By Terri Picone, guest blogger, attended The Christian Writer’s Coach Technology Conference sponsored by NCWA.
I attended the Laura Christianson’s workshop to learn how to improve my website. Laura owns Blogging Bistro which designs websites as well as provides expertise on other social media services. Her qualifications to teach this workshop and enjoy a good cup of coffee speak for themselves. (And her webpage bloggingbistro.com illustrates both very well.)
Early on, Laura suggests we consider our brand. The obvious choice may be our name. This works for many, but always consider how long, simple, easy to spell, and memorable our choice for a brand is—name or not. And it’s wise to check, by doing a Google search, whether it already has other associations with it which we’d rather avoid. Once we know what our brand name is, we need to buy it.
Laura explains the importance of tying together our website and all we do (logo, blog, business cards) to show our brand, down to the font and colors we choose for them. Using continuity on all our branded products reinforces their impression about us. In fact, everything we do online represents who we are and what we stand for. We want to highlight what we want them to know and show our how we are unique so they can relate to us.
When setting up or evaluating our website, Laura suggests thinking about what we hope to accomplish with it. Getting our name out there? Our writing? Books? Speaking topics and availability? The design should accomplish our purpose which seems simple, but without planning, many websites just take up cyberspace and fall short.
Without planning, many websites take up cyberspace and fall short.
On every page a visitor opens, she should feel oriented and able to locate the most important thing for that page. Each page should carry only one call to action. Pages that are clutter-free with planned white space create a professional-looking website. Laura shares that visitors spend 80% of their time above the fold (the area which is seen without scrolling down) so that area needs to be well planned.
Other considerations for a webpage include how many pages are needed and which sidebar elements to use. The color scheme should be simple but reflect us, and limiting our websites to only a few basic fonts gives a professional appearance.
To read or not to read? Since a visitor makes a decision in seconds as to whether or not he will read the content, headlines are critical. Make the reader wonder, draw him in. Besides headlines, the overall impression, subheadings, bold words, and scan-able pages also contribute to his decision to read on or close the page. (A scan-able page is one that is quickly scanned by the reader.)
As far as content, the copy needs to be stellar. Sentences should focus on the reader’s needs. Christianson says to talk directly to the reader, keeping in mind he is asking himself, “What’s in it for me?” consciously or unconsciously as he reads.
I definitely gained some valuable information at Laura Christianson’s workshop. Her site (bloggingbistro.com) has many more free tips and resources plus the contact information for her professional services. If you get a chance to attend one of Laura Christianson’s workshops, you’ll learn a lot and, if you bring coffee, you’ll fit right in.
Terri Picone writes short stories and is (still) working on a novel. After homeschooling her three kids, she went back to college and got her English: Creative Writing degree in 2006. She’s a member of ACFW, Oregon Christian Writers, and Inland Northwest Christian Writers. The Technology Conference was her first NCWA Conference and she looks forward to others. She is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogs at www.terripicone.com.