We Killed the Content


Melbourne Street Art 2011

There is no doubt content is important, no doubt it’s in fact more important than any design. It’s the primary thing that people come to a website for – the content.

So you would expect new sites to come out with perfect content.

Well we know it’s not the way, still we have websites with crap content.

All the other boxes are ticked, the design just works perfectly, there is a distinct visual experience when you arrive on the site. Even the information structure and labeling allows you to get to the right information.

It’s  just when you get to the information you desire the entire site falls apart like a house of cards.

What could possibility have gone wrong.

You even employed professional content writers early on in the process.  Still things are just not as expected a few weeks after the site launch.

In most cases we will just write off the experience as a bad project and move on, knowing that too well that we can’t control the project in reality.   After all it’s not our site.

Still we keep on doing this all the time, site after site.. more crap content onto the web.  One or two sites is fine, but if every firm is having the same issue, think of the volume of crap content we are outputting to the web.

Why is this happening?

History Lesson

Good question; to really find the solution we have to look back on the history of the web.

In the early days of the web the uploading of the content of sites was left to the designers and developers to manually format and be the gatekeepers of the content.    Over time in the late 1990’s we migrated to desktop content formatting solutions like Dreamweaver and expensive content management systems (CMS).

Yet still the content was controlled by the web professionals.

Slowly over the last ten years content management systems have got cheaper and easier to use. The control has slipped from the web professionals as the gatekeepers to the client.

To the point we are at today where the CMS we use can be used by someone with as little as an hours training. And hence the gatekeeper usually becomes a junior staff member.

This has become the issue.

Our tools have turned against us.

Fixing the Wrongs

We setup these sites, making them content perfect, but the editing and content management has become so easy that it can be done with no regard for the overall outcome.

What we are basically doing wrong as web professionals is we are not really ensuring that ogranisations:

  • Have a content strategy
  • Understand of the strategy and what it means
  • Understand at least the basics for writing for the web
  • Understand or have been a close part of the design process

Lets face the reality clients are going to change that perfect wordsmithed content, but at least if we as web professionals, ensure they understand the basics of what they are doing then the web has a chance.

We need to teach people the right way to produced good web content.  There is then a chance the resultant content will at least be reasonable, not the mish mash we have today.

The thing is we need more than just to train our clients as content writers.

We need to provide them with an easy to use reference, from the printed word to an online video, showing the process.  You can bet  they are going to forget how to do it between  sessions producing or altering content, so these handy guides will be invaluable.

The Smoking Gun

So at the end of the day we are responsible in part for killing the web content, just because we have provided people with tools allowing them easy alternation of the content with no real training.

The issue is how do we fix this, will this type of training work?

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1 comment

  1. Gary,

    Great post. I just wish I had written something like it! As you know, I could rave all day about this topic.

    Here are just one immediate thought.

    One of the problems, in my opinion, is that the conversation between web companies and their clients still focuses on “building the webste”. When we can shift the conversation to “building a long-term web presence that produces a return on investment” then it will be easier to open clients’ minds to the importance of content and its many facets.


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