Why Content Really is King

It's an overused expression, to be sure, but there is more than a grain of truth behind it -- in fact, there are probably enough grains to bake a loaf of bread!

You and I -- everyone on the Web today -- have a unique opportunity that will never repeat itself: to get in at the bottom.

Even though there are already tens of millions of sites out there, consider this: only about 1% of the world's population is online! With projected avances in satellite and terrestrial communications over the next few years, within 5 years you could find 30 times the number of people online... NOW is your chance to build up a regular "following" for your site, while the field is still relatively empty.

If you want to make your site a success, you need to focus on the long rather than the short term.

Content VS Presentation

In an ideal world, there shouldn't be a tradeoff between the content of your site and the way you present that content. Since we have to make do with the imperfect world we live in, it is vital you choose the right level in making this particular trade-off.

You can represent all existing sites on a quality diagram like the one below:-

Quality rises as you move up and to the right. The RED triangle represents sites which focus on presentation: graphics, animation, Java and other enhancements rule the roost. It is probably no coincidence that the RED triangle also represents the types of site the average web design company will make for you. Web designers love playing with expensive graphics packages and getting their hands dirty with advanced scripts and programs.

The GREEN triangle represents sites which focus on the content, i.e. the information presented on the site. Your site should fall inside the GREEN triangle if you want to succeed in the long term!

A site with very poor presentation but excellent content may not succeed, but it is better to have a site with average presentation and excellent content than a site with poor to average content but excellent presentation.

Nouvelle Cuisine

A presentation-rich, content-poor site is like nouvelle cuisine: the food looks delicious, and tastes delicious, but by golly you're still going to be hungry afterwards! Expensive, too... you're hardly going to dine on nouvelle cuisine every day of the week.

You'll want to make your site into the equivalent of a staple food, something that people eat every day...

Your pockets will never be THAT deep!

You cannot win a race based on presentation, for the simple reason that some competitors have millions of dollars to throw at their designers to ensure that their sites have the latest bells, whistles and buzzers. You can't hope to compete at that sort of level for very long...

On the other hand, if your site is focused on a specific field or subject, you have a much better chance to win a race based on content, or at least to come in with the finalists. Why? Content comes from knowledge and experience; presentation comes from artistic talent and money. If you have the knowledge, you should be able to produce a content-rich site relatively cheaply...

The Web Designers' Hidden Agenda

Beware the web designer that tries to encourage you to fill your site with attractive graphics and flashy animations. Designers love to design, it's in their blood... it's really fun to dabble with all the latest graphics tools; what's more, designers produce results that are far more "professional" than rank amateurs dabbling with Windows Paint, a really satisfying feeling!

Designers will generally steer away from content, since it will require them much more effort to produce than pretty pictures, and because the creative process itself feels much less rewarding.

Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes! Demand content... even if it means shopping around for a less "artistic" designer.

Remember: You would not hire an artist to write a book... so make sure you use a web designer who can produce content!

A final thought: the 95% "rule"

A simple rule of thumb for any site owner should be "Is my site better than 95% of the competition?" If not, you should be working towards making your site better. If your site really is better, then you can safely set about letting more people know about it.

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