What Is Web Content?

And why do some people think it's so important that it should be called King?

Woman searching on Google website using iPad tablet computer
Iain Masterton / Getty Images

In the web design industry, there's a saying that "Content is King." But, what does that actually mean? What, exactly, is content, and why does it rule online? The reason is simple: content is the reason people find, visit, and share your web pages. When it comes to a website's success, content really is King.

Importance of Quality Web Content

Content can be defined as the meat of any given web page, or the text and media resources people value. Contrast valuable content with elements like splash pages, which many websites used to use. Note the phrase "used to." Splash pages (visually focused presentation-like pages that would "introduce" a website) came and went because they provided more frustration ("Why am I watching this bubble bounce across the screen when I really just want to know what time this store opens?") than inspiration.

As with the inclusion of a splash page, in their rush to create the prettiest page or the most interesting architecture, web designers may forget the critical role of content.

When it comes down to it, customers aren't interested in whether your design has a 3-pixel or a 5-pixel border. Nor do they care that you've built it in Wordpress or ExpressionEngine. Yes, they can appreciate a good user interface but not because it looks great. Rather, because it doesn't interfere with the tasks they want to accomplish on the site. In fact, the best designs don't get noticed at all because they support, rather than interfere with, visitors' experience.

Which brings us back to the primary point: visitors come to your web page for the content. If your designs, site architectures, and interactivity are all beautifully executed but the site doesn't offer unique, quality content, visitors will leave and look for another that does.

The Types of Web Content

There are two types of website content: text and media.

Text

Text is the written content on the page. Good textual content follows the guidelines for online reading, such as breaking up the text with headers, bullets, and brief paragraphs. It also includes helpful links to internal and external sources so readers can take a deeper dive into the information presented. Finally, the most effective textual content is written with a global audience in mind, since websites can be read by viewers anywhere in the world. The following elements are examples of textual content:

  • Your company's About Us page
  • Your hours of operation or contact information
  • Articles that help customers and potential customers
  • A useful blog that gives readers a reason to visit again
  • Press releases that announce new products, services, and initiatives
  • Information about upcoming events

Some of these pieces may include media elements as well.

Media

The other type of website content is media (sometimes referred to as "multimedia"), which is any content that isn't text. It includes animation, images, sound, and video. The key to using any of them successfully is to not upstage the King. That means not interfering with the site's main messages with visual or technical distractions. Here are some tips for specific media types:

The best website animations are done in moderation. The exception to this rule is if the purpose of your site is something like showcasing animation services. For other types of sites, it's important to ensure the "wow factor" of the animation adds to, rather than distracts from, the primary message of the page.

The same is true for images, which are the most common way to add interest to web pages. You can use photos, art you've created yourself with a graphics editor, or stock images that you purchase online. You should optimize website images so they load and download quickly, so the artwork contributes to frictionless content viewing.

Sound can be embedded in a web page so readers hear it when they enter the site or when they activate a link to turn it on. However, keep in mind that not everyone appreciates website sound, especially if you have it turn on automatically with no way to turn it off. In fact, this implementation of website sound is akin to splash pages, in that it isn't used much anymore.

If you have a legitimate reason to include automatic sound on your website, go ahead but also make sure you provide an obvious way to turn it off.

Video is incredibly popular on websites. But adding a video that works reliably across different browsers can be challenging. The last thing you want is to have an otherwise perfectly designed web page with a video that viewers can't get to work. One of the easiest ways to avoid this scenario is to upload the video to a service like YouTube or Vimeo and then use the "embed" code from that site within your web page.