Category Archives: Web

Website Writing: Why You Hate Your Website

Website Writing: Tips to Love

4 of 5 people hate their websites. With the strength of today’s pre-formatted templates, it’s not about graphics. And it’s no longer about features either. The culprit: website writing that sucks. So here’s a few tips to perfect your prose:

1. Know Your Story

It’s amazing how many folks can’t articulate their business vision. If you’re a business, Vision is the beginning, middle and end of your story. Mechanically, it’s a simple statement about who you help, what they get and the “secret sauce” you use to deliver value. Yes, it’s simple ~ once you get there. But simple essence requires deep thinking and shedding blinders. For example, thinking about customers first is easier said than done as you’re generally buried in day-to-day nuts and bolts. The fact is, it’s really hard to assume and maintain the customer’s viewpoint. Customer-centric planning is the opposite of doing customer service. The former is predictive and ahead of customer interaction. The latter is reactive like in customer complaints. Blue sky vs. digging trenches. Visioning is often run as a retreat to have the space to create a proactive attack strategy before getting into the heat of the battle.

Blue Sky visioning tip: position to serve your best customers. Many businesses will sell to anyone who walks through their doors. But smarter businesses define most desirable customers and special for them. You’ll lower your costs, make marketing easy and ultimately sell more. That’s a good combo.

2. Know Their Story

Great website writers know their customers’ stories. Why? Because writing in their language means a higher chance they’ll get what you’re saying. Plus, if wanna hit their “Hot Buttons” you better get inside their heads. A tip: think “persona.” A persona is a character sketch that’s really specific. It might even include a name and picture of a typical person in the class. Personas help you get specific and provide a face for your marketing folks to talk to.

Beyond personas, how do you really get to know your customer’s wants and needs? Simple. Just ask. We do this as a consulting process. It’s called a Voice of Customer Survey. You ask what turns them on. What they feel about your company. What emotions come up when thinking of your company. The compiled answers usually startle management. We all think we see the entire world before us. But business, like the world, is not flat. And other point of views as big as hemispheres are most certainly out there beyond sight. So while you might think your business is one thing, your customer may see something entirely different Strive to see what they see. When you get there, the clouds will part and you’ll bask in the warm light of success.  Everyone, including you, will know when you’ve arrived. In business, their story is your story.

3. Be Transparent

These days we’re all stalk-able. It’s a two-edged sword. On the one hand, your market costs go way down and your market range expands. On the other hand, anything can, and will, be found out about you and your business. This trend will not reverse. So the sooner you embrace transparency, the sooner you’ll gain traction on the better half and manage the downside of the other.

Ten years ago, consultants were looked down up. Now, it’s accepted practice to be small, nimble and meet at coffee shops. You no longer have to look big to be big. With that in mind, why make a website that talks in the royal “we”? Yeah, you see that all the time. Faceless and trying to look large. But we all have huge antennae and amazingly sensitive BS meters. Cut the bull. Get real. Your best long-term customers will love you for it.

4. Less is More

In web writing, less is more. The goal is to be direct and simple. Really simple. Get down to basics. Use less words. Less syllables. Words that kids can read. Short sentences.  Really? Yes: even single words. In website writing, grammatical fanciness is not the goal. Readability is.

In particular, you should pay most attention to the short pieces. Page names. Headers. Slogans. Short descriptions. Surfers skim on the web, so you should write for them. Put your most important stuff first. Search engines also approximate skimming by giving more weight to short formats. To win the 80/20 battle in SEO (search engine optimization), all you have to do is write smartly. That’s the 80 part. The 20 is in creating links from others’ sites (“backlinks”) and optimizing page content. The truth is, it’s getting hard and harder to game the search engines. They have all the resources in the world to perfect their search algorithms. At the same time, web engines (CMS ~ content management systems) are getting better and better at automating optimized page content, so what’s left is for you to simply write well. Know what you want to say and say it efficiently.

Finally, there’s the art of poetic style. Most specifically, consider the art of the metaphor. Writing with metaphors is like painting pictures in others’ heads. They allow you to hang complex ideas on a framework that’s easy to navigate and easy to remember. Metaphors also make language colorful and fun. Metaphors in website writing are your key to creating a masterpiece.

Still not confident that you can write it yourself? Not a surprise. Writing hurts. If you want help, contact us or see website writing services.

ENOUGH!  If you enjoyed this post PLEASE SHARE IT WITH OTHERS WHO NEED A SWIFT KICK IN THEIR WRITING RUMP!

Website Design: 3 Tips to Success

Hate your website? Most do. But making a great website design is easier than ever. Varying degrees of fanciness can optimize your site, but 80/20 principle benefits come from just telling the honest truth in a transparent manner. Here’s some tips to keep it real:

1. Template Your Way to the Top

Don’t be fooled. Old-skool geeks love to do website design from the ground up. They revel in their ability to see “The Matrix” through the code. But it makes more sense to start with a pre-built template. Tens of thousands of pre-built templates exist now. there are so many that they now have to be catalogued by industry category. Thus, there’s a template that’s perfect for your business model.

For example, we’re working on a site now at BizIsland.com, a calendar site that lists business help events around our hometown, Honolulu. The knee-jerk response was to buy a convention site template. There’s a lot of them. But no cigar. Convention sites are designed for only a few days of activities. Thus while many features were good, others were lacking. Brain-fart of the day: use a church site theme. Church you say? Yep. Church website templates are designed to run events year-round. Like Bible study. And sermons. Better yet, they have donate buttons built-in (BizIsland.com is a non-profit program is). Simple success.

2. Scratch the Graphics

The other half of the old-skool guard are the graphic designers. guys that could push Photoshop and Illustrator. They delighted in making cute wrappers and containers. Cute tiling backgrounds to take up the extra side space. And cute animated graphics. But now smart phone website viewing is on the rise and trending. There’s no side space to waste any longer. And those fancy containers with content are unreadable at smart phone size.

New requirements for readability on small devices has resulted in the move to full-width formats. You should now think of plastering huge pictures wall-to-wall so they can be read when shrunk down to phone size.

But there’s still a place for a great logo in a website design. Where? It’s best floating over the top left of the navigation bar or over the first feature full-width picture. You logo is actually more useful in social media as an avatar or on print collateral. But it’s good for consistency sake to include it in your website design so viewers know they’ve arrived at the right place.

3. Get the Words Right

The new mantra in copy is: say more with less. Heck, most folks skim rather than read. And the search engines know this so their algorithms look for word that get the point and are easy to skim. The goal is to delight humans and to score well in search algorithms.

Put the important stuff up front so skimmers can get through it fast. You might even highlight the first few words of each paragraph to make it “like duh” easy to skim.

For Internet writing, fragments and even single words are fine. Why? Because it’s more readable to humans and the search engines. Short words and short sentences rank high. A rating system called Flesh Reading Score ranks written content on a scale of 1 to 120. Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” ranks extremely high at 116. For most business information sites, ranking at 50-60 is fine as that’s readable for an average 13-15 year old. This post surprising ranks at 80.4. Not bad for a quick whack.

You should also optimize for keywords that you think your target audience will be searching for. Selecting best keywords begins with the art of knowing what you want to be… And it ends with potentially all kinds of technical stuff to optimize on those keywords. But the 80/20 principal is: know thy self and just be you… page-by-page. I.e., choose a keyword combination for each page or post and optimize that page to that keyword. For example, I chose “website design” as the keyword for this blog post. I then made sure to pepper it through the page name, title, first paragraph and a few more times down through the post.

BOTTOM LINE: Keep it real. Be transparent. Write simple. Say more with less.

 

IPH Web Dev Sprint

Congrats to Island Partners Hawai‘i crew for blowing this site out in just a few days! This is a very deep site that was done with a number of IPH staff lead by Tony Vericella over a long weekend to make a key deadline.

IPH

Web Development Sprint

This site was a revamp of a 40-page site that we accomplished in our brand new development format we call a Web Development Sprint. In such format, we start by creating a “sandbox” development site, then import existing content followed by tidying up navigation structure and adding notes for non-technical participants to add content.

Non-Tech Folks Doing Site Content

Client staff are then invited in to take up content assignments as noted in the development site. We provide a web tech and content expert to help client staff through tough spots. Depending upon the amount and complexity of content, 1-3 days is typical for content crafting.

Once the Sprint is done, Client staff are invited to create a punch list for technical staff to handle. Once punch list is complete, the site is launched.

Built-in Training

By non-tech staff participating in the Sprint, they’re not only getting your biz ahead, but also getting hours of practical hands-on training on web content crafting.

When to Launch a Site

These days, with clients able to manipulate their own site content, websites are “living” documents. That means you should launch your site as soon as its better than the existing site. You can make changes  anytime, so just keep pushing the content out.

Congrats again to IPH for being among the first to do a true Sprint!



ChefZone Comes to Life!

StoryManager is proud to have played a part in bringing ChefZone to life. ChefZone is a new foodservice concept that took over 2 years of planning and development to create a business sized to do $100M a year through a 45,000sf facility in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. This was an epic feat of new business modeling that is a multi-million dollar flyer for holding company Y. Hata & Co.

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For our part, we applied BizGym.com, our online entrepreneur’s startup and growth app to create the ChefZone business plan and opening financial forecasts, then dug in deep to create the ChefZone brand (name & logo identity), website, facility design and promote social media.

We honor the guts and gonades of owner Russell Hata and his gang of merry business makers. It’s a bodacious move that few would attempt and one that we’re particularly proud to have been a part of!

For the full story, see this local news feature



3 Tips to Basic Social Media

I had acai bowls this morning with one of my best friends. Like many, he seeks to leverage the awesomeness of Social Media for his professional association. Now I’m no Rob Bertholf, but my simple advice on basic Social seems a helpful approach for lay-folks. So rather than write an email to my friend, I thought I’d just throw down a post.

Back to my friend, this morning he was abuzz with, “OMG, there’s so much to ingest about Social but we have soooo many Big Ideas about this or that and how to get everyone talking about US!…” I could just see those panties bunching up his crack. Common issue, right?

So I looked at their website including watching a super long intro video. After the reel, I found myself raising my hand like Tom Hanks in Big uttering, “I don’t get it.” Of course the thought bubble over my head was, “What the frick! I look at a website, watch a video and I still don’t get it. OMG! Seriously!!???!”

My straight-faced advice: gear your website to lay-people. What does this have to do with Social? To be Social, you gotta have something folks can talk about. So cut the jargon. And talk to PEOPLE. Then they can “like” and “share” what you have to say.

The 80/20 principle of Social is 80% great content, 20% other fancy stuff.  On the Internet and in Social, CONTENT IS KING so provide content that your target audience wants. All that stuff about gaming search engines and fancy Social initiatives can be regarded as Phase 2. Take this to heart: Google is really smart, so you’re better off spending your life force being helpful with what you know rather than trying to game a mega billion dollar ultra-egg-heady set of geeks on their turf. Thus, for Phase 1, play where you have game and come from the heart ~ that leads to Social Success. To wit: Here’s 3 tips to winning at basic Social:

1. Create a Strategy Around Being Helpful

“Strategy” may sound technical and fancy, but the basic winning principle to Social is really seeing and feeling your audience. Online Social is no different that cocktail party socializing. It’s so simple: see, interact, share, love, ask. Just be human. Be cool. Be nice. You might even sex it up for extra traction. By contrast, look back on your website to see if it’s any of those things. Like NOT! Right?

More specficially try this: put on your customer’s hat and search for intel on your website. What keywords would you use to search their problems? What pain-points might they have in mind to seek answers for? Get into their heads and understand their angsts and aspirations. Being Social begins with understanding who your audience is and what they need.

2. Create Helpful Content

Content includes your site’s navigational scheme. Your site should be wired to allow for easy access to answers: i.e.,  guide surfers from a perceived problem down through tips, recommendations and solutions.

For example, blogs are designed to organize and deliver advice as they allow viewers to easily find relevant information. Knowing that, just spew your thoughts into posts and folks who need your perspective will find it. Social experts call this being “authoritative” which is the first step toward precipitating visitation and sharing ~ remember, CONTENT IS KING so have the goods and build them into accessible fashion to gain eyeballs.

3. Connect With Those Who Need Your Help

The rest is easy. Once you have bitchin’ content, you just need to get it into the right channels. Folks will in turn refer your content to others in need. The Holy Grail of Social is to get others “sharing” your stuff. So keep in mind that anyone who shares content is generally endorsing it, thus starting from an attitude of helpfulness resonates all the way through the process.

Case in point: I’m hoping this post was helpful to my friend. If so, he will read all the way to here, “Share” it with his association and ideally “Comment” below that he has deep gratitude for my awesomeness in taking the time to pick the fabric out of his you-know-what… BOOM! Mission accomplished.

Bottom Line: Helpfulness = “Likes” & “Shares”

Be helpful. Have heart. Be likable. You’ll gain Social traction and that all important “share.” For Phase 1, set aside the fancy stuff ~ Just create useful content. After that, if you get an appetite for more, consider a Phase 2 Social Media Audit to pimp out your content and evaluate optimal next steps.