Building content is one of the most time-consuming tasks of building a Site. It's also among the most important - if the site doesn't provide useful information, users won't use the site, and they certainly won't return again. Content must also be organized so that users know where they are, where to go next, and how to return to different pages.
Identify Content and Interaction
Using the list of goals and the needs of your audience, start a list of contents and a list of interaction needs for the site.
- Gather Content
- Content should answer all of the major questions that your users will probably have about your organization and/or products. Existing brochures, flyers, promotional items, pictures, handbooks, and databases can make up your content. Subjects can include product information, company information, service information, and security information. We suggest making a content list of all the proposed content, noting whether it already exists or will need to be written.
- Gather Graphics
- If someone else has digital files for your logo, illustrations or photos - contact them and arrange to have them sent to you. Having the digital files can be key. Sometimes this can take time and effort so it's best to get it out of the way.
- Identify Interaction
- Decide how your visitors will need to interact with the site and what will be required. This can include Databases, photos, calculators, bulletin boards, online shopping systems, security, maps, and forms.
Outline your Site
During this stage you will provide the structure of your Site. Remember to filter all of your ideas through your audience throughout this phase.
- Group Content into Segments
- From the contents that you gathered from your content list, start identifying all the "segments" of information included in your content.
- Outline Major sections
- It's very hard to develop a Site that is easy to navigate without making a clear outline! As examples, please look over our sample Site Outline (Text) and the sample graphical approach on Site Structure.
- Make text easy to scan
- After organizing your "Segments" into an outline, you can start shaping the content text itself into manageable, scannable sub-chunks. (When something is scannable, it means you can easily scan it for key points.) Scannability allows users to quickly glance across a page of content and glean important information.
To ensure scannability use Headings and Subheadings (that is, topic titles.) For example, imagine if the text of this page did not have any headings, subheadings, or highlighted lists: It would be hard find the information you wanted. The hierarchy of our headings pinpoints specific information: "Content and Structure" is a main heading, "Identifying Content and Tools" is a subheading, and "Gather content" is a subheading of that.
- Use only one idea per paragraph, and try to keep paragraphs short
- Otherwise important information may get overlooked: Try sticking to around three to four sentences per paragraph.
- Use tables instead of text whenever possible
- If you have a list of items and something to say about each of them, try putting the information into a simple table. (See How and Who to Ask for an example).
- Use Lists for similar concepts
- Try using bulleted lists, but only for concepts that can be grouped together logically and that would be listed in a regular paragraph anyway. Use numbered lists to rank ideas by importance or in steps, or to break information up into chunks.
Writing for the Web
Web users tend to have much shorter attention spans than other media, and they have less tolerance for content that doesn't come to the point quickly and honestly. To ensure that your audience gets the information that they need and that you want to share - follow these guidelines:
- Use fewer words
- Wordy content takes away from the meaning of your message. Use a few words to get to the point more quickly. If you are putting printed materials onto the Web, try reducing the number of words by 50%.
- Use everyday language
- Short sentences, everyday words and plain language is easiest to read and understand.
- Be honest and avoid hype
- Although it is helpful to emphasize benefits within your information, web site visitors get particularly impatient with attempts to fluff up information. Tell it like it is.
After laying out your Content and Structure, you should talk to RidgeStar about your Site.