It's all in the planning - Part 4
Time to add content!
Now that your new site is prepared on your own hard disk, you're ready to actually populate it with content - the raison d'etre of your site. Without content, all you have is a very nice demo of how a site could look!
Checks and balances
If you read nothing else, ever, please read this section.
What you write for your Web site is vitally important - well, not so much the what, but the how. There is a small number of things - let's call them quirks - that guarantee a click-away in your readership. They are:
- bad spelling
- bad grammar
- bad punctuation
I'll cover them one by one. When you create your purple prose, please don't just type it directly into the Web page and FTP it straight to your site. Create you content in a word processor first, and use its spelling checker at the very least. Pay particular attention to homonyms and also to dropped first letters:
serial/cereal, two/to/too, there/they're/their, are all examples of homonyms that are frequently mis-used.
What/hat, That/hat, Bring/ring, Cat/at are examples of dropped first letters that a spelling checker won't catch (and then there's the first/fist style of typo as well!)
Read back what you've written to spot errors such as these, and do it more than once.
Grammar can be a pain, I know, but you do see some real howlers (by the way, if you don't see anything wrong in the following examples you may well want to turn on grammar checking in your word processor)
"The thing about this item what newts'r'us have brung out is that it...."
"Its true to say that it's constituent part's are fine, but..."
"I have went to more than one store in my search..."
Spot the wrong 'uns? I do hope so!
Punctuation is an art. Remember that your reader will prefer shorter sentences, preferably without too many commas and other pause indicators. One idea per sentence is usually right. If you're in any doubt, make sentences shorter rather than longer. A long, convoluted sentence, in which a number of ideas is introduced, and which requires the use of lots of punctuation, can be daunting for the reader who is not used to parsing a high number of clauses in his day-to-day reading, and could easily cause him to want to click away to another site before he's finished reading your article.
Whatever you do with the first three quirks, be consistent. If you're going to add an aberrant apostrophe to a plural, add it to every plural. If you add an apostrophe to 'its' (the possessive form, which doesn't actually have an apostrophe) then do it to every one. It's wrong, yes, but if you do it, then don't do it, and then do it again, it looks even worse.
In fact, what we know as 'Grocers' Apostrophes' are very, very annoying to readers who know how to use apostrophes correctly. My own inclination is to click away to another site if I see a couple in the first paragraph of a site. The reason for that is that I cannot trust the author to be correct in the information he's giving me if he doesn't know how to correctly apostrophise words. The same applies to spelling, although I do forgive poor grammar much more easily. That's only because correctly constructed, formally grammatical sentences can be very stilted and uninteresting to read.
Notwithstanding the rules of good English, you should adopt a style for your new Web site. It can be very formal, very chatty, friendly, aloof - it can have any feel you want to give it. The thing is, you *must * maintain that style of writing throughout your site. Consistency is the key.
But - there's always a but - you can change styles between areas of the site - considering different sections to be 'mini-sites' that have a style of their own.
you have adopted a style, be consistent with it. I'm reminded of an old colleague of mine ' MicroMouse - who used to have an online column long before the Internet was ever invented. The style he and his ghost writers chose was particularly quirky, and involved using the word 'mouse' wherever possible inside words, as well as references to mouse-like behaviour (words like 'scampering', 'gnawing', having a 'tail' to tell and so on).
Obvimousely, this gave rise to a very famouse style of writing, and actually affected the speech styles of certain people who read the column regularly. It would be invidimouse of me to continue to ape his style, so I'll scamper off to another idea...
As I hope you will have gathered, constructing the content of a Web site is not an easy feat to accomplish. You must, in some ways, become an editor, a sub-editor and style guru all rolled up into one. It's not as easy as it (I hope) looks to construct a content-driven Web site. My hope is that Practical PC looks easy to create, because it should then be easy to read. Let me tell you, though, that every article you read here is crafted by professionals, and checked numerous times before it gets anywhere near a Web page. If you take your time when creating your content, it will look slick and easy to read in your readers' browsers - and they'll keep coming back for more!