Blog

Site Content – What Should You Put on Your Website?

What should you put on your website

You’ve got your site, but what should you put on it?

It can be overwhelming to stare at a blank page (or screen) and try to dredge content from the recesses of your brain. For yeeeears, my website had just 5 pages. And I still had trouble coming up with things to say. But in the past year, I’ve been really working on building and refining my business and now I’m up to 13, not including the blog. Take a guess at whether my SEO was better then or now.

Yup, content helps. But it has to be meaningful, which is why we’re going to talk about what makes sense for your site content.

Required Pages

There is no “maybe” here. Certain pages you NEED if you want your website to be navigable by your users.

Home Page

A lot of home pages are pointless. They have some sort of welcome message, maybe a pretty picture, and that’s it. But now, people are finally recognizing the power of the home page, and starting to think strategically about it.

Your home page should include your mission or bio, whatever compelling little tidbit makes you stand out, and a call to action. This is the place to spotlight whatever action it is that you want users to take on your site. It could be to shop, sign up for an event, or even just to contact you.

You can include other things as well – my site has a preview of each of the main pages to make it easy to preview on mobile, but those are optional. Your call to action is not.

Services/Products/Etc

This is a no brainer. What is your purpose, why is this site here, what is it that you want people to do? Products are pretty easy – you’ve got a couple options for sales pages and shopping carts, but everyone knows what to expect. Services can be trickier.

As a graphic designer, I have two pages for this. One is my portfolio with visual examples of my work, and the other is my service list and pricing. You might have just a couple services and want to discuss them in more detail. That works, too.

Contact

Contact information is so essential that I’ve begun including email, phone numbers, and even the contact form in the design of the site. My email is in the header and the footer, and all of my contact information is available on every page because it’s all in the footer. You might not want that much clutter in your site design, but you’ll definitely need to make this page clear and easy to find.

Even product based businesses who don’t need to interact with their clients to make a sale can benefit from easy to find contact information. As a customer, I need to be able to reach someone if I have a question or else I’ll take that sale somewhere else.

About

An about page might not seem essential, but it is for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s expected
  2. People buy from people, not corporations

I said before that I hate credibility as a reason to do something, but it matters. It is rare that I visit a site that doesn’t have some sort of mission statement or “meet our team” or something. It gives your site a more personal touch, which is important for the second reason.

Obviously, people do sometimes buy from corporations. We like our brand names, after all. But especially for service based businesses or shopping locally, we want to know who we’re buying from. We don’t just want a good product; we want to enjoy the experience. Without a little preview of the person we’ll be working with, we can’t know if it will be fun or horrendous and a lot of us don’t want to take that chance.

Privacy Policy/Terms and Conditions

Technically you don’t legally need a privacy policy, but it’s a good idea to have. It follows best practices and lets your users know that you know what you’re doing and that you have their best interests in mind. Same with the terms and conditions. I combined mine since, as a one-person business, I have very little to say on either one. I also explained what cookies are and avoided legal jargon since I feel it’s pointless to have language on my site that regular humans can’t understand.

Optional Pages

You have a little more leeway here and can pick and choose what you think will best suit your users.

FAQ

Do you get a lot of the same questions from clients or potential clients? Make an FAQ page! People might not read it, but if they do, that saves both of you time. I personally use FAQ pages frequently on shopping sites when I want to know about return policies. Quick tip: don’t fill your FAQ page with fluffy questions just to make you look good. Customers can tell the difference between real information and promotion, and it reflects poorly on you.

Industry History or Jargon

It’s best to avoid industry specific phrases or jargon if possible, but it’s inevitable that we’ll slip up or have specific phrases that there’s no good substitute for. This is where a mini dictionary could come in handy (I have a “Design Terms” page). You could also use this as a place to explain obscure things about your industry or how your industry got started. Anything you think could be useful for your readers! Not to mention being an SEO goldmine.

Sitemap

You need a sitemap for the search engines, but why not make things easier for your readers and make one for human eyes as well? I use my sitemap for all my 404 pages, so that if anyone is struggling to find something, the directory pops up to help them out.

Process

This works better for service based industries, but if you work with clients, it’s convenient for them to get a sneak peek of what it’s like to work with you. This can include an example project or a list of the steps you usually take. I tweaked mine to link my users to the pages with prep work, like “Questions I’ll probably ask you.”

Testimonials

This doesn’t necessarily need its own page, but testimonials are such an important part of the conversion process! We all like to know that someone has tried, and liked, something before we purchase. Testimonials are a reassurance that this person knows what they’re doing and that other people have enjoyed working with them.

Side note: I read recently that reviews (for products) are more effective when there are some negative ones. This is because we don’t trust products with only positive reviews (we think they’re potentially fake) AND because reading a negative review that doesn’t apply to us reassures us that the rest of the features are what we need.

Blog

This could come in a lot of formats. You could write educational articles, provide tips, share recipes, or even just share company news. A blog is great for your SEO because it means fresh content and keeps the search engines interested, but it’s also a place to connect with your target market.

Policies or Procedures

If you’re selling retail, what’s your return policy? Is there a money back guarantee? If you’re a service based business, how do you handle liability? What’s in your contract? This could really be anything, but if you have any industry-specific policies that your customers should know about, include this. Both for their education and to CYA in case of any legal issues later on.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it’s enough to give you some ideas! Want some more help making those pages strategic? Sign up to get my web page strategy guide!

[Email Signup]

Going to Bat for the Oxford Comma

Going to Bat for the Oxford Comma

MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian. There are a lot of best practices and formatting guides out there. They don’t necessarily agree with each other and it’s not always clear which is best in which situations. Often it comes down to personal preference, as it does for the hotly debated punctuation mark I’ll be discussing today.

The Oxford Comma

In a sentence with a list of items, you’ll sometimes see a comma before the “and” preceding the last item. And sometimes you won’t.

Example:

“I like talking about color, fonts, and grammar.”

vs “I like talking about color, fonts and grammar.”

It seems pretty insignificant, right? As readers of the English language, we don’t see any difference in the meaning of that sentence. So why the debate?

Commas for Clarity

Sloppy Lists

If you’ve read a couple posts in these parts you’ll know I’m no grammar Nazi. I have a bad habit of writing run-ons, and I enjoy a stylistic sentence fragment every now and again. I’ve also noticed that when I write sentences involving lists, I often “group” things together that are similar.

Example:

“I like talking about color, fonts and typefaces, and grammar.”

In this example, excluding the Oxford comma would be confusing and make the sentence look even sloppier than it is already.

Unclear Intent

Grammarly has an even better example, which I’ll quote here:

“I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.”

In this case, the lack of comma doesn’t just make the sentence look sloppy; it’s confusing. Your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty?! No wonder you’re such an egghead (sorry – couldn’t resist).

Grammarly goes on to say that confusing sentences can be rewritten to avoid this confusion (in this case listing them in this order: “Humpty Dumpty, Lady Gaga and my parents”) but I’d like to make the case that it’s not always possible. And that it can even be costly.

Oxford Commas in the News

That’s right, it’s not just a personal debate anymore. According to the NY Times, a Maine dairy company was involved in a lawsuit about grammar.

Quick summary: state laws were written in such a way that it could be, and was, interpreted different ways by different parties. The difference? $10 million.

So I’d like to entreat everyone to at least consider adopting the Oxford comma. After all, the consequences of using it are nonexistent, while the consequences of not using it can be rather extreme. Is personal preference really worth millions of dollars?

The Value of Yes AND No

The Value of Yes AND No | Jenn Wells Design

Yes is typically seen as a positive and no as a negative. That seems obvious. “Do you want some cookies?” Yes = cookies! No = sadness.

But what if I told you no could be just as much a positive as yes? That both have equal import in your life and business? I’ll start with yes.

The Value of Yes

If you’ve read Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, you have a good idea where I’m going with this.

We need to say yes to all kinds of things. We need to say yes to opportunities, to trying new things, pushing our comfort zone, to personal and business growth.

A new client, asking for something just outside your service list can be scary. Especially for women, who traditionally underestimate their own capabilities, saying no feels safe.

And it is safe. But it is also stagnant. You can say, “Yes, but…” or “Yes, and…” but at some point you’ll need to say yes if you want to move forward.

The Value of No

If saying yes to things is so crucial, why does no matter?

I’m going to reference Year of Yes again. In her book, Rhimes describes the moment she realizes she’s already been saying yes to something that’s holding her back – her unhealthy habits. To make that change, she needs to start saying no to something she’s enjoyed for a long time.

In the business world, there are clients and employers who will take advantage of you. There are coworkers who will talk over you (again, especially if you are female), business propositions that don’t feel quite right, and collaborations where you end up doing all the work.

These are all negatives and a no is needed to prevent them from being a drag on your business. In the English language, a double negative is a positive and that philosophy applies here. (Side note: did you know that not all languages use double negatives? You could say, “He’s never not working” but in Spanish it would just mean he’s not working.)

Tangent aside, you could even say that no equals yes in some situations. No to being exploited is yes to standing up for yourself. BUT even if you phrase it as a yes for yourself, “no” is the word you’ll need to use for the person who’s trying to take advantage of you.

You also need to be able to say to some good things. The Accidental Creative refers to this as pruning. While an activity may, in and of itself, be a positive thing, too many will overwhelm you. By struggling to keep up with too many projects, you’ll stress yourself out and none of the projects will grow as much as they could have had you cut some out.

How to Know the Difference

This is the tricky part.

If a potential client comes to you with a project outside your skill set, do you say no to avoid unnecessary stress and a poor fit? Do you say yes to stretch your comfort zone and grow your skills?

There’s no easy answer. I think it will be different for every business owner, every client, and every project in this scenario.

But there are a few different factors you can consider to help you make this decision:

How Far Removed From Your Skillset is It?

If it has nothing to do with the services you provide, it’s probably not a good fit. If it’s a skill you’ve been meaning to pick up anyway, this might be a good time to make that leap. Feel free to let the client know your reservations or offer a discount for your learning curve, in which case it’s a “yes, but…”

How Much is On Your Plate Right Now?

A good opportunity at the wrong time is unfortunate, but it happens. Are you already struggling to meet deadlines? Or do you have extra time between projects that you could spend on this? Outside of just time, how mentally drained are you feeling? Even if it’s personal projects and not business, if you’re scraping the bottom of your pool of energy, taking on a new project might not be the best idea right now.

Do You Really Need the Money?

In a perfect world, this wouldn’t factor in. But we all have bills to pay and sometimes you do need to take a project to keep the power on. HOWEVER! I highly advise against taking too many “pay the bills” clients because the more time you spend on work that isn’t paying you enough or that isn’t work you want to do is time you’re not spending finding the clients you do want.

What Was Your Gut Reaction? What’s Behind It?

And also how much do you trust your gut? I, personally, suffer from confidence issues, so I frequently need to disregard my first reaction and think things through logically. Often when my first reaction is, “No, I can’t do that!” I dig deeper and realize I’m just scared but have no logical reason to think I can’t complete a project.

If, however, your gut reaction stems more from distaste for the project, or not feeling comfortable with the person pitching it, let it go! Clients I’ve felt uncomfortable with initially have almost never worked out long term.

I wish there was more to it. Some specific, hard-and-fast rules, but really it all comes down to you. Are you the kind of person who’s comfortable learning on the fly? How well do you handle leaving your comfort zone? Do you take on too much and struggle to keep up?

There’s a learning curve and you’ll make mistakes at some point, but as long as you keep your yes and no skills sharp, you’ll eventually learn when and how often to use each.

Why You Need a Website

Why You Need a Website | Jenn Wells Design

This is a difficult post to write because it seems so intuitive to me. But I realize not everyone thinks or uses technology or even runs a business the same way. So let’s talk about the value of websites.

Continue…