There are those who see websites as acts of creation separate from the people who will visit those websites. There are those who see people and create websites to meet these people's needs.I have spent most of my adult life around people who write. I have known many fine writers who are highly skeptical about writing for an audience. They prefer to create work that people need to read, rather than want to read.
Some writers feel that the very idea of being popular demeans the art of writing. They believe that the writer must be honest to their own vision and not be influenced in any way by what others think.
I have known writers in both literary and business settings who don't give the reader a second thought. They are in fact oblivious to the fact that what they write might actually be read. In fact, in my experience, a large percentage of organization content is created without any real focus on who might read it, or why they might want to read it, or what they might do after they read it.
I have known programmers who create applications without any real understanding of the people who might use these programs, or why. There is a very positive side of all this obliviousness. Writers and programmers, free of a focus on the public, can come up with new innovations; things that nobody knew they wanted until it was put before them.
The downside of ignoring the public is that there is also a strong chance that the end result will be unreadable and unusable. Usability is very popular today, not because the Web is full of very usable websites, but rather the opposite. The Web is full of content that could do a lot better; and applications with the right intent but poor implementation.
These problems have been generally recognized, and over the next five years, we're going to see dramatic improvements in the quality of the web experience. Sure, many websites will not improve, but these will become the ghost towns of the Web.
There are lots of great writers and programmers out there who need to be convinced that putting people first is the essence of website success. Too many writing and programming projects are started today without a clear understanding of who the audience is.
Too much content is created within organizations without a clear sense of its purpose. Web content has two primary objectives. The first is to communicate knowledge to the reader. The second is to make the reader more likely to act based on this knowledge.
The ultimate test of web content is what the reader does after reading it. This will be a huge change for many writers who see the end objective as the actual completion of the piece of content itself. However, it is a change that absolutely must happen if web content is to become more effective.
Web content must get the reader to act in the way the writer intends. Otherwise, it fails. What do you want your reader to do after they read your content?
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.