Ten Tips to Create Useful Content Pages in Content Management Systems

By Ben Shoemate and Priscila Mendoza

People do not read; they scan. Humans have evolved over thousands of years to focus on what’s interesting or important to survival and to ignore the rest. When a human encounters your content for the first time, you have mere seconds to alert them that your content is useful and worth their time. These tips can help you write better, more useful content. But remember - people are also smart. You can create the impression of usefulness and fool them once or twice, but if your message is not important, you risk undermining your site’s credibility and thus jeopardizing your mission, and ultimately your brand.

  1. Write with a novice in mind.

    A big mistake people make in writing is assuming the audience knows more than they do. They leave out the context for fear of boring or overwhelming people. Even if they already know half of you message, you don’t know which half of it they know. Be specific, and descriptive enough that no previous knowledge is needed to understand your article. Tell the whole story: Spell out Acronyms, provide links to references if they are available, and if they aren’t, maybe you should create those references.

  2. Especially with attachments, context is king.

    Remember to always include a small description before presenting a link or downloadable file. Even if you think that file is self-explanatory or has the context inside of it, convince me why I should even open it. This will help your users to better understand the purpose of the piece of content. A lot of page designs have a section call “related resources” - but if something is related, it should be also mentioned in the body of the content. Nothing is more mysterious than a list of “related resources” that are not even mentioned in the main document. If they are related - how are they related?
    Content without context is garbage. But it’s a particularly evil kind of garbage. The kind that can not be thrown away because no one will ever have both the knowledge and the authority to truly dismiss it.

  3. Create actionable information.

    Include call to actions, contact information, and places to go to continue learning more. Always think about your users needs after reading the article, and present the available options at a hand. 

  4. Format your content.

    Unformatted content looks unfinished and unprofessional. Make use of headers, paragraphs, tables, and lists. Separate ideas and make the page easier to navigate. Some formatting tips are as follows:
    If you copy and paste from another document, you will need to clear the old formatting. To do this, paste the content using the unformatted-text option and re-apply styles (bold, italics, bulleted lists, tables, callouts, etc.).
    If you have a series of information that can be read into rows and columns take advantage of tables and lists.
    Re-formatting tables is particularly relevant since inserting tables as images can prevent their content to be searchable and also makes future editions more difficult. 
    White space is important. When including images, tables, lists, and other media elements in your piece of content, remember to include a couple of breaklines among the text and other elements.

  5. Add relevant images and illustrations

    A good picture can be worth a thousand words. Not only does it make your page more interesting, but it gives the reader a visual reminder of the message it contains. Studies show that a reader will gravitate toward images first and will read the caption on an image in an attempt to understand the content of the article.
    Prefer images in landscape-format.
    Use web-optimized images.
    Be aware of image’s aspect ratio to avoid image distortion.
    Include a small description to each image to provide context.
    If an image will be placed as an add, include some text on it to provide context.


  6. Files and links are not content. 

    They are parts of content. That is why Base22’s Portal Blueprint only allows a single file per resource. If you need to add another file, then add another resource that describes that file and tells the story of what it is, why it’s important, who is it for, how to use it, and when (if ever) will it get updated. Good content answers all of these questions.

  7. Web content is better than PDF Content. 

    Information contained on PDFs is not searchable, it takes away users from navigation and when information is updated a new file needs to be created. But some users probably download the file, so when the info changes they will have an out of date reference. These are some of the reasons behind why is better to have your information as web content. Web content is searchable, easy to update, and keep your users within your site’s navigation.

  8. Name attached documents with short and easy-to-read names


    If you do need to have attached documents always provide them with descriptive names that help users to have an idea about their content.

  9. Remember when your content has connections.

    When making a change in a piece of content remember to do the correspondent changes in all languages libraries -if applicable. Also when linking two pieces of content within portal, remember to use the content search tool, this way if the related content changes its location, the link will be automatically updated.

  10. Help your users to reach out to you if needed.

    Always include in your name a link to your profile page so your users can contact you in case they have questions, comments or additional thoughts.