Web Site Content - Style
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Now to discuss a little about the style of included content.
Before anything else, I have to mention rule number one of content. Regardless of the type of website you are building, the first rule of content is to keep it fresh. Getting new visitors to your site is always a challenge (and a topic for another discussion!) If you want to keep your site lively, then it is imperative that you keep your visitors coming back. A couple of visits with the same old stuff there will slow them right down. A couple more visits and they'll be gone, perhaps for ever. Not a good thing! Fresh produce in the store, fresh news in the newspaper, fresh content on the website -- it stands to reason!
There is no such thing as a "web style" of content. The use of a particular style is to enhance the effectiveness of the type of content, and not to enhance the web. What this means is that you should not think first about the fact that you are providing content for a website, and how that should be styled. Instead you should be thinking, for example, "This site is for children. I need to make this easy to read, and to use a friendly, personal and uncomplicated manner of speech." This way the content style adapts to the subject matter and happens to be on the web, rather than adapting to the web and happening to be for children.
What style to apply depends on the type of website you are building. If you are building a personal website, be personal. Talk to your reader as if they were there with you. This holds especially true for photo album sites. The big mistake people make with their web albums, is to forget that normally, when they show their pictures to their friends, they are there themselves to explain them. Be there in the site. For example, "Aunt Peggy, Chicago, February 2000" is a hopeless caption in comparison to "This is Aunt Peggy (Pat's twin) at her birthday party in Chicago in 2000. She and Steve obviously had a good time - I don't think she'll be using those shoes any more!" Even without seeing the picture, it's more interesting, don't you think?
A business web site should get down to business, but shouldn't be dry. A little humor and a little color are the spices that can change a product description into an enticing overview of a product's capabilities. Some subjects are strictly factual. Law, for example. While intriguing, perhaps, to lawyers, it bores the pants off most sane people! Even science and mathematics, which have a reputation for being less than thrilling to the majority of folk, can be exciting when well presented. Scour the web for discussions of Fermat's Last Theorem. Look and some of the mathematical sites and compare them to Simon Singh's work. You'll see what I mean.
Above all, remember that you are talking to people. As you write the content, imagine that your audience is there with you and that you are providing it directly to them. Talk to them as you would normally, business-like to business people, politely to casual acquaintances and personally to friends and family. There is no special trick to the web. It is merely a medium to carry your message to your audience; nothing more.
Of course, the real beauty of writing is that you get to say something, then change it before it is heard! It's amazing how frequently we have a great idea, blurt it out and then realize just how not-so-great it actually was! When designing your site, blurt all you want -- then go back and fix it!!
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