Web content

Web Design & Development Guide

Web content

Web content management system

Web content is the textual, visual or aural content that is encountered as part of the user experience on websites. It may include, among other things: text, images, sounds, videos and animations.

In "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" (second edition, page 219), Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville write, "We define content broadly as 'the stuff in your Web site.' This may include documents, data, applications, e-services, images, audio and video files, personal Web pages, archived e-mail messages, and more. And we include future stuff as well as present stuff."

Beginnings of web content

While the Internet began with a U.S. Government research project in the late 1950s, the web as we know it today did not appear on the Internet until after Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues at the European laboratory (CERN) proposed the concept of linking documents with hypertext. But it was not until Mosaic, the forerunner of the famous Netscape Navigator, appeared did the Internet become more than a file serving system.

The use of hypertext, hyperlinks and a page-based model of sharing information, introduced with Mosaic and later Netscape, helped to define web content, and the formation of websites. Largely, today we categorize websites as being a particular type of website according to the content a website contains.

The page concept

Web content is dominated by the "page" concept. Having its beginnings in an academic settings, and in a setting dominated by type-written pages, the idea of the web was to link from directly in an academic paper to another academic paper. This was a completely revolutionary idea in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the best a link could be made was to cite a reference in the midst of a type written paper and name that reference either at the bottom of the page or on the last page of the academic paper.

When it was possible for any person to write and own a Mosaic page, the concept of a "Home Page" blurred the idea of a page. It was possible for anyone to own a "Web page" or a "Home Page" which in many cases the website contained many physical pages in spite of being called "a page". People often cited their "Home Page" to provide credentials, links to anything that a person supported, or any other individual content a person wanted to publish. (See a home page idea of Edmund S. Phelps).

Even though "the web" may be the resource we commonly use to "get to" particular locations online, many different protocols are invoked to access embedded information. When we are given an address, such as http://www.youtube.com, we expect to see a range of web pages, but in each page we have embedded tools to view "video clips".

HTML web content

Even though we may embed various protocols within web pages, the "web page" composed of "html" (or some variation) content is still the dominant way whereby we share content. And while there are many web pages with localized proprietary structure (most usually, business websites), many millions of websites abound that are structured according to a common core idea.

Blogs are a type of website that contains mainly web pages authored in html (although the blogger may be totally unaware that the web pages are composed using html due to the blogging tool that may be in use). Millions of people use blogs online; a blog is now the new "Home Page", that is, a place where a persona can reveal personal information, and/or build a concept as to who this persona is. Even though a blog may be written for other purposes, such as promoting a business, the core of a blog is the fact that it is written by a "person" and that person reveals information from her/his perspective.

Search engine sites are composed mainly of html content, but also has a typically structured approach to revealing information. A Search Engine Results Page (SERP) displays a heading, usually the name of the Search Engine, and then a list of Websites and their addresses. What is being listed are the results from a query that may be defined as keywords. The results page lists webpages that are connected in some way with those keywords used in the query.

Discussion boards are sites composed of "textual" content organized by html or some variation that can be viewed in a web browser. The driving mechanism of a discussion board is the fact that users are registered and once registered can write posts. Often a discussion board is made up of posts asking some type of question to which other users may provide answers to those questions.

Ecommerce sites are largely composed of textual material and embedded with graphics displaying a picture of the item(s) for sale. However, there are extremely few sites that are composed page-by-page using some variant of HTML. Generally, webpages are composed as they are being served from a database to a customer using a web browser. However, the user sees the mainly text document arriving as a webpage to be viewed in a web browser. Ecommerce sites are usually organized by software we identify as a "shopping cart".

A wider view of web content

While there are many millions of pages that are predominantly composed of HTML, or some variation, in general we view data, applications, e-services, images (graphics), audio and video files, personal Web pages, archived e-mail messages, and many more forms of file and data systems as belonging to websites and web pages.

While there are many hundreds of ways delivering information on a website, there is a common body of knowledge of Search engine optimization that needs to be read as advisory of ways that anything else but text should be delivered. Currently search engines are text based and are one of the common ways people using a browser location sites of interest.

Content is king

A current meme when organizing or building a website is the catchwords "Content is King" (although Andrew Odlyzko in "Content is Not King" argues otherwise). What is meant by the term "content" is written text in plain vanilla HTML or a variant that produces good clean text that can be indexed with ease by a search engine.

This argument is valid to a greater extent, not because people will find it interesting and useful, or a good enough description to buy the product online, but because search engines can index text easily and if the information is close to what a searcher is seeking can be delivered as a site for the seeker of information. Textual information is therefore "king" online to aid the rather raw search tools to operate rather than actually to be impelling for people when seeking information.

Content management

Because websites are often complex, a term "content management" appeared in the late 1990s identifying a method or in some cases a tool to organize all the diverse elements to be contained on a website. Content management often means that within a business there is a range of people who have distinct roles to do with content management, such as content author, editor, publisher, and administrator. But it also means there may be a content management system whereby each of the different roles are organized whereby to provide their assistance in operating the system and organizing the information for a website.

Even though a business may organize to collect, contain and represent that information online, content needs organization in such a manner to provide the reader (browser) with an overall "customer experience" that is easy to use, the site can be navigated with ease, and the website can fulfill the role assigned to it by the business, that is, to sell to customers, or to market products and services, or to inform customers.

See also

External links

Blog software
Open source content management systems
Version control systems
List of content management systems
List of content management frameworks
Document management system
Enterprise content management
Geospatial Content Management System
Web content

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