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Making content web friendly

Websites are about information so it makes sense that you need to provide good content if you want your website to be successful.

Obviously, a site with fantastic content that is hard to find can only have limited success so there needs to be a balance between the content and the site itself being user friendly.

Without going into web design aspects of a site, here are some of my top tips for making your web content usable and attractive:

  1. keep each page focussed and a reasonable length (300 to 500 words is usually ideal). If there is additional information that could potentially help some site visitors, put it on a new page and link to it rather than putting everything into one page.
  2. use headings and sub-headings. There are a number of reasons for this – it makes the text visually more apepaling, is easier to skim read, helps focus and define sections of text and can help with search engines (especially if you use heading styles rather than manually adding font styles).
  3. use white space. For example, I am adding an empty line between each of these bullet points so it is easier to see the difference between them and the page doesn’t look so text heavy.
  4. don’t feel your website has to explain everything. I have had many clients who put too much information into their text ‘just in case’ a client wants to know those details. People get bored and/or overwhelmed by too much details, especially on websites, so keep it simple by giving the important details. You can always link to the fine details or encourage them to contact you for them.
  5. web content is not like a novel, or even a school essay, so get to the point fast. A beautiful introduction may be very nice but will frustrate someone who is trying to decide if you can provide the service/product they are after. If a long introduction and sales pitch means the real informatoin is so low on the page you have to scroll to read it, you can bet not many people will actually read it.
    So prioritise your information and put the important bits first.
  6. Keep your content fresh, up-to-date and error-free. Spend some of your website maintenance time adding new content and reviewing the current site (for instance, when did you last check for faulty links on your site?)
  7. Write for human beings, not search engines. That means don’t add too many keywords and concentrate on providing useful information rather than trying to impress a search engine.

Understanding bandwidth

A common thing people complain about when online is how long a web page takes to load. How many times have you given up waiting for a page to load or walked away and come back and the page is still only half loaded?

People are more likely to return to a site if the page loads efficiently and the content is worthwhile.

The term bandwidth describes the amount of data transferred to or from a website within a certain period of time. The bandwidth avilaable to a specific website depends on the hsoitng agreement in place, but will only allow a certain amount of data transfer in a specified time. So ultimately, the more information on a page, the longer the page will take to load.

When a web page is loaded into a browser it brings along with it all its content, that is the structural format code, the CSS instructing the browser how the content should look, the images, frames, text, and any other code that gives the page its content. Every single character and figure on a web page lengthens the time that the page takes to load; although individually they may be barely anything, they add up.

The average base of a web page should be about 30K and grow to be not much more than 60K. That is including all the graphics and text.

The main thing to remember here is that less is best, especially when web designing.

Fresh web content tips

Carrying on from my last post about Lucie of MultimediART’s talk, it was interesting to get her interpretation on fresh website content. It has often been said that fresh content is important for search engine rankings, but what does fresh content mean?

Three main points to consider are:

  • change the content on your site at least once between each visit from a search engine spider (check your stats to find out how often that is for your site)
  • keep the content change within 2 clicks of your homepage
  • swapping around a few words or even a paragraph is probably not enough to count as fresh for a search engine

Search engines apparently search your site more or less often depending on how fresh they judge your content to be.

Content includes any articles and text on your site, as well as products, tools, news items, RSS feeds, and so on.

So how fresh is your website?

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