A great website design will only ever be as successful as the content it’s displaying. Very often people value the appearance of their website, along with other marketing materials, more than what it’s actually saying to customers. Planning website content is a crucial aspect of any website design project.
Making a website look fantastic is still important, without it customers more than likely won’t bother spending time on it in the first place. But once you have their attention you need to keep it. This is where well thought out, and well placed content is key.
When you first start planning website content it’s important to start with the foundations of your website. The page hierarchy. Spend time thinking about what pages your website requires and what your customers will expect to see. Bear in mind that you’re not planning the content of your website around what you want to tell customers, but what they want to find out.
It’s often a good idea to plan this section of your website by using a flow chart so you can get a good idea of how customers will interact with your website, and how you want to direct them from page to page.
By having a visual representation what’s important to your website won’t get lost in translation during the design stage.
More often than not you will find that your homepage will be at the top, and the most important page within your website. This is perfectly understandable as it’s going to be the first page nearly all visitors will land on first.
By planning website content before starting on the design it allows you to plan how your navigation and menus will work within the website itself. Your websites navigation is the backbone of how customers will use your website and it needs to be clear and intuitive.
The order in which you place links in your navigation will be dictated by the flow chart you created when planning the pages for your website. The most important pages on your website need to have the most prominent positions on your navigation.
A common occurance on websites is to have a very busy navigation bar with lots primary and sub-navigation links within it. Sometimes this is necessary if you offer lots of different products and services, but most of the time it can be condensed into something far easier to use.
If you find that your navigation is getting cluttered, think about splitting it into two separate menus. Have a primary menu outlining your products or services, as these are the most important pages on your website. And then create a secondary menu for less important pages which don’t ‘sell’ such as ‘About us’, ‘Meet the team’ and ‘Contact’.
Although you may think that a ‘Contact’ page is one of the most important pages on your website it’s not as important as providing information to customers so it cannot take priority over it. On top of this, regular call to actions around the website will almost negate the need for a contact button in the navigation anyway.
Your homepage is the most valuable real estate on your website and planning content requires a great deal of attention. When planning website content for your homepage it’s important not to instantly overwhelm your customers. Keep information short and succinct so customers can easily read and understand what’s in front of them.
Separate content into blocks and lay them out in an order that is simple to follow. By doing this you will allow users to naturally scan the page quickly to find relevant information.
Use of imagery is also key to keep users interested and instantly find what they’re looking for without even having to read. Powerful imagery combined with effective headings is a great way to get users to interact further with your website.
It’s important to remember that people visit a website looking for information relevant to your products and services. Don’t be tempted to put large amounts of text introducing users to your website, or to your company as a whole. They’re on your website for a reason, to learn more about what you do, they don’t instantly need a history lesson.
If you feel an introduction to your company is going to benefit your customers then by all means include one, just don’t prioritise it over more important content.
As can be seen from the two examples above, one has a clear structure in place giving customers information they require in an intuitive way. The other has information scattered all across the page making it hard for users to easily find the information they require.
Outside of your homepage these are the next most crucial parts of your website. Plan your content accordingly. As with the homepage try not to overwhelm users with a needlessly complex analysis of what you do. Keep the information as stripped back as possible, whilst still getting the message across.
If you only provide one key service then think of a way to split that service into sub-sections that you can individually block out. Several smaller sections of content are easier for users to understand than reading a block of text several paragraphs in length. A great way of making your service pages easy to understand is to use appropriate images or icons for each section. Even without reading users will easily be able to glance and find the section of content that interests them.
Once you have the attention of a customer on a service page, it’s always a good idea to add in a call to action. Prompt users to find out more and to get in touch and make it as easy as possible. The easier you make it for someone to get in touch the more likely they are to do so. More enquiries means more potential business, and that’s exactly the point of your website.
Whilst primarily your content is written for your customers, you will also need to bear in mind search engines. Make sure your content is written so that it reads naturally and easily for customers, but also contains your keywords and terminology to help you rank well.
It’s nice to give people a more comprehensive view and understanding of your company. It allows them to connect with you on a more personal level. However, don’t think that this is imperative and should take centre stage over other far more important pages of your website.
There are some occasions when having a more prominent ‘about’ section may be important however. If you’re involved in the healthcare industry many people will want to know more about you as an organisation.
They will likely want to know more about your history, your premises and more importantly your staff. Often people will be more comfortable if they can see the faces and find out a bit more about those that will be responsible for treating or caring for them. And they may even value this more than information about what services you provide, as in this instance it’s fairly set in stone.
This is a bit of an exception to the rule though. Try not to overthink your about page and give people a quick overview of your company history, those involved and what you aim to achieve. Don’t make this a huge part of your website and make sure it doesn’t attract people from the more relevant information of what you do or sell. A small note in the footer of your site is often enough. But if it’s not, a link in a secondary navigation menu is ideal.
One aspect of a website that comes up in conversation a lot is whether or not a news feed or blog is required. This is a tricky one to answer. In a perfect world these are an absolute must. They keep your customers up to date on the latest goings on with your business, and provide search engines and your users with fresh new content to keep them interested.
However, a stagnant news feed or blog can damage your website. Having a feed with articles that are from months ago give a bad impression of your business. It says to customers that you’re not constantly developing fresh and exciting ideas or products to help improve your service to them.
It can also make it appear that you’re not even an active business anymore and that the website is simply a remnant that has yet to be taken offline. This can cause customers to disregard a website instantly.
So, whilst it’s great in theory to have this section, when planning website content make sure that if you are going to include a news or blog that you will put in the time to keep it regularly updated.
Your contact page is probably not going to be the most visually appealing page on your website. Nor is it going to be a page that is going to be great for search engine rankings. It is however incredibly important.
Whilst visual appeal isn’t as important with a contact page, ease of use and easy to find details are paramount. When planning website content for you contact page think about your customers. Don’t make it overly complex with huge forms to fill in. This simply puts barriers in the way and less people will follow through with their desire to get in touch.
One other key point is only put contact information on that is relevant. You may have a Skype account, but if it’s not something you have on at all times, do not put it on your website as a method of contacting you. It’s better to stick with the basics: phone number, email address, contact form and a map showing your location. Anything else is probably surplus to requirements.
Hopefully this article has given you a bit of guidance and inspiration as to how you can start planning website content for your business. Try not to overthink things and always keep your customers in mind.
If you feel that you would like a bit of assistance with planning your website content then we’re more than happy to help out. We fully understand and appreciate that a great planning stage of a project usually leads to a great final product.