The Eternal Web Page Question: Why?
When it comes to websites and their pages, nothing saddens me more than to see a well designed web page that completely fails to divulge why it’s there. It could be a sparse yet highly compelling branding message. It could be a robust informative rundown of product features. It could be a pinpointed display of expertise within a niche industry. While handy for a viewer, none of it will matter to the site owner if the page doesn’t drive a desired action.
When I look at a web page the first question I am asking is “Why?” No doubt this comes from the fact that I find it difficult to take off my marketing hat when I’m surfing the net. But more often than not, I am asking this question when reviewing a client’s website in an effort to improve content strategy and marketing effectiveness. If I can’t quickly see why a page is up on the web at all, it’s a pretty fair assumption that the visitors to that page are not easily being driven to an action that means something tangible to the website’s business.
If you are going to produce a web page, you owe it to yourself to think beyond the page itself and consider what comes next. Why do you want people viewing this page in the first place?
While things can quickly become complex, there is much to be learned from even the most basic answers. In all cases, you want to make it easy for people to take the action you desire. Forcing a page to demonstrate why it is there will keep the overall site goals sharply in focus.
1 – The Phone Call: “I want visitors to my site to call me for more information or an appointment.”
Great. Is your phone number everywhere? In a prominent spot? Worked into the logo that runs atop ever page? Is it listed at the end of every page’s content a la “Call 800-555-5555 for more information.”? If getting your phone to ring is important, your web pages should make this fact abundantly clear by showing the phone number and never forcing anyone to hunt for that next step. It sounds simple, yet you’d be surprised by how many websites fail to connect this goal to the site’s content strategy.
2 – The “Contact Us” Form: “I need leads. I want visitors to fill out my form.”
Gone are the days of the contact us page, my friends. Sure it still exists, but if you want your visitors to fill out your lead form at whatever instance the urge strikes them while surfing your site, don’t make them hunt down a contact us page. Consider putting a simple form on every page. Make it easy to find (upper right?). Ask for as little information as possible (name, e-mail address) realizing that the more info you require, the less likely someone is to fill out your form. People are both lazy and unwilling to give away more info than they have to. Play to those tendencies.
3 – Branding: “I want people to stay on my site and soak it all in.”
This is key to any blog or site that values the need to make it easy for visitors to stick around. Your navigation elements are critical. Be sure to link within your content to other pages of relevance. Create an easy to follow navigation bar, tag cloud, or drop down menu so people don’t have to hunt and peck for more content that interests them. The easier you make it for people to realize you have more interesting content beyond the page they are viewing, the more likely they will be to stay on your site and absorb the experience of everything you have to offer. Never leave someone dangling. If you have tons of information, you never want to let someone leave thinking, “I wish there was some more info here.”
These are just three examples. There are countless others, and they almost always play together in some fashion. Whether you are about to launch an entirely new site, or are scratching your head as to why people aren’t doing what you wish they would when you get them to your pages, make sure you always answer the question of why each page exists in the first place – to drive measurable action that helps you build business.