Early on in Erin Kissane's excellent (and essential) book 'The Elements of Content Strategy'she talks about the value of good content and how it's important to look at it in an analytical way:
Define a clear, specific purpose for each piece of content; evaluate content against this purpose
Or to put it more bluntly, stop making stuff for 'the content landfill' that serves no discernible purpose. But in practical terms how is that done? How do we know what's good and bad and if it's actually achieving what we want it to achieve?
Well, let's go back to basics and try to understand why there's often a lack of quality control AND quantity control when it comes to web site content. If you start with design before content you are heading for problems. Web sites are simply containers or conduits for all those useful words, images, video and audio bits that we call content. If you don't yet know what it is your users actually need to help them achieve goals and complete tasks then how can you build a container for it all? Arising from this is the tendency to fill up holes and 'throw it all in' when actually you don't necessarily need lots of content, you just need the right stuff in the right amounts for your users.
Useful content helps users feel like they're in control and achieving something, bad and superfluous content just confuses and frustrates which can lead to a bad user experience - and that won't make for happy customers. So does your content measure up? If you're answering 'Yes' to a lot of these questions then it might be time to take another look at it:
- Do you have a lengthy mission statement on your 'about us' page or worse, on your home page?
- Do you focus on features rather than the benefits to your customers?
- Do you have an out of date FAQ section that answers questions that nobody ever asks?
- Do you have generic and clichéd stock images that 'fill a gap' on a page?
- Do you have a video of someone talking without offering any real insight for your users?
- Do you show organisational charts that would be better suited to your own company intranet?
- Is it difficult to navigate around your site because content is confusing and simply gets in the way?
The good news is that it's relatively easy to root this stuff out by using web analytics, asking users for feedback and using your own common sense. Useful content needs to be carefully created and then lovingly nurtured; a plan for the ongoing review of the content is equally important. With a strategy and a sustainable plan in place you can stop contributing to the landfill and create good content that your users will really thank you for.