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Website Marketing: Which Comes First The Content Or The Design?

  • By Cathy Goodwin
  • Published 12/3/2008
  • Writing for the Web

Recently I’ve received several emails with questions like these: “I’m revising my web site. The web designer wants my copy next week. I’m still figuring out my niche.” Or, “I can’t talk about content because I don’t have a web designer.” When I read these comments, I remember the very first time I needed a web site. I too began by searching for a web designer. He created a design that looked very professional. But when I finally created (and re-created) my content, the design didn’t communicate my message. Here’s what I didn’t know. Your web site is a direct response marketing tool. It’s not a brochure or even the kind of ad you’d find gracing the distinguished pages of the New Yorker magazine. So before you hire a designer, you need to work through these 5 steps. (1) Recognize whether your market is hungry…and where they go to buy food. Do they buy on the Internet? What motivates them to hit the buy button? Are they feeling pain, passion or both? (2) Make your web site sticky, not memorable. Give readers a reason to leave their names and email addresses. So set up your “subscribe” page and giveaway first. I you have a speaking date and no time to put up a whole web site, set up a professional looking subscription page. Give away an e-zine, e-course or single 10-tips download. Then when the rest of the site is ready, send out an email to your subscribers. Setting up an “under construction” page is like wearing a scrunchie in the 21st century (or opening a restaurant and serving stale bread and water while you promise “Gourmet meals served as soon as we finish the kitchen”). (3) Your message and target market dictate your design. Your graphics, layout, color scheme, navigation and menu will all be influenced by your decisions about market and message. How will visitors move through your site? What sequence of pages will motivate them to buy? What metaphors will capture your message vividly (so visitors “get it?” Will they respond best to a mood that is soothing, moving, inspirational or flamboyant? Most important: Will visitors read your message easily? Will they skim over your best testimonials because you didn’t highlight them in the design? Will they see your subscription box as soon as they arrive on a page? One of my clients buried her glowing testimonials in a sidebar. She used green 8-point type on a yellow background. They’re beautiful but who’s going to risk eyestrain to read them? Bottom Line: Web design and development will be critical to your project – -but not as the first step. Experienced web developers have told me, “I prefer to work with clients who have content in hand and know what they need.”

And your logo? Great idea…after you’ve worked with some clients and have a clear idea what you stand for. Nearly everyone I know wishes they’d waited to choose a logo and create expensive visuals.



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