For today’s entrepreneur, having an online destination explaining your business is essential. Customers, employees, partners and service providers will seek your web site to provider assurance to themselves that you take your business seriously. Your site not only has to look great, it has to send the right message to the right audience. Developing these messages is a process that, with the right planning, will yield fantastic results. Shooting from the hip often ends up, shooting one’s self in the foot. Let’s avoid that by making the process easy and fun.
Developing a site takes three steps:
- Formulate the Content
- Outline the Structure
- Build and Revise
Web site authoring is not a very difficult endeavor, but for the weary and emotionally charged entrepreneur, it can be frustrating without the right guidance. Having a process defined up front is essential to produce a successful site and avoid conflicts and revisions.
- Think of the site as a series of messages intended for different audiences. Formulate these messages as you would for any marketing communications plan:
- Describe your business in 3-words.
- Describe your business in 10 seconds, speaking out loud. Refine your message to fit in 10 seconds, write it down and memorize it.
- Describe your business in 1 paragraph.
- Explain why your customer should care about your business.
- Describe the type of person that would buy your product.
- Describe the type of person that should partner with you.
- Next, identify a single message should be on your front page and what the ideal response would be to that message. For example, if I were selling something people could buy online, I’d want my primary product message and a call-to-action, such as a “Buy Now” button. This message and call-to-action can be supported with images to make the message more compelling.
- Then, list each product and/or service you offer. Rank them in order of what you prefer to sell. Then for each:
- Write 1 sentence summarizing its importantance.
- Write a paragraph giving the full story of the product.
- Make a bulleted list of features.
- Get at least three (3) images of your product and/or people using it. Make sure these images are clear and high quality. Remember: This might be your first and last impression for a potential buyer!
- Hire a PR person to write about you and why you’re an expert in your field. Have fun with this and go nuts! If you look like you’re having fun, the kinds of clients you attract will reinforce your public persona.
- Finally, list out and rank from most preferential to least how people should contact you. Some businesses prefer phone, some email, but remember this, if your product pages don’t have a “buy now” button or require customers be pre-screened for your services, then make contacting you as fast and painless for them as possible.
With the most difficult part of the process out of the way, we can focus on site structure. There are a couple of approaches to this. The best sites are scientific about how directing users to a particular outcome using the messaging and navigation mechanisms of the site. It’s recommended that there be at least one call-to-action on every page that would result in a preferred outcome; aka a sale.
Pro Tip: Use MS Powerpoint “outline mode” to create your page wireframes
Using Powerpoint’s outline mode, you can quickly create your hierarchy of pages as if they were slides in a presentation. You can drag and drop photos, highlight important messages, page titles and proof your own text!
Now that all the planning is done, the rest is almost purely mechanical. As web developers , we can take the messages and outlines and develop the idea into its final reality. This is our business and we are the experts here. However, we too are constantly adapting to new ideas and technologies. Internet standards change and newer, better technologies emerge frequently. Engage and partner with your web developer to make your dream a reality.