Content Emphasis in Balance

Shout­ing for atten­tion just cre­ates noise. Web­site own­ers and web design­ers can fall into the trap of empha­siz­ing too many mes­sages on the home­page. An effec­tive web­site requires clar­ity of pur­pose and a strong edi­to­r­ial hand.

I was asked to review a web­site for a real estate agent in Ari­zona. Upon vis­it­ing the site, I was imme­di­ately con­fused and over­whelmed. It is not an exag­ger­a­tion to say there were 50 mes­sages on the front page, all scream­ing for atten­tion. The result was a site where every piece of con­tent was minimized.

This is a com­mon mis­take. We have a lot to say, and most of it is impor­tant. As busi­ness own­ers, we offer many ser­vices; we want to sell them all. But vis­i­tors to your web site do not care. If you over­whelm them with infor­ma­tion, they will not know where to start, they will not expend the energy to fig­ure out where to start, and they will leave your site with malice.

As you con­sider your web­site, these three obser­va­tions will help you iden­tify what changes will increase your website’s abil­ity to meet your busi­ness objectives:

  1. There is a phe­nom­e­non called ban­ner blind­ness. As con­sumers of web con­tent, we train our­selves to avert our eyes from any­thing that looks like an adver­tise­ment. Jakob Nielsen wrote a must-​​read arti­cle illus­trat­ing the inef­fec­tive­ness of fancy for­mat­ting.
  2. Sup­pose a web­site visitor’s atten­tion could be given a point value of 10. You have these 10 points to dis­trib­ute to dif­fer­ent parts of your site. You should iden­tify your core objec­tives and dis­trib­ute these 10 points in pro­por­tion to their impor­tance. The site design should give promi­nence in scale with the dis­tri­b­u­tion of points. Your front page will be loose con­tent, but what remains will be effective.
  3. Ulti­mately, what is described in the two points above are aspects of a phi­los­o­phy called “user cen­tered design”. You must look at the site from the users per­spec­tive. Users deter­mine whether they think a site will pro­vide for their need within the first 2 sec­onds of their visit. If they don’t see imme­di­ate hope, they quickly click the back but­ton. What is it that your users are look­ing for? This is very dif­fer­ent than what you want to tell your users. Unless you first answer your user’s ques­tions and build cred­i­bil­ity in doing so, they will not care what you have to say.

If you con­sider these points, you will real­ize that they are applica­tive to much more than your web design. They require a rethink­ing of your busi­ness model. Ulti­mately, your web­site is a reflec­tion of your busi­ness. If your web­site is unfo­cused and inef­fec­tive, per­haps it is because the busi­ness it is rep­re­sent­ing needs pur­pose­ful direction.

Jeffrey D. King

About the Author

Jef­frey D. King is a web designer and con­sul­tant in San Diego. Jeff is pas­sion­ate about the inter­sec­tion of busi­ness and the inter­net. As a stu­dent of design, usabil­ity, brand­ing, and entre­pre­neur­ial strate­gies, he can help your orga­ni­za­tion achieve online success.

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