What’s Best for Your Web Copy? Widgets or Pages?

    Many small businesses today are ditching their Web 1.0 static websites in favor of content management system (CMS) sites, such as WordPress websites (in fact I’m building three such websites for customers now). The functionality and widget capabilities in WordPress are attractive – yet they can often go overboard! Here’s what I would recommend for gauging when and how it’s appropriate to use a widget (those sidebar gadgets often revealing text teasers) versus web page content display options:

    1. Remember – a website is not a blog. A website can have a blog, and a blogsite can feature website properties. What make’s them different is ultimately marketing objectives. Identify your strategic digital marketing content objectives for the site you wish to build – and determine the best model for the target user and those objectives. Maybe it’s a chat room, a forum or community. Let your goals and audience sculpt it’s nature.
    2. Don’t worry about all the sidebar widgets. There’s a temptation in design to feel like everything has to be promoted in one view, i.e., on the home page. Unfortunately websites today have often taken on the busy visual role of the print tabloids and newspapers of years past. Very few websites achieve the elegance and gradual unfolding of well-designed books of literature or coffee table books.
    3. Focus on clear navigation. We’ve finally reached an era in websites where users know where to look for navigation, how to drop down menus and how to use clear architecture to traverse a website. For example see my screenshot below of a WordPress website (which I designed and built for a client) with top nav drop-downs and search. In similarly common and intuited usability, readers have known for years to look in the front of a book for copyright page, contents overview, detailed table of contents, preface, introduction, sections and chapter content, appendix and index.
      Jake Aull WordPress website design Zen of Brand
    4. My widget for a page? What you might think ought be widgets (widgets are all those boxes and click-functionality tools often appearing in the right sidebar of blogs) may be better as separate web pages, and might be easier or preferable for users to find and digest the content that way.
    5. Navigation pages. If you’re worried about having too many unconnected deep content pages, setup light, overview, sectional pages that also act as navigation and description. In other words, these are your primary nav items, which have drop downs to all their sub-pages below related to that section. This is intuitive architecture.
    6. Search & ye shall find. Of course one of the reasons I personally love building WordPress websites is the ease of setting up in-site search, categories and tags. So no matter how deeply content may be buried in a site, there are plenty of methods for users to easily find it (but again – I can’t emphasize enough the importance of clear architecture and navigation).
    7. Is there a webmaster in the house? Don’t forget that the great thing about WordPress is that the creator doesn’t have to be the ongoing “webmaster.” A WordPress site can be “once and done;” handing off a built website and creating profiles for multiple authors and contributors to maintain the site at their leisure. Just remember to be careful regarding who is assigned what level of permissions. Someone who’s new to WordPress should not be given admin level access where they can accidentally ruin the code or architecture.

    Special thanks to @KristaM10 for inspiring this post! Want more info? See my blog post on Top Signs of Good Web Usability.

    Have thoughts on what you read or want discussion? Comment & connect!

    Jake Aull | zenofbrand.com | Websites, Marketing, SEO, SocialMedia & Design 
    email | 404.259.5550 | @jakeaull | jakeaull.wordpress.com