Rules of thumb for website content


A question from my inbox:

Q: I just started a new job, and one of my side jobs is to update some material for our division on the external website. Do you have any rules of thumb on website content? (e.g., viewers spend avg # seconds per page; graphics to text ratio, etc.).

A: Some people do establish rules and ratios for web pages — ratio of key words to all text is a big one. But I find really every site is different, and I think for most sites applying a metric is as likely to give a false sense of security as it is to help.

I would suggest thinking instead about use cases: what are the situations in which someone will come to the website, what will they be looking for, how can you fill their needs. Come up with the major cases you can think of, prioritize those, and work on designing the pages and navigation so that priority visitors can answer their questions as quickly and fully as possible.

I also recommend getting the book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug. It came out 5 years ago, but it’s still the best text I know for thinking about how a web site should work.

Building business with LinkedIn

People think of LinkedIn primarily for job seeking and filling positions, but it offers opportunities to build your business in a range of ways.

A recent article in the New York Time (“The Social Network That Gets Down to Business,” by Miguel Helft, New York Times  September 29, 2010) profiles two business owners who connected with global communities online through LinkedIn.

As with any online network, you need to spend time developing and maintaining connections. From the article:

Ms. Wiseberg [participated in groups] to get Red Scarf Equestrian off the ground. She had been on LinkedIn for several years but had never really learned how to use the site. When she started the business, she began joining groups related to her field and participating in discussions on them. She is now a member in more than a dozen groups, including Luxury and Lifestyle Professionals, Luxury Addict Group, Woman 2 Woman Business, and Horse Lovers of the Business World.

It is through these affiliations that others in the industry discovered her and began inviting her to events in Europe, North America and Asia.

“I had to go global, because the market in Canada is too small,” Ms. Wiseberg said. “I’m getting there.”

Clothing retail companies try recommending others’ goods

“J. Crew saw a business opportunity in assuming the role of a sophisticated and self-assured friend, guiding customers through the infinite offerings of the Internet without pushing them to buy only its own wares.

“‘What the world needs now is curators and filters,’ said Anthony Sperduti of Partners and Spade, the New York advertising agency behind the campaign. ‘J. Crew is savvy enough to know that the Internet has changed our buying patterns.”

from “Buy My Stuff — and Theirs, Too” by Joshua Brustein, New York Times, October 2, 2010

Ford saves substantial costs using social media

“On the Fiesta Movement, we had higher unaided nameplate awareness than Fit or Yaris, and we spent 10 cents on the dollar, than a traditional tv ad campaign.  So by starting earlier and using social media to spread the word about the new product, we’re really reducing the amount of traditional advertising we have to spend.”

Ford CMO Jim Farley answers questions about how the company uses social media. Watch the full interview with Jim Farley.

How to make a great home page

Apple website home page

A focused, compelling home page: the Apple home page

The home page is generally a website’s most visible page.

Often, a company will load the home page with too much information. The sad result is that the page feels cluttered and fails to help site visitors know how to do business with the company.

Here are five prime tips for making your home page effective. Continue reading