Category Archives for "Structure"

The Awareness Ladder and Your Website

Last time I introduced the awareness ladder and today I’ll show you how to use it to structure your website.

Decide which rung on the ladder is your primary focus.  Some sites have pages that address each rung on the ladder, whilst others focus on one or a few.  So, your site might be for people who know they have a problem and not for people who don’t.

Landing Pages – Steps 0 and 1

There’s a plague of frogs and you want to drive people to your site.  How will you respond to their level of awareness?

Someone who is aware of the problem and wants to know how to deal with the plague of frogs might Google their problem.  If so, you will want your website to appear close to the top of the list Google generates when someone searches for ‘plague of frogs’ or something similar.  To do this you analyse keywords and then search engine optimise (seo) your website to increase its likelihood to be close to the top of the list.  I shall write about these later.

If you want to target people who are not aware of the problem, they’ll never search for it and so you will need to advertise.  There are several ways to advertise online.  You don’t always need to pay.

Whichever method you use to find visitors, when they click on a link to your site it should take them to a landing page.

The landing page should be relevant to the path the visitor followed to get to you.  So, people aware of the problem will arrive on a different page to those who are not aware.  When they arrive they should see they’re at to the right place and so carry on reading.

For the plague of frogs site, I might have one landing page for those who are not aware.  If someone is aware I would use my home page as a landing page and use it to move them from the problem to consider various solutions.  Those who are not aware of the problem would move from their landing page to the home page if they agree there is a problem and want to know more.

Step 2 and 3

Movement from landing page to home page would be the start of a funnel, drawing the visitor deeper into the site.  Later pages would lead my visitors to common solutions to the problem (step 2) and then my solution (step 3).

Steps 4 and 5

Step 4 would be a few optional pages, with evidence my solution works.  They might cover research or satisfied customers.

Step 5 is a page where the visitor places their order.

Sometimes these later pages can be landing pages too.  If you know your visitor is likely to be further up the ladder, there is no need for them to read the earlier pages.

In future posts, I’ll walk you through each of these three parts of a website in more detail and show you what is possible.

Do you know of websites that use this approach.  How effective do you think it is?  Have you purchased from such a site?  What persuaded you to make a purchase?

Introduction to the Awareness Ladder

So far I’ve introduced you to several types of page you might find on a website.  Some are obvious and typically found on most websites, whilst others are often hidden and you find them according to how you enter the site and what you do while you’re there. Last time I wrote about how to assess your website needs and in this and future posts I’ll offer a few more guidelines.

I’m going to use a model for a website structure based on the awareness ladder.  I’m indebted to Ben Hunt for this approach although it is probably not his invention.

To build any website, you need to understand your market and their awareness of what you’re offering, whether it is a product, a service or a cause.  Broadly it works like this:

A frogStep 0 – I do not have a problem

People who are not aware they have a problem may still have it!  If you want to approach them you need to show them they have a problem.  So, the problem is a plague of frogs.  These people haven’t looked out of their window or else they don’t think a plague of frogs is a problem.

Step 1 – I have a problem and have no idea whether there is a solution to it

These people are experiencing a plague of frogs as a problem.  They may have a phobia about frogs, or fear treading on them but whatever it is they know they have a problem.

Step 2 – I know there are many possible solutions

These people have done some research and found a number of possible solutions.  They may arrive at your site as a part of their research.  They may have found frog poisons, frog food, brushes for sweeping them out of harm’s way,  frog recipes, fences to stop them getting onto their property …

Step 3 – I am aware of your solution

These people have read about your solution.  Frogs eat slugs and snails and so your solution is to keep them in a special frog pool with anti-cat and anti-heron devices.  However, this person is not persuaded your solution is the best!

Step 4 – Now I’m convinced this is the best solution

… because you’ve brought together all the evidence you can that your solution is the best.  You’ve shown that when a garden is a haven for frogs, all the slug and snail problems will be a thing of the past.

Step 5 – I’m willing to pay for your product, how do I do it?

Home and dry.  You have a customer for your patent frog pool formula!

These 6 stages could be a framework for your website.  So, what do you do next?  Any ideas?  Have a go by commenting if you can’t wait until next time!

How to Assess Your Website Needs

In my last two Tuesday posts, I described both the typical website as perceived by the casual visitor and something of their hidden life.  To make a start, you need to assess your website needs.

You need to understand website structure if you’re responsible for your own site.  Even if you pay a designer to create and look after your site, the more you understand site structure, the more productive your relationship with your designer will be.  The amount of help you use will depend on your budget and your aims for the site.

Four Things You Need to Consider

  1. What do you want your site to do? How will the site save you time and further your aims?
  2. You need to decide how you’re going to carry out your plans.  Use a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, because then all the functionality you need is available to you.  You really don’t need someone to reinvent the wheel on your behalf.
  3. You might need (1) an email list, (2) some means for customers to pay you or make purchases, eg a ticketing service, (3) you will need to monitor your site, back it up and be sure it is secure.  There are many WordPress plug-ins and on-line services (paid and unpaid) that do all this and more.  I’ll cover these in the technical section of this blog.
  4. You need to decide how much you can do yourself and the support you need.  No-one has all the skills they need to do everything.  There are online forums that might help (this blog is one of them) but you will almost certainly need to purchase some services.  You need to manage these relationships and  I shall cover this in the Purpose category of this blog.

I can help you assess your current website or your plans for a new website.  An assessment will show you what you can do within your budget, how much you can do in-house and what you will need to pay for.  Details of this service are on my website, Web Consultancy Offers.

How did you decide how to implement your website?  What platform did you choose?  Did you seek advice or explore online?  Do the results satisfy you?  I’d be interested to read your reasons and so would many others.

The Hidden Life of Websites

Even though we’ve all seen pages that don’t fit the home page, about page, a few info pages, contact page model – do we think of them as integral to website design?  The hidden life of websites comprises all the pages we discover as we explore the site.  Here are some examples of pages that are not so easy to find because they’re not on the main  menu.

  1. When you first arrive at a website, you arrive on a landing page.  Some websites have many landing pages, others have one, usually the home page.  The website owner who knows their markets can design several pages that address each market’s needs directly.  So, you might Google a keyword or phrase and follow a link to a relevant landing page.  Or else you follow a link from a particular site to a landing page designed for visitors from that site.  How do you know it’s a landing page?  You might think you’re on the home page until you hit the home button and find yourself somewhere else entirely.
  2. Funnel pages often follow on from landing pages or if you follow a link to a particular offer.  Sales funnel offers may be described on one or over several sales pages.  It’s a funnel because other readers will join them from other pages.  They might tell you more about a product and then channel you to point where you must decide whether to buy a product or subscribe to an email list or sign a petition or …  Funnal pages keep you reading and you wouldn’t believe the time and effort that goes into them!
  3. The final funnel page is sometimes called a squeeze page.  There you have to decide to sign up or leave the site.  It will always have a form on it and usually a heading and minimal copy or a video.
  4. And there is the success page you visit following your purchase or subscription.  This page will thank you and sometimes you can log into part of the website previously inaccessible.
  5. Blogs are another part of the site where there may be more pages than you can find in the main navigation.

These pages are designed to do a job.  A website is not a static picture; it is a programmable machine.  Your challenge is to work out how to structure information so that it supports your purpose.  This works equally well whether you are selling something, seeking supporters for a cause, sharing information or displaying artwork.

If you can think of page types I’ve missed, share them in the comments.

Traditional Site Structure

We’re all familiar with the layout of a traditional website.  When we ask someone to design a site for us we have expectations based upon the layout we’ve seen thousands of times.

So, there is a Home page with a brilliant graphic on it, perhaps a few extra pages on various themes depending on the purpose of the site, perhaps in a drop-down menu and then there will be an About page, a Contact page and possibly a few other odds and ends.

Not all sites share this structure.  There two reasons why we think most websites follow this layout.

  • We don’t see the entire layout of a site.  If we enter the site through its Home page, we assume everyone enters the site in the same way.  We see the pages in the main navigation and assume they make up the entire site.  It’s similar to the reason people tend to overestimate the amount of built up areas in Britain.  People estimate way over 8 or 9% because we usually don’t experience the deep rural areas.  Roads and railways connect settlements and so we mostly see the built up places they connect.
  • The other reason we don’t see websites in their entirety is because we don’t expect them to be functional.  We expect pages to be static, simply displaying information.  We don’t expect websites to drive businesses although that is what many websites do.

In this Structure category, I shall explore what makes a good website, the pages it needs and good practice for page layout.  These first few posts are an overview of some basic site structures.  Later on I shall look at various aspects in more depth.  Next Tuesday, the hidden life of websites!

Do you have a favourite site structure?  Why do you use it?  What are its advantages and disadvantages?  Share your experiences in a comment.

Marketing: The Irresistible Offer

Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest has a lot to answer for.  It seems Darwin supported the idea that competition is totally natural.

Survival of the fittest makes sense if you lust after unaccountable power.  It’s brilliant to be able to suggest the universe runs on your principle of power.  “I’m better at competition, I defeat and wipe out my competitors.  It’s all perfectly natural.”

But survival of the fittest is culturally determined.  I read somewhere the term did not appear in Darwin’s first draft!  You can see the appeal to  people seeking to justify their greed and lust for power.

The fittest is the one who fits best.  And you fit best by collaborating.  Even relationships we might read as violent can be mutual.  Foxes need rabbits yes.  But rabbits also need foxes; without foxes they compete for food and ultimately starve.

Examples of collaboration in the natural world far outweigh examples of violence and use of force.  Nothing works when the bullies take over.  Nothing evolves on its own, punching its way to superiority.  Eco-systems evolve, not individual species.

So, the marketplace is not an arena for competition but for collaboration.  It is where we supply one another’s needs and a place to exchange ideas and support each other.  It is only in relatively modern times that we understand it as a place for competition.  Competition happens when things go wrong, the fittest survive because they know how to collaborate.

We enter the marketplace because we have something to share. When we’re online we’re in the market place: those who go there to scam, bully or otherwise be destructive are ultimately not survivors.

Design for your Market

Web design is barely 20 years old and so it is no surprise designers do not agree about what their job is.  It is an important question, especially where resources are scarce and value for money crucial.  Even if a wealthy business or charity can afford a beautiful site that does no work for their organisation. no serious organisation can be satisfied with this.  The problem is many organisations do not know there is an alternative.

The old model is ‘graphics – words – numbers’.  The message here is the site’s graphics are most important, then the content (often supplied by the client and not of particular interest to the designer) and then numbers – the research to find out what actually works for the client.

The new model reverses this: numbers – words – graphics.  First we do research, then construct excellent content, get it online, more research and as we find out what works introduce and improve the graphics.

I would add two more terms to these series, which I think shows the difference between (traditional) web design and web consultancy.

Web Design

(Designer) – graphics – words – numbers – (Client)

Web Consultancy

(Client) – numbers – words – graphics – (Consultant)

With numbers first, the web consultant can help their client find their place in their market.  Their site design should grow naturally from the client’s understanding of their market.

Market

Do you know your market, their demographics, their level of awareness of what you’re offering and their habits online?

Content

With first-rate content, visitors to your site will understand your offer and its benefits.  It encourages visitors to use your service and they might recommend your site to others?

Structure

How you structure your site, your branding, each page’s appearance, how people land on your site, the links between pages; all contribute to your site’s success.

What is best practice for the various types of pages found on websites?  I shall compare home, about, contact, landing and other page types.  What content is on them?  How can it be improved?

What are the basics for layout of pages?  What works and what doesn’t?  How to bend your CMS to your will!

Management

How do we square the various demands on the site?  These may originate from various priorities within an organisation or else from the competing demands of search engine optimisation, good copy, legal issues, accessibility, etc.

Reviews

Reviews of sites and groups of sites to show what works and what doesn’t.