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Technology X is great, but content is King

Every week the Web is alive with chatter on the latest technology or update. Whether its the latest framework or programming style, there’s always something we’re all excited about. As a Web Developer myself, I try to learn a couple of new technologies every year, to improve my skills and provide better services to my clients. I’m sure a lot of other developers do the same. Its good for the industry to continuously evolve like this, but sometimes we’re in danger of forgetting the basics.

Good, engaging content

So what are your visitors looking for at your website? One word: content. On an e-commerce website, they are looking for information about your products, and to make purchases. On a tech reviews website, guess what, they are looking for tech reviews. On a sports website… well, you get the idea. So while adding lots of flashy javascript effects to your website does make it look good and may enhance usability, it shouldn’t be a priority. Want to make your site better? Improve your content!

Five tips for content improvement

Spelling and grammar – Clich├ęd I know, but the quickest and easiest way to improve content is to run a spell check. Doing something that takes a mere twenty seconds can greatly improve the professionalism of your website.

PDFs and downloadable content – A particularly common crime on academic websites is to link to PDFs in excessive numbers. This slows down the user (who must wait for the Adobe plugin to start), makes for a jarring experience, and just isn’t what the Web is suitable for. Nobody wants to be forced to read your 30 page epic.

Turn off Javascript – Yes, (almost) everyone has Javascript built into their browser. But that doesn’t mean its enabled. Many savvy users have installed programs like Adblock to shield them from unwanted adverts and Flash. By default, Adblock will block Javascript content on all websites, so anyone visiting your site has to turn it back on. When you are developing your content, make sure you check its still usable without Javascript!

Keep it brief – Again, remember this is the Web, it isn’t print. Long pages of text work quite well in traditional media, but on a website where you have perhaps 10 seconds to catch a casual readers eye, and maybe 5 minutes until he/she reaches for Facebook, you have to keep your content brief and to the point.

Improve readability – Use high contrast for body text – black on white is common not because everyone is boring, but because its easy to read. Increase the spacing between lines slightly. Stick to a serif font for large blocks of text. And please, please don’t ever write a paragraph entirely in capitals or bold.

Good content sells itself

When you write a good article, or content that somebody finds helpful, chances are they’ll share it. We are surrounded by social networking sites, bookmark sharing tools, and microblogging services. A post in any one of these places might result in a hundred diggs or retweets. Your content might go from one or two views to thousands in the space of an hour. This word-of-mouth advertising is great for you and your business, and won’t cost you a penny.

So, the next time you’re reading an article about Technology X, remember to put your content first!

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