Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

Ad Astra Traffic: Content production/article writing service.

Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A paragraph is worth a thousand swooshes...Text vs. graphics...

I was reading the Newfangled Web Factory site this afternoon. Newfangled is a web design firm who appears to enjoy working from a WebTop CMS platform. They have some interesting things to say about written content, the impact of CMS on written content, etc.

Anyway, this grabbed me:

"First, the marketing paradigm for using visual impact is inverted on the web. I've written about this dynamic many times over the years, but it merits reiteration. Offline, image and visual impact is necessary in order to grab attention. You must win attention before you have the opportunity to say anything. In these situations, visuals often trump words. Some of the best ad campaigns have little or no words in them at all. Where brand reinforcement is the objective, an image of an athlete with a "swoosh" can do the job nicely. However, on the web there is literally no "stop and grab attention" work to be done at all. People don't walk past websites or have websites presented to them in between television shows. They choose to go to a website based on an interest of some kind. They type in a URL, choose a bookmark or click on a link. The design of the site has no role whatsoever in their choosing to click on a link. This is not to say that design and images are unimportant; once they do click, site's looks fills the same important role it does in a brochure, annual report or billboard. But the initial attention-grabbing part of the equation is removed.

Another reason for the elevated priority of words on the web is the expectation of why people go to a website. Except for a very small percentage of ubiquitous brand sites like Coke, McDonald's or Nike, or sites where the purpose is highly entertainment-oriented, most websites get traffic from people in search of information. Such information may very well include pictures, like maps on MapQuest, but usually the information is contained in the words of the site."

I think freelance content writers have a tendency to undersell their product relative to other site elements and the Newfangled comment does a good job of explaining why the written word is uniquely important to online business. It explains why the very nature of net use makes words particularly valuable even in comparison to graphical elements, which are often perceived as the "star of the show."

Most freelance content writers will tell potential customers all about the value of great text, but rarely are they willing to position their product as a competitor for other elements. That unwillingness to sell writing over graphics, for instance, may be uncomfortable for those writers who aren't particularly familiar with the matter or confident in supporting the claim.

Some of that may be a byproduct of habit, too. I think that's the case with me. I don't often advise prospective clients, for instance, to spend more on me and less on graphics. I can't say that I am in the habit of telling a prospective client unable to afford a content job that a de-emphasis on graphics would allow him or her to afford the text they really needed. However, there is a natural competition within the budget and it may be wise to raise that issue.

Ideally, of course, there's enough to go around for everyone and the writers can join hands with the graphics people and sing a happy song. But when there's not... Well...