So we kick off the course, going right back to basics. Always a good place to start! We’re going to examine what are the fundamental things your website must have, to be any good. By good, we mean fit for purpose!
Get out a piece of paper, or open a document on your computer and sketch down your thoughts and responses. The paper is better, so you can scribble and sketch more freely.
A Professional Appearance: The look and feel should assist your business’ image, not injure it
Contact Information: At least an email address, but will you list a phone number, a real world address, or more online contact routes such as Skype, Facebook or Twitter?
Clear Calls to Action: What do you want your website visitors to do next? Are they to buy something, sign up for your email newsletter, make a comment, call you now, opt in for a free trial of your product or service?
Clearly stated Products or Services: They should be able to tell what you do within 5 seconds of arriving on your site.
Why Do you Need a Website: What's its Purpose? Write the Answers Down
- Because everyone else has one isn’t a great reason, but it is a start!
- How will this website assist or enhance your organisation/ business?
- How will the function of the website relate to the needs of your business?
If you’re a business, you exist to serve a customer need. Try and write down in one sentence what that need is. Without wanting to sound too nasty, basically why should anyone spend time on your site?
Benefits Over Functions:
Generally organisations are more successful when they explain their offer to potential customers in terms of the benefits it will bring, rather than the function of their product or service. When describing function, channel it and clarify those functions through the benefits to your intended audience.
So in a crude example, you could say that a Doctor’s function might be to provide medical services in a community or hospital. But the benefit of those services would be easing patient suffering and bringing them back to full health as well as educating them on healthier lifestyles. The statement changes from the Doctor’s function to how the patients’ benefit.
Also note, it's often better to frame the benefits in positive terms instead of negative. Better to say, “make you healthier”, than “stop illness”. The former uses the idea of positive improvement, the latter focuses on avoidance of a negative, or in more severe examples, uses fear as a motivator.
For some people this redirection will be a more simple than others. Usually services can be easier to put in terms of benefits. With products, people often end up describing the cool things it does, but often neglect how those cool things actually help their customer. It’s similar with ‘experts’. They might state they’ve a PhD is this, and twenty years experience in that, but not clearly explain how those facts solve the client’s problem or enhance their client’s life or work. It’s not that you shouldn’t mention function, it’s that if you do, you need to bridge the gap between you and your function, and the benefits your target receives.
Write down what you bring your target audience, particularly in terms of positive benefits.
Now, what are the Calls to Action, to get your site visitors to enjoy those benefits? - That will be your main calls to action.
At the end of this Day You Should Have:
(on your sheet of paper)
1. A sentence or two stating how your website will assist you or your organisation; it's Purpose
2. A Sentence summing up your offer to your site visitors in terms of the benefits you bring them
3. Have your Calls to Action, uniting point 1 & 2 above.
4. Have a basic sketch of what your website will look like
5. Have a basic idea of the different pages you’ll have; Home, About, Contact etc.