There is no law that requires you to have a website, no one is forcing you to use a cell phone and no one mandates that you drive a car.
But each of these are tools and technologies that enhance the quality of life around us, to the point that some deem them necessities.
I’m here as a child of the digital age, and a full-time freelance web developer, presenting some ideas that, should you chose to accept them, may benefit your livelihood in this internet-crazed world we now live in.
Adapting to the digital world
“If I cover my eyes, maybe it’ll all go away!”
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as ignoring it. There are some of you that have been forced to use new technologies which would have been considered science-fiction a decade ago. Or maybe you remember the age when making a phone call meant speaking with an operator first. Either way, take a moment, a deep breath and pat yourself on the back — I mean, you’re reading a blog for goodness sakes! Way to go!
A few things to acknowledge:
- It’s okay to not know – the key to the digital age is that you don’t need to know or remember anything. That’s what Google is for! If you have a question, it’s only a search away.
- You don’t have to do it all – new and ever-changing technologies are just a fact of life. So don’t feel as if you need to sign up for every social network out there. Pick one and stick with it.
- There are no “tricks” or shortcuts to success – when it comes down to it, your journey to success is still all about quality and trust. Providing consistent, exceptional value to the customer is what it’s all about. This is true whether you’re an oil painter, a supply store or a fortune 500 company.
The need for a website
“Com’n, you know you wanna. Everyone’s doing it!”
We’ve all heard it before: “you’ve gotta have a website”. It was the resounding cry of the dot-com boom that caused businesses and organizations, large and small, to rush out like lemmings off a cliff to stake their claim of the world wide web. Unfortunately, few stopped to ask “why?” Today, many folks are stuck with expensive, outdated and altogether abandoned websites — now scratching their heads and wondering “what did I need this website for, anyhow?”
Why do you need a website? Here’s why: People are no longer relying on yellow-pages and billboards to find the products they need. Instead, they turn to Google or Facebook. The “like” button or online product review has become the new “word of mouth”. So, when someone is looking for an “original oil painting near Denver”, for example, it becomes very important that you are online and easy to find when they begin that search.
Important Considerations – Part 1: Goals & Organization
“Tips for right-brain thinkers who prefer to leap, then look”
Steven Covey, in the book “7 Habits for Highly Effective People”, says “Begin with the end in mind.” This is my advice to you, as well. What are you trying to accomplish? We know that we are supposed to have a website, but we are often unclear as to “why”. Your website is your business card. It is the book cover that people judge you by. A website should reflect the personality, professionalism and quality of your product which, in your case, is your artwork.
It’s been said that upon meeting someone you have seven seconds to make an impression. This is even more true online. In fact, some studies say it takes less than two tenths of a second for an online visitor to form an opinion of your brand. 1
Needless to say, your website must present your business in the finest light possible.
So your first goal should be to make a good impression. Spend time thinking about the image you want to present of yourself?
Secondly, ask yourself this clarifying question: “What do I want people to leave with or accomplish while visiting?”
To help with the specifics of that last question, let me give some examples. Maybe your end-goal is that your visitor purchase something; so make sure that your products and prices are obvious, that you have a simple and functional shopping cart with current discounts and specials highlighted.
Would you like them to sign up for a newsletter? Then make that registration form the first thing they see and perhaps offer a free download or reward for signing up.
If your ideal is for visitors to spend time looking at your paintings and share them with others, then put your photo gallery on the front page with prominent “share” or “comment” buttons for each of them.
You see, it’s not difficult to create a game plan, but it begins with the end in mind. Your visitor is better-served because you provided them with obvious steps to accomplish. No one enjoys arriving at a website only to stare blankly at it wondering, “now what?”
The third goal that I see for any website is that it provides quality content. This content, or information, should take into account your intended audience. Some questions you should be asking while creating your website are:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What is your target audience?
- Are they of a particular age? If older, should font size be increased?
- Will they be accessing your website on a desktop computer or from their mobile device?
- What are they most likely looking for? What phrases will they be searching with?
These questions can help guide you in making decisions about layout, graphics, fonts, content and navigation.
Do your best to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Think like the visitor.