September 27, 2010

Website Content Series Part 4: Should I Use a Template for my Website Content?


Hostway Team

By Simon Wright

When you set about creating your website’s content, you may feel daunted by the scale of text and concerned over your ability to pull together a site that’s coherent and consistent. Website content templates can make this task a lot easier, by providing clear guidance on the structure required for every page. This, in turn, can also enable you to delegate the writing to multiple writers.

What Are Content Templates?

Let’s take a familiar example. Amazon’s Website contains thousands of pages of content. However, the task of creating a new page of content on Amazon is made easier by the fact that there’s an established template for all new pages. So if I’m tasked with writing a page for the latest U2 album, then I know that there’s a standard order that must be in place so the page is consistent with all the other music pages.

In this particular example, the template will break the page up into content chunks, covering such things as Headline paragraph, Product Details, Product Description, Customer Reviews, etc. Having such a template makes life easier for the copywriter as it narrows the choices that they have to make.

How Content Templates Work

On most websites, there won’t just be one content template. For example, the way that you structure a product page may be very different from what is optimal for a “Help” page. Site owners therefore often end up with a suite of content templates. These must be clearly marked so that the writer knows which template to use for which part of the site.

Content templates don’t have to be high tech. You can even hand write them although, more normally, they are created and stored in an electronic format. The basics you’d expect to find on a content template include:

  • Page title
  • A description of the chunks of text that are expected on the page
  • Whether points should be bullet-pointed or displayed as text paragraphs

Providing an existing example is also really useful in bringing the content template to life.

Duplication of Content

The purpose of content templates is to ensure consistency of page structure, rather than replication of phrases. However, there’s a risk that writers may just repeat wording that’s contained on their template example. Focusing on the individual features of a product should reduce this risk and having someone who acts as an overseer of all submitted content can also help to guard against this pitfall.

Is there Scope to Customize the Template?

Templates are there to help you rather than to hinder you. If there is a specific example which you feel merits a minor tweak to the template, then you can accommodate this. For example, maybe you have an online demo for a product. It would be foolish to exclude it just because you don’t have online demos for your other products! However, you do need to guard against excessive tinkering with the templates as that will undermine their value.

About the Author

Simon Wright works as mobile delivery manager for Royal Bank of Scotland and has extensive experience across ecommerce and mcommerce including the launch and promotion of websites.

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