Like all of us, I spent a good bit of time this week roaming around thru a variety of websites, many of them ones I’ve used time and time again, but this time with a new eye toward color schemes, font sizes, organization, utility, and picture quality. What I learned surprised me. Here are some highlights.
1. Recommendations still matter (thus the name of this week’s blog title by me). Maybe you haven’t made this mistake, but I find myself trying to substitute social media for having to deal with people face to face (OK, I probably could have said that with a more positive spin, but you get what I am trying to say). I realized this week that even website traffic benefits from the good, old-fashioned, trusted recommendation. This week, NPR recommended a very quirky and, to me, very interesting website by Vi Hart. Miss Hart’s website is everything websites are not supposed to be, but because her website was recommended for a specific music video, I hung around there, explored a little, and eventually found my way to Miss Hart’s video about snails and how they can sometimes get lost. Enjoy below…
2. You have to have a hook. Keeping with Vi Hart’s website as an example, when I used the NPR link to her site, my first reaction was: “whoops, NPR gave the wrong link”. A second try told me maybe they didn’t, but I was interested enough in finding the “snail song” that I poked around Miss Hart’s website for a while. Let me just say: Miss Hart’s website has a hook, but visual it ain’t. Have a peek if you’d like.
The startling yellow “amuses her”. That she admitted that to anyone who lands on her FAQ page…well…made me laugh too. So Miss Hart’s hook was her fantastic writing. Her website/blog is efficient, is easy to navigate, is visually the most unappealing website I’ve ever seen, but I read nearly every word she wrote. Great writing can be a hook. Visually appealing is probably the surest shot, but you have to offer more than that if you want people to engage your site. What’s your website’s hook?
3. Don’t overwhelm your visitors. This is generally good advice, whether speaking of dinner parties or websites, isn’t it? The Home Page is just that – a place that should be a comfortable experience for the user. Too much info there and you’ll scare people away. Include here an eye-catching photo that sums up your organization, if your organization exists by way of fund raising, Donate Now buttons should be on your Home Page, and maybe select a couple weblinks to sites like Facebook or Twitter to include on your Home Page that helps to further get visits to your site (See Item 1 above). Maybe 1 or 2 columns of concisely written text that tell new users who you are.
My 3 pointers are ones I discovered, but these ideas and more are spelled out nicely in Chapter 1 of Heather Mansfield’s book, Social Media for Social Good. There are a lot of good pointers in Chapter 1 about e-newsletters, who to use to process your donations (not necessarily PayPal), and key pointers for building effective websites.