The Importance of Good Content in Web Design

Mike Ibberson on Aug 02, 2016

The moment someone clicks a link to your website, the clock begins to tick. In five seconds, you must entice that person into scrolling, reading or clicking ahead. Failure to do so will result in that person leaving your site (likely to never return).

Five seconds is not much time. A person can only scan at that speed. Thus, visitors form their first impressions off two things: your headline and design. When these elements work harmoniously, your visitors will engage the web page and its content.

To maintain a connection with your audience, your content needs personality (authenticity), information and authority. How you balance these characteristics depends on context and purpose, as we explore in this article.

Personable Content for Your Audience That Demonstrates Value

Content indexes a website on Google and drives traffic. But organic search traffic is only one metric that defines success. Your conversion rate better reveals how your content resonates with visitors. Its two key performance indictors (KPI) can tell us a lot, too.

  • Bounce Rate: How many visitors (%) leave the website without browsing. A high bounce rate might mean your content has missed its mark. Alternatively, a high bounce rate might suggest your website answers questions but gives no further reason to stay.
  • Time per Session: How long the average visitor spends navigating and reading content on the website. The longer visitors spend, the more they engage your website. Conversely, a long session might signify confusion.

Data never tells the full story, so you need to look at your content from various angles to see if visitors like it. But when you first launch a website, there is no data to work off. Instead, you must rely on a more subjective test to refine your content. A good place to start is fitting your content into one of two categories:

  1. Content that informs—it answers a question, establishes a need or contextualizes a product, service or event.
  2. Content that solves—it identifies a pain and proposes an alternative to fix it.

If your content does not suit either description, then it does not provide value. It likely fits a third taboo category: content that strokes the business’ ego. Whenever content is business-focused, it diminishes its value. The outcome is more of a resume than a web page, and that interests no one.

In Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes, she suggests drafting content in letter form to address corporate-think. Beginning with “Dear {insert-name-here}” helps frame the message to a user. Envisioning your ideal customer identifies what users care about rather than what your executives want to hear. Effectively, you will lift audience barriers and better explain big ideas. The rapport built in doing so is your biggest sales asset.

To elaborate the point above, let’s consider the following sentences.

  • Dear Jan…Here at My Fake Company Inc., we put the customer first.
  • Dear Jan…When you sign with My Fake Company Inc., we appoint a dedicated customer service representative for you to call any time of day.

Neither sentence is eloquent, but the second shows—rather than tells—value. Understandably, the second sentence is more user-focused.

Informative Content That Builds Trust and Nurtures Leads

Visitors to your website come at different stages of the buyer’s journey. In crafting sales-only pages, you alienate non-buyer-reader visitors. Thus, every page on the website needs consideration of audience and purpose:

  • Who will view this page?
  • Where will this individual be in the buyer journey (i.e. researching, comparing, buying, reviewing)?
  • What information does this individual need to move forward with our company?
  • How can we demonstrate expertise and value to convince this person to proceed with us?

Sometimes, the answers will unfold over a series of pages. At other times, the answers will work together on a single page.

How you should sequence content depends on purpose and reason. If you dwell on what you want users to do, you will miss why they should want to do it.

For example, let’s take a look at web forms. As a function, you want users to get in touch. But why should they? This simple question might make you think about your contact form differently and craft more persuasive content.

Let’s extend this idea to a product page on running shoes. Why might buyers want the product? Maybe, as the manufacturer, you specialize in a specific sport. Perhaps you’ve patented a design for better breathability. Great—both define your unique selling position. But there are other details to include:

  • Sizes,
  • Shipping,
  • Pricing,
  • Colours,
  • Materials.

All points above embellish your product description, but the focal point is on what makes them special. Toms sells semi-ordinary shoes, but they appeal to people’s philanthropic side by donating a pair per purchase. Their charity comes up in the branding; there is even a section dedicated to explaining “how we give.” This example shows how reason influences function (i.e. shopping cart) and content sequencing.

Likewise, logistics make web copy unsexy. Yet people still need them. Compiling FAQs on shipping, privacy, refunds and more gives easy access to critical questions without sacrificing the tone or story of your content. This is the benefit of segmentation—you can isolate information and write about it in the most appropriate form and tone.

As exemplified, there are various forms of content found on a website. There’s no minimum or maximum, but quality should always trump quantity. In fact, you should revise content regularly because your first draft will never be perfect. Only data on visitor interactions can identify new content opportunities and existing weaknesses. Content is the life force of a website—not an afterthought of its design.

Previous Post
Next Post