What Is This and Who Is It For?

This web content guide is the first version of many—an infinite, ever-evolving many! It aims to provide practical and actionable information about how best to plan, structure, and maintain meaningful content on your University of Michigan-Flint department website.

What Is "Meaningful Content?"

Only your audience, your website’s users, can assess the quality (the “meaningfulness”) of your content. The best way to plan and structure meaningful content is to begin with a conversation with your audience. 

Later in this guide we will share ideas and best practices for how to have those conversations. Before that, there are other broad truths about “meaningful web content” that are important to begin thinking about right away.

Content Basics

Some of the best thinking on the subject of writing for the web is found in Janice Redish’s book Letting Go of the Words (available online through the Thompson Library).

In her summary of Chapter 1 (“Content! Content! Content!”), Redish shares many of the most important truths about web content. She writes: 

  • People come to web sites to satisfy goals, to do tasks, to get answers to questions.
  • Navigation, search, design, and technology support the content that people come for.
  • The best metaphor for the web is phone, not filing cabinet.
  • Every use of your site is a conversation started by your site visitor.
  • Social media is pushing the web to be even more conversational.

To have good conversations through your website:

  • Answer your site visitors’ questions throughout your web content, not only in sections called frequently asked questions (FAQ).
  • Let your site visitors “grab and go” (“Scan, Find, Act”)
  • Engage your site visitors (Meeting visitors’ needs = engagement).
  • Market successfully to your site visitors by first satisfying the conversation they came to have.
  • Improve search engine optimization (SEO) and internal site search.
  • Be accessible to all.