Posted 02.09.2010

Content Might be King

There’s a huge debate online about whether content is really king. As designers, I think we like to believe that our designs matter more than they really do. (Believe, that’s hard to admit). But, just look at sites like Craigslist or MySpace. They look awful…and yet people still flock to them to get the information that they need.

What do I think?

The whole point of a website is to solve someone’s problems. I finally wrapped my head around this concept when I was listening to Net @ Night. They interviewed Jakob Neilsen (author of Eyetracking Web Usability) on user interface. He suggested that when you’re user testing, never ask someone “What do you think of this button?” Instead, provide tasks: “Add this product to your cart.” Then, you’ll find out just how successful your button really is. People always go to a website with a specific task in mind.

How does this apply to content? Well, I go to a site for it’s content. The design just makes the site more enjoyable and easier to use. It adds a level of professionalism. I have tons of screenshots of well designed sites. However, after I’ve been there once, I never return because I don’t care about the content. The content makes me come back.

What does that mean for me?

I’ve got to buckle down and write decent copy. That’s hard. It takes time. It’s difficult to make copywriting a priority when the web hasn’t set the standard very high.

Last week, I stumbled upon an article by Shay Howe. (Writing for the Web: The Right Strategy). It’s an excellent read. He lifts a lot of his ideas out of Kristina Halvorson’s book, Content Strategy for the Web, which I immediately bought. I’m halfway through and it is by far the best book that I’ve read on developing a content plan.

Up until this point, I’ve considered a content plan something that will tell me what I should write about each day. However, this book has challenged me to go beyond that. What is the overall message that I am trying to communicate with my blog? about myself? Does my post accomplish that? Those questions dig a little deeper than just saying “I write a blog about design, technology, and programming.” Collectively, my posts are a brand: what people think about me. If everyone thought this way, I think we’d all be a little more conscientious about the content we’re publishing.