Two kings and the importance of clarity

Two kings and the importance of clarity

In my adopted country of the Netherlands, everyone is focused on the crowning of the first king in over 100 years.  As a web professional, I am focused on another king: content.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, the soon to be king, was recently interviewed by journalists.  He spoke clearly with a solid understanding of the issues affecting the Dutch people.  When asked what type of king he would be, he stressed the importance of being yourself.

Inspired by this interview, here are some ideas on how to make your content king.

  • Be yourself – Don’t be afraid to stand out in a crowd. Let people know who you are, what makes you special and why doing business with you is a royal delight.
  • Understand issues of importance Know your audience, show that you understand the issues that are important to them.
  • Define key messages — What message must every web visitor need to understand?  What other messages, do you need to communicate?  If your site has more than one audience, define the key messages for each audience.
  • Avoid clichés — Clichés are ideas that are so overused that they lack meaning. Using clichés show a lack of creativity and weakness.
  • Start a conversation – Willem-Alexander wants to encourage conversation. He doesn’t want people to call him majesty because it hinders contact. Make sure your content encourages conversation and contact.

Above all, remember clarity is your number one usability principle.  It always improves your content. If you’re pro-monarchy, long live the king! And if you’re pro-website, long live your content!

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg

You can’t buy web content by the kilo

web content quality over quantity

I love the excitement of Amsterdam’s open air markets. Fruits – vegetables – chicken – fish.  Like so many commodities, you can buy anything by the kilo ……… anything but web content.

Therein lies the challenge for large corporations – everywhere. Too many companies still treat web content as a commodity you can buy in bulk. To them, web content is an afterthought. It’s something you do at the end of a long web development process.

Too often, I hear “we are going live in four weeks, we need 100 pages written, how much?” This commodity thinking may help you meet a deadline but it won’t result in good content. Good content is not about producing web pages in quantity. It’s about creating and fine tuning content that engages your audience.  And that takes time.

So the next time you re-launch your corporate site, surprise your copywriters. Call them in at the beginning of the process. If you don’t already have a content strategy, let your writers create one. Make sure it’s clear what you are trying to achieve and who you are trying to reach. Then create a plan and an internal process to make it all happen.

Takeway – Good web content can be a strategic asset, which engages your audience and builds your brand.  However, if you treat web content like a commodity … you will get what you pay for.

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg

Six lessons from barackobama.com

lessons from obama site

Barack Obama is the first web savvy president.  As he seeks re-election, he is using his online presence and social media to engage US voters and drive traffic to his site.  Here are six lessons you can learn from his website.

1 – Look and feel – The visual appeal of the home page sets a positive tone.  For me, his home page is a like a firm handshake.  It communicates personality, emotion and a sense of determination.  And it also makes me feel welcome.

2 – Messaging — Clear messaging is the heart of any website.  Obama’s concern for people and their well-being is one of his key messages.  You read it in his program.  And you feel it when everyday Americans tell their personal stories.

3 – Storytelling – Storytelling is a great way to inform and persuade.  My favorite is about Margaret, an elderly African American woman, who tells why voting is so important to her.  There is even a page where people can add their own stories.

4 – Visual hierarchy – A visual hierarchy guides a reader through the page and makes sure the most important things get seen first.  Each page is designed so readers can quickly find and comprehend information.  No hesitation – just a smooth ride.

5 – Visuals – Good visuals can tell a story or reinforce a message. Here’s a visual that addresses unemployment.  Looking at the visual, you can quickly grasp the idea that the economy is improving.

6 – Navigation –   A good navigation makes it easy find what you are looking for.  The main navigation has three choices: Get the facts, Get the latest or Get Involved.  Click any of these and again you have three choices. While there is a lot of information, everything is clearly organized.  You never feel lost.

If you are looking to improve your web skills, study this website carefully.  Its storytelling, copywriting, information architecture and interaction design are second to none.  Don’t wait too long, this site will most likely be removed after the election.

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg.

My most feared competitor

web writing tips

There are many talented copywriters out there – some can even write a convincing website.  But, I don’t consider them competition.  My competition is the second hand on the clock.

With web content, it’s always a race against time.  Web readers are often in a rush.  They are overwhelmed with information and have limited attention spans.  You have just a few seconds of someone’s time.  Anything more has to be earned.

To earn extra attention, respect your readers’ time.  Structure the information so it’s easy for them to find what they are looking for.  Use your headlines wisely.  Headlines should be informative, relevant and describe the information that follows.  Based on the headline, people can decide to read on or click away.

Tell a clear story to each target audience in an appealing tone.  Engage them with content that is informative, readable and relevant to their visit.  No fluff, no happy talk, just good usable content.  To save readers’ time, eliminate unnecessary text and images.  Make links clear so people know what to expect before they click.

I am determined to win the web content race against time.  How about you?

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg.

The secret to good web content

The secret to good web content

Like George Bailey learned in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you need to see yourself as others see you.  When planning web content, see yourself from the perspective of your web visitors.

Learn as much as you can about them.  Why are they visiting your site?  What are their needs, interests and concerns? The better you understand them, the more you can plan for a successful web visit.

If you’re a freelancer, your web visitors are potential customers. They want to know you are the best solution for their problem.  Include work samples.  Let them know you are easy to work.  Nobody likes to hire a talented prima donna.

Is your company a tech start-up?  Then your visitors are customers, job seekers and venture capitalists.  Tell customers how your products add value to their lives.  Show job seekers that your company offers a pleasant working environment and career growth.  Assure venture capitalists that your technology has a large growth potential.

Takeaway –  Good content starts with seeing yourself as others see you.  Understand your visitors.  Provide the content they need for a successful web visit.  If you are curious about George Bailey, watch the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It’s guaranteed to make you smile.

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg

Six tips to enhance your site’s readability

enhance website readability

Your website is not about you.  It’s about your visitors and how they experience your site. Online readers usually scan for information to complete a task.  Since they are impatient by nature, you need to write for people in a hurry.  The following tips will add clarity and make your content more readable.

1 –  Make content relevant – Understand why people visit your site.  Make your content relevant to their visit.  If you’re a writer, show writing samples. Your visitors are most likely not interested in your vision or mission.  So don’t waste their time.

2 – Get to the point – If you have irrelevant content, there’s a good chance visitors will miss the good stuff.  Edit your content so the heart of your message is clear.  The length? Long enough to cover the details, short enough to be a pleasant read.

3 – Omit needless words  –  The more words you use, the more difficult it is to follow your point.  Shorter sentences make for easy reading.  Break up longer sentences into two or three sentences.

4 – Headlines are traffic signs – A good headline is like a traffic sign.  It informs people what’s coming next.  Make sure your headline illustrates a benefit and is informative.  Then visitors know what to expect.

5 – The most important sentence first – Visitors often scan the first sentence of each paragraph. If the information is useful, they will complete the paragraph.  Write every first sentence, so visitors know what will follow.

6 – White space makes people notice – The more white space around something, the more people will notice it.  Break up your text into shorter paragraphs and use bullet points where appropriate.  This makes it easier to scan.

If you find these tips helpful, forward this post to a friend or colleague.  Or re-post it on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.  My list is not comprehensive, so feel free to add your favorites in the comments section.

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg.

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