Introducing Content Blocks: Content Tuned for the Modern Web
This year, Beyond Indigo moved from pages to content blocks as the basic units of website content. But what the heck is a content block, and how is it different from a page? Pages are a simple concept to understand, so why did we feel it was important to replace them with this new bit of jargon?
Twilight of a page
In ye olde days of the internet (think 5–7 years ago), websites tended to be built with lots of pages. Each page was a standalone document, often linked from one or more complex navigation bars. It wasn’t unusual for a small business website to have dozens of pages in its navigation. This setup was tailored for use on a computer with a mouse and a large screen, pretty much the only way people interacted with the web at the time.
Then, a few trends converged and triggered a phase change in the internet. The habits and expectations of web users changed quickly and significantly. These trends were:
- Smartphones and tablets as fully-capable web surfing devices
- Web and mobile apps
- Google Panda and Penguin
Nowadays, a significant number of people browse websites using devices with small touch screens, and are demanding more streamlined, app-like experiences. Meanwhile, Google has shifted the focus of their search algorithm from keyword and link quantity toward content quality. Having a complicated website is worse than unfashionable, it can harm usability and SEO in some cases.
Content blocks to the rescue
Content blocks allow content to be concentrated into fewer individual pages, giving contemporary web users the simplicity and focus they crave.
What is a content block? Think of it as a section of content that covers a major topic. An example would be an overview of dental services, with accompanying photos or illustrations. What makes a content block different from a page is that multiple content blocks can be placed together on a page. Think of them as “bricks” that can be stacked to form long pages that cover many topics without requiring the reader to do a lot of clicking. Content blocks are short and to the point, usually just a few hundred words at most, with impactful formatting and imagery.
Under this approach, dental services could be aggregated with content blocks for other major service areas onto a single services page, without the need for a collection of individual subpages.
Why content blocks? Why now?
- Modern websites are responsive. They need to be flexible and modular to perform well on devices with a variety of screen sizes and input methods. Content blocks can be added, shuffled, and removed without requiring significant changes to the overall page design.
- Web content is best served choppy. Content divided into short chunks with rich formatting and images is easier to browse than a dense, book-like wall of text. Content blocks’ concise word count hones your message and discourages unnecessary fluff.
- Less words means more opportunities to convey information with non-textual elements such as charts, images, and videos. There are also a variety of slick techniques that allow text to be hidden and revealed dynamically, keeping text compact without sacrificing depth.
- Contrary to the conventional wisdom that circulated in the early days of the web, web users do, in fact, scroll. In some situations, scrolling may be preferable to clicking. Mobile users especially may be more at ease swiping through long pages than waiting for short pages to load. A long-scrolling page populated with content blocks lets content breathe and allows your marketing story to unfold as the reader scrolls.
When are content blocks not the best choice?
Some information can only be conveyed using a lot of text. Highly detailed educational content is one example. Blog posts are another. Blogs are perfect for long-form articles that take a deep dive into a single subject. One excellent arrangement for website content is to keep primary marketing pages clear and concise using content blocks, while reserving your blog for deeper educational content. It’s all about choosing the right tool for the job.