by Hannah Frank
Some sites offer the kitchen sink while others are like an intriguing first date. Here are some categories to help your online game. Organize your site by deciding your purpose: sales, familiarity with your brand (soft sell), presentation of data, email capture (ongoing communication) or "internet tourism".
1. Sell, Sell Sell: The homepage features an immediate "call to action" and display of merch. The goal is clear: the site "first impression" is designed for clicking and buying. This isn't necessarily bad: if fans will come to the site to find out how to buy a product, this is a declaration that the website is a trusted POS (point of sale).
2. Pleased to Meet Me: Many website designs are focused on blogging, but that doesn't mean you need to invent yourself as something more interesting than you are. This type of site is a labor-intensive collection of videos, blog entries, essays, poems, artwork, pictures of cats, etc. It's time intensive for the artist (most sites in this style are built directly by the artist) and not focused on sales.
While this type of presentation can be magical in giving a quick feel to the artist's creative process and inner workings of their mind, it also requires serious fans willing to browse it at length.
It creates a personal connection with the artist, yet the conversational tone can be unfiltered (TMI) and familiarity can breed contempt and boredom. For some artists that operate in a niche or are truly working in an advanced multimedia style requiring explanation, the shoe may fit. However, for the most part, get your head out of your ass already.
3. Search & You Will Find: Organized information about artists, projects, releases and/or services. The goal of this site style is to give brand credibility and build a legacy. It tells readers "this information is important." It is extensive, but feels respectful. This type of site is high on easy to find information and low on drivel. It will likely have crisp bios and professional photos. Be careful of being too slick...make sure the deep content is as good as the surface.
4. The Overwhelming First Date: we just met, but can we have your email address to take this further? Sites with a lot of content often want to share it, but can invest more time in learning about the viewer. If your site has a lot of content to share that's great. But consider ways to learn about the readers, or make different areas of the site for window shoppers, customers, public and/or industry partners so that all viewers are not funneled down the same chute.
5. Bits and Pieces: This type of site is a destination, you can almost feel a breath of fresh air as the browser opens. It includes integration with social media, image-based blog entries (look at the pretty colors), and plenty of subtle calls to action. There's no single call to action, and the website style encourages browsing. While this style is great for not hitting viewers over the head, make sure it's "sticky" enough to give them a reason to return, share and buy. If branding is the goal, and only goal, then show the bits.
6. The website for offline...seems counter intuitive, but consider if your website or online presence is actually meant to drive action off line. Examples are readers attending an event, physically walking into a brick and mortar store, or another offline activity. Hard to believe, but there is life beyond the screen. Take this to heart and make sure the online world you create isn't more interesting than real life.
Hope this helps as you build a new website or tweak an existing site for maximum leverage.
As the Internet, especially with the combo of social media and smart phones, makes it possible to capture and share just about any content designers desire...make sure it's what your readers desire also.
The magic of the Internet allows us to view this video in regards to #1. Coffee is for closers, but will hard sells cause the reader to close the browser? That is the question.
Reach Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Twitter @HannahFrankGrp