What is content? In the fast-paced world of web development, where the most beautiful designs and latest features get high praise, many of us think of content as just words on a page that get added after all the development is done.
But is this really the case?
You may have seen “content development” listed as a line item on a website estimate, very often given the least amount of hours and budget, almost as an afterthought.
In my experience, it is safe to say that content development may be the most under-appreciated and overlooked task in the website development process, very often the first to be cut in tight budget scenarios and the last thought about in the planning stages. Have you experienced content being delivered or thought about in the final stages of a web development project; only to completely stop the project in its tracks, create numerous change requests and add countless hours of work?
This happens like clockwork and illustrates in my eyes the power that content really has over the development of a website. I declare here today that content development is actually one of the most essential and important roles in the building of a website and I call forth a content revolution. I call it “the rise of the story teller."
The Internet has been around for nearly three decades. While its complexity and technology have advanced, the original goal of sharing information has persisted. In fact, we now share more of our lives and more of our time than we ever have before online. Both businesses and individuals are constantly creating and telling our stories, hoping to be understood, connect and be heard.
Webster defines content as “The principal substance (as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a World Wide Web site." Substance is a powerful word. Take away the frills and the shine and you are left with the substance. Or, in many cases, the lack of it.
What does substance look like? Many people think of content as just words on a page, and sometimes the right words are enough to convey substance, but it all really depends on how much care and thought went into it. I offer the thought that true substance is the result of great storytelling and its value is more than the sum of the parts. The parts (the words, images, video, etc.) are critical, but their relationship to one another, their order and their flow all matter in capturing the attention and interest of an audience.
Choosing content that represents you and your story is essential to letting the world know what you are offering and why you matter. A web experience that looks cool but doesn’t tell a relevant story is a very cool waste of your money!
When we realize the importance of the story, we understand that having a team who understands our story and knows how to tell it effectively is essential for our success. I have seen countless websites that are easy on the eye and look fantastic, but hold no meaning and have no substance. I browse in wonderment, amazed and hypnotized by the beautiful effects and artistic imagery, but I have no clue what they have to offer. A website without a clear story is like a book written in a foreign language. The pages may be pretty, but there is no context, no connection.
If you are a developer or IT professional, I urge you to consider your efforts in the context of telling your clients' story. Before you write a line of code, pick a color or design a page, take the time to understand exactly what story you are telling. Get your content development team involved from day one! The content they craft and the story they tell will shape and impact every aspect of your process for the better. If you are a client looking to build a website, I urge you to think about your story and make sure you choose a team that can tell it in a way that conveys who you are and what you are about.
The rise of content development is here!
Want to make a good first impression? Pay attention to your homepage (your users already are!). Here are some tips for great homepage design.
How do you make a minimum viable product that gets all parties' buy-in? You prototype. See why prototypes are a required step in app design.