Design is more than the graphics. It’s about the way the website works together… But, what does that really mean?
There have been many ugly websites that performed really well. Sometimes, beauty is sacrificed for the sake of affordability. Those websites were providing the information necessary in a way that made sense to the people using them.
Beautiful graphics and typography can be important, but the most powerful aspect of a website is to effectively deliver the right information to the right people.
You’ll learn here how to recognize what that information should be, who the right people are, and how to deliver it effectively.
Define the Purpose of Your Website
One of the biggest pitfalls to creating a website is how easy and inexpensive it is to get one up and running.
Even if you don’t feel that it’s easy or inexpensive (even though it can be), you would be surprised at how little thought often goes in the creation of a website.
Because the technical barrier is so low, many beginning website owners (and even seasoned website owners) tend to overlook the importance of having a great plan in place. Part of the reason for this is that creating websites is still a new territory for many people. However, that doesn’t mean that a website should be treated like a last-minute lunch grab. It should be treated like a whole new branch of business – and every successful business comes with a plan.
The best websites have a definable purpose.
You want a website. Why?
“Because my friends told me I needed one” or “To be competitive with my industry” are not acceptable answers. These are too vague and general to be of any use.
Of course, they may be reasons you decided to get a website in the first place, but you need to figure out what you really expect to gain from your efforts.
Examples of good goals for a website:
- To support existing customers through loyalty benefits and readily available information on a FAQ page.
- To attract new local customers to my business.
- To make my products available online to a nationwide audience.
Each of these directly correlates to benefits for your small business. All of these examples provide a very specific goal that your website will aim for.
Once you’ve defined a reason for your website to exist in the first place, you can use this clear purpose to guide all of your decision making during the life of your website.
If you need help choosing a great reason for your website to exist, reread Chapter One. As you review each of the ways that a website can benefit your business, try to think of a specific goal you have for your company and how it can tie in to the benefits of a website. Write them down.
Go ahead! Do it now.
Once you’ve finished, sort through your ideas and write out a specific mission statement for your small business website.
Define the Intended Audience of Your Website
A target audience will give you something to aim for. You will need to focus on your target audience for maximum effect.
In the examples above, you may have noticed the general language used for the goals of your website. While this was a great first step, it is not ideal, as it does not help guide your actions through the decision making stages that follow.
The next step is to refine your target audience.
Do you sell doggie accessories? Maybe your target audience is stay at home dog owners. Do you sell car parts? Perhaps you’re looking for auto mechanics.
Narrow down your target audience as far as you can, including language, region, job-type, gender and expected education level. These things will all help you understand your audience much better in order to cater to their specific needs.
Keep in mind that you are not likely your own target audience.
Try to answer the following questions about the people who most often purchase your goods or services:
- What kind of career do they have?
- What kind of hobbies do they have?
- What languages do they speak?
- What level of education did they receive?
- When they wake up in the morning, what are they most concerned about?
- How does your business address that concern?
Choose a Voice Based on the Target Audience
Speak the right language to your audience – and not just English, Spanish, German, or whatever their native tongue is.
Now that you know who you’re talking to, you get to pick the right Voice to use when addressing them.
This Voice is the tone, verbiage, and attitude that comes across in your content.
For example – if you know that your audience is mostly made of auto mechanics, you need to brush up on your car lingo to make sure you’re speaking their language. If you’re advertising locally, you can reference specific landmarks, history or whatever is locally relevant to help you gain a common ground.
If your target audience is men, you will want to have shorter, factual sentences with a list of specifications. If your target audience is women, you will want to use words that describe the feeling and emotional benefits that come with your service or product.
You haven’t even written a word of content yet, but you’re already getting a feel for how you’ll write in a way that will be heard. This is the importance of defining your target audience. This is the importance of finding the right Voice.
Create a Workflow
A workflow is the organization of the pages on your website – how one leads to the other. In order to organize your pages well, you’ll have to have a goal in mind.
Remember how we defined a goal for your website? You’re going to use content and links to guide your customers through your website to lead them to your goal.
Now is the time to design that workflow.
Let’s say your goal is to gain new local clients. Here is an example of the desired workflow for a new website visitor:
- Land on the home page
- Read more about Services
- Contact us through the contact page
- Now, the goal is to offer rewards to existing customers:
- Land on the home page
- Visit the Loyalty Program information page
- Sign up for the online Loyalty Program
It’s time to build your own workflow! Use the following guidelines as you brainstorm:
Keep the workflow between 1-4 steps.
Each step should be one action.
The final step should address the goal you originally wrote for your website earlier in this chapter.
Now that you have a workflow, you have a basis for designing each of the pages so that they lead to the next step in the workflow.
In the first example, the home page would be an introductory page with content and links that all direct to the Services page. The Services page will provide content that eventually leads up to a Call for Action, asking the reader to click on a link to use a Contact form or email address to contact the company.
In the second example, the home page would feature the Loyalty Program, and include content and links to the Loyalty Program page where the visitor can read more information and sign up.
Each step represents a page or action that can be taken after visiting each page. It’s the Hook, Line, and Sinker strategy.
Catch their eye with highlights on a landing page. Convince them to your cause on a secondary page with really great reasons based on their primary motives. Provide a call to action on the third.
When you add together a purpose, a target, and a direct route to a defined goal, you have suddenly gone from Aimless Website to Effective Marketing Tool.
Fill Your Website With Content That Fits Your Goals
It’s time to sit down and create the pages and content of your website.
At this stage, you can do this in your favourite text editor. Don’t worry about formatting, HTML, or CSS. Create a new document for each page if it helps keep the organization of the content more clear for you.
You may wind up with a folder of documents like this:
- Home Page Content.txt
- Loyalty Program Content.txt
- Contact Us Content.txt
Each page should be written with these things in mind:
- The goal of that specific page (is this a Hook, Line or Sinker page?)
- The goal of the website (are you selling to a new client or trying to gain loyalty from an existing one?)
- The target audience of your website (making sure to speak the same Voice as your customer)
By following these guidelines, you will be able to create content for a website that speaks to your customers and works towards a singular goal. Suddenly a website doesn’t sound so pointless anymore, does it?
The essentials of a good website are simple: Pick a goal, pick an audience, and design everything around those two elements.
Now that you have a solid guide for preparing your website, the process shouldn’t feel so strange and random anymore. But, now that you know your strategy – how do you get a real website up and running?