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Is your table big enough?

You may not be a copywriter, a journalist or a content strategist, but chances are you’re nevertheless a content person.

Good web content satisfies the users’ needs and meets the company’s objectives. Easier said than done, this requires people of all sorts working together. Companies may look for bright writers, cool designers and smart programmers, but quite often they neglect both the processes and the people that are actually crucial to get the content right.

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So here’s roughly what should be happening at your content table:

People from different departments should be talking to each other
Have you ever found redundant or contradictory information within one website? Ever realised the information you wanted was actually scattered all over the place? Have you called a customer service claiming you read something on their website only to realize they didn’t know what you were talking about? Maybe you know how it feels to fill out a form expecting a prompt answer and find out a few days later that the form isn’t the way to procede anymore (if it ever was).

All these problems and many others can be solved by making sure that people in different areas interact with each other efficiently, and that everyone is taken into account in the content planning process.

CEOs, employees and writers should be listening to customers
A website is a conversation between an organization and its customers. Like in all fruitful conversations, it is important to take into account both parties. Have you ever been bored to death by someone who’s ranting about something you don’t find the least bit interesting? Ever felt irritated by a salesperson who’s trying to sell you something you didn’t ask for but isn’t answering your very specific question?

Well, that’s how your users may feel when browsing through your website unless you’ve cared to listen to them before planning your content.

There are many different tecniques to virtually sit users at your content table: you can create personas, organize focus groups, analyse customer data, interview customers, etc. I personally found very useful advice on how to listen to customers in Kristin Zhivago’s book Roadmap to Revenue, How to sell the way your customers want to buy.

Information architects, writers, designers and developers (to name a few) should be working together
Web content needs to answer questions and help carry out tasks. It needs to be findable and clickable. It needs to work in big and small screens. This means that for good content to happen, specialists in different areas need to work together, not just one after the other.

A writer, an information architect, a photographer, a designer and a programmer who hardly talk to each other won’t make a good team. Does this sound pretty obvious? Maybe so, but it happens all too often in web projects.

Organizations that want good content need to be aware of who their content people are. And they need to be ready to welcome them all to their content table. It may not be easy, it may not be fast. But it’ll definitely be useful. And worth it.

So if you think you’re a content person (and more than likely, you are), try to make sure you get a seat at the table next time you hear someone talking about improving or creating the company’s website. Or, for that matter, any other content form (a blog, a presentation, a video, a flyer, etc.). They’ll be wise to listen to you.

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