Agencies once had the luxury of being able to explain to a potential prospect what they did and how they did it either in person or over the phone. That first contact was one in which agencies could craft their message specifically for the prospect. Now, however, that level of control is gone. People constantly evaluate your firm based solely on your website.
When presenting these ideas to an agency recently, I displayed an agency site that had been quite successful as a marketing site. The creative director happened to be in the room, and he challenged me on the merits of the site I showed, saying that he thought the particular page I displayed was boring and certainly would not earn the respect of anyone coming to the site and vetting the agency on their creative merits. For me, one of the best parts of giving presentations is the participation from the group to whom I am presenting. The questions, challenges, and affirmations I hear usually end up being the highlights of the talk. In this instance, the creative director’s comment offered a great opportunity for me to speak about one of the most subtle, important, and misunderstood details of how the agency website works.
The page I displayed was a blog post, and, as an element of the site’s content strategy, its job fell neatly on the “inform” side of things. There will be pages on your site that primarily function to inform, and others to inspire. Agencies frequently believe that every element on every page must exude creativity so that a visitor to the site can admire how much attention they paid to every little detail of their site’s design.
The problem with this approach is that all those considered design elements can end up getting in the way of what the visitor is trying to do on your site. I am not saying that the design of your site does not matter. The point is that the site’s creativity should not get in the way of the ultimate goal of the site. I recommend viewing your site as a sparse and functional canvas upon which you portray only your best work and most compelling thoughts. Inspire your visitors by the work in your portfolio, but not necessarily by the creativity of the portfolio itself.
Content does not have to be aesthetically boring, does it? Take it as a design challenge to figure out how to make a blog post or a white paper beautiful without distracting from the content. Saying that “we cannot have content pages on our site because they are boring” is not a sustainable excuse.
Beyond the basic point that your site ought to inspire your visitors, it is not my place to tell you how to go about designing your site or its portfolio. The Content Strategy section details exactly how to create a site that excels at informing your site visitors about your firm’s expertise.
This post is an excerpt from my book, "A Website That Works."