“I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”
— Mark Twain
The process of developing meaningful content for websites is sometimes a bigger challenge than the technical construction of the website itself.
One reason for this is there being essentially no limit to need. The freeform nature of the web is that any content area can be endlessly broken down and refined. What’s more, there’s rarely a permanent solution — only a series of provisional drafts.
In a sense, it’s a resource management question, with time being the most important resource. The question to ask is not “what’s important?” but “what’s MOST important?”
The answer to that question is rarely formatting. If your goal in developing content it to tell a story, appeal to emotions, persuade your audience, or some similar goal, the process of adding to or adjusting the formatting will not only not bear fruit, but it will distract you from achieving meaningful results. The choices you make — inevitably to “stand out” or “add interest” — will read as inconsistency, then clutter, then desperation.
Making this phrase bold, centering this image, adding a border here or there can consume hours of time while providing only the illusion of progress. It’s like having a sad little sofa in a sad little apartment – moving it to this wall or that wall really doesn’t matter. Quoting Wargames, a movie from my youth, “the only way to win the game is not to play it at all.”
The real solution is the age old process of writing, thinking seriously about your message and then using formatting to clarify — not compete against — your content. Form follows function.
Our web development processes are based on this concept, with templates presenting a core of only a few formatting options. This acts as a foundation that helps people work quickly, make simple choices, and produce consistent results.