The One Question Every Website Must Answer

Mar 13, 2012 by

Websites can be built to serve a multitude of different functions.  Some are designed to encourage the visitor to make a purchase, others are made to simply capture leads, while others are purely for entertainment purposes.  But, no matter what function a particular website is supposed to serve, there is one fundamental question the site needs to answer immediately, and failing to do so is the fastest path the having your site’s visitor click that evil ‘back’ button in the upper left hand corner of their browser window.

The question isn’t what the site is about, or who owns it, or anything that immediately focuses on the entity and not the visitor.  The one question that EVERY website must answer is this:

Who is This Website For?

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Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before you develop your site, have you considered who it is that’s going to be visiting your online space?  Have you considered their needs?  What information they might be seeking in the first place?

One of my newest clients, an internationally renown professional with 30-plus years in his field, recently contracted me to build out a new website for his business.  Upon acceptance of the proposal, one of the optional tasks I encourage clients to consider is to look around the web at sites they like for features they may want to incorporate into their own project.  In this case, the client sent me links to a handful of his colleagues for review.

With the business that my client is in, a prospect can’t buy his services over the Internet.  This is universally true across his profession.  For this reason, it is imperative that his new site illustrate his expertise in an easy-to-consume manner and encourage users to reach out by way of phone or email, whichever they prefer.

What surprised my client the most was the fact that many of his esteemed colleagues’ websites were very much self centered in the respect that they mostly focused on the owner of the site and not necessarily the benefit to the user.  Consider the following email I sent as a response to my client after reviewing a site he’d sent along:

“With a referral, your reputation precedes you – the prospective customer is already at least somewhat familiar with your work and your track record.  Call it a ‘warm lead’ if you will.

But consider the idea that someone who’s never heard of you finds your site.  What would you want them to know RIGHT AWAY?  That you’ve written books and dozens of articles and given countless presentations and are widely considered to be one of the most respected professionals in your field?

Or is the first thing you want them to know is simply put that you get it.  You understand their needs and you have the ability to resolve their problems and have a track record of success.  The truth is the credentials are important, but you win over a prospect much faster with emotional connections than anything else.  They’ll seek out the info about you and they’ll be even more impressed – and we’ll certainly make it easy for them to find that information.  The bottom line is that we will win them over with genuine understanding, which will be much more engaging than everyone else who just wants to blast the visitor with who they are and all they’ve achieved from an academic standpoint.  It’s as industry leaders Pete Brand, Rebecca Dutcher and the rest of the brilliant team at Mindscape at Hanon McKendry always preach:  In today’s age of the Internet and the instant gratification that goes along with it, the visitor really doesn’t care about you, they only care about what’s in it for them.  So with that in mind, lets give them what they need as fast as possible!”

Truth be told, it’s tempting to design your website with content and information about who you are, what you do, past successes, etc.  This is doubly true if you have already had a lot of amazing success already.  But consider the needs of the visitor first.  Your business is the one that will give them what they need to be successful in whatever they’re trying to accomplish.  Demonstrating that is the surest path to a conversion.  Save the rest for your ‘About’ page 🙂