Hey, Creative Person Operating on a Low Budget, this is for you. If you are not in this group, move along to something else fun.
If you want to build a website for your movie project, go you. People have Facebook pages and Twitter pages and Instagrams and all kinds of things. Why not a web page?
I’m not being sarcastic — if you want to, you might as well. It’s cheaper and easier than it’s ever been.
There’s no shortage of articles on how to get a domain, how to get hosting, how to set up WordPress, etc. Most of them are pretty good.
But what I want to talk a little about is to consider your purpose and your calls to action.
I’m not goofing around. You can put all kinds of dancing baloney on your site, but my recommendation is that you think about the purpose of your site, and build the site to serve that purpose.
For example, do you want to offer your doodads for sale? Do you want people to read your brilliant essays? Do you want to let people know all the best soundtracks online?
Whatever the purpose is, make the website serve the purpose.
Figure out your purpose.
If you catch yourself thinking “Geez, I guess I better put a “cat” page on because other writers do it,” but your website’s purpose is not “Do what other writers are doing,” then reconsider that decision.
I’ve made a bunch of sites and a big one I’m working on right now is in the middle of shifting its purpose. Previously, it was “Check out the details of all these projects we’re doing,” which is probably fine, but it’s getting to the point in time when I think picking a different purpose is going to better serve me.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun stuff on it, of course. It just means that when you think in terms of serving your purpose, then you will build a site that makes that your Big Chute and when people visit, they will have that Big Chute to entice them.
Also, a purpose can change. That is okay.
Here’s an example of a purpose that changes: A site starts out “Gee whiz, we’re building this cathedral!” and the site might include pictures of the blueprints, various profiles of bricklayers, a behind-the-scenes of how they pick hods, and so forth. But once it’s done, the website’s purpose might change to “Hey, you should host your event at this cathedral. It’s awesome!” At that point, no one gives a damn about those previous pages. You can put them all behind a tab called “How this cathedral was built” if you like, but when people see the website now, it should be “This is perfect for your event!”
Which brings me to…
Calls to Action
“What am I supposed to do right now?”
At any point “on” your website, a visitor might ask that question, and it should be instantly obvious.
Do you want them to understand how sturdy your widget is? Do you want them to learn how to recombine DNA strands? Do you want them to play a video? Sign up for a newsletter? Respond angrily to some inflated bit of pseudo-news? Do you want them to buy your services? Buy your products? Learn more about the role of slavery and race relations in the history of the U.S.?
It needs to be obvious. Up front.
And yes, I know sometimes it’s okay to build a website that is good “just for exploring,” but if you look behind the scenes, if you look at where people land on your web pages and how they travel your web site, you’ll see that the number of people who land on a site and explore it are roughly three a year. And those three are robots.
Robots are great, of course, because search engines use robots to look for the things that are important to people and make those things available via searches.
Which underscores my point.
Chances are very good that people found your site via a search engine. What this means is that they went to a search engine looking for a specific thing and in the engine results, they saw your page and clicked on it.
It is your job to look at any given page on your website and ask yourself “If this page shows up in a search engine, then what were they looking for, and how obvious is it once they’re here, and what will they want to do next, and what can I do to give them that whole chain of experience?
It doesn’t mean to have to blindly obey these questions, but I think it’s critical that you ask them.
And, as with purpose, realize that your calls to action might also change.
That is perfectly acceptable, too.
That’s all I came to talk about on this. You can pick and choose what you like out of it as you please. You can ignore it. You can discuss it below (maybe I missed something). All of that would be awesome.
You might ask yourself “Does this really matter if I do this? Can I just put up a website and put whatever I want on it? Do I have to think so directly about this?” The answer (as far as I’m concerned) is “Nope — you can do any dang thing you want and go-go-go with your bad self. Have a great time! My thoughts are just my thoughts, and my free advice may be worth every penny you pay.”
Have a great day!