The Power of Three
Given the conversations I seem to be having lately, it appears every Not for Profit organisation, business and individual in my little corner of the planet believes they need a whole new website, OR need to upgrade their current website, OR need to update the content on their website.
In particular those Not for Profits that now face new business, marketing and funding models are paying attention to their website and wanting to make it more effective. Many have put off dealing with improving their website because they’ve assumed it’s an expensive and/or time consuming business, plus they don’t know enough about the process to feel confident in seeking the right advice.
Websites are all about the power of three. There are three aspects to having a really good website and that means three skill sets (and often three people) to achieve the best results. Your website needs to:
- authentically tell your story … that’s the content aspect;
- have a look and feel that engages people and matches your brand … that’s the design of the site; and
- work … that’s the functionality aspect.
It is rare to find one person who can supply all those skills – although they are out there. Many organisations choose to write the content in-house and buy in someone to “set up the website”. And therein lies the most common mistake…. making the assumption that someone with excellent graphic design skills can also supply the technical knowledge needed to set up the website functionality OR vice versa. They are actually different skill-sets. Yes – some people have both skill-sets, but it is not as common as you might think. Some creative agencies offer a comprehensive service and have people who can provide all those skill-sets. That is one of the advantages of choosing to use an agency. Some however, do not. My advice is to make sure you ask who will be doing what.
Before you start talking to experts however, you need to work out what you want your website to say, look like and do. Look around for websites that appeal to you, or that offer some functionality you want. Think about your requirements for colours, photos, layout, forms, security, accessibility, engagement and interactivity. Give some thought to what search terms potential clients are likely to use. The more information you can provide when talking to experts in any of those three aspects, the more likely you are to get the outcome you want.
And to keep with the power of three theme, for those who decide to write the content in-house, here are my top three tips:
- Language – Remember who you are writing for and use language appropriate to them. That means do NOT use internal organisational language. Yes, your section or division names, or even those program names with clever acronyms, make life easier within the organisation. However, if your potential clients or stakeholders don’t relate to them – you’ve lost them. This is particularly important with headings, sub-headings and menu items. People skim over a web page, so those headings are vital in grabbing their attention so they will read further. Oh, and they help with the Google searches too.
- Less is more – Websites should not be too wordy. I recommend you write what you want to say, then look at each sentence and work out how you can shorten it and still say the same thing. For every 10 words you have used, try to use 5 or 6. You kind of need to push the grammar boundaries here. Go on, I dare you…..it’s strangely exhilarating.
- Repeat yourself – People explore websites in different ways. Some go onto every page, some cherry-pick from lots of pages and others like to find one page that explains everything they want. That means your main messages and vital information need to be repeated across the site. Examples here are key dates, links to an important form, or telephone numbers. Use that information often and in different ways to maximise exposure.