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The Brutal Truth

Not too long ago while looking for businesses that do web design I stumbled upon website. It looked great. It had cool pictures arranged in a grid. But I couldn't figure out what to do next. So I moused over one of the pictures. Nothing happened. I moused over another picture. This time some words came up.

I felt like I was playing Myst. I can't stand Myst. I felt frustrated. All I wanted to know was how much they charged for designing a web page.

Why do people build websites like that? It's because they don't understand how the web works. The brutal truth is people don't care how great your website looks. What they care about is what your website can do for them.

People generally use the web to find information, be entertained, find a solution to a problem, or buy something. Anything that hinders them just causes frustration. People aren't interested in flashy websites. They're interested in websites that can give them what they want.

The key is to be visitor-centric. Allow me to give you an example:

Let's say you own a fast-food outlet and you want to put up a website. The question you need to ask is why would people visit your website? Some answers are:

1. They're checking out local fast-food outlets and what to know what you serve and how much you charge. 2. They're hungry and looking for a place where they can get some quick food. 3. They're looking for a fast-food outlet that delivers.

On the main page of the website I would have a catchy headline, menu with prices, an easy-to-find phone number, a location map, and if applicable, a "Yes, we deliver!" in big bold letters. I would put information such as who you are, how long your business has been around for etc, in an "About" page.

After you've put up your website you need to try it out. Test it as if you were an actual visitor. Ask yourself, does it give you what you want from a visitor's point of view. If you wanted to know the price of a hamburger could you find out quickly and easily?

Here's another example:

Let's say that after doing some research you discover there's a niche market for people wanting information on cigar boxes - where to find them, how to make them etc. You also discover that there's not that many websites about cigar boxes. So you decide to create a website that's all about cigar boxes.

Again, the question is why would people visit your website? The answer is to find information about cigar boxes. The answer is simple enough, but you'll be surprised at how many people would build such a website with the information on cigar boxes buried in some hard to find place.

On the main page I would have a catchy headline and a listing of articles on cigar boxes with links to other pages on the website. Under each listing I would have a short description to let visitor's know what the article is about. I would also have a search button. That way, if someone was looking for information on how to make a cigar box they could find the information quickly and easily.

I would not full up the main page by telling my visitors how fantastic my website is. Nor would I waste my visitors' time with a flash intro. They don't care. What they care about is what your website can do for them.

A quick word on flash intros: the vast majority of people skip flash intros. And nearly everybody skips the flash intro the next time they visit the website. Unless you have a strong reason for putting a flash intro on your website, don't. It'll only serve to frustrate your visitors and you will lose potential customers.

Here's an exercise you may like to do. Find two movie directory sites. For each one see how long it takes you to find out who directed the movie "Fight Club". Now ask yourself what was the better website. Was it the flashiest looking one or the one that allowed you to get the information you wanted the easiest and fastest?

Don't waste your money and time trying to make your website look the best. There will always be people with more time, money, and resources to make their website look better than yours. It's enough that your website creates a professional image. Concentrate on being the best website for your visitors. Fulfill their wants, not yours.

It's really no different to any other kind of business. Those businesses that give people what they want will prosper. Those that don't will not.

Remember, always be visitor-centric. Focus on giving your visitors what they want.

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