Your website - running a tight ship
I’m going to use the ship analogy a lot here. Please bear with me. Granted, a website doesn’t necessarily float on water, or travel the oceans laden with cargo. But running and maintaining a web site is a lot like keeping a ship afloat, fueled (with content) and its decks (the page layout) in sparkling tip-top condition.
After a site is christened and launched into the big wide web, it can often be left to drift aimlessly in an tumultuous ocean of big fish (competitors), perilous danger (hackers & spammers) and doldrums (not given any love). Many of the sites we launch come with an engine to keep it moving - a CMS - and to keep the engine running, it has to be fueled. If you happen to own a website built by us, then chances are that the engine running it is TYPO3. But this article is equally relevant to other CMSs.
Full steam ahead - be a master of your own vessel
Knowing how to add new content is one thing, but being captain of the CMS and your website is something you should get to grips with as soon as possible. Keeping your eye on a few small key issues and applying them to your working processes can have great results.
Arguably, you may just want to tweak the content and let your agency deal with the rest, but if you are in the scenario where you are the sitemaster then these tips should help keep your website ship-shape:
Page titles & News titles
Keep them short and relevant - a great big heading is unwieldy, bad for SEO and looks silly when wrapping to 3 lines. The main title of a page should be a H1, sub headings H2 and so on. Give the page structure semantic meaning.
Strip away all the images and colours from you website, and what are you left with? Words; they are the meat and potatoes of a website.
- Keep it short - avoid the bloat. You should be able to sum up the context of the page in a couple of paragraphs. People don’t really read a long page of text on a web site. If you have (lots) more to say, consider linking to a PDF or a lower level page.
- Well written copy - Speaks for itself really. If the content sucks from the start, then that has big implications for the rest of the site in terms of value to the reader and of SEO effectiveness.
For a more in-depth look at content writing, check out “What you say matters” by Liquid Light’s Simon Emery.
Here are some quick tips to managing the image content of your site. No doubt you will have some smashing photos from an event, or a beautiful image to support your article, but if it is not treated properly it can look messy and slow your site down.
- Consistency - Stick to a consistent approach to how you treat images on your page and across your site. Decide and stick to it *
- Added value - Are they necessary/relevant - do they add any value to the page?
- Content - Does the image content (colour, composition) marry well with the page content?
- Crop - Make the image’s size appropriate to the content - two lines of text and a 500px deep image is not going to look very good.
- Format - the general rule of thumb is use a GIF for flat colour graphic and a JPG for a photographic image. Here is some more info
- File size - following from the format above you should have the best option for optimising size. Ideally compress the image as much as you can whilst retaining its image quality
* Consider asking your design agency for a set of templates - I’m sure they’ll only be too happy to supply you with some (after all, it’s in their interests that their hard work continues to look good)
Many CMSs, and TYPO3 is no exception, allow the Editor to place content all over the page template. If used without consideration this can make the flow of the page difficult to follow, and in the worst scenario, break it. Refer to the mockups that you agreed to and signed off as a guide and you should stay on the course straight & true.
If you are unsure, drop your agency an email to get their advice - again, it’s in their interests that you achieve what you want in the best considered way.
Structure & Architecture
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Being able to add, move & delete content is one of the fundamental powers of a CMS. However, when you have an idea for a new product or section, consider where it fits into your existing site structure. How would a user expect to find this content? As always put yourself in the shoes of your audience.
A pitfall to be wary of is duplicating content - in other words - don’t duplicate a page for use in another page of the site. Having duplicate content on your site can mean search engines will simply ignore it as it doesn’t know which is the valid source. The implication for you is all that lovely SEO copy you have written will be wasted. If you need to refer to content in another section or page, simply link to it, or if the CMS allows, create a reference or alias to it.
On the face of it these basics probably seem like a no-brainer. But basics can often be forgotten in the face of technicalities and 'bigger fish' to fry (sorry). It is these simple details, when overlooked, that can really sink a website...
Be mindful of these basic rules:
- Keep it ship-shape - keep the content clean, semantic and SEO friendly
- Sail straight & true - achieve an attractive page flow
- Don't overload your vessel - keep the page weight low to make things snappy
- Keep the decks clean - create a consistency that looks professional at all times.
All this will help to steer clear of those treacherous murky waters inhabited by content monsters and site wrecks.
If you appreciate all the ‘Argghh’ maritime speak, see here.