Earlier this year I bought a flat pack bookcase to put in our summerhouse. The bookcase acts as a lure to get Sharon and I out into the garden, to stop doing 'stuff' and to read more. It wasn't long into the assembly of the bookcase that it became clear that the flat pack bookcase is a great metaphor for your DIY website.
Many of us will have done it; we assemble flat pack furniture yet none of us would consider ourselves joiners. So I find it baffling how so many people have assembled a website using a flat pack CMS such as Wordpress and decided that they 'do' web design.
Assembling a flat pack bookcase is a doddle. You know what you're going to end up with (because you've seen the bookcase in the store) and, what's more, you've idiot-proof, step-by-step assembly instructions. You assemble the bookcase, feel a modicum of pride as you position it in the room and then you fill it with books.
But the appeal and the draw of a bookcase isn't to be found in the build but the content of the bookcase. No visitor to your home or office would be drawn to an empty bookcase. Only when your bookcase has content would a visitor feel compelled to comment or compliment you upon your book collection. A website is no different.
The very moment you liken your website to the function of a bookcase will be the moment you'll realise that you need a content strategy and not just a self-assembly flat pack from a DIY store.
Let's play with this bookcase metaphor a little more. If you were to put a bookcase in the reception area of your widget manufacturing organisation with the intention of making it relevant and intriguing for your Customers, what kind of books would you fill it with?
You'd want your Customers to be drawn to the bookcase and to pick-up books - if they reached the shelves only to find books about the manufacturing history of widgets they'd be unlikely to engage and pick-up any books from your collection.
So, instead, you fill the bookcase with content that would interest them. Books about what they like; books about how widgets can make them and their business more effective, more productive, more profitable and more successful; books they'd want to pick-up and possibly even pinch. In short, you need a content strategy so much more than you need a website.
If your website is something you, chummy down the pub or maybe a close family friend has built for you then it's time to take a good hard look at what's been built, because the chances are that your website is empty and boring. Just like a bookcase, the real appeal of your website lies not in how it looks but in the content it's full of.
A flat pack website comes with no idiot-proof, step-by-step assembly instructions so it's little wonder that so many look wonky, unappealing and boring.
The value of a strong content strategy is that the content strategy becomes your website's assembly instructions. These idiot-proof, self-assembly instructions of yours will stop your website project going wonky and will tell you which tools and content you will need to have before you start building. Having a content strategy means having an appreciation and an acceptance of what your Customers will pick-up, read and share.
Steve - Having read this blog of yours I am even more inspired, not just to write my next blog but to plan my own website content strategy for the coming 6 months (Steady...!)
We've spoken a lot recently about improving my website SEO performance for search concepts such as St Albans and stylist but this post really puts those discussions into context. Excellent, engaging blog. Thank you.
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As always, an insightful, helpful and blindingly obvious blog.
I love the bookcase analogy, puts it very succinctly.
Pay a proverbial "14 year old spotty nosed oik" £250 to build your website and you will indeed have an empty bookcase. It may a very pretty bookcase, but probably won;t contain any books of interest.
If however you are interested in your website to actually doing what you want it to do, such as selling stuff or informing customers listen to Uncle Stevey. Most wise man.
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