Guest post by Seth Leonard who trains and mentors people who want to build dynamic, successful websites. Right now on his blog he is offering the free guide, Seven Hidden Laws to Building a Dynamic Website.
There are very few universals in the world of websites. In fact, I often preach the value of finding strategies and solutions that fit your specific website purpose, rather than using cookie-cutter formulas that are often irrelevant to what you’re trying to accomplish.
However, there are a few things, no matter what, that your website absolutely must have. I’ve put together the following list of five key elements you should be sure to include with your site:
#1: A Place To Start
This is usually your homepage, but it’s so much more than the first page that someone lands on when they come to your site. Your place to start needs to let people know, quickly and easily, what your site is about.
What are you offering and why should they stay?
Far too often, especially with blog sites, the dominant element of the homepage is the most recent blog post. Well, what if your most recent blog post was slightly off-topic (perhaps a rant about spending Thanksgiving with your family)?
While I encourage you to stay on topic with everything you write, it’s impossible that every post you produce is going to sum up the mission of your website.
Providing this information doesn’t need to be over the top and take up half your homepage. Sometimes it’s a well written tag line that appears at the top of your website. Sometimes it’s a couple sentences that say who you are and what you do.
It can even be a pitch for something you’re selling or something that you want your visitors to do when they’re at your site. For example: “Learn how to write the book hidden inside of you. Click here.” That call to action also lets your audience know what they can expect throughout your website.
Just make it obvious.
Let them know what to expect. And get them excited about it.
If you don’t want to devote a lot of space to it on your homepage, then include a “Start Here” link in a prominent position. Then put your basic introduction on that page.
#2: An About Page
People love about pages. Right after they get the gist of your website (see above), they want to know what you’re about. Whether you’re an individual blogger, a large organization, a startup, or a dude selling plumbing parts out of your house, people always click on your About page.
They want to know what makes you tick.
So tell them. And don’t be boring. Unless you have an amazing resume that reads like a Dos Equis commercial, you should add some personality.
Your audience wants to know what sets you apart from everyone else. They want to know what motivates you. They want to know how you got to where you are.
It’s great to offer testimonials, accomplishments, or career highlights. But don’t leave it at just that. Offer a little bit of your story. You’ll be surprised at how much fun it is, as well as how much more interest you’ll receive from your audience.
Creating my about page was one of my favorite things I’ve done for my website.
This should be obvious, but I can’t leave it off the list. You need to have something for your audience to consume. It can be one thing, or it can be many things. It can be a photo, a daily poem, or a series of essays.
It can be something you’re selling, or even a question you’re asking. It can be whatever you want.
And while it’s obvious that your website needs this, it’s often something we overlook as we focus on marketing, selling, building our audience, etc. Don’t take your content for granted. Put your heart into it and create something amazing.
Create something that has your audience waiting for you to do it again.
#4: An Opportunity To Take Action
I love great content. But great content inspires action. You need to give your audience the opportunity to take action.
Here is something I recommend you do often: think about your ideal visitor coming to your website for the first time. They see your ‘place to start’ and are intrigued, so they continue. Then they explore your about page, or your most recent content, and they’re hooked.
They love what you do and how you present yourself.
Give them something to do. Let them take the next step. Give them the opportunity to further their investment in you by signing up for something, buying something, downloading a resource, joining your email list, etc. Bring them into your club.
Even if it’s just encouraging them to share something with their friends, give them a method to act on their excitement, to do more than just consume content.
Let them act.
#5: The Ability To Contact You
It doesn’t matter how you offer it, but you need to let people contact you. You can post your email address, or if you’re worried about privacy and spam, you can create a contact form. Or you can direct people to Facebook or Twitter and have them contact you there.
There are two reasons you need this. The first is that people like to know you’re accessible. If you offer no method to contact you, you create a wall between you and your audience. It’s harder for them to connect with you and trust you.
Even if they never reach out to you, it sends a strong message that you are willing to let people contact you.
The second reason you need this is that you never know who is going to contact you. You might get a lot of people asking you questions, but you might also get someone offering you the opportunity of a lifetime. Leave that door open, even if it’s just for the odd chance at receiving something amazing.
That’s it. Five elements your website absolutely must have. You can (and should) put your own spin on all of these, but they’re essential to building a website that connects you with your audience in an authentic way.