Who is your target audience?
What's your objective ?
What can a visitor expect from your site?
Have you given them a reason to return to your site?
First and foremost is ... figure out who is your target
What this means, is there is almost no business that appeals to "everybody" not even for such generic categories as food, as each restaurant is geared to a very different part of the population. So your first task is, figure out who is it you want to reach ?
Example: My own site, I have two separate targets, more than that really, it's more like 8-9 targets. Which might seem like a complex example, but it's more common than you might realize.
First is those who seek art work, artwork of a particular type, Pagan in my case, ok .. why did I do that ? The answer is a simple one, a quick glance at Pagan web sites world wide showed me, that almost as a group, they all tended to use the same artworks, why, because there are few of us out there who make Pagan specific art. So Pagan art was born to answer that need as an artist, first as just web graphics, then on to full sized for print works. The print sale Gallery was a natural extension of their creation. I sell prints world wide.
This segways into those who want custom art made for personal use, as the gallery shows them what I am able to do, it's a showcase my for my skills as it were, and walks them into my terms and particulars, with examples of such work. And the term custom art work is wide spread, from the custom made full sized works, down to siggys and avatars for forums. But all of a "personal" nature, as opposed to for business use.
My second target, those who want a website built, or need business graphics, book covers, etc. again, most of them are also Pagans, not that I am prejudiced, however, a great many of my peers who design sites often refuse to serve this need for Pagan particular web sites, so I carved out a niche again, that was not being answered. Also, it's a specialty in my case in that I understand the primary target viewer much better than one of my non Pagan peers might, so can better serve my target client. They are not however my only client, just the primary one, more on that idea in a moment.
The last target is information seekers, like yourself, who are reading this. :)
Now, most of my target are adults, young to middle age, with typical secondary and college education levels, in the middle class of income range, who are either interested in art/graphic work, or are first time, and or established small business persons, seeking to get into E commerce, and need either a site built, site graphics, or advice.
Now take a look at what that means for who is my target ?
Art seekers for my ready made art ( print sales ), custom art seekers ( custom work), first time business persons ( site building and advice, site reviews ), persons with a small business who need business graphics ( labels, logos, trademarks, banners and web art ), and many others, often these over lap, and are all the same person, but their needs change over time. So the list of who is my target is focused, but rather complex.
This is normal for any business if you
stop and think about it a moment, it's why planning out your site for all
these people is a challenge, as their needs can be entirely different.
Luckily they do overlap a great deal, which simplifies matters a bit.
If you notice my site is broken up into sections, to the point where some parts could be stand alone sites. That was done on purpose, it's very easy to get into the Web Witch section for example, it's linked off site all over the place on the web, for itself alone, and once there, you will find it's geared to the seeker of a web site, custom graphics, or information. And you step into a sector that is a walk through of all I can provide to that purpose. The links out there on pages I have built, and on search engines are set up for that alone, so anyone coming in on those links, is already targeted for site design, and the site section attempts to provide them what they seek.
The "main" site of Pagan art it is attached to, is for all the eye candy and is geared to art seekers. If you will note the link set ups are section by section .. it's possible to be in one section,, and not even realize the other sections even exist, this was done deliberately. They can, and do overlap, and do link to each other, but I do not clutter the section with things that might not interest the viewer that section is intended for. Link to the rest, certainly, but the focus is on the things that might interest the target viewer for that section of the website. The only place that violates that, on purpose, is the front page as it must cover the site entire, for all its sections.
The purpose ? Not to distract the viewer, if a party is looking to get a site built, they really won't be interested in the fact I can build full sized images for print, by and large that information is of little use to them, so the Web Witch section does not focus on my print sector of the site, now that I have the skill to build one of a kind web graphics, that matters to them, and I provide examples that pertain to that, and so it goes. I have to think like my intended viewer, and provide them what they expect to see, and what I hope they can use, or want.
It's no different than planning out a section of a brick and mortar live store. If one is in the paint section of say, Home Depot (tm), one expects to find rollers, tarps, tape, brushes, and of course, paint of all kinds, but most would not expect or appreciate say ... a table set up advertising hand painted art for your walls. Only one in a 1000 would this appeal to. Home Depot (tm) was set up for the home user, who is doing their own interior design, not someone looking to hire a professional. Everybody else just wants to buy their paint and go home and paint their house, themselves. Ok, why does this work for Home Depot (tm) ?
Because Home Depot (tm) was set up for mainly two people, the home do it yourself person and commercial builders, they serve both, and if you look around the store you can see the difference in sections, like a checkout counter just for commercial people, special help desks, to serve special needs and their "how to" classes. So you have the commercial guys who are buying truck loads of supplies, walking right along side of the house holder who just wants a new door knob, and they do an excellent job of serving both clients.
This is the expectation they created,
and they serve it well. But you see very little by way of "professional"
interior decorators, they are there, but well hidden, so the one in a 1000
customer who wants that, can find it, but it's not out front to distract
the main customer, which is the do it yourselfer.
Now this means if you have more than one target, you have several objectives all going at once.
Again, there are few sites where there is only one target, we have a "main" target viewer, but there are almost always secondaries, and these have to be considered. So your objective for the site over all, has to take all that into account, with regard to layout, colors, link set up, even down to link names.
Example: You have a site and you sell baby products. Your main target is young first time parents, with middle class incomes, and college education's, and plan the site accordingly. Ok, all well and good, but what about Grandma, who has failing eyesight, with maybe a lessor education, who wants to get something for the new baby ?
Did you consider her in your layout and font sizes, colors, link names ? Your young, well educated "target" might understand your link names, and be able to read the font sizes, but will Grandma ? Professional is all well and good, but don't make it so focused you forget the fact your intended viewer is not the only one who is going to be viewing it.
Keep your objective focused on the target, but loosen it up a bit to consider all the other possibilities. Like our Home Depot (tm) example above, they could, if they wanted, serve only the home user, which is their main focus. But the smaller commercial buyer, buys truck loads of stuff, should they ignore that ? No, so they don't, they serve both, side by side, and the two are both served well, it just means they have to think a little more on how they set things up. They also keep in mind that rare customer who just might want to talk to an interior decorator, and have a few handy, to serve that need as well.
This is your object, serve all your viewers, the main ones and the secondaries, and even the occasional customer. If the object is to sell goods, don't limit to whom you can sell them via your own site outline, by making the focus too tight.
What's in a site page name ?
What does a viewer expect ? That depends a great deal on how you present it, starting with, most importantly , your business or site name. It is the most important thing you can do, which is often, unfortunately given the least consideration. We have all seen names that are "no name" names, meaning are not related to what they do, example: Jacks place, typical of what are called "vanity names", which tells you exactly nothing, it could be anything from a bar, to a pet shop. ( It's a bar by the way )
Now what if I had said, Jacks Bar and Grill ? Much more information, where you know now, it's a bar and it serves food. Now, it likely will get called "Jacks place" by people talking about it, but its "official name" explains what you can expect to do there. In this case a grilled steak with potatoes and a cold beer sounds like it's a reasonable expectation.
So it all hangs first and always on the name. Now, on the web we can, and should preface that name with an explanation. Take a good look at most of my page titles, like for the Web Witch, the title of the main page is "Business and Personal Web Design, by The Web Witch" this tells you right off, what you can get here.
Notice the business name is last in that line up, that is on purpose. For two reasons, one search engines, for keywords that people might plug into a search engine. They will put in things like web site design, site building, etc. Not the Web Witch, now they will come to know the business name, ( one hopes ) but it's not first up in that line up. The expectation is one can find someone there who can build a site for you, and that's just what they get and more. Based on the name alone, an expectation is built, and then I proceed to give them just that.
Now, what would happen if they got here and found nothing but links to other people who build sites ? We have all seen this, and it's annoying, as it's a violation of expectations, by the name, one expects to find a site designer, not a page full of links to site creators. If the page is just links to designers, it should be named that, so people get the right expectation, and won't be disappointed. Targeting the viewer, and by the name, bring in the viewer who is looking for just what you provide is the point, and the naming of a page is your main means of doing that.
Now, assuming you have a good title
and name for the place, next, to keep the viewer you have to give them
just what they expect to find, which is digging into the mind of your intended
viewer again. Putting yourself in their shoes as it were, and giving them
what they expect to find, and one hopes maybe a few things they can use,
but didn't expect, meaning you give them a bit more than expected. Which
leads into ...
Repeat business is almost all business, it's not only providing what they need today, but for other needs that come up later.
Example: Someone comes and views my Gallery, buys a print. Ok, well and good, but if they don't realize I can do custom work too, that sale might be the only one I have from them. If I make them aware however that I do custom work, and they like my ready made enough to buy it for their walls, when the time comes for something special, they are likely to think of me to make it for them.
The same goes for those I build sites for, or custom business graphics, there is enough of an offering of services, that almost anything they might need down the road, I can provide. How well I do this is proven in my repeat customer stats, of which I have many. So the key is diversity, one item sites seldom do well.
Now it's possible to try and get too
diverse, you can't cover everything, nor should you try. But within
the realm of possible for your target viewer, give them all that's possible
they might want, and you assure yourself of repeat business.
What this means, if you can and should get feedback, if you have a site search and a thing keeps showing up in the reports such tools make to you, that your veiwers are looking for, that you don't have, perhaps you should have it and provide it, if the item or service relates, and you have the skill to provide it.
And if it happens you don't, or can't provide it, at least provide a link out to a place where they can get it. Now most people balk at this idea, as it's sending the customer away, but is it really ? If its a item or service you don't and cannot provide, you are losing nothing to send them elsewhere, but you are gaining a loyal customer who will be back to see what else you do have, as you have served their need, even though you couldn't provide it yourself.
Also consider, if you keep getting the "wrong" viewer, have a look at your site again, its keywords etc. and see if perhaps you can find what is bringing in the viewer that is seeking something you don't provide. This "false" positive is unavoidable, it's going to happen from time to time, but sometimes you can find what is causing it, and perhaps correct it, particularly for seekers of the same thing over and over, that you do not provide, as often it's something in your site content that is creating that error of draw and expectaion, that could be avoided.
Now, it could go without saying that
you need to provide good service and full fill the clients needs, one assumes
you will, but I hope that this missive gives you some food for thought
on how just how much more is involved in any sites design, than just its
Name is everything, from the business name, down to the page titles. Say what you do right up front, and then give it to them, full fill the promise your name implies. Know who your viewer is, not only for now, but their future needs as well. Consider all the possible viewers, not just your intended target. Give your customer good service, and learn from what they are looking for, then give it to them. If you can not provide it, send them somewhere to where they can get it, and they will remember you for that service.