Are You Writing For Your Users?

February 28, 2011

Seems like a simple question, doesn’t it? Are you writing for your users? “Of course I am, that’s why I’ve got a website.”
The thing is, in a lot of cases website managers are producing content that is for anyone but their users. Here are a few examples:

  • The company brochure. The boss wants a website and the most simple thing to do is to convert the 3-fold brochure that nobody reads into an HTML site. Some even say “visit our website for more information”. That is lazy, lazy web production. If a customer has read your brochure then wants to find out more about your company, the website is the next logical step. If you don’t provide what they want to read, you could just be kissing goodbye to that customer
  • PDF Heaven. Another lazy way of building websites. Have an HTML homepage with links to a bunch of PDF’s that you’ve created. Your customer wants a website, not a pdf site.
  • Over-optimised. Sites that have very little real content but loads of search terms, links, landing pages and other seemingly useless text can have a user hitting the back button before they’ve even found your content. Sure, optimise your site to your heart’s content, but also bear in mind that the end result is to provide your visitors with the information they are looking for. If you can’t do that, what’s the point in bringing them to your website in the first place.
  • Over-specialised. Some sites have great content, but go about creating it around the owners specialist knowledge to such an extent that new visitors to the site are left confused as to what is going on. Sure, it’s great to have all that specialist knowledge published and available, but feed your visitors into it gently so that people who are not operating on quite the same frequency as you are introduced to what to expect when they follow the next link into the depths of your speciality.

So how do you go about doing it properly?

  • Write what you know about – but don’t try to bamboozle your readers. Don’t use a paragraph when a sentence would do. Keep the technical speak to a minimum and use only when necessary
  • Write well – grammar, punctuation, spelling. ‘Nuff said – this is not English class, but remember what you learned in it
  • Make it easily accessible – good link structure, navigation, breadcrumb trails, article introductions etc all make it easier for your users to get to the information you want them to see
  • Provide information that people are looking for – Do you get phone calls or emails from your website users asking specific questions about what you do? Perhaps it’s time that information was put on your website so that you can save them some time
  • Keep the SEO discrete – Search engine optimisation is great, it can really help boost a poorly performing website up the search engines. Don’t overdo it though. Too much SEO and the site starts to look spammy with useless text and links spattered all over it

A site built for it’s users will generate more interest in terms of inbound links, recommendations and ultimately search engine rankings than one that does not care about it’s users. Put some thought into what you are writing before you hit publish and you’ll create something of a lot more value that a lot of other sites on the ‘net. Keep writing for the user.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom May 29, 2011 at 8:16 am

Very informative. I’ll try to remember that for my website…

nsm seo July 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Good post – its one of my pet hates coming across a website that can’t be bothered to produce good content.

Steve August 9, 2013 at 8:58 am

Good blog about user-centered web design. A lot of people forget that a good website is focused on the end-user and in steering them into the direction you want. Forget traditional design methods.. on the web, it’s all about UI and traffic building and conversions. Good job!

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