When it comes to creating a website to present your work, things can become blurry. But, regardless if you sell architectural services, soy candles, product photography, specialty coffee, or anything else, you must not rely too much on others.
By that, I mean relying on the freelancer hired because of their very niche skills, the WordPress theme bought without a thorough analysis, the full-service agency that promises the moon.
This way of navigating is a fallacy due to a colossal misunderstanding.
Yes, you can delegate some areas of work where you lack expertise. That makes perfect sense. If you don’t have the writing skill or the time to practice it, it’s wiser to hire a copywriter to work on your story. However, you can’t ask the copywriter to choose which of your services or products have better chances to get traction.
It’s simply not his business. It’s yours.
Whenever I try to put together rock-solid articles to help creative entrepreneurs like yourself, I always do my homework.
Recently, while doing research for this article, I ended up gathering many valuable insights about information architecture, content hierarchy, content planning, and user experience. While the discovery felt eye-opening, it left me drained and puzzled.
It was hard to digest and integrate the many complex concepts I ran into without tailoring them to specific business goals.
At first, I realized that there’s an entire world around the structure of your website—aka the sitemap. So I thought I should focus on that but quickly realized that George, my teammate, already covered it.
If that’s what you are looking for, I recommend reading the article we wrote about creating your website’s footer. It shows you how to structure your website’s pages and decide what links go in the top navigation and what goes to the footer.
That got me thinking. If I struggle with making sense of this information, what are the chances for a creative entrepreneur who has a lot of stuff on his table (creating products or delivering services, accounting, teamwork, sales, marketing, legal stuff, HR, etc.)?
You might as well just say pass. It’s too much to swallow.
So I decided to make things easier for people like you, who might juggle too many balls at the same time. Hence, I decided to approach this topic from a communication perspective. After all, it’s my area of expertise.
I’ve been working in the communication field for more than ten years; eight have been in the digital arena. I came to understand the ins and outs of presenting your brand on the Internet, especially when it comes to your digital crib, the website.
Let me walk you through a few insights into the structure of a website and its correlation to your business goals.
It would be best to take these recommendations and adapt them to what you want to accomplish and how success looks. The good part is that it’s not a one-time-game (it’s more of a series), so you don’t have to get it from the first try—quite the contrary.
Businesses are dynamic, they evolve for the better or worse, and the website should reflect this specific moment in time and space.
To help you decide what pages your website needs, you should answer two specific questions. Again, I recommend avoiding putting so much weight on your shoulders trying to find the magic potion, and embrace the iteration process. Not only you will have the energy to keep navigating, but you will also have sharper eyes to notice all kinds of amazing opportunities.
1. What’s the objective of my business website?
It might sound obvious, yet it is not. Every entrepreneur has various interests at play. You can create a website for brand awareness, sell products and services, write articles and stories, create a community, and so on.
Depending on your answer, you will take some steps or avoid others.
For instance, if you are an architecture studio, maybe your main goal is to get hot leads — people filling the contact form and reaching out for a discussion about their future house.
The main objective should drive all aspects of your website and every page should, as much as possible, contribute to achieving that goal.
Now that you got that solved, you can dig deeper.
2. What content helps me accomplish my website’s goal?
To achieve your objective (e.g., get hot leads), your website must answer some of your customer’s burning questions to make them pick up the phone, fill out a form, or go through the checkout process.
The way you answer your customer’s questions depends on what your business does. There’s not a one-size-fits-all trick, but there’s certainly a spectrum of approaches.
What follows is not a complete blueprint as it’s not possible to take into account every single context. But it’s good enough to help you understand the bigger picture and make progress.
For the sake of clarity and consistency, I will stick to the business example above (architecture studio) throughout the rest of the article. I hope this helps make my points even stronger.
Here are a few questions people are looking answers to before commiting to purchase or work with you.
What do you have useful for me?
This the main curiosity that hits everyone’s mind once they access your website. Let people know what you do by listing your services or products front and center.
They should be able to decide if it’s in their interest or not in the first moments of visiting your website, so make sure they have quick access to your offering.
For example, as an architecture studio, you can take your main services and list them on a dedicated page. They can be: designing houses from scratch, redesign for office spaces, creating special experiences for those looking to create events or public displays that draw people’s attention. If detailing them takes more space, consider having a dedicated page for each service.
Use these pages as an opportunity to show your eclectic view and capabilities by letting people know about how versatile you are in your work.
Who’s going to be in touch with me?
This is another question that’s obsessing everyone. Especially in today’s world, where there are way too many alternatives. People want to know why they should work with you, who are the folks behind the curtain, whom they would collaborate in the following months or even years.
There is a wide range of approaches when it comes to presenting your crew. What’s crucial to keep in mind is that regardless of the visual gimmicks you choose, you need to reinforce the central message you want your visitors to remember.
If we go back to the architecture studio example, maybe you can put your money where your mouth is and present your team in a way that reinforces your endless creativity.
In case you work with collaborators and have a strong network of specialties tight to your business, you could consider letting your visitors know that they’re in great company.
No matter your specific scenario, you must make sure you showcase how proud you are of your team and collaborators.
How long have you been in business?
It might sound cynical since it does not always say something about a team’s skills and abilities, but it’s certainly a detail that matters.
In case you are a young company, don’t be afraid to say it out loud. You might come with different advantages at the table that can impact the outcome of a project—it can be the extra hours you are working, the never-give-up attitude, the friendlier prices, the fresh take you can bring to the table.
On the contrary, if the company’s CEO has ten years of experience and works hands-on on almost every project, make sure you write it down. You will not only earn trust, but it also says something good about the company’s culture.
A powerful way to present your experience is through the portfolio, too. It can speak for itself.
What others have to say about working with you?
Proving that others have chosen you in the past and are happy for doing that is a powerful persuader. Not to mention that it can help build trust between you and your potential customer.
Most of the time, when people first encounter someone who seems to be able to accomplish their needs, they need an extra nudge before giving your their trust. The feedback of others is a great way to help people take the leap.
The exact way you choose to bring those past experiences forward is up to your business model and what people expect from you. For eCommerce shops, a rating system works magic, for specialized services, a dedicated testimonial page is more suited.
For an architecture studio, the solution can be a mix of different things. For example, you can create dedicated pages for each past project alongside a case study that hosts a written testimonial. Or maybe embracing video testimonials fits best since you are working in the visual arts.
How can I reach you?
While most of the entrepreneurs out there know it, they underestimate both its potential and structure.
To create a Contact page that gets the job done, meaning that people use it and get in touch, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, you should filter the messages you get by allowing people to be as specific as possible when writing you. Andrei, my fellow marketer brought some strong arguments about this topic in an extended article that I highly recommend.
The level of importance between someone who wants you as their architecture studio behind their new home and a student who asks for a summer internship is up to you. You know best which one is a priority.
How do I know I made the right decisions?
There’s no ten-checkbox-list out there to fill to get an answer to this question. However, there are multiple ways to test the waters, to take the pulse, to know if you’re answering real concerns for your audience, or you’re completely missing them.
An example that works every single time is to ask your customers and gather feedback. You can simply ask for a favor and find out if they understand your offering, how you work, what to expect if you are going to collaborate, and even your manifesto.
It would imply capturing their inputs for one specific question: what did you guys understand when reading our services page?
We do it regularly at Pixelgrade and, even though we did not always resonate with what we heard, it helped us stay edgy and flexible.
When it’s time to make changes to my business website?
Well, the answer is straightforward yet not as easy as a Sunday morning. After talking with your visitors and customers, you will know what you need to fine-tune to make your website even more robust.
Sometimes, it can be very particular, yet essential for them, such as where you are located. You would be surprised to know how many entrepreneurs don’t write down their physical addresses on the website. Other times, it can be something more painful. For example, they don’t get if you are a full-service provider or not.
Make a habit of capturing insights from your customers and making decisions when you feel you have enough information. Collecting them should not automatically imply making instant changes.
There’s no set-in-stone recipe out there. There are definitely dozens of ways to make mistakes, that’s for sure. This is why at Pixelgrade, we’ve been working for ten years in a row to get the knowledge to make well-informed decisions for our customers.
It does not mean that we get the job done for their businesses, but we give a solid starting point to avoid cruel faults.
However, one of the best parts of the digital playground is that there’s room to play. The beauty lies in having the freedom to create a website that truly represents your brand personality and needs. At least that we’ve been doing on our side of the world.
Photo taken at our office by Katerina Nedelcu