Speak to engineers across the board about what keeps them awake at night and you are likely to hear these three words repeatedly:
Does your website content address those issues? The content on your industrial site may be missing the mark completely if it doesn’t speak directly to engineers’ pain points.
If you are in the process of redesigning your industrial website, pause for a moment and think about the site content first. Just like the proverbial chicken or the egg conundrum, the recurring question in redesigning websites is – what comes first, site content or site design?
I think Jeffrey Zeldman (@zeldman), the renowned web designer and blogger, summed up the problem best when he said, “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
I strongly believe in the time-honored principle of “form follows function” and apply it regularly to industrial website design and development.
At the risk of stating the obvious, one-size-fits-all website content won’t cut it. The key here is to clearly understand the pressing issues of your engineering audience and then create content that addresses those pain points.
Site content for specific needs
As you repurpose and create new content, keep the focus on the engineer’s need to lower risk, increase security and remain in full compliance of various regulatory bodies here in the U.S. and globally.
- Make sure online datasheets include ratings, classifications, sizes, operating ranges and material options for all your industrial products. 42% of engineers and specifiers said they couldn’t find complete and detailed product or capabilities information on suppliers’ websites (Source: ThomasNet’s Industry Market Barometer™).
- Include full documentations, preferably with detailed diagrams for the proper and safe installation and operation of your equipment. It may be necessary to have them translated into various languages other than English. Videos and animations may be even better to demonstrate complex operations.
- Provide easy access to infrequently used but critical information such as safety measures and precautions that must be followed in the field and/or the plant in emergency situations
- Include Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and documentations to maintain full regulatory compliance. A guide for Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) best practices or Method 21 – Determination of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Leaks would be very helpful.
- The recent discovery of the Stuxnet worm, designed to penetrate Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems was a wake-up call. Posting content about Cyber Security concerns and Smart Grid interoperability standards would be very helpful to process, automation and power engineers.
- Create a blog written by your in-house experts to provide bite-sized information on the latest developments, new applications and field problems and their solutions. A wiki or a customer forum is another option. These content platforms can provide valuable feedback from customers and end users.
- Allow 24/7 online access to maintenance data on all installed equipment in order for customers to plan their own preventive maintenance program and follow their assets from cradle to grave.
- Include a searchable online database of all authorized repair shops. This will provide peace of mind and a higher comfort level for your customers from having easy access to factory-trained technicians, genuine OEM replacements parts (problem with cheap and copied parts is widespread in many industries) and certification of performance after repairs.
- Create a glossary of industry terms. Senior engineers may be very familiar with the industry terminology but recent engineering graduates may not be, especially on International projects.
Site content for future needs
As engineers progress through their careers, they take on more management responsibilities. As a result, they are not as involved in the hands-on design work of their earlier years. However, these same engineers now have to rely on others for compliance, safety and prevention of catastrophic accidents.
Through downsizing and natural attrition, many engineering companies are facing a critical shortage of trained people. New documentation and training are in high demand because of the constant change as a result of new products, processes and retooling.
Keeping your website content current provides a big sense of relief to senior engineers who can refer their junior staff to your site for a refresher course as and when needed.
Since different people absorb information in different ways, provide website content in various formats – text, PDFs, videos, slides and Podcasts. Make your site content viewable on smartphones and tablets. Add QR codes to printed collateral to tie together your on and offline content.
With some foresight, planning and a little bit of effort, you can make your website content a valuable resource for engineers and help them sleep better at night.
You may also want to read a few of my earlier posts:
- 5 Rules of Website Redesign for Engaging Engineers and Industrial Buyers
- Variety of Content is the Key in the Early Stages of the Industrial Buy Cycle
- Most Industrial and Manufacturing Websites are Still Stuck in Web 1.0
How are you using your website content to help engineers and industrial buyers?