There are many business owner who feel they should have a website. It’s like being an entrepreneur without having a business card to hand out when somebody asks you for it. Well, I’m not totally convinced if a website is indeed a must have for each and every business out there. Many businesses work fine without one. But when you do decide to have one, then this might help when you have no clue how to begin and what to look for.
1. Know why you decide to launch a website
It all starts with a very simple but crucial question that will make the difference in a not functioning website, a good website or a very good website:
- Do you want a website or do you need a website?
As you think about this question, you might notice the subtle difference between a want and a need. Wanting a website is a desire and doesn’t really tell you what that website should do. Needing a website has a clear intention, which can be anything such as:
- Generating leads
- Providing information
- Showing and selling products
Don’t fool yourself by answering the question of why you need a website with your want: ‘I need a website because my competitor has one’. Be honest about your reasons why you want or need a website. There is always one reason why you and everyone else out there might need a website and that it simply to have your basic information out there so that potential customers can find you if necessary. If that is the only reason, then your website’s intention should be just that, providing information. Such a website will be more straightforward than a website which is trying to sell a service online.
2. Plan the road for your visitor
Try to pay attention to your own surf behaviour when searching the Internet. How do you deal with certain websites that come up? At some websites you spend hours and some of them you leave after few seconds. Some websites might make you frustrated and angry with yourself (or that website) for wasting time because you didn’t find what you were hoping to find on their website.
Taking all this into account, surfing the Internet can be either smooth or really exhausting. You want your visitors to have a smooth experience. This means that you limit their decisions and their search efforts by being clear and by using clear ‘road signs’ or buttons that make it clear for the visitor to know where they are and how to continue. This is what I call the roadmap.
Before you go and start laying out a roadmap, a website needs some (basic) pages where a visitor can go to. There are different types of pages, most of them end up being one of the following:
- About page
- Product page
- Service page
- Contact page
- Content page (blog/information/database/…)
Depending on your intention, you will want to set an order for your visitor that you would like him or her to visit. It is a standard and common thing to start with a homepage, as this is where your visitors will be in the beginning. From there on, you want to guide the visitor to the next page. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a new visitor and a returning visitor. You design a roadmap for new visitors, returning visitors will already know the way and will want to use shortcuts (menus).
Think about your offline story and see how you attract customers and build a relationship with them so they can go ahead and decide to choose your business as a way of being helped. Your online story is not so much different. Do they first need to get to know you, then the first page where you might lead them is your about page. Next, your about page will lead them to your services where they can contact you.
Try to find your sequence of pages that gives you the best option to tell what you want to tell in order to make them an offer or an opportunity to choose. In order to know the roadmap even better, you need to know exactly what people expect to find on certain types of pages.
3. Build the pages
The next step is to get to know the certain set up of these pages. This is not yet building the content and making up the texts for each page. Building the pages is knowing how and which information you will show on each page.
There are two crucial functions for this page:
- Telling the visitor what you do and what they can expect to find here
- Showing the roadmap you want them to take
Another widely common function used for the homepage is the ‘free giveaway’. This is a topic which I will explain in a separate post. The homepage is a good place to have it shown when you have a decent free giveaway.
The homepage should give the customer a very good first impression within some seconds when landing on your homepage. What do you do and what can the visitor expect to find here? As you only have so much time as the visitor is willing to invest, which is not much in general, you need a very good tag line and/or picture(s) making that first impression for you. This is most likely done by using a bigger heading for the homepage with a catchy title and a button revealing the first action that you want the visitor to take.
The second function of a homepage is showing the path of your website. Each page that you want them to visit should have a section on the homepage with a link to that specific page. That section can be either a picture (other media) or some words or a combination of both, giving the visitor an idea what to expect when clicking on it.
2. About page
The about page is one of the most frequently visited pages on any website. That is people want to find out who you are and what your intentions are. This page is ideally the one you want to use to communicate:
- Your vision, which is reason of existence of your company and your mission.
- Your mission, which is the role you play in order to realize your vision
Adding up to this, you want to communicate what you expect from the visitor or the way(s) that they can support you or your business. An about page can lead to your products or service pages or it can lead to some specific content or to a subscription of your newsletter or something else. It is important though that the visitor knows what to do when he or she gets to know you or your business better.
3. Product or service page
A product or service page is a very specific page and is set up according to the way the products or service sells itself. Sometimes this page is just to give information or to generate leads to an offline continuation. Depending on the intention, this page will have a different set up.
These type of pages are all about trust and quality. When somebody is searching something to buy than there should be ways to check if this is a good deal or not. The way you build trust is crucial. Social proof is one the biggest influencers for online behaviour. When people have the chance to see reviews from other customers, then they will be more confident to make a certain decision.
4. Contact page
Before you just put out a form out there, make sure that you know why people would contact your business and what the preferred way is to do this. make sure that your basic information, such as company address is also mentioned and can be easily found.
It might also be important that customers or visitors have several options to contact your business. Technical questions might be different directed than commercial questions. Make sure you communicate the different options to get into contact and why they should use this way or another way.
5. Content page
A content page is any page that doesn’t belong to one of the 4 above mentioned categories. A content page can have several intentions. Sometimes it is just there to provide necessary information for people who are already involved in your business, sometimes it is to give visitors an insight in your expertise or the way you see things.
Make sure that content pages add quality to your website and don’t do the opposite. Give your visitors a clear structure and an overview of how to find something that they might be looking for. It is easy to get lost in an overly crowded website with hundreds of pages.
By know you know that a website consists of specific pages, each with their own purpose. You also know that you can guide the visitor along the pages that you want them to see. It is time for the next step, how to make those pages communicate and functions as a whole.
4. Communicate consistently
There are two ways of communication for a website. The first way is the internal communication, which is the roadmap. The second way is the outward communication towards the visitor, which is determined by three factors:
- Style of the house
- Header and Footer (menu)
- Content of the pages
The internal communication of the pages happen with the right buttons on the right locations. These buttons is what are called: call to actions. These ask for a decision for the visitor. As a call to action button is most likely just a button (and not really a choice between several buttons), the visitor will most likely click on it to continue the journey. Make sure these buttons have a verb in it, which makes it clear for the visitor what he or she might expect when clicking on it.
Imagine that you have a returning visitor on your website. This person has already been on your website and knows the way by heart and wants to go directly to one specific page. That is why a website has a header menu.
The header menu is most likely to be used by returning visitors. Make sure that the header menu has a shortcut to the most popular pages and to your most important ones. Because the header menu is visible on the first moment somebody enters your website, this header will add up to making a first impression. If your header menu is overly crowded, not readable or just clumsy, then chances are high that the visitor won’t stick around even though you would have been able to help him or her.
The footer menu becomes visible for a visitor when he or she has read the entire page. When that happens, you can clearly know that the visitor is interested in your content. So the footer menu is an ideal place for showing a shortcut towards your intentions or towards your intentions or how they can help you. This can be a button for a subscription for a newsletter or just a shortcut to share this (website) page on social media.
Another way of communication is the consistent use of a specific house style. When you have chosen to use a certain set of colours for one page, don’t go messing around with a completely different look and feel for another page. This will make the visitor uncomfortable and will make it difficult to build trust and a sense of recognizing the familiar.
The last, but definitely important factor of communication is the content and use of language itself. While setting up content, you have to keep in mind that you do not make content for yourself, but to help another person. At all times, it should be clear for the visitor that he is getting what he wants. Put yourself in the shoes of your visitor and ask yourself ‘what’s in it for me?’ so that you can have an idea if you are giving value to your visitors and by doing that, building up the foundation to become customers.
If you have fulfilled the needs of your visitor, that person will be grateful and more often than not, people want to show their gratitude. Make sure that you give the visitor an option to do this. In the next and last chapter of this article, you will see how to align your intentions with those from your visitor, creating a win-win situation.
5. Align intentions
This part is about going full circle. Remember that somebody surfs the Internet with an intention. If that intention matches your website, than people will be happy they have found your website. There are several ways for people to show their gratitude (or their frustration), whether this is offline or online:
- Talk about their experiences
- Giving feedback
- Giving money
- Joining your journey by following you, soliciting for a job, …
Make sure that you communicate clearly how you want to be helped when they support what your are doing. That means not necessarily communicating it, but at least providing the means to do it. When you want a happy visitor to spread your story, than you should definitely have the option to share certain pages/content on social media. When you want them to buy one of your products, you need to give them the opportunity to discover them, etc..