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Websites, not as easy as they look

I've had a holding page for a very long time now. Not a website, just a link to my twitter and LinkedIn feeds, but enough to show I'm a real person (sort of). Like one of the cobblers children, I never had time to consider building something for myself, while helping others with their marketing and online adventures.

Then [gawr-juhs] came along and behold, I am soon to be a real entity, with an official site. It's a bit like walking in your first pair of heels - you've seen it all before and it looks easy enough but it takes time to walk gracefully. Despite years of experience I'm finding my own website build much harder than I'd expected.

It's definitely a work in progress, so I thought I'd share my journey and what I've learned so far.

Problem #1
Writing about yourself sucks.
 
Whether you're a 'solopreneur' or an SME, writing about yourself is tricky and quickly becomes a list of facts and features which might make a CV proud, but will put your customers to sleep.

Solution
I had a friend interview me and summarize what she heard. Speaking your answers saves your vocabulary from business speak and helps you perfect your pitch all at the same time.  Genius.  Finding someone supportive to work through this exercise with, is a great way to test your differentiators and discover whether your unique selling points really exist. (I can highly recommend http://www.aweebirdie.com/)


Problem #2
First impressions count.
 
You can generally control what you wear, say and do when you meet a new client in person, but online your website or more specifically the page people land on, can be make or break in helping them decide to read on or bounce. You have approximately 3 seconds to make an impact. Eek!

Solution
Think about the websites that are most appealing to you. How much of the appeal is visual? Which elements of the layout, look and feel, grab you? Now, imagine your ideal client. Think of them in as much detail as you can. What's likely to turn them on/off? It might help to consider alternative websites they could be visiting, so that you can replicate navigation, location of search and any other key elements. I had an excel sheet with 3 columns - sites I like, why I like them, what level of importance my clients might give them.  If you're part of an SME, it would be worth asking several team members to go through the same exercise.


Problem #3
A perfect website is never live. 
In other words, you can spend months 'tweaking' the finer points and remain invisible to the world in the process, or you can work on a 'good enough' policy and refine in situ.

Solution
While your website is an important part of customer perception you can thankfully supplement your efforts via blogging and social media. Remember that different audiences read different media and in my own experience, my RSS feeder regularly delivers information, which lets me by-pass a number of worthy websites.

Good luck to those of you who share my pain .......
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