5 Must-Ask Questions to Create a Great Homepage

On Tuesday we chatted about how every homepage needs one top priority or goal. When it comes to people DIYing their own sites, I'm such a believer in the power of focus, focus focus to create a great homepage.

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Now, I'm not saying to build your entire site around one goal (although, it's not a terrible idea), but your homepage really needs to make one monster, smash impact and I think focusing your visual and content-related efforts on one goal is a great place to start.

How do you decide what your top priority should be? Here's a handy list of questions that I've put together to help you out. You may find overlap in your answers to these questions -- that's OK...keep an eye on patterns and words that repeatedly pop up!

Create a Great Homepage

  1. What's the crux of your business at the moment? Are you trying to provide information, foster a community, build a readership to sell a product in the future. The purpose of your website right now is really important.
  2. How does your website support your business? If you have an online company, your website may be your business, but it's important to clearly know the role your site plays.
  3. Are your short- and mid-range plans for your business? How can your current site play into your plans for the future? For example, if your goal is ultimately to sell a lot of stuff online, you're going to need to focus on building a list and/or traffic and your homepage -- even now needs to work toward that goal.
  4. What's your great technical or design skill at the moment? How can you use your DIY strengths (and downplay your weaknesses) in order to make a big impact? If you don't have the technical skill to program a pretty opt-in form, then collecting emails might be a TOUGH goal for your homepage -- unless, of course, you can outsource it.
  5. What are some of your secondary and tertiary goals? Make a laundry list of all the goals of your homepage. Sometimes seeing what's important, but definitely not in the top spot, can help you really refine the purpose of your homepage.

Really, you need to be giving your site's goals/priorities a thorough thinking-through just like you would for your general business or a product launch.

5 Top Resources for WordPress Templates

On Tuesday I shared my thought on what comes first -- a custom website or being able to sell a high-price item. In short, my answer is that you don't need a ridiculously fancy site, but you do need something that is pretty and polished. So, today I'd like to share my 5 top resources for WordPress templates.

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First, however, lets talk about what makes a good WordPress template for your business:

  • How it handles the level of content that you have available. Sure, you can find a beautiful magazine-style template, but if your site is mostly static content an a few blog posts, a magazine theme is going to look really empty when used on your site. Try not to get distracted by themes that simply aren't write for your content depth.
  • The general layout and structure appeals to you. If you find yourself saying "I hate the colors on this theme," don't worry! 99% of WordPress themes these days make it super easy to change colors, fonts and basic style elements. That means that when you're searching for a theme you need to focus on the general structure and layout. It's much, much harder for a DIYer to change that.
  • Don't get sucked in by colors. Going off the previous bullet, don't get wooed by an awesome demo site with rockin' colors if the layout isn't right for you. You will pull your hair out trying to redo a layout.
  • The demo site rocks your socks. If the demo site doesn't wow you it's time to move on. Why? Because the sole purpose of a demo site is to show off all of the bells and whistles of that theme. In my experience, the demo site is the best a theme can look without a ton of customization. If it doesn't look good in demo it may be hard for you, as a DIYer, to pimp it out.

With those items in mind, here are my 5 top resources for WordPress Templates:

Finding Photos for Your Website: 3 Rules for Stock Photos

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In our last tech talk we discussed the three ways your photography might be killing your website. I could almost hear you all yelling at me: well, sometimes stock photos are the only option. Alas, I know this to be true. As such, today I'm sharing my three rules for using stock photos when finding photos for your website. Finding Photos for Your Website: Stock Photo Rule #1Avoid anything that's been downloaded in excess of 500 times. Seem like a lot? Many of the most popular photos on sites like iStock have been downloaded 10,000+ times. That's a lot of other places that folks can find the photo you want to use. Stick to photos that don't have many downloads -- this means more in-depth searching, but from a branding perspective it's worth it!

Finding Photos for Your Website: Stock Photo Rule #2Monitor big impact photos once a month. If you decide to buy and use a stock photo in a BIG way -- your main banner image, the lead slide, on your most popular page, etc. -- then you need to monitor that image once a month. What happens if that image suddenly gets really popular? You're are probably going to want to change it to main your unique brand position. When you use stock photos, there is no "I had it first" line. Everyone has equal rights to it. Checking a link once a month takes about 10 seconds and it is time very well spent.

Finding Photos for Your Website: Stock Photo Rule #3Familiarize yourself with the models. Does that sound really creepy? I apologize. But, the fact of the matter is that many of the models that you see in stock photos for your industry also pose for photos in completely different settings and environments. Do yourself the favor of researching where else this person pops up. Conveniently, many of the most popular models tend to stick with one photographer, so you can typically browse and filter that photogs portfolio.

Anyone else want to share their stock photo rules?

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What is a Target Audience and Learning to Define Your Ideal Customer

In this week's edition of Kate's Tech Talks we discussed the forehead slapping mistake that I see DIYers make time and time again: creating a website for themselves and not for the target audience.As I edited that talk I found myself wondering how many of my followers would be watching the video and wondering: just what is a target audience anyway? We're going to talk about that today. First though, lets talk about this critical misstep that DIYers make. It's a classic mistake and one that happens all. the. time. In fact, most DIYers that stop, take a step back and properly assess their site typically find some version of this happening in their little corner of the interwebs to some degree or another.

In the tech talk I describe three ways to go about fixing your site, but in today's post I'd like to take a step back and share my advice for helping to you discover what a target audience is and how to define your ideal customer.

What is a Target Audience - The Basics At the most basic level, your target audience is the group of people most likely to buy your product or service. For some, a target audience is a massive group of people while for others a product or service is meant for a very particular subset of people. Generally speaking, there is no right or wrong type of target audience. However, there is a right or wrong type for you and your business. Don't be afraid to be super general or super specific is that's what works for your biz.

What is a Target Audience - Lets Dig Deeper One of the big mistakes that I see many small biz owners making is casting too wide of a net because they want to attract everyone.  Let me be clear: everyone is not an acceptable target audience in 99.9999% of cases.

These business owners want to seem as inclusive as possible -- which is great in theory. But, what typically happens is you turn off or don't really "speak to" your true target audience in your effort to welcome everyone. In this regard, I operate on an 80/20 rule. If you think that at least 80% of your visitors are going to be in your target demo then you shouldn't care about the other 20%. Trying to make a site that somehow appeals to that other 20% will almost certainly dilute the experience for the big chunk of people that you're trying to impress.

What is a Target Audience - Your Ideal Customer Finally, as small business owner should have an ideal customer profile. This is the archetype of your perfect customer. This is the person that you write every blog post, every product description and every piece of email copy for. This is the person you are trying to speak directly to because you know that what you offer is perfect for them.

If you write your copy and design your site for your ideal customer, you will most likely not have to worry about accidentally designing for yourself.

I find that when DIYers that try to create a compromise site usually end up just creating something pretty that they like instead. When you lose focus on your top prospect, you lose your ability to keep your design preferences out of the process.