Six Tips for Creating Web-Friendly Content

You want readers for your on-line content. And you want them to stick around for more. But, do you read the Internet the same way you read the  latest New York Times bestseller? Of course not! Unlike the book, which forces your attention toward a single story line, the Web is a crazy-quilt cornucopia of news, varying widely in content, quality and length. As a content creator, how do you frame your offerings so that they pull the attention of the reader your way?

Web readers read on-line material differently. Judging from my own experience, I tend to scan headlines and the first few sentences (or blurb) to see if the content catches my eye. Sometimes, I am pulled by an interesting picture. More often than not, my attention is directed toward an interesting hook.

While qualitative style and substance rule the offline reading world (and do play a part in online world as well), readability might be the most important attribute of online content. How easy is it for your reader to scan and latch onto your material? What do you find easiest to read? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Wolfing down huge bites of your lunch leaves your stomach feeling cramped. Wolfing down smaller bites is far more comfortable. Like food, small bits of information are easier to digest than larger ones. Craft smaller sentences and smaller paragraphs. Don’t try to cram too many ideas into one unit of writing / reading measure.
  • Use organizers to structure the information. Use headings in an outline-like structure to reinforce the stream of your argument. If your post is long, you can use links to various sections at the top of your post so your reader is not left to hunt and peck for the valuable nuggets.
  • Bullet points get points. There is a reason that posts titled or structured “Seven Best …” or “Fifteen Pitfalls to Avoid …” get more love – bullet points hit us with the organization our minds crave. Make sure your lists make sense – include an introductory phrase to explain in a few words what follows. And keep it simple.
  • Open up with your best hook. Write your posts like you would write an argument to the Court. Put the best argument up front, phrased in as simple and compelling a manner possible. Reinforce that argument throughout the writing. End with the argument, highlighting the best information introduced in your article that supports the point.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t overlook media, but don’t let the media overwhelm your post. Use images, videos, audio when they enhance and not simply because “they are cool.” I like to use a uniform-sized image at the start of all my posts to help the entire blog layout look organized. You can also use images throughout to underline points – screen shots are particularly helpful on this blog, which highlights technology and web tools.
  • Pay attention to physical layout of the piece. Keep typography in mind. Proper font size, line height, letter and paragraph spacing, white space, a simple color scheme, consistent layout, italics, bold and graphic elements like boxes for important concepts are great aids. When using these devices, always keep the overall look and readability in mind.

If your goal is to gain readers and increase their attention to your Web writing, consider these tips to help attract and retain. A little extra Web-friendly attention to detail goes a long way in increasing your content’s traction.

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Cutting-Edge Social Engagement – Your Own Mobile App

200811 app store at apple store
Image by superciliousness via Flickr It’s getting simpler and cheaper all the time to have your own iPhone or Android app. I have been watching the news on tools for creating your own using media, RSS and other content generation. I am completely psyched about the possibilities, but I have been less than pleased with the prices and constraints. Here is a run-down on what I have found so far:

Yes, you too can have your own mobile application! And you don’t even need to know code! By simply morphing your content (which you are already creating anyway) into a neat, little, iconized package, you can leverage the Mobile Web to expand your audience. Until now, app-making services seemed the domain of the big players. Recently, however, the process has become very simple and relatively affordable. Today, I found a tool that might even persuade me to make my own!

iSites: (link) This is the one I just found in an article by Ben Parr over at Mashable! that got me all excited to make an app and to write this article. The service launched today and allows you to transfer your RSS feeds into a complete iPhone (and soon Android) app. You cannot beat the cost: $25! You supply the feeds (most social sites – Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. – and blogs have them or you can create your own). Then customize the look and feel. Click a button, publish in the particular App Store and voila! You been App-motized! For $99, you can integrate with AdMob advertising. From Ben’s experience creating his own app:

It comes with a lot of great features that simply make it work: video support, image thumbnails and the ability to “favorite” articles. The feature that I like most, though, is quick sharing, which allows the app user to share an article via Facebook, Twitter or e-mail. The entire thing just looks slick and professional.

We’ve seen other tools for creating your own iPhone app, but this one is one of the simplest and cheapest on the market so far. iSites even offers analytics on downloads, app views and which of your content is the most popular.

I think I might just do it!

While iSites looks like THE ONE FOR ME, there are certainly other options out there. Here are a few I pulled from scanning the Web (haven’t used any of them myself, so this is by no means a review).

MobileRoadie: (link) Although primarily directed at bands, this tool can be employed for disseminating any media via a mobile application. Link your ticket sales, concert dates or ecommerce site. Use your own graphics, or let Mobile Roadie do it for you. My understanding is that their apps are pretty slick and the process is pretty painless. Mobile Roadie offers marketing advice as well. It’s not terribly cheap – $499 set-up fee and $29 per month to maintain. If you use MobileRoadie’s hosting, you also pay 1 penny per download. But it might be worth the investment if your app goes viral. Check out the video for more info:

AppMakr: (link) For the mere price of a couple of Benjamins, you can have your own iPhone application via this service. It allows you to convert your RSS and Atom feeds (blogs, status updates, Twitter, iTunes podcast feeds, Flickr streams, YouTube, WordPress, etc.) into a downloadable, iconized iPhone app. Pretty cool, no doubt. The app can be submitted to iTunes as a free or paid download. Free apps can embed AdMob, Medialets, DoubleClick, and Google Adsense for more money-making opportunity. Just customize via the AppMakr site and AppMakr will do the rest. For $199, you are limited to their templates and branding. For $499, you can publish the app under your own masthead. Even with the more expensive option, you sacrifice some control in favor of the convenience of AppMakr’s assistance in provisioning, building and managing the application. Check out PointAbout’s quick vid on its service below:

Sweb Apps: (link) Sweb is an online service that also offers the ability to build an app without coding skills. There are templates for creating the apps, background image choices and custom icons. You can track usage demographics via an online dashboard. Sweb also offers mobile storefront incorporation. The fee is per button, with 4 costing $200, 6 costing $300 and 8 costing $400, a one-time set-up fee of $50 per button plus a $25 monthly fee. Also not so cheap.

AppBreeder: (link) AppBreeder offers kits for creating your own application, with pre-defined settings and “gadgets.” Again, no coding experience required. Covers a multitude of mobile platforms, including Android, iPhone, Blackberry, etc. The kits are categorized around your type of business. While signing up and a web-based, ad-supported app is free, monthly costs increase as you lose adds, make the app native or spread the app to other than the iPhone platform.

AppIncubator: (link) With AppIncubator, your initial investment is free, but AppIncubator retains a slice of the profits. Plus, AppIncubator has to like what you have to offer before they will submit it. MEDL Mobile’s iPhone application also permits development without coding by taking on the heavy lifting in exchange for a piece of the pie. You submit your ideas to the “incubator” and, if it looks good, they will create your app and promote and market it.

MyAppBuilder: (link) If you have content to sell, this app’s for you. The on-line builder permits direct content creation or RSS feeds, including Twitter updates. You input the information, MyAppBuilder creates the app and submits it for your review before submitting it to Apple for their review. $20 to process your data and $29 per month, thereafter.

BuildAnApp: (link) Another web-based service, that allows app creation for various platforms. There are templates, as well as the ability to customize graphics. This one is still in private beta, but seems promising with its offer of an email distribution tool for alerting people of your impending application.

Check out some other great, niche options here in this article by Sara Perez at ReadWriteWeb.

What are you waiting for?????

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