Remember Why You Have a Website

Guest Post by Carrie Hane, founder and principal strategist of Tanzen

Why do you have a website? This might seem like an odd question in 2018. But it’s worth asking.

Of course, the web is the first place most people go for information today. But with billions of websites on the web, what makes yours special? Why do you spend thousands—or even tens or hundreds of thousands—of dollars on maintaining an online presence, with a website as the hub?

The bottom line is that you have a website to satisfy a need your audience has in a way that supports your business goals.

It really is a digital stand-in for the business itself. In real life, if you don’t have people who are interested in what you are offering, you don’t have a business. When you talk to the people who need what you offer, you tell them how you can help them. Same for the website. If you make a website that is all about you and what you do instead of how you can help the type of people your business serves, it’s not going to serve its purpose.

Your website is not for you, it’s for the people you serve. That means starting with what they need help with, not with what you want from them.

For example, I recently did some user interviews for a fundraising organization. When asked what they thought about the organization’s website, several said that they were really put off by the big announcement for the current fundraising campaign that appears at the top of the home page. Before even telling people what the cause was or why it needed donations, they were announcing that they wanted money.

Yet that is not how the organization’s fundraisers start conversations with potential donors. They start with making a connection between the person and the institution for which they are raising money. They share stories about all the great things the institution does. They invite the potential donor to meet the people who are doing these great things. Only after the potential donor is inspired and connected are they asked for money.

As we go about redesigning the website, we will focus on translating those personal connections to the digital realm. We’ll focus not on what the organization wants from the web visitor but on what their cause does before sharing ways the visitor can support the cause.

Here’s an example of an member organization that has turned their website around to focus on its members:

hfma-home

Lead with confidence.

Solve complex issues.

Grow your career.

These are things that HFMA’s members want to do – and being a part of HFMA will help them succeed.

Looking at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine shows an older version that was very much about what HFMA had to say about itself:

hfma-old

Take a look at your website. Is it all about you or is it about the person on the other side of the screen?

If your website is all about you instead of your audience, it’s time to take a big step back and do some thinking—and perhaps some research—about what your audience needs. Then match those to what content and services you can provide to meet their needs. Start with their needs, not your content. Then turn your website into a conversation about how you can help.

About the author

Carrie Hane is the founder and principal strategist of Tanzen, which provides content strategy consulting and training designed to change how organizations approach content. For nearly 20 years, she’s alternated between in-house web content lead and consulting, putting together cross-functional teams and creating processes that stick while untangling information to make it useful, usable, and ready for the next frontier. She is the co-author of Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow (New Riders, 2018). When not taming content, Carrie tries to tame her two boys. Content is easier. You can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her newsletter to help bring sense of your content.