"Your website is beautiful -- but where are the profits?"
Most new e-business owners realize they need a website that
looks professional. But how elaborate do you need to be?
How much energy, creativity and money should you invest so
that visitors gasp, "Wow - what a beautiful website?"
Experienced business owners know: Your goal is to create a
website that sells, not a site that wins the electronic
version of Miss Universe. Most of the time you'll want to
win sales contests - not beauty contests.
Remember the commercial about the beer and the dog? A man
sends his dog into the kitchen to get him a beer. We hear
sounds of a refrigerator opening and a can opener
humming...and then we hear lapping sounds. Oh no! The dog
is drinking the beer!
Great commercial, right? Except ... can you remember the
brand of beer?
And of course we've all seen that big pink battery-powered
rabbit. But many viewers can't remember the sponsor's brand.
(1) Emphasize your marketing message.
Recently I heard a speaking professional say, "My speaking
wardrobe is designed to avoid calling attention to me. When
the audience is thinking, 'What a beautiful suit!' or 'What
a mess!' they're not listening to my message."
Your website works the same way. Stay focused on the
content and avoid distractions.
(2) Use graphics sparingly.
Graphics take awhile to load. And what sells your product?
Not graphics - copy.
Research shows visitors seek information. So use graphics
to convey specific messages. A fitness site could show a
before-and-after. And real estate sites can show examples of
(3) Use meaningful graphics.
One award-winning site featured a menu on an elaborately
drawn 3-ring notebook. The words were hard to read and
frankly I'm not sure I remember what the site was all about.
A 3-ring binder could be a calendar, a student notebook, or
But let's say you want to target a business audience. You'd
show pinstripes and briefcases. Sure, your target market
wears business casual and carries canvas. But they'll pick
up the symbolism, especially if you're trying to
differentiate yourself from a leisure or family market.
(4) Skip flash and frames (usually).
You probably know this already. Search engines don't like
frames and your visitors will get impatient waiting for
flash to load.
If you're a famous musician (like Coldplay) or author (like
Lawrence Block) you can create an elaborate site and your
fans will wait half an hour, if need be. They'll expect
something out of the ordinary.
And if you're a web designer, you probably need to showcase
some of your tricks.
But most of the time, I believe websites are like basketball
games. Web copy is out on the court, putting points on the
board. Readers look for smooth moves and sharp uniforms but
they're mostly paying attention to the action.
Graphics remain on the side, cheering the team. But let's
face it: most of us don't come to a game to watch the pep
Research shows, over and over, that readers respond first to
your headline. If they're intrigued, they'll go on to read
Readers look first for headlines that communicate, "I share
your pain!" They've got problems and they're surfing for
solutions. And they don't have much time.
Bottom line: Focus on creating and communicating a great
marketing message. Frame your message so you come across as
professional - but keep your website focused on learning how
you can provide solutions to their challenges.
Don't Miss This Chance
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is a published author, speaker,
copywriter and business consultant. Are you a solo
professional who needs to sell yourself but can't afford to
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