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Content advantage

As commercial interests are increasingly dominating the Internet, content is becoming an obsession, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2005 20:36 IST

Crazy about Content

More than a year ago I had written a column titled "Content is King on a Website". At probably every meeting, discussion and debate I have emphasised and re-emphasised about the importance of content with the best superlatives I have known. Content can make or break a website. The power of the written word has been witnessed many a time. Products have become success stories, resumes transformed into high profile jobs, a 10 cent brochure into millions of dollars just because of the right word. In these evolving years of the web, websites are rather dumb without content. It is content alone that gives the power of speech to websites.

The Content Advantage

A sales letter, that what you probably thought is what content can do. Well content for sure plays a much bigger role.

Forrester did some research on this. It asked a sample of web users what were the features of websites that they go back to regularly that differentiate them from websites with the same purpose that they don't go back to?

The answers were:

Good content (75%)
Usability (66%)
Speed (58%)
Frequency of updating (54%)
(rest: 14% and lower)

Obsession for content

In these times every search engine, portal, website is absolutely crazy about content. Just yesterday Yahoo launched yet another RSS feature. This time RSS for emails! So now we have tools for syndicating web pages, notes and now emails too.

As commercial interests are increasingly dominating the Internet, content is becoming an obsession.

Getting your content strategy right

The old IBM site (they seem to have changed the link) had some interesting tips.

A solid, well-written, grammatically correct Web content is crucial to gaining the user's trust. Following are a few tips to help you write for the Web in a way that gains the trust of your readers and supports their style of Web browsing.

Punch up headlines
Web visitors scan first for headlines, so you should make every heading word meaningful. The Web is not the place for funny, cute, or silly headlines.

Emphasize key concepts
Help your readers scan for key concepts by emphasizing important information.

Harness the power of lists
Lists are great for scanning. They slow the reader down and bring attention to important information. Use bullet points when the sequence of information doesn't matter.

Create meaningful captions
Because Web users focus on text over graphics, make sure to caption all graphics clearly.

Simplify for understanding
Reading from the screen is slower than reading from print, so make your users happy by giving them less to read.

Invert the pyramid
The inverted pyramid style is bottom-up. To write this way, start by stating the conclusion. Then build upon the conclusion by summarizing the most interesting and important supportive information. Next provide detail about each important point. Then close with background information.

Write one idea per paragraph
Make sure each paragraph contains one idea only, and summarise that idea in the first sentence. The Stanford-Poynter study found that people who scan read the first sentence or two of each paragraph and thus may miss any additional points made further into the paragraph.

Make each page stand alone
Don't expect that users will enter your Web site at the home page and work their way through the site in an organized manner.

Be current, accurate, and credible
Capture the trust of your readers by offering information that is up-to-date and accurate.

Mark Twain said "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug". Get your content strategy right and add power to your website.

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist atwww.Cyberzest.comand editswww.MidnightEdition.comyou can email him on puneet@cyberzest.com

First Published: Dec 01, 2005 20:36 IST