A reader recently sent me this question: How do you gather ideas for a new website?
Funny you should ask . . .
I’m in the middle of a website re-design right now. HONESTY MOMENT: I’ve been saying “I’m in the middle of a website re-design” for about 10 months. But this time I’m really for-real. I’ve spent the better part of the last five weeks, thinking through why I do what I do, what my ideal client is, what my brand should look like, writing about me and info text, etc. etc. etc. IT’S SO OVERWHELMING. I know I over-think it all, but really… this is a big deal!!! My website is my virtual front door. If my business was a physical store, the website would be the store’s window display, telling everyone who walks by what we’re about, and inviting them to step inside and explore.
I’m sooooo thankful to be working with the ever-fabulous Jennifer Olmstead of Deleted Space Creative (who’s visual genius absolutely astounds me), but she can only design from what I tell her. She can’t climb inside my head and tell me who I am (though I really do wish that was possible!!). She needs information from me in order to come up with a visual description of that.
So where did I start? With a Pinerest board, and with lots of words. Seth Godin wrote a blog post while back about re-evaluating your website, and I found those questions extremely helpful. You can read the questions here.
And just for the sake of openness and honesty, I’ve included my answers below. Maybe that’s too much information for some of you, but others may find it helpful. I’m the kind of person who really, really struggles to start something from scratch (a blank canvas terrifies me. so does a new word document), so seeing the way that other people process helps me. I hope it helps some of you!
Sarah’s Website Evaluation.
- What is the goal of the site? // This site should serve as the virtual storefront for my business. This is my “best foot forward.” A five-minute browsing of this site should give a visitor all of the information they need to know about me (that I’m in love with love, that I believe that real life is beautiful, that I’m a portrait and wedding photographer based in Washignton DC, etc)… but should leave them wanting to know more, and wanting to explore more of the site.
- In other words, when it’s working great, what specific outcomes will occur? // People will see beautiful pictures, will be curious about the person behind the camera, will connect with the quality of work, my personality, and my mission statement, and will say, “THAT’S IT. SHE’S HIRED. I DON’T CARE WHAT IT TAKES.” I want any single woman (specific kind of woman listed below) who visits my site to fall so in love with me and my work so much that even years later, when they get engaged, their first thought is, “YES!!!! Now Sarah can shoot my wedding!!!!” Well, maybe not the first thought… but hopefully one not far after that.
- Who are we trying to please? // Potential clients— single, dating, engaged, and primarily women.
- Is impressing a certain kind of person important? Which kind? // VERY VERY IMPORTANT!!! My target clientele is as follows:
- Serious, type-A, driven, working professionals in Washington, DC who value solid, connected relationships. They know what they want, and aren’t afraid to pursue it, but also love the chance to stop and savor moments with the ones they love. With such crazy, fast-paced lives, they want the few sweet, quiet moments they have to be well-captured, and therefore well-remembered. When a woman (single, dating, engaged, or otherwise) visits my site, she should feel an instant sense of warmth, class, and professionalism mixed with thoughtfulness. By the time she leaves my site, she should feel a sense of confidence and trustworthiness in my quality of work and in who I am as a person.
- How many people on your team have to be involved? At what level? // Just me.
- Who are we trying to reach? Is it everyone? Our customers? A certain kind of prospect? // I’m trying to reach my target audience— working professionals in Washington DC and elsewhere, as well as photographers, friends of my clients, and pretty much any woman who is in love or hopes someday to be in love.
- What are the sites that this group has demonstrated they enjoy interacting with? // They’re more blog followers than website stalkers. This is the storefront to get them to become fans of my work.
- Are we trying to close sales? // No— just trying to sell myself and my brand.
- Are we telling a story? // Yes— the story of what their love story could look like, if they choose to book me.
- Are we earning permission to follow up? //Follow-up only happens if they initiate.
- Are we hoping that people will watch or learn? // I’m hoping that people watch obsessively, wait with anxious excitement, holding their breath for the next time I blog.
- Do we need people to spread the word using various social media tools? // This is highly encouraged.
- Are we building a tribe of people who will use the site to connect with each other? // No, not that connect with each other so much as to connect with me.
- Do people find the site via word of mouth? // Yes. And via other sources.
- Are they looking to answer a specific question? // Yes— can this person tell my story?
- Is there ongoing news and updates that need to be presented to people? // Yes, via blog.
- Is the site part of a larger suite of places online where people can find out about us, or is this our one sign post? // This is our store window, and our front door.
- Do we want people to call us? // I would prefer email.
- How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long? // I would like a potential bride to visit this site at least 5 times:
- Upon first hearing of me. Initial click.
- To return to my site after looking at others. Because she remembered me.
- To return again, because she wants to show her fiancé. She’s getting excited/hopeful, and beginning to dream
- To return again, because she’s inquiring about booking. She’s sold, and now she’s reaching out to see if this dream could become a reality.
- To return again (and again, and again), to excitedly show family and friends (specifically her mother and her maid of honor) this amazing wedding photographer that she hired. Her dreams are a reality, and now she’s building up excitement for the pictures themselves.
- Who needs to update this site? How often? // I will update this site on a regular basis, as new images are created, and as key facts change.
- How often can we afford to overhaul this site? // Hopefully not more than every 2nd or 3rd year.
- Does showing up in the search engines matter? If so, for what terms? At what cost? // YES.
- Will we be willing to compromise any of the things above in order to achieve this goal? // Not really.
I know that’s a lot of information, but I do hope that’s helpful for some of you! This is just the very first step