Once you’ve decided to create a website, it can be tempting to jump right into the “fun” stuff - picking your colors, dreaming of photos, comparing different fonts. Take the time to answer these 3 basic questions about your website, you’ll have much more fun in the later steps. Use those answers to adjust your site and keep improving it over time.
Hint: The answer isn’t “everyone.”
Once you know your various audiences, the content, tone, and structure of your website will begin to fall into place. Make sure you can answer these questions about them:
You also might have a few different audiences—for example, one audience might be current customers and another might be potential customers. Both audiences will come to your website looking for different information. Recognizing the difference—and planning accordingly—will help make sure that both audiences find what they’re looking for quickly.
The website prioritizes the needs of regular visitors on the homepage, but also provides an easy way for new visitors to get oriented and involved. Note that your audience—and your understanding of them—might change over time. It’s a good idea to check back every once in a while to make sure your site still matches your visitors and their interests.
Once you’ve answered the first question about your audience, you’ll be able to move on to what this audience is actually going to do on your website. So the basic question - what are visitors supposed to do on your site?
Some examples of answers to this question might be:
Anything that doesn’t make it into the top three can still be included on your site, but it shouldn’t be your focus. If you can only narrow your list down to 10 action items, then you’re probably expecting people to accomplish far too much on your website - meaning you’ll present too many options, visitors won’t be able to find what they need, and they may quickly leave your site for somewhere else.
It helps you streamline your site and focus only on what visitors are looking for. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can only offer three things on your website. It just means that you choose three things to emphasize and make readily available. This can also keep you from making one of the more common website mistakes we see - shoving too many items into your top navigation.
It helps you put yourself in your visitors’ shoes (also known as “user centered design”). In short, user-centered design means designing something based on the users’ own expectations and needs, rather than forcing them to learn and adapt to your way of doing something. Thinking about what visitors will want to accomplish can help you design a site that’s easy for them to use, rather than one that’s focused on you and your interests.
It helps you figure out your “minimum viable product”—what are those essentials you need to get your site off the ground? This approach will keep you from getting bogged down in lots of details or page after page of content before actually getting your site going.
If you can outline the pieces you have to work with, it will be easier to see what’s missing and what you need to gather to create that minimum viable product. It will also show you which pieces are perhaps unnecessary because they don’t fit with your answers to question 1 or question 2.
1) Images: Images really make a website. They help establish a style and mood on your site, break up text, keep readers engaged, and they often help make templates look amazing. Ask yourself if you have all the photos you need, and at the quality you need for them to look their best
2) Text : Remember that what you write isn’t carved in stone. Part of the beauty of having your own website is that you can tweak the text whenever you want. The amount of text you need is dependent on who you are designing for, the shopper or the buyer.
3) Extras: Once you know what images and text you’ll need to get started, you can also think about other elements that would be nice to have
But remember that unless these add-ons relate directly to your audience and the top three actions you want them to take, they most likely aren’t necessary for you to get your site off the ground.
You may have material that you would absolutely love to have on your website—photo galleries of every event you’ve ever hosted, widgets and pop-ups that promise to do all sorts of cool things, hundreds of work samples for people to scroll through…but if you can turn a critical eye to this content and remember who your audience is and what you want them to achieve, you may find that much of this content isn’t really necessary. Getting rid of it will, we promise, create a better, clearer, and more successful website.
So give these three questions a try, and remember that each one flows into and informs the next:
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