Guidelines for Creating Better Internet Content

Since the last post that ended in my resolution to create better Internet content, I’ve been pondering over what defines better content. Earlier, I put forth a very simplistic definition of better content, namely content that is moving. Content that touches our hearts.

Now, however, I think it’s an overly simplistic definition. In order for Internet content in general to be better, there must be a few criteria to be met, in my opinion.

1. Content should be fresh.

I don’t want to recount just many times I have seen websites and apps proclaiming to be disrupting the market and creating a revolutionary product. Seriously, all of you? Disrupting the markets with your revolutionary ideas at the same time?

It’s been so long since I’ve seen something that has a little more humility and a little more human touch. A website that devotes itself to telling a heartwarming story to children, for example. Or one that propounds on the beauty of the physical world, outside of our illuminated screens. Something that doesn’t need to be “game changing”, something that just has to be close to our hearts.

2. Content should be freed from the restraint of layout templates.

Not only should the content itself be freed from stale marketing speak and startup jargons, but the form it takes should be freed as well.

Like I hinted at before, we should start seeing content creation as starting off from a blank canvas again. We shouldn’t have to start off every project with the same old header-footer-sidebar template; instead, we should be free to place and shape and color content however we like, like an exploring painter, rather than like a mechanic starting off with a standard blueprint each time. Content creation on the Internet is not the same as building houses – we shouldn’t have to restrain ourselves as though we have the laws of physics to adhere to. (As a matter of fact, imaginative architects often excel at challenging the notion of what buildings “should be.”)

3. Content should challenge the user.

Maybe it’s how easily and quickly alternative content can be found online that has conditioned our content creators to be quite obsessed with perfecting the user experience. While it’s definitely a good thing to provide an optimal experience (holds true everywhere, online and offline), sometimes I think we may be going a little too far. “Don’t make your users think”, for example, is one of the mantras in the UX (user experience) world. While that’s mostly describing the ease of use of the interface—the buttons and menus and icons, it’s a sign of how obsessed our content builders are becoming.

Good art challenges the viewer to think for herself, to interpret and guess at the meaning behind it. So why shouldn’t we start creating Internet content that makes the user think? For how long more are we going to underestimate our users, and in the process condition them to be as dumb as we project them to be? Don’t tell me they’re different because the Internet is not art; that’s precisely what I was saying: why can’t the Internet be art for once? Why does it always have to be a vehicle for making money?

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I’m aware, of course, that commerce is an extremely important part of the Internet. I don’t deny that, nor am I advocating the end of commerce online. What I am saying, is that the Internet has become severely tilted towards the commerce side of things. As we all know, commerce alone doesn’t make up the whole of civilization. So if we don’t do something about it, we’re effectively allowing the most important technology of our age to become a mere engine for commerce, rather than, say, an engine for advancing humanity or culture. And that is going to be a tragedy. The purpose of this post is to alert the creators of the Internet—whether you’re a blogger contributing to a slice of the blogosphere or an amateur having fun with cat videos—to this and, hopefully, encourage you to start creating even better content.