The 10 Laws of Good Websites

by Joe Fontenot
This is an adaptation from my new book, Minimalist Marketing: How Entrepreneurs and Nonprofits are Reaching Their Audience Without a Marketing Budget.

The 10 Laws of Good Websites

For most of us, our website is our first impression to our audience. But unfortunately, that first impression is quick. Usually just a few seconds. So it’s important that we make a good first impression fast.
But how do you do that? This article looks at the 10 laws of good websites. Apply these to your website and begin turning visitors into customers.

1. It’s not about your brand

The hard one’s always first, right?
In short, your website is not about you. It’s about your audience. If your website is all about you, you’re like that guy at the party who only ever talks about himself. At best, that’s boring. And at worst, you’ve got everyone looking for an exit strategy. This is not how you want to position your brand.
Instead, your website needs to be about your audience. Where does what you offer intersect with what they need? That is your content. When you stick to this, you will be infinitely relevant.


2. Have a single objective

This is your direct call to action. What is it that you want people to do when they get to your site? Or, better yet, if you could only pick one thing, what would it be?
Many brands get distracted here. They want their visitors to do too much. But if your visitors will only be on your site for a few seconds, a minute or two at most, they’re not going to do all of that stuff. If they do anything at all, it’s going to be one thing.
Go ahead and pick that for them. And make it the most impactful thing.


3. Have a path

Once you have your one thing, your objective, create a path for your visitors to follow.
A good path has strong markers. It’s easy to get lost in the woods (or–to step out of my analogy for a moment–to get distracted with the dozen other tabs open in your browser). And so you need to repeat your direct call to action clearly and frequently.
Do this when you talk about your services. Do it when you talk about other clients you’ve worked for. And do it when you’re overcoming objections. Each time, you are giving them reasons to buy. Doesn’t it make sense to keep those markers of how to buy, clearly in sight?


4. Don’t forget the soft commitment

But not everyone is ready to buy-buy-buy now. In fact, most of your visitors (who showed up to your site on purpose) probably fall into this middle category. They may like your work, but maybe today isn’t the right day. So what now?
This is where your soft commitment, or in-direct call to action, comes in. By accepting your soft commitment, your audience is telling you: I’m not ready today, but I may be tomorrow.
So what is a soft commitment? In most cases it’s some form of email list. It’s a way to continue talking to them, without requiring them to make a buy-now decision yet. Over time, they will get to know you better and eventually buy.


5. Spell out how to get started

This is different from your direct call to action. In this case, you want to simplify the process. Like, “it’s as easy as one-two-three.” Don’t laugh, this really works.
By spelling out the basic steps to do business with you, you are cutting through the noise your audience is hearing. They don’t have to stop and think–you’ve just done all that for them. Let them know how to start. Don’t make them figure it out.


6. Tell them what they get when they start

In addition to telling them how to start, tell them why they should start.
What’s in it for them? How will their life be better? Chances are, you’ve worked that out a long time ago. That’s why you’re doing what you’re doing. But just hanging up a shingle and a for-sale sign is not the same as communicating value.
What makes what you do special? What convenience do you provide? What need do you solve? And how is what they’ll give up to get your product or service a good deal for them? Answer these questions on your website. Most of your competitors aren’t.

7. Tell them how others have benefited from getting started

In a word, this is about testimonials.
Testimonials signify that your audience’s peers have tried you (and, in fact, like you!). It’s social proof.
But here’s the thing, you don’t need a lot. Just a few good (and short) testimonials is all you need.

8. A way to experience your product now

This can be trickiest of them all. How can you let your visitors experience your product before they buy it?
It’s the trickiest because it really depends on exactly who your audience is and what your product or service is. For instance, if you’re in retail and you sell physical things, it may be an in-depth video or a lush return policy. If you’re a nonprofit or a church, where time or action are your direct call to action, it could be a blog or eBook that discusses values you and your audience have in common.
Whatever it is, don’t skip this. Do yourself (and your brand) a favor and camp out on this one. Think hard about what you can do to let your visitors experience your world today, even before they leave your website.

9. Use an editor

I don’t mean a spell-checker (though, get one of those, too). I mean someone who can objectively look at your site and say: cut all this stuff over here. You need someone you trust who is not emotionally attached to your business to help you stay on track.

10. Add a little bit of failure

This is about what will happen if your audience decides to pass on your offering.
Without failure, there are no stakes. And if there are no stakes, then why should they buy? It’s like telling your audience: don’t worry, what I’m offering isn’t that important. If you don’t buy it, you’re life won’t be any different. Clearly this is not the message you’re going for.
But on the other hand, a website full of failure is depressing. There’s a line. Don’t overdo it. But don’t skip it either.

What’s Next

If your website needs some help (or is non-existent), schedule a call and we can talk about a plan to move forward.