In working with clients as a web designer, I often do more than just create layouts and make things beautiful. Mainly I help my clients figure out how to position themselves through their site so that they can meet the goals they have for their business. There are so many ways to go about creating a website, and deciding what to include and what to leave out is critical to a successful planning process.
On top of that, there’s a decision to be made about what voice you want your website to have. Along with the aesthetic of your site, this will communicate your brand. For example, should your website be casual and approachable, but still professional? Or maybe authoritative and more formal, but not prohibitively so?
Whatever you decide, your site users will be looking for one primary thing (and quickly) when visiting your site — they’ll be asking themselves: “What will this do for me?”
We all know that writing for the web can be tricky. I work with lots of authors on their websites, and while they do prose very well, writing for the web, especially when you’re marketing a product or service, is a whole other thing. And the key to success is to make sure you’re quickly & concisely answering the question your site visitors are asking.
“What will this do for me?”
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re an author and you’re creating a website that will feature your new book. Your goal for the site is to raise awareness of the book & sell more books, provide a community space for readers, and encourage site visitors to read & subscribe to your blog so that they’ll know when you’re doing events or even when your next book is coming out.
You’ve decided that the voice that’s right for you for this site is first person, using a casual and approachable tone. And the aesthetics of the site will support the tone.
Now it’s time for you to write up some text for the Home page of your site — you want to make sure it includes your key words, but also to tell people what it will do for them. If your book is fiction, it should take them on a journey where they’re completely wrapped up in the world and characters you’ve created, and you want this initial information to leave them wanting more. If you can demonstrate the kind of journey you’ll be taking them on in the book so that they want more of it, they’re more likely to purchase the book, or participate in a website community you’ve build around it.
(As an aside, you can do this with content besides text — you could use a video, for example.)
Often authors already have this text, because their jacket text is designed to do the same thing.
If you’re not an author, what then? Here’s another example: Let’s say you’re a high-end window installer. Your website will feature a portfolio of your work in beautiful homes and information about the products that you use. The goal is to gain new customers. The voice of the site will be professional, but still personal since your work is primarily residential.
The most important information you can give a site visitor straight away is examples of your work & information from happy customers (ie: testimonials). In addition, you want some intro text that briefly describes why working with you means quality workmanship, quality products, and how you will beautify a home. And if you’ve been in business for awhile, that you have a long-standing, proven track record of success.
In either example, with a little effort, you’ll craft some great messaging that will help your site meet your goals. And in all cases, after you’ve told your site visitors what you’ll do for them, tell them what to do next to get it. Examples include, “Contact me to learn more…” or “Buy Now!” …
As a bonus, here are few things that you don’t want to do:
- Write long paragraphs that don’t concisely explain your value proposition
- Leave it vague about what you’re actually selling or what your website is about
- Leave out information about what you want your site visitor to do next
If you already have a website, it’s not too late to take a critical eye to it with this info in mind. Sometimes it’s a small amount of effort that reaps the biggest rewards.