photo credit: iDream_in_Infrared
Part three: The good, the bad, and the content developer.
This is the third part of an interview with Krista Vieira, my co-worker and recent attendee of Gerry McGovern’s Masterclass for web content professionals. Part one focuses on knowing your audience. Part two is about keywords, carewords and focus. In this part, Krista speaks about the role of the content manager / developer.
Q: You’ve worked as a content developer and web professional for quite a few years now, was there anything at the masterclass that shocked or surprised you?
I wasn’t so much surprised as disappointed by the number of websites that don’t focus on the audience. Obviously I am aware of this, but it really sunk in seeing example after example after example. This is not just a North American problem it’s global.
Gerry has a knack for pointing out the absurd on a website and getting participants to see the web page with new eyes (along with showing us itâ€™s OK to laugh at ourselves). I found it interesting that in each example he sited, the organization completely missed the mark when it spent to much time focusing on them and not enough time focusing on the audience. Each website that made improvements did so by focusing on what their particular audience wanted.
I find it funny that in traditional advertising, marketers take the time to get to know the demographic they are selling to. They find out what motivates a particular group, then build an ad campaign around what will best speak to the audience they are trying to reach. People seem to forget that the web is really just another marketing tool. Marketers forget that they still need to focus on the audience and deliver a message in a way that will reach the people they are trying to reach.
For some reason I have still not figured out, a lot of people working on the web take it really personally. They create something and it becomes all about them, so it’s difficult at times to recommend changes or improvements.
The web is a really fun place to work, but at the end of the day it’s not about the web team or the organization the website if built for, but the audience. Something not working on the web does not automatically translate to being a poor communicator or being bad at your job. I think of it like a teacher. When you become an educator you learn that people have different learning styles. Some people respond better to hands-on learning, while others respond better to textbook or traditional lecture style learning. A good educator understands the need to teach to all styles of learning during class time. Each class will be different, so the teacher needs to identify the learning styles of each class then adapt their teaching to suite the studentsâ€™ needs.
As web communicators, we need to understand that our audience may not behave on the web as we intend. We need to take the time to learn how they are using our website, what’s working for them and what isn’t, so we can adjust our communication style to best suite their online behaviour.
It should be obvious but it isn’t. As web communicators, we are producing a product for a particular audience. How is it we even need to spend any time discussing the importance of finding out who a particular web audience is and what their needs are?
Q: Gerry spoke for two days, and there was a lot of information delivered, but if you could have a second part to the masterclass, what additional information would you like to have heard, or explored in even more detail, if any?
I would like to have a hands-on session that gets participants to start analyzing websites to see what is working and what isnâ€™t. As I mentioned earlier, Gerry has a knack for pointing out the absurd on a website, things we may notice about a site, but be blind to on our own.
I think it would be beneficial to analyze websites and break down what makes them good and what makes them bad. At the end, participants could be required to analyze their own websites. The fresh perspective may allow web professionals to step back and clearly see their websites for what they are. I think as web professionals we need to be able to maintain a distance from the websites we support, so we can continue to see it the way our audience does.