Improve your content quality. Look beyond copy.

Paul Boag

When most of us think about content, we are thinking copy. But today compelling content goes way beyond text. You can no longer stick to the written word.

This post is sponsored by MightyDeals

Did you know you are trapped? We all are. Trapped in a vicious cycle from which there is no escape. A cycle of content escalation.

There was a time when getting people to listen to your message wasn’t so hard. Some well written copy would do the trick. But as the web has grown, it has become hard to get people’s attention. Even when we do it is only for a moment. Users are quick to move on if the content isn’t compelling enough.

Many websites have risen to the challenge, improving the quality of their copy. But this has only raised user expectations, making them even more selective. It is forcing us to forever improve the quality of our content to keep up.

Things have escalated to such an extent that quality copy is no longer enough.

Get your copy right. But don't stop there.

Don’t get me wrong, copy is still important. After all the fact that you are reading this post is testament to that. I have written about writing for the web before and I will do so again. In fact next week I am going to be writing about blogging.

But compelling copy is just the beginning. Even when presented well, copy takes a lot of focus to digest and isn’t particularly engaging. It is also not suited in all circumstances. It is hard to explain complex or visual ideas through copy.

We need to branch out and add more imagery and video to our content. The problem is, the creation of video or imagery feels harder.

Compelling imagery doesn't need to be hard

Writing copy feels easy. You launch Microsoft Word and away you go. We write copy all the time, from emails to reports. But in truth, writing great web copy is hard. What is more, creating compelling imagery isn’t as difficult as you think.

There was a time when creating good imagery was hard. You needed an expensive graphics package like Adobe Photoshop and an eye for design. But these days much of the imagery we need to create for social media, blog posts like this and content on our websites is easy to create.

Adobe Spark makes assembling imagery from photographs and typography easy.
Adobe Spark makes assembling imagery from photographs and typography easy.

For a start there are apps like Adobe Spark. This free tool allows you to create imagery in minutes, using a combination of photographs and typography. Best of all the app offers a range of themes and styles to ensure your imagery looks great every time.

There are also great resources for cheap graphic assets like illustrations, photographs and fonts. Sites like Pixabay that include thousands of free to use public imagery. Or a personal favourite of mine, Mightydeals. Mightydeals has loads of great graphics and fonts sets at low prices.

For example I have just bought a set of gorgeous illustrations. I am using them to assemble imagery for an upcoming set of cards on UX culture. No design skills required!

I bought the illustration set you see on Mightydeal and added them to a scene using Smart Mockups.
I bought the illustration set you see on Mightydeal and added them to a scene using Smart Mockups.

Finally there are sites like Smart Mockups. This is great for creating compelling screenshots. You point it at a website or upload an image and it embeds that in a screen within a photographic scene.

With so many cheap and easy to use options there is no excuse to stick with copy. But it is not just imagery that is easy. Even video is no longer out of reach.

Engaging video is not out of reach

Video is a great way of engaging users. Many of my blog posts include video these days. This would as well, if I wasn’t writing it while on a plane.

Yet creating video can feel intimidating. Many of my videos involve me talking to camera which is not an easy skill to learn (trust me I know). But you don’t need to go down that route.

The videos you create could use free stock footage from sites like Videezy. You could add narration using a voice over artist who will read your script for a few dollars. Or if you have an application to show off you could record it and embed it in a scene using Place it.

Of course the video editing can feel tricky. Apps like Final Cut Pro are intimidating to say the least. But you don’t need anything that sophisticated. You can create professional looking videos in something like Showbox in minutes.

Showbox makes creating professional looking videos easy.
Showbox makes creating professional looking videos easy.

Producing video content may feel well out of your comfort zone. But that is what users expect these days and those expectations are only going to grow.

Be ready for higher expectations

Imagery and video should be the smallest improvements you make. You can bet that as content escalation continues, things are only going to get worse.

We are already seeing this escalation with podcasting, webinars and interactive demos. Fortunately tools are emerging to make these kinds of content easier to produce too.

So buckle in, content escalation is going to demand you climb to ever more dizzying heights.

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