In the web design community, there is one phrase that is repeated over and over. Every client hears it, every designer thinks it, and every time it is true: Content is king.
What does it mean? The idea is that any website that lacks meaningful content will be a failure, no matter how gorgeously or intricately designed it is. Websites are actually a means to distribute content, and it is that content and access to it which should be the core to every web design.
In order for the content to be the core of the design, the website needs a few things: easily visible content, easy and clear navigation, and functionality (It needs to work).
Easily visible content
The web design must make it so that the content is easily visible. Dark text on light backgrounds or light text on dark backgrounds is favored, preferably black on white or white on black. White on black with dark backgrounds is supposed to be better on your eyes, but most people find it easier to read black text on white with light backgrounds, probably because that is what they are used to seeing.
Any bold colors or crazy graphics can distract from the content, as can having too many advertisements, too small of print, too large of print, or strange configurations. When people go to a website, they expect to see a header, menu, content area, footer, and sidebar. If these are arranged in a strange order, or if some of the pieces are missing, it can be distracting.
I recently came across a website where the page and all its parts were aligned to the left in a haphazard way. The menu touched the edge of the browser, starting before the rest of the header and content area, and then ended halfway through the header area. On top of that, nothing on the page was more than maybe 500 pixels wide, meaning it lined up strangely only in the left quarter of my web browser (I was using a 17.2 inch screen). The designer clearly was someone that learned their trade a decade or more ago, and they had neglected to do a page wrap with an auto center, as is the common practice today. When you are used to seeing webpages lined up in the middle of the browser, it seems odd to come across one that is crammed into a corner.
Also, to make the content the core of the design, there needs to be easy access to that content through simple and clear navigation. This can take on many meanings. On the web design itself, it is best to present the most important information right away, preferably on the home page. Other information should then be distributed in a standard, easy to access sort of way with multiple ways to access the content.
Typically you can get to the content through the main menu or vertical menu which appears above the fold (meaning you see it when you first load the homepage). There could also be links inside the content that leads to other relevant or related content. If you are writing content and mention content from another area of your site, you should link to it then and there. If you are writing content and you insert a link leading to something completely different, it is not very helpful and can be frustrating for viewers. That sounds like common sense, but there are a lot of websites out there that do just that.
Apart from easy to use menus and links, there should also be a way back to where you came from, and when you return to that place, the old links should show you where you have been. This is done typically by just making the text of used or visited hyperlinks a different color.
Lastly, in order for the content to be the core of the design, the website must be functional. Anything you add needs to work, whether it is a simple link, a menu, a video, animation, or a slider. When things don’t work, it just looks bad and can be frustrating. Viewers will write you off completely based on something not working. I know I have done that. If I go to a website and it doesn’t load in the first 15 seconds, I’ll leave. If I go to a website and see a bunch of broken images or a broken video, I’ll most likely leave. Things need to work!
Website content can be informative or entertaining in nature, or a mixture of the two. It can be serious or lighthearted. Either way it is the content of a website that brings in users, and it is the content that gets them to stay. So far we have covered how to make the content the core of the design, now let’s talk about updating content.
Updating content and content marketing
A website that is purely informational and doesn’t update content often or at all can only hope to bring in viewers to view the information initially and perhaps to check it again a few times just for reference. Once the information at hand is taken in, there is no need to return to the website. If a website is regularly updating content, always creating something new and interesting, then there is reason to check the site, possibly multiple times a day as in the case of Facebook and other social media websites.
If you have gotten someone to come to your site, you want to keep them interested in you so that you can keep them as a viewers, or get them to return to you in the future, or maybe even get them to recommend you. New content is the way to keep them interested and to keep your website in their minds. If you are updating content constantly and have your site linked to social media which your customers and friends can all see, then every time you update content they get a reminder that you are around, and if your content is interesting enough, they might even come have a look at it.
Having new content on a regular basis also makes your site look like an ongoing business when new visitors check you out. If you visit a site that hasn’t been updated in years, you might wonder if the site is still in business or if they are keeping up with trends. If the site was updated last week, you don’t have any of those doubts.
Updating content also has many SEO benefits. Updating content gives you more chances to be relevant to what people are searching for by continually reworking posts to fit current search patterns. Having more pages means more chances for meta tags and key word relevance, and basically gives you a much better chance at becoming the go to post for a given specific keyword or phrase. It gives you a chance to link your site to other sites which are relevant to the new content, increasing SEO. There are a ton of ways that constantly adding new content, and quality content, can benefit you in the realm of SEO. That might be the topic of another blog entry, as this one is getting pretty long already.
So how do we at Simply Compelling help you with updating content? Like most design companies, we build our sites on a content management system. Our preferred system is WordPress, which is the most popular CMS out there. WordPress is very simple to use and we can teach you to update your content for yourself. We can set it up so that you just get a user name and password which will log you into an administration area where you can write posts and add images without fear of messing anything up. We also can handle updating your site for you, at $25 per hour rate.
Content is King
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why content is king in web design. You also should have a little bit better understanding of how we design websites with an emphasis on content.