Today is part 2 of our series “Creating a Website (for the Non-Techie)”. If you missed last week, make sure to read the into here.
One of the absolute most valuable steps I took in pre-planning for my website was becoming a student of others’ websites. I was creating my new website on a very limited budget, so I took on the burden of being very clear about what I wanted before I contracted with my techie geniuses (an intro to them is coming in a few weeks).
I visited each site with a pen and paper by my side, ready to take copious notes on features I liked from each site. These are the kinds of sites I visited:
- Other speakers I admire.
- Industry leaders (publishers, literary agents, marketing gurus, etc)
- Sites of speakers at bloggers’ conferences such as Allume (I figured if these folks are speaking at a bloggers’ conference they know what they’re talking about! I got some genius ideas from their sites.)
**If you want to see other sites I visited, please join us on Facebook or Twitter this week. My intern, Michaela, is visiting some of them right now. She’s going to lead you on a little tour! (To join us on FB or Twitter, click the icons above.)
I went through each of my “study sites” with a fine-toothed comb. I studied every page for both content, layout and visual design. For each site, I listed elements I loved. When I was finished, I had a page covered with notes. Here are some questions to ask as you tour websites:
- What is the color palette? Is this a palette I like or would use?
- What style is the photography? Casual? Business?
- What is the layout of the home page? What does that layout say about the emphasis of the site? (ie. True bloggers usually have their blog as their homepage. Because I have a love-hate relationship with blogging:), I decided to minimize its importance on my site this time.)
- Is each page laid out identically or differently?
- What is in the sidebar of each page?
- How is video/media used?
- What resources are offered? What are “take aways” from the site?
- Can I identify the “why” of the website owner?
My goal in studying these sites was to learn as much as possible from people who are using the internet effectively. Many of the people on my list are professional marketers or have marketers working for them, and since I don’t, I wanted to glean what I could from the experts.
One point I want to emphasis is that it was never my intention to copy or replicate another site too closely. One example would be an element I love on Renee Swope’s website. She included photo albums that I just love. She’s used them to connect with people on a personal level as well as to show the different roles she carries–wife, mom, speaker….
I wanted to do something similar using the power of photography without copying her unique idea exactly. I tried to use lots of photography on my site showing the different sides of my personality, and I want to include more family shots, event pics, etc over time. So use people’s concepts, but I encourage you to make your site as unique as possible. Imitation may be the sincerest form flattery, but you don’t want to leave anyone with a bad taste in their mouth. Besides, it’s your unique perspective that will capture others’ attention!
Next week I’ll share a step to create a powerful tool for communication with your techies. In the mean time, would you share a site you love and what you learned from it? I’d love for us to have our own tour here. At the end of our series, we’ll do a Mr. Linky tour so you can show us your website. Can’t wait!