guide.)
  • Who is responsible for developing the content?

4. Provide Multiple Ways for Users to Locate Content

More choices exist today to help visitors navigate your website. A search box appearing on your home page is still a must, but A–Z indexes for larger sites or “Quick Links” are a big help to visitors looking for a very specific item.
Less popular are graphical representations of your site map. If your navigation is intuitive enough, a site map on your website is redundant. This is also more difficult to maintain than a site index.

5. Test Your Site

Scan your website after populating to test the readability and user-friendliness. Organize a focus group to get a better feedback. Give participants the pages to browse and a time limit, since a member or other committed individual may spend longer than a random visitor. When they are finished browsing, ask them what they recall. What were the key points? How much do they remember? What were their first impressions? What did they “feel” about your organization?

If you’ve met your goals, your testers will not only remember key points in the text, but they will be more informed about your organization, will have gotten an immediate impression of your organization’s identity, and will be able to describe examples of your mission in action.

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