How to Make Your Web Content Shine
From Clear Thinking Communications and Susan Parker
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Word count: 737
Estimated read time: About 2.5 minutes
Article: How to Make Your Web Content Shine
Your web site is one of the most effective ways you can communicate your work. Thousands of people may come to your site and you can quickly and inexpensively educate them about what you do.
What happens too often, though, is that your most valuable information is buried.
Ultimately, people come to your web site for content. That's it. It's not the design or the easy navigation or the beautiful images. It's the content. Your visitors want to learn something, gather information or complete a task. You have to make as easy as possible for them to do that.
In order to take advantage of the wonderful platform your web site offers, you need to play to its strengths. Here's what I've noticed all too frequently on the web sites of foundations, nonprofits and progressive businesses that I follow: organizations hire top-rate web design firms, which put together beautiful, easy to navigate sites with strong images. So far so good. But web sites also need strong content.
Often the content seems like an afterthought. Staff members dump 50 page PDF research reports into the site and think they're done. Few people are going to wade through all of that dense text on the web--it's not how users like to read content on the web.
Take these two steps to make your web content shine:
1. Determine the message that you want to convey.
What is the purpose of the web site? Is it to provide information for grant seekers looking for grants? Is it to position yourself as a leader in your field? Is it to show your expertise as a way of gaining clients or funding? Those are critical questions to answer. If you have a marketing plan already, draw from that.
Who is your audience? Policymakers? Clients? Grantees? It is imperative to have the audience in mind as you develop content for your site. What kind of information is the audience looking for? Make sure that the content you provide is something that they want, not just something you think they should want. If you're not sure, ask them.
2. Take advantage of the strengths of web content.
If you have a 50 page research report that you think is important to post on your site, then take the time to make the best use of that report. Take these steps:
Put the report in a text or HTML file instead of a PDF. PDFs take too long to download.
Write a headline that will grab people's attention. The headline should include the most compelling finding or information in the report. Give readers a reason to want to learn more. Think about their self-interest. What would motivate them?
Determine the top three points in the report that are critical to convey. Write a short, one paragraph description of the report with those key three points in bullets. Then provide a link to the report.
Distill a lengthy research report into a separate two-page executive summary that contains the essential findings. This is particularly important if your audience is policymakers who want key information quickly.
Include a table of contents at the top of the larger report with hyperlinks so that people can quickly go to the sections they are most interested in. Don't make them wade through 20 pages to get to the part they really want to learn more about such as results or lessons learned.
Break up paragraphs into no more than three or four sentences. If you can, re-write the first sentence of each paragraph so that it conveys the essence of the rest of the paragraph. People scan when reading the web so you want to make sure they get the gist of what you are conveying. Bold the first sentence of every paragraph to make it easy to scan.
Use bulleted lists when possible to convey information.
Look for jargon and re-write anything that might not be clear to a lay audience (e.g., capacity building, technical assistance or LEED Platinum certified).
By taking these steps, you will make great use of material that you already have on hand. In fact, you'll make it more likely that your material will get read and used.
If you would like help writing or editing your web content, please contact us at Clear Thinking Communications. We've worked with many clients to help them make their web content shine and would love to help you as well.
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