Three Questions every webpage should answer, #3: Why should I care?

Why Should I Care?

One more question every webpage should answer – #3: “Why should I care?”

This one comes from my library’s Executive Director, Gina Millsap. Another way to ask this question is “Why would I want to do that?” or “What’s in it for me?”

This is where your PR, marketing and promotion skills come into play. Why? Because you need to sell your content to your customers.

Selling? I hate selling – I’m a librarian, for peet’s sake!

Yep – I get that. But just putting information about something up on a website doesn’t mean people will attend that event, read that blog post, or check out that book. Sometimes we need to go a bit further, and work on convincing our customers to take those next actions I talked about in my last post.

The goal on a website is to move people from point A to point B – from reading a book review to actually checking out the book, for example. This isn’t selling as in “smarmy used-car salesman” selling … but it IS a form of selling, and a good organization learns to do this – on posters, in person, and even on our websites.

Answering “why” can be as simple as a brief explanation on why something is useful. For example – why should I apply for a library card? Because you get to read all your favorite books, and check out movies … for free! And you have already paid for it anyway (via taxes).

Look around your website, and see if you are answering the “why should I care” question. If not – rework your content so this question is answered up-front and often.

Three Questions every webpage should answer, #1: What can I do here?

Question #1Ever visited a webpage, then looked around, wondering “what can I do here?”

If you have … that web designer failed!

I think every webpage should answer the question “what can I do here?” either visually, or by spelling it out:

  • Visually: design in such a way that the stuff you can do on a page, like clicking a button, filling in a text box, or even just reading or watching content, is extremely noticeable. Amazon does this by using complimentary colors that “pop” out on the page. They often use blue as a header or sidebar color, but the buttons they really want you to see (ie, the “buy now” button) are orange – a complimentary color.
  • Spelling it out: Use words, colors, graphics, etc to “spell it out” for people – tell or show website visitors what to do on the page. For example, we try to do this at my library’s website. The main page directs people to “Get a Library Card,” “Donate Now,” “Find Stuff,” “Ask a Librarian,” or Subscribe to our blog posts. People know what to do on our site, because we direct them.

On your library’s website, do people know “What can I do here” when they visit the main page? How about the catalog page, the “you didn’t find anything” page, or on your blog? At the comment box? On your Facebook Page even?

Think about it … and make sure to answer the question “What can I do here?”

Is the Web Modern Yet?

Today’s web is the “modern web” – css, HTML5 coming soon, websites designed with grids, lots of functionality. Yes-sirree, this is the modern web.

Just like this was a modern car:

This “modern car” could’t move fast enough for today’s modern highways (top speeds of 40-45 mph), wasn’t automatic, and didn’t have a/c, radio, or an iPod hookup. Or windows, for that matter. But I’m guessing that to the buyer back then, it was a pretty modern car, and a major change for them. They had to figure out the details of the change – i.e., what should we do with Bessie the horse? Where do we park it? Where do we get gas? How do we maintain it?

My point? That’s where the web is today – roughly 20 years after the first web page went online, we have today’s “modern” web. It certainly looks pretty modern to us, much like those cars from 1927 probably looked to the buyer.

Guess what? Much like that Model T … I don’t think we’re done yet. With websites or with libraries.

Car photo from Wikipedia

Answer these Questions for your Website

We’re in the midst of a website redesign for our library. As we start looking at content, links, buttons, headings, etc – stuff like that – you know what we’re thinking?

We’re thinking this: does this link/content/heading/etc answer these questions for our customers?

  • What can I do here?
  • What can I do next?
  • Why should I care?

Answering these are really hard! Think about it for a sec – take a pretty normal link, like the library web designer’s favorite – “Library Databases.” Answering that “what can I do here” question certainly gets into how you label that section of your website (’cause we all know that “Library Databases” means nothing). Perhaps something like “Find articles” or “do some research” might work better?

Or think about a blog post – answering the “what can I do next” question can be as easy as linking to a set of related articles, topics, or even related books at the end of the post. I do this on my blog – when you’re reading it on the actual website, when you finish reading the article, you’ll see a list of related blog posts I wrote. What’s this get you? Website visitors staying on your site for longer amounts of time. More clicks. Hopefully, more conversions – more people clicking “attend this event” or checking out a book, etc.

“Why should I care” is a favorite one of our library director, and it’s probably the hardest of the three questions to answer. One way to do this is in the content itself. So your first couple of questions get the customer to your content … and then your content itself will need to answer that “why should I care” thing.

The answer could be any number of things, ranging from “because you can borrow it for free” to “because you’re a small business owner, and these resources will help you be profitable.” See where I’m going with this? Another way to say “why should I care” is to ask “what’s in it for me” or “why is this interesting?” Give them that reason.

Give your customers a reason to stay on your site by having great content AND by actually telling them why they might want to stay. Do that, and my guess is that … they actually WILL stay on your site – your digital banch – longer, doing more things.

Could be a good thing!

pic by Marco Bellucci

Building the Digital Branch – A Webinar for ALA Techsource

Yesterday, I gave a webinar for the ALA Techsource folks on building digital branches … and here are my slides for that.

Enjoy!

Update – Slideshare was having problems when I posted this, so I deleted the slideshare version and started over. This time, it works. Yay!