Build a Website: Identifying Content
Although creating a website can be easy, there's more to it than first meets the eye. Your first task, before investing any time or money, should be to determine the primary reason you want to be on the Internet and to identify the audience you want to reach. The content, as well as the scope and quality of design should be driven by the answers to these questions. Do your homework!
Your purpose may be as general as to let the world know you exist by posting the online equivalent of a brochure, display ad or newsletter. Or it may be as specific as increasing sales by offering your products online. Obviously, the latter increases the scope of work as your site must be e-commerce enabled. Be sure that your development objectives are consistent with the resources you have available to create and maintain a site. If not, reassess your short-term and long-term goals,adjusting them accordingly.
The next step is to create a profile of your target audience, so you can design a site that's responsive to their needs and interests. Select content by thinking from the perspective of your visitors. How can you add value to their online experience? How can you make your website different than an electronic version of a printed page? In other words, how do you add useful interactivity and a user-directed experience?Adding Visitor Value
Let's say you're the owner of a bookstore. The Web offers a natural extension of your business, not only to generate sales but to provide service to loyal customers. These are people who may frequent author events you host and who query your staff for recommendations. You know that many of them have are computer savvy. Based on the knowledge of your customers, what should you include on your website?
The Web is a dynamic medium that offers creative ways to enhance your business or organization, especially by adding interactivity to your content mix. Consider creating online groups where customers can post exchanges with one another and chat rooms where they discuss new publications, sort of a virtual book club.
The site of ad agency TBWA is an excellent example. It not only showcases the firm's portfolio, it conducts online focus groups and opinion surveys. Adding information-based value is really the key. The more you enhance your customer's experience, the more successful your cyberventure will be.Content is King
Once you've determined what you and your audience want, it's time to prepare the content. This involves more than converting existing documents into HTML. Here are some general guidelines that we'll discuss in more detail in later articles:
- The home page should draw your audience in, not overwhelm them with information. Keep the layout simple and the text brief. Add graphics to communicate your brand.
- Reproducing existing brochures or other documents on the Web doesn't work well. People have short attention spans and don't particularly like to read copious mounts of text on a computer screen. Use only the most compelling information. Add headings and bold text, where appropriate, to make reading easier. Limit the length of a web page to just a few screens.
- If you must include lengthy articles, break them up into sections with headings. Create an index or table of contents at the top of the page, with links to each section. If you want to provide access to a lot of documents, add a search feature or provide them as PDF files that can be downloaded for printing and reading offline.
- Use graphics to enhance the site, but minimize graphics file sizes whenever possible. Include only those images that add value.
- A layout that looks good when viewed in your favorite web browser may look different to people accessing the site with a different browser or on a mobile device like a smartphone. Check your web pages by viewing them in a number of browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.
- Consider adding links to related content on other websites or blogs to augment information.
- If you have the time to respond, encourage feedback via e-mail. You will get invaluable information from your audience.
- Measure traffic to your site. Determine the most popular pages and track viewers' paths through your web pages, so you can adjust your content accordingly.
Last update: Jan 13, 2010