Friday, June 27, 2008

determining website content

Strange as it may seem, one of the most frustrating aspects of website design is content.

Why? Because many clients are a bit unclear about what a website should contain.

Some clients think the web designer just makes up their website content, like pulling rabbits out of a hat.

Most clients would like a better understanding of how an effective website differs greatly from a brochure, advertisement, or press release. Since websites are still rather new to business, and not nearly as familiar as face to face sales or television commercials, there's an opportunity to explain this topic.

Quite often, businesses don't understand exactly what website content is important, nor how to most effectively present it.

They sometimes don't know what content their customers really need. They know primarily what they want to tell their customers. They don't know why fresh content must be continuously added. They don't know where to get fresh content and may even consider cut and paste from other sites, which is wrong.

For good value to the customer, a website must be complete. It must provide visitors with all the information they need and expect.

A guaranteed way to make a business look unprofessional is to have a partial, half-hearted "web presence".

Now, here are some mission critical web content assets.




Important Website Content:





(1) Company Information with Photos


Everything your customers need to know about your company: contact info, driving directions, map to location of offices, staff bios and photos, mission statement, corporate culture and philosophy statements, press releases, company history, what differentiates your company from competitors, and research reports your company has produced.

What would the CEO say about the company, to explain it to a trade publication, mass media journalist, student, or prospective customer?

What do your sales people say about your company when asked?

What is said about the company in your new employee orientation?




(2) Product Information


Everything your customers need to know about your products: full product line grouped into categories that make sense to customers (not to your internal politics), colors, sizes, optional add-ons, prices, recommended usage, model numbers, specifications, features, benefits.

Photos are mandatory in most cases. If customers need to see the product in action, from different angles, in use by different types of people (men and women, or young and old, for example), accomplishing a task, or in association with other products, then you need to use video.

Other products may need audio podcasts or mp3 players to which customers can listen. Audio content is good for music, audio books, seminars, and other educational or motivational products.

Ask your customers service representatives what they think you need to include in your website.

Ask your sales people and marketing staff what they think is vital to explaining and selling the products.




(3) External Credibility Enhancers


Most websites have very poor credibility. Companies assume that customers will trust them...based on what? CEOs forget that there are lots of scam, spurious, spamming websites. Organizations need to establish trust in their website content, no matter how famous or prestigious they may be.

If your corporate headquarters displays trophies, awards, and other honors, those items are great website content. Put photos of them on your website.

Testimonials from real, satisfied users are excellent material for a website.

List all the civic, charitable, and industry organizations your company belongs to, with links to their websites.




(4) Interactive Functionalities


People don't want to just stare at a website, and possibly buy things from it.

People want to do something, accomplish a task, interact with websites.

By providing interactive functionalities and problem solving tools, your website visitors will feel like you care about them. Customers will consider your website to be forming a relationship, a bond, with them.

Contact forms, online order forms, registrations, reservations, polls, podcasts, videos, and other tools will make your website more memorable and valuable to customers.




(5) News Pages and Blogs


Fresh, relevant, frequently updated content is what search engines look for, and such content boosts your rankings. Yet, sad to say, most websites are static, outdated, and dull.

A website page entitled News looks awfully bad when it's updated only a few times a year, or once a month. Isn't there more going on in your company? Toot your own horn. Let customers know that your company is exciting, progressing, always evolving and improving.

In addition to a News page, you should consider a blog. Your blog can be hosted on an external domain, or it can be a sub-page within your corporate or ecommerce site.

Blogs enable customers to interact with you. Your company will look more accessible and friendly when you have an interesting blog. Respond to comments quickly, politely, and intelligently.

Spark controversy, not by taking a harsh dogmatic stance on an issue, but by stating the prevailing opinions, and then asking readers what they think.



CONCLUSION

If you follow these guidelines, adapting them to your company and customer needs, you'll most likely be far ahead of your competitors.

Keep customer realities in mind, along with specific values that make your products better than those of competitors, and your website will shine in the midst of the darkness of typical, partial "web presence" ignorance!

1 comment:

Misty Davidson said...

I agree with you. Content is vital to any website. Content should equal valuable information, not just sales pages and an "about us" web pages.