I was recently asked in an interview with Richard Heathcote – a great voiceover artist – if I could recognise a website written by a non-professional writer. My answer was a categorical “No – but I can tell the difference between good copy and bad”.
Most business owners, especially small business owners, have a deep knowledge of their own businesses. That’s a given. But they don’t necessarily know the best way of promoting that business, nor are they necessarily great web designers or writers; which is why there are so many badly presented websites out there on the Interwebs.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone should feel free to have a go, and I suspect most websites which are “home made” are done that way for financial reasons. But that can be a very false economy.
Your website is your shop window to the whole world. Everything you say is open to scrutiny and the way you present yourself WILL allow people to form a decision about whether they will engage your services. Non-webby people CAN get it right, and sometimes do, but more often than not the attempted web presence shows a woeful lack of knowledge. If you’re someone who hasn’t put a website together or who hasn’t written since school – think carefully.
Here are some things to consider:
Are you skilled in a program like PhotoShop? You may need a little experience (and the program itself) to produce graphical images for your site.
How are you going to build your site? Do you understand the process of buying a domain, getting it hosted, creating the site itself (hand-coding, Dreamweaver, WordPress, Drupal etc.)?
Do you have a sense of aesthetics? Do you understand colours for example? Every colour used on this site is designed to be calming and all colours are picked from my graphics header. Why? Because people don’t like to be visually assaulted when surfing the web.
And do you know exactly who your audience is? Is the product or service you sell something for which people search? Copywriting is a service that is infrequently Googled. It has to be sold as a concept, not bought. So in that case traffic has to be driven to the site in different ways; which may mean constructing the site for a different purpose.
Do you understand how the human eye reads a website? This determines where you’re going to place your key messages as most visitors will decide within seconds whether your site fits their needs.
Do you understand that site content needs to be engaging from the off. Don’t launch into a great spiel on Health and Safety legislation on page one – no one cares. Ask your reader a question: “What happens when an employee breaks a leg at work?” – get them thinking. This will lead them into reading more, and already you’ve achieved more than some of your rivals.
Spelling and grammar. ‘Nuff said.
Formal or informal? Again, knowing your prospective audience is essential because some will be put off by too starchy an approach. Be friendly, even if you’re an accountant.
Keep it as short and punchy as possible. Where you can’t then make as much use of paragraphs as possible. NO ONE will read a bloody great slab of text that fills their screen.
Be careful when using irony – not everyone gets it.
So that’s a brief run down of things upon which you should ponder, so ponder away. Good luck!
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