Thursday, June 08, 2006

Creating Killer Web Content

It's pretty cool when one industry heavyweight interviews another. That's exactly what happened yesterday when Jared Spool, of Usability Interface Engineering, published in his newsletter his interview with Gerry Mcgovern. Jared is one of the top two usability experts in the country (the other being Jacob Nielson). Gerry McGovern is probably the most well known content and information architecture consultant in the world.

Here's a couple of great excerpts from the conversation with my comments below:

You've stated that only a small percentage (approximately 10%) of content really makes any difference online. Does this mean that the bulk of content is a waste?

Essentially, yes. Most organizations face two challenges when it comes to content: data management and content management. Organizations produce huge quantities of content/data that needs to be stored for legal and other reasons. Nobody’s interested in this sort of stuff, unless in exceptional circumstances.

Then, you've got a small quantity of content that the customer wants‚—that will help make the sale, deliver the service, and build the brand. This is what I call the killer web content. The other stuff is the filler web content. If you mix the two together, the filler smothers the killer. The job of a web manager is to identify the killer web content.

The lesson here seems to be that even if you need to put up all of that filler content for legal or other reasons, you need to be ruthless in determining what the killer content is and make sure it is front and center, so that your customers and prospects can easily read what is interesting to them without hunting for it.

The number one skill that every web team should have is the ability and desire to relentlessly focus on the needs of the customer. Web teams must enjoy being around the customer, they must be stimulated by thinking of the customer. You have those skills and everything else fits into place.

The number one skill of an editor is not the ability to write. There are many people who are technically good writers but their content is not engaging. The editor must know their reader/customer inside out. They must also have empathy for their reader—be able to think like them, feel like them.

I find many of the organizations we deal with to plagued by what I call "inside out thinking". They view their web site in their own frame of reference; what they think is interesting, what they want the customer to be interested in, speaking in their own language instead of the language of the customer, etc.

It's a tough discipline, but you need to practice "outside in thinking". Put yourself in the shoes and mind of your customers and prospects. What will they be thinking? What kind of prejudices, concerns, thoughts do they have about your business, your industry? What kind of problems do they have that they want to solve. You should only be focused on your customers problems, their concerns, their hopes and dreams. How can you help them move from where they are now (the problem that they have), to where they want to be?

You may find that thinking about your web content in these terms produces very different kinds of content that you have now.

The full text of the interview can be found here:

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