Content design

The home page is particularly important in achieving marketing actions - if the customers do not understand or do not buy into the proposition of the site, then they will leave. Gleisser (2001) states that it is important to clarify what he refers to as 'the essentials' of: who we are, what we offer, what is inside and how to contact us.

A study of the advertising impact of web site content design has been conducted by Pak (1999). She reviewed the techniques on web sites used to communicate the message to the customer in terms of existing advertising theory. The study considered the creative strategy used, in terms of the rational and emotional appeals contained within the visuals and the text. As would be expected intuitively, the appeal of the graphics was more emotional than that for the text; the latter used a more rational appeal. The study also considered the information content of the advertisements using classification schemes such as that of Resnik and Stern (1977). The information cues are still relevant to modern web site design. Some of the main information cues, in order of frequency of use, were:

• performance (what does the product do?);

• components/content (what is the product made up of?);

• implicit comparison;

• availability;

• explicit comparisons.

Aaker and Norris (1982) devised a framework in which the strategy for creative appeal is based on emotion and feeling, and that for rational and cognitive appeal is based on facts and logic.

Copywriting for the web is an evolving art form, but many of the rules for good copy-writing are as for any media. Common errors we see on web sites are:

• too much knowledge assumed of the visitor about the company, its products and services;

• using internal jargon about products, services or departments - using undecipherable acronyms.

Web copywriters also need to take account of the user reading the content on-screen. Approaches to dealing with the limitations imposed by the customer using a monitor include:

• writing more concisely than in brochures;

• chunking, or breaking text into units of 5-6 lines at most, which allows users to scan rather than read information on web pages;

• use of lists with headline text in larger font;

• never including too much on a single page, except when presenting lengthy information such as a report which may be easier to read on a single page;

• using hyperlinks to decrease page sizes or help achieve flow within copy, either by linking to sections further down a page or linking to another page.

Smith and Chaffey (2005) summarise the essentials of good copywriting for the web under the mnemonic 'CRABS', which stands for chunking, relevance, accuracy, brevity and scannability.

Hofacker (2000) describes five stages of human information processing when a web site is being used. These can be applied to both page design and content design to improve usability and help companies get their message across to consumers. Each of the five stages summarised in Table 7.5 acts as a hurdle, since if the site design or content is too difficult to process, the customer cannot progress to the next stage. It is useful to consider the stages in order to minimise these difficulties.

Table 7.5 A summary of the characteristics of the five stages of information processing described by Hofacker (2000)

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