If your kick off meetings go anything like a majority of mine do, at some point or another the website owner begins to rattle off what “pages of content” they would like on the site. You may even encourage it by asking them (I know I did.) It seems like a logical step, essentially you need to get an idea of scope and one way to do so is to count up and outline what pages will be on the site.
There is a fundamental problem with this approach. It creates a wide range of issues that make your website less effective and usable.
- Typically you end up with content that has no real purpose
- Even if it has purpose it is not clear what that purpose is, which leads to ineffective development of content and poor or non-existent calls to action.
- The icing on the cake is that by giving the user more content to sort through you are actually making their decisions when navigating the site harder.
Studies have shown that the more options that you give someone the harder and longer it will take to make a choice, in many cases users will decided not to make any selection when there are too many options.
Content is King, in the Right Doses…
It is no secret that the content on your site is the reason that users come in the first place. It is also no secret that more good content has lots of value and by all means you should put it on your site. However all content should have a clear purpose and value. Content that doesn’t address any user goals or objectives is self serving, won’t get viewed and will just add to confusion. Sometimes less is more.
How to Approach it
Any site is going to have both user needs and site objectives. User needs are what the users actually want out of the site, where site objectives are what the site owners want out of the site. In almost all cases site objectives can be boiled down to either saving money or making money. Sometimes in the cases of non-profits it may be spreading awareness or knowledge, but those tend to be rare exceptions.
What you will actually find out is that by addressing user needs you will often also address the site objectives.
Step 1 : Define Your Users
The process for this step could be several blog posts with in itself. I will leave it to be covered another day. In order to build an effective website you need a keen understanding of your users and target market.
Step 2 : Identify the User Needs
Based on what you know about your users and target market it is time to actually outline what people will be using your site for and what they hope to get out of it. In my example I listed four goals that a user would have when visiting the site. Some of them will have very clear resolutions where others will be addressed in ways other than a single page or item of content.
- Find information on prices
- Learn about the background of the company, get a feeling of comfort regarding the company
- Find out where products supplied by the company can be purchased
- Learn about the differences between companies products and the competitors
Step 3 : Identify What Content Would be Required to Meet Those Needs
- Product details and content – addresses needs 1 and 4
- Company history and staff biographies – addresses needs 2 and 3
- Location, map and directions – addresses needs 2 and 3
- Contact information – addresses needs 2 and 3
- Testimonials – addresses needs 2 and 3
In this case you can see that building trust, comfort and report is done in little bits over a lot of different types of content. For example knowing that a company is real, has a location and a phone number can help build trust.
The Next Phase in the Strategy
At this point you will have a clear idea of what types of content you need on the site in order to appease user needs. From this step you can start developing the messaging and calls to action to get users from a point of resolution to a conversion point.
I have included a diagram that outlines the process that you should go through to achieve zen like simplicity to your website content.