People have a tendency to get very excited about the prospect of their website design. Usually, the idea that they get to see their name up there in lights can blind them to some of the other aspects of creating or redesigning their website (or indeed, any other piece of marketing material they may be commissioning). I’ve had clients who, went sent through the draft copy for their website, have simply replied ‘I’m sure it’s fine, but can we make these changes to the design’. It was fine, but that’s not the point. The point is that your website copy should be more than just an afterthought. It’s actually really important.
So lets break it down; there are essentially 4 kinds of websites.
1. Websites that look bad and sound bad
Image by Sly Stallone
“I want to book Sylvester Stallone for my next speaking engagement”, said no one, ever (in all fairness to Stallone, he might have something interesting to say, unfortunately no one can understand him). Websites that are poorly designed and filled with bad content are essentially the digital version of Sylvester Stallone. No one is quite sure what’s going on, and they can’t really understand what it is you’re trying to tell them. And that’s not a good look for your business. Consumers visiting your website don’t want to leave with the same understanding of what you do and how to get in touch with you as they had when they went in. They want something informative and easy to navigate. After all, they’ve come to you website because they’re interested in what you do. Don’t make a bad first impression.
2. Websites that look good but don’t really have anything to say
Image by Caite Upton
Pick a contestant, any contestant. I’ll pick Caitlin Upton, South Carolina’s entrant into the Miss Teen U.S.A. Pageant in 2007. When asked why she believed a fifth of Americans couldn’t point out the United States on a map, she responded’ “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don’t have maps”. She makes a pretty convincing case for websites that have good design, but poor content. When your website gets a visitor it doesn’t matter how good the design is, if your website is filled with inane, uninformative content, then those visitors are going to bounce. Not only that, but your search engine results will suffer. If your content isn’t clear, easy-to-read, and most importantly relevant, then Google is going to drop you.
3. Websites that are aesthetically unappealing but have great content
Image by Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry is a genius. I could listen to him speak for hours on end. I’ve read his books and I’ve watched and re-watched him in debates. And I’ve seen pretty much every episode of Q.I. I’m a tremendous fan of his intellect, but aesthetically (and he’s the first to admit it), Stephen Fry leaves much to be desired. Stephen Fry is a poorly designed website with great content. If your content is great, even good, then it’s going to be informative. It’s going to be easy to read. It’s going to give the visitor, clearly and simply, the information that they came to get. It’s going to be written so that it uses your keywords. It’s going to boost your rankings, and the meta descriptions are going to get you that click through rate. But when that traffic gets there, your poor design is going to leave people confused. They won’t know where to look or what to do. And then they’ll leave. But before they do they’ll get frustrated. And that’s no’ good for business.
4. Website that look good and have something to say
Image by Leonardo Dicaprio
Leo. Yes. Leo. Looks good. Sounds good. Has something relevant to say (check out his overdue Oscars acceptance speech for proof). Yes, Leo has it down. And because of that, people love him for it. Leo is how your website should be. You want it to look good. Be functional, Easy to use. But at the same time you want (you might not know it yet) the content to be great. To be simple and relevant. To engage you visitors and have them wanting to read more (not, I might add, unlike this article). You want your website to be the website that visitors want, and other websites want to be like.
I hopefully that gives you a better understanding of why your website design and content should work together. So go on, do yourself a favour. Be like Leo.