What is a website, really?
The first thing you are going to say is, who would ask such a stupid question. As an owner of a company that purports to build websites for people, I have a particular interest in your understanding of what goes into making a website.
Of course, not all businesses are the same, not all websites are the same, and I will not say that any website needs all of the components that I am about to discuss. But if you are interested in creating or changing your website, having a view of all of the possible pieces of the puzzle might help you come up with some ideas of how your website can shine for customers.
I’m not trying to insult you here. When you go to a website, there are words, descriptions, benefit statements, stories, and so on. Someone has to write these words, presumably with well formed sentences and in an interesting enough fashion that a website visitor would want to read the words. The best possible scenario is that you, the website owner, write the words. If that is not a possibility, there are some options:
- You write down notes, thoughts and concepts, and someone else can put them into words. This will cost extra. The better the words, the more expensive it can get.
- You can just have someone else write all of the words without any input from you. Boy, aren’t you trusting. And wealthy.
- Words can be copied from another source. This is not desirable because it could violate a copyright and it could scare the search engines from indexing your site. In any case, copied words does not help make your website original.
Most website pictures could be put in the Style section below. They are an element of style to make people focus on certain sections and give those sections visual meaning. Pictures are good, but make them as realistic as you can. Some graphics can be a little too gratuitous, and people consider them a bit of a joke.
Hey, pictures could go here too. But when I talk of media, I mean videos or animation that you create or that relate to your content. I would add here that they should be useful videos, with a valuable message. Do you like watching marketing fluff? I didn’t think so.
Useful Content for Visitors
It’s especially valuable to be able to put something on your website that can be downloaded or read that provides unique value to a customer. A recipe or list of instructions that is valued by visitors has the potential to be viral, and can encourage others to link to your website. If the link to your site is from a high ranking website, you’ve created what we refer to as linkbait. See Links below.
But even without the SEO value of links, posting useful content can be a way for you to:
- Handle inquiries from visitors that aren’t likely to become customers
- Provide additional value to your customers
- With analytics, determine what the underlying purpose is of visitors to your website
In putting this item lower on the list, I didn’t meant to diminish the importance of design. But design must consider everything else that goes into a website, and should not overwhelm those other important aspects. For example, a website with floating images of naked models may overwhelm your company’s message of philanthropy or environmental activism (extreme, but you get the point).
Links are not actually content, but when you take a list of your assets for a website, this is an important one. If you can arrange to have a link from another website to your own, the SEO value of the page that they link to will increase, which, in turn make all of your website pages more valuable. You can get easy links to your website from business partners and professional organizations. Attorneys can get links from directories that they join, like Lawyers.com.
Calls to action
These are the actions that we want visitors to take to bring them closer to being a customer. If you do not have an online store, then you can’t close the deal online, but you can compel a potential customer to give you their contact information. The more ways to engage a customer online, the better.
Now that you have all of this great content, how will you organize it online. Think of taxonomy as the way you would organize your pages on the menu. If you sold team jerseys, the way you would organize the information might be different depending on the type of retailer that you are. If you were promoting the teams, then your top navigation might be – Team – Gender – Apparel Type – Size – Color. If you were a general apparel company, then team might not be part of your navigation – Gender – Apparel Type – Color – Size. It depends on your marketing message and your customer.
This is NOT a definitive list of all of the components of a website. I present this to show you the types of “assets” that need to be collected and considered before setting out on a website project.