Simple, open stories with a clear hierarchy that is easy to follow. That’s all I want. I still have my RSS reader to scan the hundreds of stories I track daily. That approach works perfectly well on smart phone as well as desktop/tablet. But once I drill into a story and then sample around that particular Web site, I yearn for well-written headlines, big, quality images, personality and one-click sharing. I also want to see some related stories. If there is enough relevant substance there and if the content design is strong enough, I will add that resource to my daily read.
Great content and content design drives repeat usage and greater engagement. It’s not rocket science although it should be data-driven.
PWC, The World is in Beta, is Better Design
The PWC site, The World in Beta, is a great example of a thought leadership content site that follows new, best practices in content design and delivers a remarkable and refreshing approach.
Here’s how they state the purpose of the offering:
“Through this website we’ll seek to explain what companies must do to adapt and prosper in this age defined by digital opportunities. We’ll show how these opportunities are changing industries and markets and affecting every part of the organisations wishing to compete in them and we’ll share strategies designed to help companies move with speed, empower ideas from untapped sources, and develop resilient and trusted networks.”
There is so much right going on here, I will simply highlight 4 great content experience and design qualities:
1. The introduction and purpose is carried by a short video. This shares their POV succinctly and in a truly engaging way. Once I understand the site purpose, I will simply engage with their most recent content and do not need to refer to this video again.
2. Articles are elegant, attractive and easy to read. Articles have great headlines and an easy to read/scan display format. the one caveat is that they do not consistently use bold headers that break down long articles. Enforcing best practices with a consultancy can be difficult. While only a few articles are complemented with imagery, the editorial still feels open and visually inviting.
3. The site is optimized for sharing. The fact that they have share buttons adjacent to promos (we all share before we read) aligns to behavior.
4. There is personality here that I and Google appreciate. Most articles and stories are bylined by staff who are identified with photos and contact information including their LinkedIn profile. As my Content Marketing lead, Brian Carlson, will often point out, the byline helps in establishing authority in Google. I like it because I want to get to know people in organizations.
5. Short, provocative videos amidst the articles. They are pondering the future here and are not shy about crafting a few videos that depect that future. Like this :33 video on drone bees which just happens to be a great length for pre-roll advertising, not just content on the site.
The Washington Post RWeb Version is Refreshingly Simple
The Post has a new tablet-inspired interface that makes reading stories fun again. The big-picture approach that stacks two stories next to each other with a simple arrow-left and arrow-right actually encourages me to read deeper into their stories and not simple headline-hop.
Three things worth noting here:
1. Never underestimate the power of a picture and a headline. When I scan my NYTimes app, I am grazing headlines looking for a relevant story. When I am in the Post RWeb version, I am attracted to the photography that hints at the story as much or more than the actual headline itself.
2. Stories designed to be read, shared and crawled by Google. The stories are well constructed – bylines, headlines, share functions, ability to go full width, increase the text size. They are really paying attention to what the reader may want to do. The only caveat is that stories are written like traditional newspaper stories so no bold paragraph headlines to make pages more scannable. I am certain that quality makes good journalist cringe. I just appreciate it when several pages of text are broken up by bold headers.
3. User-controlled photos enhance the mobile experience. Some stories have a lot of photographs – like the one on the President’s visit to Watertown, South Dakota. Rather than force all of these images down the pipe, regardless of what type of connection you have, the page loads a couple, tells you how may more are in the stack server-side and that asks you if you want to load two more. Another good example of user-centered design.