this isn't so much about how to write content as it is about choosing appropriate content
here's a wonderful venn diagram which highlights the "disconnect" between what you'll find on a university web site front page, versus what people go there looking for:
seen in this light, the primary purpose
of content writing is to meet visitors' needs
that said, do you think anybody cares if the content on the front page has spelling errors? (hint: no)
dcrux, your 'make a site' link just links to this thread
it gets even more interesting when there's a complete disconnect between what the website commissioner does/is and what their target audience are interested in and attracted by, and, when the website commissioner realises that and takes appropriate steps. a good concrete example: tampax and their beinggirl.com website (example taken from Groundswell book). basically the only connection between the decision to make the website tampax did, was the people/audience (15 y-o girls). beinggirl.com is a chat website about and for girls. it is not a tampax website, although it is in the sense tampax made it (and they let users know they're behind it without too much fanfare thus achieving what they wanted to achieve; recognition, good feeling -- it's taken on the same role as advertising). for most small businesses making a website not about themselves is preposterous. of course most small businesses don't have to take quite such extreme steps as the tampax example shows. rather than shift the subject/central focus completely away from themselves, just expanding the subject/central focus outwards is what's required. the site and its subject still encloses/covers them, but the site first and foremost is not about them but something bigger (but which they fall into). e.g. you're a builders merchants. instead of making it about yourself make it about building, how to use what you sell, common building problems and solutions etc.
in some book i read recently, new rules of pr and marketing by scott i think, there was this phrase: "think more like a publisher". i like that. imagine that flipped. imagine publishers making books with the same mentality as the typical small (and big in a lot of cases) business. e.g. the publisher faber and faber. their first book, its title would have been... faber and faber. and it would have been all about... faber and faber. of course just producing content which is attractive to some/any people (which is what publishers must do and do so) isn't quite enough in the case of websites and businesses. you have to aim and hit a particular type of person, because the type of person attracted to your content, you then want them not just to "buy" (visit, use, engage with) your content but then go on to use your company, and only a certain type of person is likely to use your company, so the content must be targeted. that's the part where most small businesses fall down. they make it about themselves for themselves. the "buying" of your content is an intermediate step, not the end goal.
the right hand side of the venn diagram linked to is still reasonably insular though. it's still all about the entity who's producing the website. in a lot of cases, including universities, this is probably logical and good, but in a lot of cases something wider, less insular, is appropriate. the key is to realising who's making the site and who the site is for are two very different bunches of people, and the people making the site will only benefit from the site if it serves the purpose of who the site is for. because if it doesn't they won't use/engage with it, and if they don't use/engage how on earth can it serve the purpose of those who are paying for it?
I conceived of a similar venn diagram where circles move in response. So the xkcd venn would only have a bare sliver of overlap.
that said, do you think anybody cares if the content on the front page has spelling errors?
The hyperventilatingly image conscious university stakeholders paying the development bills do.
For what your suggesting to happen you'd need to do user testing for information and develop personas. (And instead of shoving them in a drawer, using the personas to drive design decisions) Universities would rather maintain their fantasies about users than watch users interact with the site.
Given information automagically happens just because a computer is turned on, those two circles are unlikely to overlap much more than they currently do.
Same with web dev sites. The articles are all about how to [make a site, not [URL="http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=691431"]what to look for in a web dev](http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=693147).
Companies constantly build sites only to talk about themselves, to themselves. The result of such a venn diagram is the company comes off communicating like a street person talking to themselves.
Nice link! That mismatch applies to a lot more site than Uni web pages, of course. A lot of product sites that have been recommended to me lose my business because they fail to explain what their product is even for or what it can do! A simple diagram like this highlights the problem better than a thousands words. (Hmm, I'm sure I could make a good phrase out of that.)
Here's the link:
How to explain e-commerce options to clients
Rather than translate the Smashing article (targeted to developers) the OP rehashed a how to make a site article, when a why to have a site article would target clients.
Many web dev sites write their content for non-customers, interested in how to make a site rather than the benefits of hiring that particular web dev.
Even when they write a why to have a site article, it's too often about a first site, as if it's 1997 and the reader has just heard about the web. Rarely is it about how to have a better site which reaches business goals better.
Most businesses could come up with a similarly off kilter venn diagram.