Without goals we wouldn't have the Empire State Building, the light bulb or man-sized hamster wheels. Like most other worthy endeavors, goals are an essential part of designing websites that get results.
The best way we've found to set clear goals is to come up detailed answers to these questions:
- What is the goal of this website?
- Who is my audience?
- Why would someone come to this page?
- What action do I want my visitors to take?
If you don't answer these questions then your page likely won't achieve the results you're looking for and you'll have a harder time creating a successful internet strategy.
1. What's The Goal of This Website?
Before you can start building your website, you have to know what you want visitors to do once they arrive there. Do you want people to buy your book, make an appointment or contact you for more information? Answering this question helps you to focus and determine exactly which elements should go where.
Set large goals first and make them focused on the results you want. Not what you think your site should look like.
Think about this: if your goal is to have a cool looking site with your favorite colors, a logo that spins and a techno track that plays when visitors arrive you can easily achieve all of this. But if that's the main goal, it's likely your site will never make money or recruit brand loyalists. Because your goal was to make a site that looked cool, it won't perform as it should. You'll realize that your real goal all along was to build an effective, money-making website – you just didn't make it clear.
Clear goals are a framework over which your entire site is built; they'll help you determine if your content is compelling and if your site design works for you or against you. Once you've established your primary goal, it becomes easy to let go of fun ideas that don't perform well and make good choices about the types and frequency of content based on results.
Another important component of good goal setting is that it drives visitor behavior too. When folks arrive at your website they want to get right to the good stuff. There's nothing worse than going to a website that isn't clear about what it is, why you should be there and what you should do. Organize your site around your primary goal and you'll find that visitors stay longer and respond better to your call to action (more on that later).
2. Who is Your Audience?
If I walk into a Thai restaurant, I'm not looking for a cheeseburger. It's important that your site is designed 110% around what your perfect customer wants to see. You're wasting time by casting a wide net because you're not optimized for anyone. Plan your website – all of your marketing in fact- around your ideal customer and you'll get much better results.
Deciding what your perfect audience looks like is a topic for another post and we definitely suggest you go through the process for all of your marketing, not just your website.
When you've got your perfect customer nailed down, you can begin to ask yourself questions about what kinds of content they like and expect.
3. Why Would Someone Land On This Page?
The days of tricking people into landing on your website so you can sell links or get affiliate fees are over. When visitors arrive they're looking for something specific and everything from the page title to the footer content has to deliver on that.
This question has three parts:
- What are they looking for?
- What are their intentions?
- What are they expecting to find?
Answer these questions and craft content to match. Always make it easy for someone to find the next step or bit of information. Divide pages into logical sections and brain-sized chunks that are easily read and acted upon.
Do you find that people are leaving too quickly? Carefully crafting the main heading and a first paragraph that connect with your visitors is crucial to making people stay on your page.
Are your visitors clicking through to the About page and then closing the site? Make sure you've provided a compelling “next step” for them to take.
If you serve the right content at the right time, people will stick around.
Again, the focus is on your primary goal, if you find that people are spending a lot of time on a certain page but aren't closing the deal with a purchase, sign-up or a phone call, then you know it's time to adjust the strategy.
4. What Action Do I Want My Visitors to Take?
You've made the connection, engaged the visitor, impressed them with your expertise...now what?
This is the place where many good websites don't make it to great. This step is very similar to the first – defining your purpose – but in this case it's more about the specific action you want people to take. Will they be calling you? Filling out an easy form? Downloading a PDF? Maybe you have a shopping cart and are looking to close the sale right now.
Clearly define the action you're looking for (click here!) and make sure everything leading up to that moment supports it. A call to action is ineffective if it isn't paired with a compelling argument to take action in the first place. Have you ever read a fundraising letter from a successful charity or non-profit? They're masters at engaging your emotions with compelling stories and startling facts and right when you're saying “what can I do?” BAM! They hit you with the call to action – send us a check now!
Remember that just as your content should serve your purpose, your site should be structured to serve your call to action and your call to action needs to put customers on a path to get immediate results. Don't craft a killer website only to have potential clients directed to a list of phone numbers and emails, tell them exactly who to call and what to do next.
Goals = Success
Answer these four questions and you'll be well on your way to creating an awesome website. Throughout the process, you'll come up with more questions, more goals and learn more about your business, your customers and the internet than when you started.
The “trick” to it, is that you probably already know the answers to these questions but you may not have written them down or clearly defined them.
Make sure that any designers or copywriters you work with are interested in answering these questions as well, it's our experience that ignoring this essential groundwork results in poor performing websites. Whether you're looking to raise money for charity or sell wooden birdhouses, you've got to have goals to realize your website's full potential.
To see how we use goals for effective website design check out our process here.