So Your Website Shouldn’t Emulate CNN or Fox
“Focus your message.” That’s what professional writers and newspaper editors tell you. Don’t make your readers work for the message — give it to them straight. When it comes to your business website, the advice is unsurprisingly the same: focus your message.
While main news websites like CNN, Fox News, BBC, and USA Today tell their writers to focus their message, they don’t always follow their same advice when it comes to their websites. Their front pages are a conglomeration of stories that each compete for your eye when you visit. You really need to work to find what’s important to you.
What News Sites Get Right
News organizations are designed to please everyone; they want to satisfy all the demographics with one product. And in their own way, news websites do follow the “focus your message” advice, despite the plethora of competing stories and the mix of ads and editorials:
- News sites effectively compartmentalize departments.
- Large headings draw your eyes to the biggest stories first.
- White space plays a role in guiding your eyes.
- Placement indicates, however subtly, what’s more important.
News websites have to organize their content so you can find the stories you’re looking for. The most important stories are at the top of the page and to the left, delineated by the largest heading. If you want the sports scores, you know to go to the Sports section. And of course, all news sites have a robust search feature.
What News Sites Get Wrong
If you’re used to news websites, you’ve learned how to get around, but to a newbie, the pages are a mishmash of words and pictures. Instead of focusing their message, it seems more like they’re throwing everything on the page to see what sticks. And in a way, that’s exactly what they’re doing — in hopes you’ll find what you’re looking for.
The front page of any news site just seems to keep going and going as you scroll down. One story after another. Videos. Advertisements. Links. Headlines. It can be overwhelming. And most days, the biggest news story isn’t obvious. Readers often give up or give in to the shortcut of the Search field.
Focus Your Message
When you look at your own business website, ask yourself how focused it is. Are you delivering one message or ten? Does your content compete with itself? When you first open your website, where are your eyes drawn?
Your website message should be clear, consistent and focused. Unless you’re trying to offer something for everyone, you can’t afford to throw copy on the wall hoping something sticks. When visitors arrive at your website, they should be able to tell right away what your company does, the benefits your company offers and the reasons to buy from you. Your website content must focus your message, boiling it down to its essence.
The Purpose of Your Home Page
Today’s website designs allow for long pages. With a lengthy home page, you have the space to identify your target audience, answer common questions and explain the advantages of your products or services. You need that space to differentiate your business from your competitors. If you don’t have much content on your home page, apart from photos, you’re missing an opportunity.
Ultimately, your website has a purpose: to generate phone calls and emails from your next customers. If it’s not doing that, then you need to change it. Populate your home page with compelling content. Just don’t mimic a news website. Focus your message.