When a new business owner says to me, “We need a website,” my first question is always, “Why?” And the question typically yields a puzzled stare similar to a dog’s head tilt after hearing a high-pitched whistle.
Yes, of course you need to have a website in this day and age. But if you can’t definitively and specifically answer the question of “Why?” when conceptualizing your site’s look and feel, it’s probably time to take a step back and think about strategy.
Let’s break down the “Why?” question into three specific queries:
- Who are your primary and secondary target audiences?
- What are your core messages for those audiences?
- What do you want visitors to do when arriving at your site?
If your main goal is to impress potential investors, then your website will (and should) have a much different look and feel than one designed to provide customers with helpful information. If you want to generate sales leads, then visitors should be able to follow a guided path through learning about your products, finding solutions to their needs and contacting someone to close the sale. If you want customers to know your company’s story, then your site’s writing style should be conversational.
I often see companies failing to prioritize their audiences and posting a ridiculous amount of disparate content in an attempt to appeal to everyone. Visitors get lost and give up when they encounter too much information that doesn’t apply to them. Most companies with larger staffs will want to include a “Careers” link, but if your primary audience is not job-seekers, that link shouldn’t be as prominent as links to your main objectives.
I often think of a website landing page as the front page of a newspaper. If every story has a headline with the same 36-point Times New Roman font, then where do you start? What’s the top story?
If you successfully craft and prioritize your messages and audiences before moving to the design phase, you’ll ensure that your design elements fit in with and enhance your company’s mission.
That’s answering the “Why.” Now you can proceed with vision.