Was your website written by a web writer? Your readers can tell in 7 seconds or less.

*** The following article originally appeared in the April issue of my newsletter, The Evolving Website. To subscribe to my free e-newsletter, use the yellow sign up box to the right of this blog posting.***

Writing for a web site is unlike any other form of writing. That is because people read web sites differently from the way they read newspapers or books. Or even this newsletter. Studies have show that people visit a site for no more than seven seconds before they decide to stay or click off. Is your site catching your reader’s interest… and then holding his attention and leading him to take action? A site written by a good web copywriter will do exactly that.

Here are some key tips that good web writers keep in mind while writing for a site.
 Copy should be directed toward the reader. Focus on words like ‘you’ and ‘your’ and not the words ‘we’ and ‘our’.
 Speak to the reader in a clear, concise manner. He wants to get the information fast.
 Provide a way for your readers to scan the page so they can quickly find the information they want.
 Give the reader the information she is looking for…not what you want to tell her.
 Provide good links where the readers can find more detailed information, if they desire.
 Use lists, bullets, capitalization, line breaks, and other formatting techniques to enhance the reader’s ability to scan.
 Don’t leave the readers wondering what to do. At the end of the web page provide a ‘call to action.’ Have the option right there. Don’t make them search for it. Odds are, they won’t. Click. (oops!!!)

Now take a fresh look at your web site. Pretend you are seeing it for the first time. As a new visitor, can you easily find specific information? If you are selling a service, is the service clear and well defined? If you are selling a product, is it easy to determine that you have a great shipping policy… that you take credit cards? Is it evident what sets your product apart from the competition… and even what your product is? Can the reader find the answers to her pressing questions without having to slog through words she doesn’t care about? If not, you are losing valuable business prospects every day. Because your reader holds the mouse. And she’s not afraid to use it… CLICK!

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How Not To Hire A Web Designer

Today I had a rather unusual experience. I had received a call from a couple that wanted to meet with me regarding a price quote for a web site for a great new business idea … an idea so important and ground-breaking that I would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the start of the meeting.  OK.

Today we met.

After the niceties, the first order of business was the non-disclosure agreement. Now, I think of myself as a  person with integrity and knew they had nothing to worry about… but they didn’t know this.  So, I happily signed it. They didn’t seem to feel better though.

Even after I returned their contract, and they gave me a blank unfilled-out, unsigned, undated copy of the contract …hmmm…they remained closed-mouthed and totally mum regarding what this new site was to be for.

I tried to explain to them that I couldn’t really convey what I could do to help them since they still wouldn’t disclose anything about their project. Did they need a database? What would inspire the design? Did they have a copywriter? Was their new concept complicated or easy to explain?  Who was to be the reader of the site?  What functions did the web site need to do? What did they need in terms of graphics? Lots of questions, but alas, no answers.

All was vague. So vague that I doubt Sherlock Holmes himself could  figure out what the heck they were talking about.  It was becoming very obvious that a meeting of the minds was not going to happen.

Finally, the woman laid her cards on the table…well sort of. She needed to know then…right then…what I charged for a five-page website. There could be no further information given.  Except that  if it was over $500 the cost was far too high. It seems that they had already had several great offers, the current leader being south of $460.

Personally, if I had an incredible idea for a web site, I would not be searching for the lowest bidder. I would be much more concerned with other things such as:

  • Did the designer understand my vision for the site;
  • would the designer contribute to my vision;
  • could the designer contribute to my ability to reach my potential audience;
  •  what marketing expertise did my designer have to offer;
  • what design and technical expertise did my designer have to offer;
  • could my designer help with copywriting?

 …but then again that’s me…and hopefully you…if you are considering hiring a web designer.

Here are some additional things you should think about when considering hiring a web designer. Custom web designers will most likely be more expensive than your basic template web design company. But, they should have a lot more to offer you.

  1. Your custom web designer should be available to answer your calls and talk to you on an as needed basis. You should not experience long phone waits  on hold and/or unreturned calls.
  2. Web site updates will be done on your schedule, on an as-needed basis. There is no need to fit into a rigid company schedule for simple updates.
  3. A custom built site can provide flexibility in content. Content does not need to be presented in simple paragraphs that fit into basic layout and formatting.
  4. Content can be formatted so that it is easily scanned by the potential customer. This is very important for the busy web reader.
  5. Designs can be whatever you want them to be. They are only limited by the imagination of you and your web designer. They are not restricted to putting copy in Areas A, B and/or  C and putting pictures in areas D, E and/or F.
  6. Web sites can be written and truly formatted to help with SEO. Meta tags are well thought out, and do exist as part of your site.
  7. Web sites can be formatted specifically to help promote the understanding of new or complicated concepts.
  8. Page layouts can be easily changed in the future.
  9. The web site can evolve and grow with you and your company. Your business growth and expansion will dictate the future design of the web site.
  10.   The site will not look like every other site. It will not get lost in the internet crowd. It will clearly represent you, your company, and your vision.

 Gee.  I think I feel much better now.

Posted in Selecting a Web Designer, Strong content and creativity | Tagged | 1 Comment

Say to your web site reader, “Be Our Guest!”

When you sit down to write web site content there should be one thought going through your mind…”What does my reader want to hear?”  And all web site writing must flow from that one focused thought.

In thinking about this blog entry, the Disney song “Be Our Guest” inexplicably keeps going through my mind. Maybe it is due to the 1,000 or so times I watched “Beauty And The Beast” with my daughter many years ago. Or, perhaps it is the similarity in determination that the web site writer needs in terms of  pleasing his or her ”guest”… the  site visitor.

Most people come to the web looking for specific information. And if they don’t find what they need, it’s a fast click and they’re gone.  So when you write for a site you need to think, “What does my reader want to know?” “What does my reader need to know?” And then write it in a way that they can find their information fast!

Know that you are writing your site for your reader, not for you! They don’t particularly care about what you want them to learn. They only want to know information as it pertains to themselvesAnd they have control of the mouse. Need I say more?

So, here are some key tips to help you keep focused on your true audience:

  • Write directly to your reader. You are on the right track if you are using the words “you” and “your” and not the words “we” and “our.”
  • Tell the reader what he wants to hear. Not what you want to tell him. For example, he will want to know that your teapot won the award for “Best of 2010″ in a recent consumer survey of Best Teapots. This can help him be  confident in his decision to purchase your teapot.  But he will not want to know that your company won the “Best of 2010″ award because your company is so innovative. He does not care about how great your company is. He cares about the teapot..which shortly may be his.
  • Tell your reader about your return policy. Are you easy to deal with when it comes to returns? Will he get his money back quickly if there is a problem? Do you return calls in a timely fashion? Are you easy to contact?
  • Provide a page where he can learn more about you. Your “About Us” page is the place for this. He looks at your “About Us” page because he wants to have a reason to trust you. This will help him trust what you are saying to him about that teapot.
  • Speak to your reader in a clear, concise manner. He wants to get the information fast.  However, you may want to provide links where he can find more detailed information, if he desires.
  • Provide a way for your reader to scan the page so he can quickly find the information he needs. Two ways this can be done are through the use of lists or color.
  • Don’t leave him wondering what to do. At the end of your page, or at other places including the end, provide a “call to action.” Perhaps he will want to “Buy the teapot now” or sign up for your product newsletter. Help him decide. Have the option(s) right there. Don’t make him search for it. Odds are, he won’t. Click. (oops!!!)

I hope these few tips prove useful to you. And I hope you have enjoyed being my guest at my blog!

Posted in Keys To Strong Web Content | 1 Comment

Hello!

Hi –  Please watch this space for the start of my new blog! 

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