Dev solutions to keeping content king and driving engagement

Dev solutions to keeping content king and driving engagement

#TeamSotic’s Senior front-end developer Dan Drave, who leads the WordPress team, has worked for Sotic since 2016 and shares some insight into how web developers can help keep content king in a competitive era.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my career, building a website is, most of the time, the easy part. The recipe is pretty simple. You generate some mark up, you style it, you sprinkle a little javascript in and season to taste with security friendly PHP. Your clients are happy, they’re publishing content quicker than ever (thanks WordPress) and you can hold your head up high. Then, you look at the analytics…

Bounce rates are higher, dwell times are lower and visitor numbers are the same (if not lower). How can this be? The website is fully responsive, it looks great, it delivers information quickly. The answer is simple, Silicon Valley.

As technology giants like Google and Microsoft are stock piling more and more data to make search more valuable it is becoming more important to offer quality content to users that only organisations and clubs can provide. Of course, any content is only as good as its author but there are some things we as front-end developers can do to help better user engagement on our client’s websites.

Taking inspiration from around the web

I think it’s very important to take inspiration from both inside and outside the sports industry. It is easy to quickly compartmentalise your knowledge and technical offering through the need/want to build sites as efficiently as possible. The challenge for me and my team is keeping things fresh and unique for each of our clients.

At the start of the World Cup I was brushing up on VAR and discovered Wikipedia had added a new feature.

Pop-up dialog on Wikipedia

The pop-up dialog offers instant access to further information, encouraging the user to click through and find out additional detail if they need to. I started to think about how this could be applied to sport.

The Roger Federer Effect

At Sotic, we have a variety of JSON feeds available for teams, players, competitions and so on. In this totally unbiased example for the sport of tennis, I used the feed to scan an article (credit: BBC Sport) for player names and if any match the details from my feed, I can use that object data to build a snapshot of a player.

It’s important to keep things as simple as possible but still add value. In tennis, popular topics of discussions about players, be it down the pub or in the media village, are a player’s age, how many Grand Slams they have won and their current rank. These three factors are key statistics before every game.

Having combined my knowledge of the sport with my powers of web development, I’ve created a really valuable tool embedded within the content I am reading.

Increased engagement from users

What this achieves is increased dwell time on a particular item of content. It provides an opportunity for users to continue their journey through the site to a player’s profile and can potentially lead them to further news about that player such as injury news or winning Wimbledon for the 8th time (love you, Rog).

It settles that pub argument, it gives committed users instant access to more content and most importantly it keeps the tab with your website open for business.

Content is king, but web developers can help

Writing engaging, structured content is an absolute art form. At the end of the day, that is what will keep users visiting your site. However, there are features that developers can add that aid in the process of publishing engaging content without any additional effort from writers.

Use your assets

Finally, my advice for jazzing up your content is to use rich media assets that are unique to you. Work with your developers to build feature rich content such as embedded galleries, video and other unique features (see above) that no Google search will offer easily. Users will stay on your site for longer and engage further with your media. A recent example of Sotic offering this is the Six Nations Match Centre – which holds host to video, galleries, embedded social and more.

I hope you have found this article useful. As always, I’d love to know what other developers are doing to further enhance their user experience and engagement in a world where the initial search result is often the final step.