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How to Build Best-in-Class Websites with an Editorial Ethos

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Great developers and web design shops can do the job, but a shiny wrapper is only half the battle. Here’s the real secret to creating websites that drive meaningful ROI.

If I were to ask you about your favorite author of all time, what would you say? Are you a Leo Tolstoy or a Shakespeare fan? Ernest Hemingway? Virginia Woolf? Or would you freely admit that it’s J.K. Rowling?

Regardless of the era, genre, subject matter, or approach, what do all successful novelists have in common? With a few exceptions (see James Joyce), they have the ability to craft a cohesive narrative that engages and informs the reader on a deep and meaningful level.

That same principle applies to any marketing collateral – it has to have a narrative that compels audiences to engage. If you’re thinking about building a new website for your business, here’s why you should consider, for lack of a better expression, taking a page out of great writers’ collective book.

A Bad Website Is a Book No One Wants to Finish

Across nearly every vertical, the buyer’s journey primarily takes place online. It’s likely that your website will not only be a prospect’s first window into your company, but also their primary touchpoint throughout the sales funnel.

Just as a skilled writer pays close attention to the structure of an argument in their essay, every detail matters when you’re trying to convince a site visitor to become a potential customer.

Sure, flashy design is great for getting a potential client’s attention, but what do you do once you have it? Obviously the substance has to be there — but just as important as what you say is how, when, and where you say it.

For example, you need to be able to create a short, snappy tagline that’s both inspiring and informative enough to pique a visitor’s interest; understand how to best convey information across different sections of your site in accordance with the expectations of your specific target demographic; and make sure you’re writing in a way that resonates with your audience instead of alienating them.

What’s more, all of these elements need to work together seamlessly. That means ensuring your messaging is not only consistent and engaging, but that it also imparts a comprehensive yet efficient sense of your value proposition. The goal here is to motivate your prospect to continue down a logical and frictionless path towards conversion — in other words, you want them to finish reading your novel.

The Elements of Style, 2.0

Plenty of writers are capable of coming up with an interesting story idea, but what separates the greats from the not-so-greats is the execution. How is the story organized? In what sequence are ideas presented? Does the reader get to the end of the novel with a sense of understanding and satisfaction — or do they want their $21.95 back from the airport bookstore?

The most effective websites strike a balance between engaging messaging and user experience (UX) design. You need to make sure your UX is so simple that your mom, dad, Aunt Sallie — even Grandpa — could make it through the customer journey. How intuitive is your site structure? Is your navigation bar clearly labeled? Does your site feature interactive elements (and do they actually work)? Is there a conversion opportunity featured prominently on every page? While optimizing your site’s design and structure requires more time and effort, failing to do so will prevent you from harnessing its full power as a sales tool.

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to look for typos and other errors. Check your site on different desktops, laptops, mobile phones, and browsers (we’re looking at you, Internet Explorer) to make sure it renders properly across all devices; test every link to avoid 404s; make sure your contact forms are connected to the right email address(es); and of course, proofread your copy to make sure there are no literal typos.

If you want your site to be a “bestseller,” you need more than just a flashy cover. You need a cohesive narrative that pulls the reader in and convinces them to finish the book – or in this case, buy your product or service.

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