Getting a New Website: Where do I start?
1. Craft your Message with Purpose
It all starts with a message. What MUST the viewer know the moment they get to the website? What action do you hope they will take? What impression do you hope to make? These are the questions that will inform the process moving forward. A website is only as valuable as it’s purpose.
According to Nielson, the average viewer takes 10-20 seconds to decide whether they will leave or stay on a website. In this small window of time, the viewer will assess many things: what you do, what you are offering, whether they like it, and whether or not they should keep on reading. For this reason, we must focus on the essentials – keep it concise and effective.
By answering the following questions, we can shape a solid direction for the entire website. Take time on this step, and you will be rewarded later.
- Elevator Pitch: You have 20 seconds to convince someone you have never met what it is you do, and why they should choose you. In the fewest words possible, describe what you offer, what makes your offer different and valuable, and what the viewer can do to take action.
- Attitude is Everything: As they say, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. What kind of tone and attitude do you hope to convey? Is your attitude more light-hearted and funny? Or do you want to impress people with your professionalism and no-nonsense approach? Depending on your industry, the appropriate tone can make a large impact. If you run a brewery, incorporating tongue-in-cheek jokes and humorous images could work wonderfully. If you operate a funeral home business, this may not be appropriate. However you decide to convey your message, giving thought to the tone you use can go a long way to connect with your viewers, and impart a sense of who you are.
- Call to Action: What do you want the viewer to do once they reach your website? Maybe you want them to pick up the phone and call. Maybe you want them to donate to your cause, or sign up for your email list. Whatever the answer, the Call to Action is likely the most important aspect of your website, and the reason you are getting a new website in the first place. Knowing what you want people to do once they are on your website will be the guiding light of your website design.
We hear this term often in the world of website design: Content. “We need to collect the website content.” or “Would you like Up & Running to help create content?” What the heck is content? It sounds confusing and time intensive. I assure you, it does not need to be. In fact, usually less is more.
Put simply, the content of your website is the final text that ends up on the pages. This will be the Titles and Paragraphs that get placed throughout the website, describing this or that, communicating with your audience. The best content is organized well, gets to the point, and communicates clearly. It does not require a great writer to create, only a bit of focused time and a clear direction. Luckily, we’ve already outlined our direction is Step 1 of this article.
So, where to begin? Your needs will vary greatly depending on your specific website, but most every website will need the following:
- About: This is a chance to further elaborate on who you are, why you do what you do, and what you hope to accomplish.
- Contact: Pretty simple right? Phone, email, address, fax, etc. Apparently people still use fax machines.
- Services/Products/Resources: If you sell products, describe them. Offer services? Write them down and elaborate on them. Maybe you offer something besides products or services on your website – in this case, take some time to describe it as best you can. The best content is written by the people who know the subject best.
- Etc.: Thought of something that you don’t see here? Write it down. A very handy way to write content is to go page by page of your new website, and think of what you want it to say. It may take time, but it will be worth it once the site is launched!
Photography & Images
More often than not, the difference between a visually modern, beautifully eye-catching website and the kind that causes a migraine just by looking at it, boils down to one thing: Images. High quality images and photography can turn even the simplest website into a visually impressive offering.
Here are a few considerations when collecting images for your website:
- Quality: Find the highest quality photos you can, or consider hiring a professional photographer. Not only will the photos be of higher quality, but a capable photographer can tailor the photos to the correct proportions for a website. For instance, many times a website will require a very wide photo to stretch across the screen, without having the height available for a traditionally sized photo. A photographer familiar with website photography will understand this and be able to tailor the photos for this purpose.
- Subject: This may go without saying, but consider your subject matter. If you offer 5 different services, consider getting a photo relevant to each individual service. If you offer only one product, that can be used many ways, consider getting photos of that variety of uses. This leads to the next item:
- Create a Photo List: As you are creating and collecting the content for your website, it can be very handy to have a list of desired photography. This will make your life easier when it comes time to hire a photographer, or give images to your website developer.
Last but not least, what functions do you want the new website to perform? Do you envision an Events Calendar that allows people to register for an event from their phone? Maybe you would like an Email Sign-Up to build up your email list. In any case, giving some thought to which functions you would like your website to perform can go a long ways toward achieving the goals we set out in Step 1. Here are some things to consider:
- Call to Action Functions: In Step 1, we identified what we want the viewer to do once they are on the website. Is there a way to make this easier for them? For instance, if we want the viewer to call, we can place easy to see buttons that say “Call Us”, which then tells their mobile phone to call. Or maybe we want someone to Request A Quote. Rather than making them call, we can offer a form for them to fill out at their convenience, making it easy for them and you to start the process. Other examples of useful functionality may include: Facebook “Likes”, Financial Calculators, Photo Galleries, Etc.
- Resources: Are there resources that would be of great benefit to your viewers? Consider if there are functions that could fill this demand. For instance, does your organization receive the same questions on a regular basis? An FAQ page could act as a resource to your viewers. These are just a few examples of how different functionality can serve both you and your websites viewers.
Don’t worry, you can do it! Bookmark this page, follow these steps, and you will be on your way in no time. And if you decide you’d rather not think about it, you can always ask your website design team to help out. Thanks for reading, and best of luck!