Join Chris Nodder for an in-depth discussion in this video People look for supporting evidence, part of Writing for the Web.
- As well as linking out to other content, people will find your site more useful and spend more time on it if you give them the depth of information that they're looking for. Now, you're confused because just a few chapters ago, I was telling you to cut the quantity of text you put on the page, but now I'm telling you that you need lots of detailed information. Yes. Both of these things are true. Because people aren't motivated to read large quantities of text online, it's important that your main content provides an overview or summary and provides high level answers to the most frequent questions you'd expect people to ask.
However, different visitors will want to drill down into different areas of the information, and it's very useful if they can do that on your site, or using links that you provide rather than having to start a separate search. The solution is to write concise text for your readers that summarizes the key points, but then give them links to more details if they care to follow them. This gives visitors the best of both worlds. They can quickly scan your content and for areas where they are less informed, or where they want more specific details, they can drill down through a link on a page and get the information they need.
In this way, you can provide the launching off point for large quantities of detailed information without overwhelming anybody. The type of information you link off to will depend upon the topic of your content. If you're selling something, then case studies and testimonials might be useful. So too, are data sheets with full product details, such as dimensions, colors, and so on. Material safety data sheets, even links to product manuals or firmware updates. In some cases, for expensive business to business items, it's even worthwhile providing online copies of printed brochures and even presentations that people can download and use in their own organizations, turning them into sales people for your product.
If you aren't selling something directly, but instead rely on your content to drive another revenue stream, you can still provide additional content in this way. For instance, a Whole Food site might have an article on the health benefits of homemade yogurt, and then provide a link to step-by-step directions, and another link to review yogurt making kits. In this way, the focus of the article remains on the health benefits, but visitors stay around longer checking out the additional content. The page with step-by-step directions might have a link to a PDF version of the recipe.
The printable version has more control over formatting and can better reinforce the site's brand. If the information that you provide isn't another webpage, warn people in advance. I like to tell people the file format and the file size. That way, they can choose for themselves whether they want to download it or not. Also, do your users a favor and choose web optimized PDFs rather than massive high definition versions that are ready for professional printing. It only takes a couple of extra seconds to make a web optimized version, but it will save your readers a lot of time when they download the file, and might make the difference between them finishing the download, or just giving up and leaving.