Homepage web content

Your homepage web content is most likely the most important web content on your site. Naturally it is the part of the site that you should spend the most time on. A good exercise is to determine the calls of action that you most want to direct users to, such as:

  • buy a product
  • contact you with questions/complains
  • sign up to a mailing list
  • follow you on facebook/twitter/pinterest
  • read your content

Once you have written them down, put them in the order of most to least important. Now take the first one. That is what should be the first thing on your homepage. All the others must fit around it, whether in navigation bars, sidebars, headers, footers or in a different part of the main content area.

Too often homepages look like a junkyard, with every possible action to be found there, and complete confusion as to where you intended journey through the site is meant to be.

Look at your homepage and see if you can simplify it. Make the most important thing that visitors can do clear to both them and to you. Other things should be findable and placed where people would expect them to be.

You may end up with something very different and very fresh.

 

Proofing and grammar

A lack of knowledge or skill in proofing will kill the credibility of your website faster than almost anything else. Everybody has different levels of proficiency but it is important to be self-aware and to understand your own.

Grammar

They are two separate issues. Your knowledge of grammar is important in the writing stage. If you don’t have the basics nailed down you are seriously limiting your potential as a web content writer or strategist – it is a key business skill. There are plenty of books available on the topic, such as Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss.

If you are weak in this area you should set aside some time regularly to improve your skills.

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Contact us and About us – merge them

This is a pretty good way to save spave on your site when you have only one set of contact details. It is particularly useful when you have a long homepage. Your contact details should be on your footer without your visitor having to click in to another page, but if you have a lot of blogposts on your homepage you don’t want them to have to scroll all the way down to view them.

Contact / About

Contact / About

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The 31,000 word interview that changed pro cycling

Paul Kimmage interview with Floyd Landis on NY Velocity.

In 2010 the journalist Paul Kimmage interviewed the former pro cyclist Floyd Landis for a newspaper article. Landis won the 2006 Tour de France before having his title stripped for a doping offence. Coming from a Mennonite background and having been almost completely ostracised from the sport, Landis is an unusual character in comparison to most cyclists.

Kimmage read through the transcript of his 7 hour conversation with Landis and decided there was more to it than he could cover in a single newspaper article. A couple of months later the full, 31,000 word transcript was published on nyvelocity.com, an act which would not have been plausible offline.

The interview quickly gained attention and led directly to multiple lawsuits which divided and galvanised cycling fans. The topic of doping is discussed at length in the interview and revelations would dominate the sport since.

Only online could you publish such a document and see it spread so quickly. It was an inspired and brave decision to do so and shows how not all content decisions can be made by referring to guidelines or usual practice.

Don’t be afraid to take risks with your own content and to test what happens when you do something unexpected.

You should never use sliders in web content

“But I’m a photographer/artist/retailer” – It doesn’t matter. You should never use sliders according to this fascinating post on sliders on Yoast.com.

It is very easy to think that there are exceptions, but if you truly believe that, you should test out your beliefs. I like the points made in the post about sliders diluting the focus of a site.

Read the post in the link. If you couldn’t have a slider, what would you replace it with? Why?

Then why not test that out and see where you get?

 

 

Orchard CMS – first look

Orchard CMS was recommended to me as a fast-improving alternative to WordPress. I approached it with trepidation. I have some knowledge of PHP, which is important to understanding WordPress whenever you need to look under the hood, but none whatsoever of .NET. Also, it has a reputation for being less user-friendly than rival CMS systems.

Orchard CMS background

Orchard is open-source software but was initiated primarily by a group of Microsoft employees, and is believed to be well-regarded by the company.  That suggests that there could be significant support if the project continues to grow.

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Content tone – 3 more tips

I follow on from my last post with a few more ideas on creating an appropriate content tone for your online writing.

Know what you want to say

Everything that you write must be in service of a point, whether that is to educate or persuade. Know where you must end up before you start. Sketch an outline before you start and it will be easier to stay on track.

Illustrate with stories

Instead of writing about what customers want, illustrate it with a story or two. Just make sure that the stories have something compelling to them. “John was a first-time customer who bought X product and was happy with it.” isn’t much of a story. There needs to be a twist or a reveal. “John bought X from us and returned 2 months later to buy the same for his wife – he said X had been invaluable to him during the coldest December in a generation when his family got snowed in for three days.” gives the reader a lot more information.

Call to action

Whatever it is, whether it’s a purchase or an email signup, carefully lead up to it and don’t be shy about doing so. You are writing for a reason and this is it.

Content tone needs to be crafted

It is not something that happens on its own or is a byproduct of writing. You need to craft it and practice it in order to get it right. Don’t neglect it.

 

Content writing – get the tone right: 3 tips

To truly be successful, your content writing needs to be consistent and have an identifiable voice. For example, I don’t want my writing to be lifeless or a chore for the reader. I would prefer it to be almost anything else than boring. I would prefer it to be arrogant or obnoxious (obnoxious is when something is unpleasant – don’t worry, I’ll keep the long words to a minimum for you) than boring.

3 tips to bring your writing to life

Here are some ways to batter your writing back into life.

No jargon

If you use jargon you do two things: you limit yourself to those people who already know the terms that you are using and you identify yourself as someone who uses jargon. Keep it to an absolute minimum. Rewrite passages if you find yourself constantly referring to the same terms over and over again.

Use humour

Many inexperienced writers don’t have the confidence to try and be funny using the written word and also make the mistake of thinking that writing is divided strictly into comedy and non-comedy. But most pieces, like life, can be funny sometimes and not other times. That’s fine. Though do be careful to keep the YOLOs to a minimum in your critique of the war photography exhibition you are reviewing.

Don’t obfuscate

Be confident whether you feel you should be or not. You have a voice that nobody else has, so write something that nobody else could. Don’t hide yourself in dull writing because you think that ordinary is the best that you can aim for. Write and rewrite until what is on the screen reflects clearly what you are thinking.

 

xkcd: Time

We love to see outstanding content. xkcd is a “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language” by American artist Randall Munroe. It has been one of the most successful webcomics of the past few years. Munroe decided to do something out-of-the-ordinary.

He created “Time” – a 3,099 panel comic that updated one frame every 30 minutes, later hourly. It began with two people building a sandcastle and wondering why the water level is rising so quickly. They go on an obscure and difficult to understand journey where not a lot of note happens.

It was completely impractical for anybody to follow the comic in real-time, and previous panels were not made available on xkcd.com. When the comic was finished, it was left to fans to extract them and compile them into gifs, videos, and interactive pages such as http://geekwagon.net/projects/xkcd1190. The fact that xkcd had a highly successful forum helped greatly.

The comic generated a lot of discussion and publicity for its sheer ambition. There was nothing else like it out there. After some time, Munroe did an interview with Wired explaining that it took place in the Mediterranean Basin 11,000 years in the future, and pointed to various clues to its location within the comic.

xkcd: Time

xkcd: Time panel 1067

xkcd: Time

This is anexample of content not created by examining analytics or user needs. A great piece of content was created and it worked. What can you do that’s as ambitious?