It’s easy for a designer or developer to lose sight of what the purpose of a website is. Most people, when asked why they have a website for their business, will say something like, “So people can find me online.” But why is it important for someone to find you online? “Because they might go to my competitor who is online.” While that is true, that is essentially saying that you need a website because “everyone else is doing it.”
If you or your web design clients have this mentality, they will never harness the full potential of their website. They will always be limited to doing what their competition is doing.
I think there are 3 main levels of website effectiveness, each one taking you closer to realizing a websites full potential.
1. The Business Card
This was somewhat popular 10 to 15 years ago as a cheap way of getting a “website” out on the web. Like the name implies, it is a single page site that looks like a business card, it has the business or organization’s name, a tag line, maybe a brief description, and contact information.
This isn’t used much anymore, but it is making somewhat of a comeback as a pre-launch page, or in directory listings like about.me. Used for specific purposes, such as for a specific event that will come and go, it can be quite effective, but this is not an end in itself.
2. The Brochure
This is the informative website. It says, “Look, this is our business, this is who we are, this is what we do, this is how you can contact us.” This type of site has been in use since the web’s early days, but it is still ubiquitous throughout the Internet. Chances are, many of the websites you have made fall into this category.
When most small business owners think of a website, this is what they are envisioning. Unfortunately, this type of website falls short of the full potential and benefit that they could get from their website.
So at this point, I ask again: What is the purpose of your website, or the websites you build for your clients? Both of the above types of websites have the same problem… they are passive. They sit on a server waiting for clients to search for whatever service you offer and hopefully come across your site. They are passive in that they assume that your visitors are already sold on needing your service, so they have come to your site to see if you can meet their need.
Yes, this does happen, but many times visitors come to your site merely curious. Maybe your client is a realtor and a visitor comes to their site because they are considering selling their house and looking for a new house. Or your client is an estate planner and their visitors have heard it is a good idea to draw out a will, but they aren’t convinced. A passive website will do nothing more than inform them that maybe if they decide to buy a house or create a will in the future, this is someone they could consider.
This isn’t enough! The purpose of nearly any website should be to influence the visitors. This influence could be as simple as convincing them to believe in an idea or a cause, but it should go a step beyond that and actually influence them to action. For businesses and organizations, ultimately you want them to purchase a product, subscribe to a service, or join your organization.
This “influence” shouldn’t be open ended, it needs to be direct and guide them to a very specific action. This is a “call to action,” maybe you have heard of it? This brings us to the third and most effective type of website.
3. The Sales Funnel
Each page on your site and each aspect of each page should be created with the idea of influencing the reader and drawing them deeper and deeper in, leading them to a call to action. The deeper in they go, the more time they have invested and the more influence you have already had on them, and the more likely they are to take your call to action.
Examples of a call to action are asking visitors to share your site on a social network, comment on a blog post, subscribe to a newsletter, download a trial version of software, or simply “buy now.”
Keeping this simple idea in your mind when designing a site can easily increase the effectiveness of everything you make by ten fold: Design to influence and influence to action!
Speaking of this, what creative means have you seen or used yourself to call a reader to action? Leave your feedback in the comment area below.