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Content Creation: Quality vs. Quantity (or “A Recipe for Content Deliciousness”)

by Erin Anderson on August 20th, 2010

Last night, I had dinner at one of Brain Traffic’s favorite local restaurants: Brasa Rotisserie. They’re part of a growing number of shops opting for a “limited offerings” approach to dining. That is, they offer a few dishes, and they do them goshdarned well. They use locally-grown, organic ingredients. They slow-cook their meat, and price the dishes reasonably.

I tend to appreciate that less-is-more approach with regard to more than just my dinner. That’s why I shop at my neighborhood co-op instead of the megasupermarket across town. It’s why I like wearing dresses instead of trying to assemble a pants-shirt-belt outfit every day. Life is complicated enough, already, jeez.

The same don’t-bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew, quality-vs.-quantity sensibility factors into many of the recommendations we make to our clients as they undertake the complex task of planning for content on their website.

Your content can’t please all of the people all of the time. (Sorry.)

It’s common for publishers of web properties (large ones, especially) to feel the pressure of becoming all things to all people. After all, different departments within a company have different priorities and different ideas about what the end user really needs.

But without clear rules and a solid decision-making process about what should stay and what should go, the situation can quickly devolve into a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario (ahem).

Pretty soon your users get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information on your site, and they leave feeling frustrated, but still hungry for something substantial. The information they wanted may have been there all along, but it was hiding behind a bunch of stuff they didn’t actually need or care about.

But with a content strategy in place, it can please some of the people most of the time.

So how can you satisfy your users by giving them only useful, usable, information that’s also easy to navigate and search? A strategy is necessary. That’s all there is to it.

Whatever form that strategy takes, it should cover the whos, whats, whens, wheres, whys, and hows of everything you serve up. For example:

  • What are your users’ goals?
  • What content do you offer to satisfy those goals?
  • Who makes the content?
  • Who fixes it when it’s broken/outdated?
  • Where is the best place on the site to share the content?
  • Why would your users choose you over another organization?
  • How can you use your site content to build on those competitive differences?
  • How do your users find you when they find you? How long do they stay when they get there? 

If you can’t keep tabs on all your content in these ways, make less of it for a while. Minimize the content elements you can’t easily govern … until you have the resources or the budget to do so.

The key is to set standards your organization can easily support and routinely evaluate.

Most importantly: Set standards (and a schedule!) for evaluating quality. Make a plan for adding/subtracting content elements to reflect current demand while innovating in your area of expertise. (If you’re the bomb at slow-cooking meats, make that your thing. Then whip up a few side dishes to give that carne some context.)

In summary, make sure the content on your site helps your users accomplish a task. Ditch everything that gets in their way. Bam!

  • http://twitter.com/tubes Sean Tubridy

    If someone says they prefer quantity over quality, punch them in the face 50 times and then hug them once. They'll reconsider.

  • Ahava

    This is so true. You cannot write if you don't have some idea of who will be reading–and the other rule is you can't always please the client all of the time. :-)

  • Chris Creech

    I really like the message behind this blog. With our shrinking attention spans and need to find exactly what we're looking for and find it immediately, a content strategy that focuses on good strong and precise content is very important. Sure, creating more content will help your SEO, but you are speaking to people, not robots. You really have to consider who you are talking to and what they want to hear, not just what will help your rankings in google or please the most people.

  • http://niciseoul.com Nicole // Niciseoul

    Well said. One size fits all is something I strictly avoided when I created my blog niciseoul.com
    However, Im realizing that I should write down that strategy, even though it's more of a personal blog to share my passion for design and fashion (from South Korea^^)

  • Jack Penland

    An additional standard would be to set goals that are, to continue the food theme here, sustainable. Some themes and ideas just don't have the “depth” to go very far.

  • http://blog.braintraffic.com/2010/12/tidings-of-content-calm/ Tidings of Content & Calm « Brain Traffic Blog

    [...] some unexpected benefits, including clearer focus and happier audiences. Users may be joyful about less quantity, more quality. When looking at content for places to trim, there’s a refrain that runs through my head (and [...]

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