The heart of any decent website is the content that it produces and while great content will attract users that content must be displayed in a manner that allows users to enjoy and ultimately absorb it.
By properly formatting the content area of your web property you can build a website that users find enjoyable to browse on a regular basis.
Here are several tips that will help your content area stand out from the rest of your websites design, placing the focus on the most important part of your website, the content.
1. Content Area Should Dominate The Website
The content area on your website should be larger than the other combined areas of the site. For example if you feature a left sidebar that is 200px and a right sidebar that is 250px you have already capitalized on 450px of space, at which point your content area should be larger than 450px.
2. Don’t Over Enlarge Your Content Title
A popular mistake found on many websites occurs when the title for each post is over enlarged. While you want to provide your readers with a quick understanding of your article an overly large font means taking up more space which in turn pushes your actual content further down the page. I typically make a general rule of thumb that titles are highlighted with the <h1> tag and are no more than 4px-6px larger than the main content font.
3. Properly Highlighting Links
When a website owner realizes you have linked to their content they may visit your website to see how you have chosen to link into their content, for that reason it’s important that you don’t hide your external links. Some website users use light highlighting to make links hard to see, therefore making it less likely that visitors will leave their website. When optimizing links I think of them as relationship building with other webmasters, the more they see clearly defined links to their web properties the more likely they will be to link back into my own unique content. If you use Kontera, Infolinks or other contextual link programs I suggest using a different link highlight color than those advertising programs to define your own links compared to adverts.
4. Padding The Margins On Your Content
While your content area should dominate the landscape of each page on your website in terms of space occupied it’s also important that you clearly define the content area. The easiest way to define your content is to provide at least some margin space around your content and other areas. When using padding I make sure my left and right side areas are evenly spaced to create a consistent content area. For example if a left and right sidebar setup is used I will implement 5px of padding for the left side and 5 px of padding for the right side. It’s also a smart idea to pad your top and bottom areas equally. By defining your padding the user receives a consistent viewing experience.
5. Avoid crowding The Content Area With Ads and Related Links
Some well known entertainment and “how-to” websites love to crowd their content with block ads and even “related links” in the middle of paragraphs. While those sites are able to crowd their content because of reader trust it’s not a good idea when attempting to build an audience. The content area should be free of obtrusive ads and feature only the content you are attempting to deliver. If you want to use ads place them directly before or directly after your content to avoid distracting new viewers who are receiving a first impression.
Building an effective content section is simply about isolating your content, keeping it free of “ad and related links” debris and understanding that the content must always come first, if you make a clean content area that users enjoy reading you’ll be one step closer to building an effective and successful website.