The question as to which content and links one should put on a website homepage continues to flummox many a website owner - myself included, it would now seem. As I wrote an email to a new client last week, it hit me hard that I really wasn't practicing what I preached.
This month, we waved a fond farewell to one Customer whilst onboarding a new Customer. One of our Web Diffusion websites was bundled into the sale of Harlyn Bay Cottage near Padstow, Cornwall, to its new owners. Once we'd updated the website with new contact details and bedded-in a new email address, an exploratory question landed in my inbox:
Can you point me towards some of your other websites so I can see what is possible for ours?
The present website for Harlyn Bay Cottage is now 9 years old. Sharing our web design portfolio (that has been built-up over 20 years worth of trading) would have been easy except that it shows what was once possible and not what is possible. There's a big difference. To its former owner, the Harlyn Bay Cottage website remained everything that she'd specified and commissioned; to the new property owner, the holiday home website is something that, like the Cornwall holiday let itself, could do with
a refresh â€¦ we do plan to modernise the house after summer. As for Sub@omic, well, we're an incumbent. Much like a supplier of gas, electricity or telecoms, we formed part of what was conveyanced and our service offering is, understandably, up for review. "I could ask 'what do you want your website to achieve for you?' There's an awful lot that we could do."
The challenge here is that, I was brought-up to believe that it's rude to answer a question with another question. To us, as an independent web design and development business, anything's possible (given the right budget) but not answering the what's possible question and throwing-back a question of our own wasn't going to get us anywhere fast.
I felt it was important for me to establish that we offer General Purpose (Web Diffusion) and Special Purpose (bespoke) websites and, although anything's possible, stating that anything's possible was an unhelpful place to start from. Instead, an emailed reply was sent that contained: an outline of our broad capabilities; links to over a dozen live websites; pricing of a range of packaged offers as well as an indication of the kind of client that we're found to be most suited to.
As I reached the end of writing that email, what hit me was, what I'd just written and was looking at was, the format of what should be our website homepage. Our own website wasn't practicing what I preach. There was not one single page on our website that presented a what's possible message.
Back in July 2020, I'd written and shot a video for a blog entitled House Home Hotel that went to some lengths to express what ought to be found on a website homepage. Up until I wrote last week's email, I felt that our website did an OK job. But it's so difficult to stand back from your own business and view it as a prospective Customer would. Regardless of what the website home page said, it didn't say what I needed it to say and I found myself writing an email that attempted to make-up for what was absent from my website.
Wouldn't it have been easier and quicker for me to be able to answer the what's possible question with:
Sure! Just take a look at our website.; yet wouldn't it also have been better if our new Customer didn't feel they had to ask the question in the first place because they'd already found what they were looking for on our website?
As the owner/operator of a website, you must continually ask yourself whether your website is really serving its purpose. I make much of the belief that
a hit website articulates your business proposition and yet discovering the framework that supports this belief isn't easy when you're inside your business, looking out. In business, we tend to document who we are and what we do. If we've got the time, we'll document what we've done and who we've done it for. If we're good, we're able to express how we do it and why we do it. If we're really good, we'll be able to break-free from our own narrative and, from the point of view of a Customer, start to explore when it's right to use us and where we can be of real value.
The challenge of being asked what's possible by someone you don't yet know is that, more than likely, you have no understanding of their experience, their wants, their needs or their expectations in order to be able to decide where to start your conversation from. So build a website that shows them what's possible. Every website we build is tailored to the needs and budget of the Customer so you can be certain that what we'll have done for one Customer won't come close to what another wants or is capable of commissioning.
We also understand that one thing Customers are more than capable of telling us is what they don't want. So showing them absolutely everything you can do as well as everything that you'd like to be able to do appears to be a tremendous framework to guide those early stages of a new business relationship.