Content is the most important aspect of your website with design closely following. Nobody cares if you’ve got the most beautiful site on the web. Just show us the software/service and tell us how we’ll benefit from it already. You’re users are leaving in confusion and/or frustration and I’m about to follow them here shortly.

Company’s will have websites that look great but it’s impossible to figure out what they even provide. It should seem obvious now why content is so important. It’s the first thing users look at to figure out if they’re wasting their time or not. There are so many different things battling for the attention of users. They need everything to be obvious and spelled out for them so they can make quick decisions.

Not to mention, If you don’t have a solid content outline, designing a quality product is going to be a challenge. Your finished product will probably turn out to be an inconsistent mess, unless you’re lucky, and your users will leave confused as illustrated above.

One way to create an effective content outline is to ask questions early and often. It’s always good to ask questions no matter what you’re trying accomplish because there’s always a reason or an end goal. These questions usually seem obvious but they are often forgotten.

It’s all about the goals, man. What is the goal of the website? If you’re working at an agency like me, you should have an easy time answering this question. An example would be to focus on the quality of work or service your client provides and make it shine through out the site. This is referred to as the Macro Value Proposition. Actually I don’t know what it’s called, I just made that up but it sounds about right.

You can figure out the Macro Value Prop easily by asking questions like, “Who is the client and what do they do?” The more conscious you are about these questions, the easier it will get to answer them. It becomes second nature to always focus on them at the start of a project.

When and where should you display certain content to the user? Think about who the user is and what their primary objectives are. Understanding this will help you decide on when to show the user content or when to guide them to action. The most typical flow of a potential customer would be to learn about who the client is and the value they provide, then decide whether or not the client’s product or services will be useful to them.

The user will make decisions quicker than you’d expect; assumptions will be made within seconds of landing on the site. That’s why it’s important to create a solid base for the user experience and to guide them through the flow of the site. Make it easy on the user so that they have an enjoyable experience. This will leave the user satisfied about the client and more than likely to return.

If you’re having a hard time doing this, a good exercise to practice is imagining that the client’s company is actually your company. Of course you’re gonna want your company to be as successful as it can be. With this mindset you’ll be able to easily make design decisions that will benefit the client the most.

You’ll answer most of these questions as a team when you internally kickoff the project. Once you’ve made an awesome content outline, the next step is to creatively display the information. This is another aspect of the project that should be discussed within the internal kickoff meeting. A term for that process that you’ll often hear is Art Direction or Design Direction. Don’t forget to constantly refer to the outline so that you stay consistent and on target throughout the entire project.