Writers and Websites —
Of all your
development options, one
-- a well
chosen copywriter -- increases
your site's utility while giving your entire team
a sustainable creative edge.
[When I wrote this in early 1997, some Web developers thought "writer" meant only "code writer." Nowadays, along with a professional Web copywriter on the team, site producers include an information architect and even a search engine optimization content specialist. If you don't have the budget for three people where there wasn't even one person before, fear not... as this page and my search engine optimization article explain, all three functions can be well served by one Web-savvy copywriter.]
(For some of my own interactive copywriting, see About Me: Web Work)
Sure, you can add new software and explore the latest bells and whistles. But as you do, also consider the fundamental, often longer-lasting advantages of adding something
- journalism training
- marketing & corporate communications experience
- broad experience with consumers, businesspeople, and technical products.
That's not just me talking. That's advice from professional industry observers.
Of course your team probably already has writing capability
I have the qualifications listed above, but I'm also a little biased on this subject. So here's how those Web Week folks have described a writer's role on the ideal Web team:
What observers in Web Week had to
say about the ideal
Web development team
Here's how Web Week summarized the views of HTML book guru Laura Lemay:
Web Week 6/17/96 (emphasis added to these)
"If Laura Lemay were to assemble a web site's dream team, she would first narrow the search down to four types of people: a writer with a journalism background, a programmer, a designer, and a 'curious person' . . .  'Doing something flashy and cool is less important than writing good content,' she said."
I agree, of course. After all, I was a reporter and a journalism graduate before becoming a marketing communications copywriter. As you may know, many other copywriters (Leo Burnett being a classic example) were journalists, too. We share the ability to discover and distill reader-relevant information, prioritize it, and present it in various interesting ways. Or, as Ms. Lemay pointed out, "You have to think top-down, you have to focus on details and you have to come up with creative sidebars."
Another angle on this,
Web Week 7/8/96, quoting Charles L. Breuninger, DuPont
"The thought process you go through when you write something
--what's more important, what's less important, how you structure things --all that is stuff you've got to do when you develop a Web site."
How about a technical writer?
Yes, a technical writer (someone who writes how-to user manuals and such) is often a good choice for site development. And no, I'm not strictly a technical writer. But I'm continually explaining the benefits and uses of technical products (and occasionally providing on-line help). I offer much the same aptitude as a technical writer. And more.
Web Week 7/8/96, quoting consultant Ann Rockley
" 'A technical communicator's organizational skills are particularly important to intranets.' . . .  Writers can help make sure the interface speaks the user's language."
I've said the same thing in my brochure for years. A site's language should be user-driven. That's not always easy. In fact, sometimes it's even harder when the product's developers and its users work for the same company.
Enter the freelance writer. And in my case, with my unusually broad background in many kinds of communications for virtually all kinds of products, services and companies, I can quickly get up to speed as part of the team.
To strengthen your capability, value versatility
A strong Web site is not simply a "brochure-on-a-screen," but writing for the Web does have a lot in common with writing a capabilities brochure. Or a long-copy ad. Or a sales letter. Or a catalog. Or a roadside billboard. Although some people think it's heresy to say so, traditional copy elements are just as important on a New Media page. For example, consider the importance of writing a good "blurb" or a headline:
Web Week 6/17/96, Editor's Note "Scoundrel E-mail"
"Take the time to write a compelling subject line."
Robert Hertzberg was talking about e-mail, but his point applies wherever you have to capture the reader's interest within moments. We all know about the value of strong topline copy in stimulating click-through. And the importance of clarity and imagination in creating effective billboards, whether on the screen or beside a road.
Also, about a site that sells Java applets:
Web Week 7/8/96, quoting Donald DePalma, Sr. Software Analyst, Forrester Research
"Ultimately, unless the developer does a really good job of description, there aren't going to be a lot of people anxious to run applets on their system."
Amen. A clear, compelling description helps whatever your
In addition, understanding other media helps fit New Media successfully into the overall marketing mix.
Yeah, like nobody else can do all this?
Obviously, many Web developers are accomplishing these things now, sometimes without a
copy or content specialist on
their teams. I'm a confirmed team player, and
But I can add flexibility and let you accomplish these things more easily. The advantages of my contributions will also survive technological change, and they're relatively inexpensive to implement, debug, enhance, evolve and maintain.
In addition, with my broad background covering marketing situations in a wide variety of product
and service industries, I can help you blend New Media creative with sound marketing concerns, for companies
of all sizes and personalities
Call or e-mail me now.
If I can help you describe, discover, digest, organize, translate, extend, or whatever, please call 718-577-0005 or drop me a note. If you like, ask me to review one of your sites or proposals at an economical rate.
And please continue to browse the rest of my site, to learn about other ways I can enhance the capabilities of your team.