OK, for the first ingredient, we'll need heaps of content-and, like caviar, only the best content will do. Anything less is just fish eggs. High-quality, interesting content can go a long way. You don't even need that much if it is good, but this is critical to understand and practice. Just copying text and images onto a server and making it available isn't enough. Most people won't stick around to finish a meal that isn't tasty in the beginning. The sites that have good content are the ones that make you laugh, think, get upset, get motivated, become informed, or, most importantly, come back for more.
Many sites can't miss with content. For example, the Sundance Film Festival website has some of the most interesting, beautiful, and innovative film footage on the Net. Unfortunately, it's about the only course they serve. There isn't anything to do there but download film clips that leave you thirsting for something more. Now, whetting people's appetite is important, but stimulating their hunger without feeding them isn't morally defensible-nor good business.
When you make a salad, how fresh are the ingredients? Do you use week-old lettuce? Month-old tomatoes? Ancient cucumbers? Why then do people assume that websurfers want to devour out-of-date content that's stale and uninteresting. Granted, some content requires some age, and can last forever while being just as appealing as when it is fresh. Dishes like sauerkraut, lutefisk, Roquefort, and fine red wines exist and find an audience, but they are by far the minority of dishes and often require special palettes and experience to appreciate them. Unless you own content like Shakespeare, Orwell, or Zen proverbs (and even these pass into the public domain), don't count on making a living off tired material. Resign yourself to preparing fresh content daily or weekly-even hourly if appropriate.
So Does Quality
Sites that have the hardest time with content are those that aren't in the content business. Most companies, for example don't have Disney characters tied to their products. Most don't even deal with the public. To compensate, they hire marketeers to dream up slick promotions and fancify simple messages, often creating freakish or silly content that is wholly inappropriate. Don't put up your marketing drivel and be satisfied that you've filled your site with content. What you've done is pack your site with empty filler instead of nutritious content.
If you aren't a content king, don't try to be. Use the best of what you have and concentrate on other attributes (hint: pass directly to the section in this paper describing Interactivity and collect an extra 2 million hits).
Publishers often chant the mantra "Content is King" with the fervor of a religious convert. They speak to each other at conventions about how they have more expertise about content than anyone else in the industry-and they are correct. However, content alone is not enough and most of these publishers are so busy convincing themselves that they are the key to successful interactive media, that they can see no further than putting their existing content on the Net without the slightest change to address the medium. Newspapers have shown themselves to be particularly adept at this as they put their news on the Web and can't figure out why they can't get people to register for their site, let alone subscribe and pay money. What they are forgetting is that the term "Interactive Media" starts with the word "Interactive" and that they know less than most about creating interactive experiences.
You Can't Please All of the People All of the Time
Lastly, too many sites try to address everyone by serving up a bland blend of content. By trying to be "ubiquitous" or "objective," they end-up creating a site with no personality and no flavor, that ultimately appeals to noone. Objectivity does not exist. Even a dictionary is subjective. Your voice, your point of view, is exactly why people will come to your site.
- Less is often more ("Tastes great, less filling")
- More is often more (especially if it's high-quality and appropriate)
- Concentrate on what you've got and don't try to fancify weak material (Frosted Rice Cakes! Yummm!)
- Be sure that your site has a voice.
- CNN Interactive
- Time Out
- News of the Weird
- Salon Media
- NewsWatch: A Consumer's Guide to the News
- Brill's Content
- Temp 24-7
- Disgruntled Housewife
- The Smoking Gun
- The Straight Dope
- d i s i n f o r m a t i o n
- Howard Rheingold's Brainstorms
- Center for Digital Storytelling
- ernest kim | tell me your story
- Star Trek Fan Fiction Archive
- Pacific Bell Internet Services
Art and Design:
- Ada Web
- Vision of the Future
- IBM Research: Knowledge Socialization
- Eames Office
- Jenny Holzer
- Revealing Things
- Gguerrilla Girls
- All About Jazz
- Cluetrain Manifesto
- Art and Culture
- Design Online
- Who Built It?
- The HCI Bibliography
- Technology Review: MIT's Magazine of Innovation
- IBM Patent Server Home Page
- Buzzwords And Killer Apps: A Timeline
- Media Research Lab
- ACM SIGCHI: HCI-Related Sites
- Dynamic HTML Zone
Health and Fitness:
- The Orwell Awards
- MIT Hack Gallery
- Statistical Abstract of the USA (brief)
- Urban Legends Archvie
- Robby the Robot
- Dilbert Archice
- The Simpsons Archive
- Darmok Dictionary
- Apple History
- Unusual Aviation Pictures
- MattyG's TV Theme Songs
- Good Housekkep Web Seal of Approval
- CIA World Factbook
- Bartlett's Quotations
- US Patent and Trademark Database
beginning | << back | next>>
back to thoughts | nathan.com
Copyright 1994 Nathan Shedroff