While most of us are spending more and more of our digital lives on social media, it’s important not to forget about the effectiveness of a good, old fashioned website. I can’t stress enough how important building a website is for your company or product, and how much a good design and clear messaging are key to your brand’s presence at large. Your website is often the first place people go to get more information about your business and, if it’s compelling enough, convert to customers and/or community members. Always and forever, it’s so important to make a good first impression.
So — while I love an innovative, technology-forward website, I’d usually rather deal with a website that’s clean and easy to navigate through than a complicated, animation-heavy interactive site that’s full of drop-down menus and buttons. As much as anything, a clean, intuitive design will be what makes the best first impression, and it’s of course important to make sure that your branding is reflected throughout all of your marketing materials, especially your website. You can refer back to my branding blog for more details on that.
But what I really want focus on today is your blog. Perhaps more than ever before, these days blogs help your internal developers speak to other developers in the community about what they’re working on. A good blog can help educate and create bonds with your community. It’s a direct line of communication with the world, and a great place for longer-form missives, without having to rely on press outlets to communicate what might be important messages and ideas. Your blog, even more so than your social media pages, is something you can control entirely — and control it you should.
Giving your internal devs a platform to express themselves about their work can help showcase their expertise. You can also use blog content in other websites: Niklas, for instance, often has his blogs reposted on Gamasutra. From experience, I like it when devs are given freedom to write about pretty much whatever they want to tell their community; I try not to censor anything, edit overall tone, or rewrite entire paragraphs. Instead, I think it’s best to give the writer space to express what they’re trying to convey to their peers — unless, of course, it’s something that hasn’t been announced (that said, I often think it’s totally fine to use a blog post to announce news, rather than a press release). Sometimes these posts end up being way off topic, but that’s generally something you can avoid by making sure topics are agreed upon ahead of time.
The most important thing is to give developers a voice; we live in an era where pretty much everyone on the planet can be rather directly interfaced with via social media, so it’s more important than ever to let your developers’ personalities come through in their writing. I worked at a company where the poor developers had to go through six different people that would inevitably water down and edit the hell out of their blog posts. This led to blog posts rarely being posted in a timely fashion, and to the rest of the dev team simply not looking forward to contributing to the blog. Bureaucracy is a buzzkill.
Back when I was at Unity I did a lot of competitive research, and at some point stumbled upon Bitsquid’s blogs. I really admired what I saw, and learned a lot about what Tobias and Niklas were doing there; I thought that the way they addressed their community was aces. One of the first things we wanted to do here at Our Machinery was to continue the blog-writing tradition the guys started up over at Bitsquid. We find this to be a super important tool to connect with developers to get feedback and ideas, as well as to let people know what we’re working on or thinking about when it comes to developer tools. It’s also a place to talk about how we want to run the company, provide helpful tips for business and marketing, and generally be as transparent about what we’re doing as possible.
The other nifty thing about blog posts is that they help you improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO, which I’ll go deeper into with my next blog), and can help connect people with other pages on your website via inbound links.
I know you’re all working at companies that are busy building things, but try to find some time to write about what you’re working on, problems that you’re facing, or even just general thoughts about what’s going on in your industry. Your peers want to know! Sharing is caring.