Development

There are three kinds of website (part two)

Post by
George B

The lifestyle package (aka gateway sites)...

Let's say you're a multinational organisation... Let's also say you have thousands of customers worldwide and millions of people engaging with you online daily...

Daunting right?

To manage such a multifaceted organisation, you need money, staff, resources, more money, more staff, technology and the cycle keeps on going. A great example of a gateway site that fits the bill above is adobe.com

The beauty of this particular webplace is in it's functionality. The way that is that adobe organises data in order to make your experience on their sites more meaningful.

At a glance at least when you first log on to the website you don't exactly get overwhelmed with information

it clearly becomes apparent though, that what seems like a very sparse screen, in fact hides thousands, upon literally, thousands of web pages full of content.

Whether it is their marketing landing pages, or the more dynamic sister sites like behance.net the idea behind how they structure content is to

  • categorise
  • display
  • link

They categorise content based on the type of property they own. For example, the apps all have dedicated pages that display descriptions. Behance has dynamically generated content effectively created by the community. Dig deeper and you'll find everything from help pages (FAQ's) to community forums, to real time support..

They display this content as simple textual links. I like this method because it says to me "we mean business" right from the off. They don't need big fancy buttons and pop-ups, probably because to arrive at the above pages means you've already signed on...

Each screen is also thought out to lead you to the next and to display the most useful content to you according to the company's interpretation of how they expect you to use their site.

Linking is very important therefore, because it effectively means that unless you stop browsing there is ALWAYS more content to look at. They also link in other quite clever ways. For example by using URL redirects.

Try this for yourself... open a window type adobe.co.uk and see what happens

The point here of course is that in order to properly manage a website, you have to anticipate how the user actually wants to use it and gauge that against what your company goals are, i.e. what you are trying to achieve.

You might be thinking by now, how does all that apply to me, me being a small business or one man band...

Well it actually does, because browsing big time operations like adobe's can teach us a lot of things about how to efficiently manage content.

I personally like the fact that they go for a less is more approach. I also like that their content is always unobtrusive and becomes available only if you actually call it up, you might be thinking "doesn't that mean some content goes unseen or undiscovered"? Well that may be right but the other side of that coin is that you can't be all things to all people, nobody can, in other words some content will always go unseen.

Another thing we learn is about the hierarchy of content. In other words when designing the content of a site (which needs careful planning too) it is very important to consider what information goes where and why. A technique I use is to assign values to content.

I do this by asking "what do I want my customers to do?" or "what is more likely to sell" and so on. I then assign a value to the answers based on what is important for my business and will organise content based on which items have a higher value.

Finally a word of warning...

The method above needs to be flexible, which leads us nice to the last thing we can deduce from adobe.com.

If you browse that site, whether you have signed up or not, or in fact any other such content heavy site, where the company generates A LOT of information themselves, you should naturally arrive at the conclusion that not only does it take a considerable amount of time to create the site, but you also need a small army of minions to actually maintain it.

I reckon what we can take from this is a sort of "cheats" way out for small business, which is of course, analytics.

I will go into this more technically and in depth on later posts, but in summary the way that I keep on top of the aspect of updating content is to first analyse engagement. Marketers use that word very often but they forget that for most small businesses engagement is actually an uphill struggle...

To that end the magic formula is to understand what works already and do more of the same. You can only do that by implementing the right tools, which are thankfully free and accessible to all.

To summarise, here's a quick fire list to consider, before starting your own site

  • what information you have
  • what you want it to achieve
  • how do you want to present it
  • how do you want your site visitors to interact with your data
  • how are you going to maintain your data
  • how/who is going to monitor engagement
  • what happens when things break

Following the pattern above should keep you in good stead, and remember

if you build it, they will come...

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