Content is only king when there’s context

“Content is king”. That is a rule of thumb adopted by website creators because they know that high quality content helps to attract and retain customers by positioning the company and by building relationships with people.

Seth Godin, in his excellent free ebook Everyone is an Expert, says that people aren’t searching for anything online… they’re going online to make sense (page 9). That’s a brilliant distinction and it supports the belief that content is king. We need content to help us make sense.

It used to be that content would get piled on top of content on the first page. Website owners wanted links to many things on their first page to help position the company as the expert. They wanted people to click to their home page and see that there were many options to choose from.

But lately, things are changing. Businesses still know that content is king — that people will still go to their site to find trustworthy information to help them make sense. But those businesses are beginning to realize that overwhelming people with links on the first page is not the way to greet prospects and customers.An excellent example to show this difference can be found by comparing the websites of software giants Oracle and SAP.

Here is a screenshot of Oracle‘s home page.

AaronHoos_BusinessWriter_Oraclehomepage

It’s not easy to tell from here but there are 72 “primary” links on this page (“primary” meaning highlighted in the main body of the page, not the smaller ones in the the header or footer). 72! That is a lot for any web visitor to read through even if they are sorted the way Oracle has them.

Here is SAP‘s home page.

AaronHoos_BusinessWriter_SAPhomepage

Again, it’s hard to tell at this size but there are 10 primary links (with only 5 ever showing at a time).

What a difference! Oracle’s page has an overwhelming number of links that could turn off any prospect or customer. SAP, on the other hand, has a simple, clean site with only a few links.

In my mind, SAP has made a huge change. My advice to Oracle? Better fix your site quickly!

It is so important to guide your visitors rather than to simply present them with all of their options at the beginning. The whole web 2.0 environment has a clean look with much fewer links. Just click to web 2.0 companies like Skype, Facebook, Box.net, Flickr, and LinkedIn to see how these companies are using a minimal amount of links to greet customers.

The point of this blog is not to simply suggest that your homepage should have fewer links. Rather, it’s to illustrate much more important concepts:

  • People want to be guided. They think they want all of the options but they really don’t. They want a way to get to the right options quickly. The thinking used to be that businesses give all the options up-front to reduce clicking through a long content pathway from one page to the next. But people would rather click for quick sorting and clear, “bite-sized” content. It creates longer content pathways (by requiring more pages on a site) but it makes choosing easier because each click narrows the choices they have to make.
  • Content is only king if it is useful. If content is presented en masse, it requires effort and it can be difficult to place that content within a context. Content becomes more useful when it is presented in manageable pieces within a context. And that context is created with high-level choices presented to the website visitor right on the homepage.

Leave a Reply