Saturday, 16 June 2012

Life As Fiction: Telling Your Story

There's no way to get round it: life is a fiction.

Language is one of the tools we use to tell it. And life stories are a means of explanation.

The only useful attribute to life - once all the others such as food, warmth, shelter and reproduction are taken care of - is imagination.

Writing can be sterile, wordy, informative rather than creative. Look at the great ads. The best way to get that emotional link with the reader is through a fiction - Compare the 'meerkats'. Soap operas. Film. Books. All our entertainment is in stories.

Your life is a narrative. That's why genealogy is so popular. Life is a story. People will confuse you with words, but reality doesn't exist. Science can't nail it. You're making it up as you go along.

Or should be.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

5 Steps to Website Heaven

Here's a list of five points to consider when designing and writing copy for the home page of a web site:
  • Contrast
  • Tone of Voice
  • Stress BENEFITS not features
  • Have a great Headline or Slogan
  • Simple and Meaningful Navigation
Your potential customer will alight from his or her travels across the Internet onto your page, looking for your product or wisdom. If they don't find what they want in about 3 seconds they'll step off onto a competitor's site.

You don't want that do you? Your competitor, whose services, prices, products or information you know to be inferior to yours, taking your potential customer just because they have a more pertinent landing page?

Of course not. So here are five things you need to have, or put right on your home page. They are, in no particular order (which means they are all as important as each other):


Contrast

Don't make your text or headings so grey they can't be read properly. if your reader has 20/20 vision, are young or have been blessed with great eyesight, it won't be a problem. But that's not most of us. Most people have been staring at screens too long. Their eyes are tired, it's late at night, or they are on a laptop with a fading display. Light grey text, coupled with a too-small font size is bad news.

And contrast applies to the site design in general. Use simple colour schemes. Have plenty of space between elements. Try to incorporate one or two relevant pictures. Employ consistency across the site. Make the visit a comfortable one for the visitor and they are likely to stay.

Tone of Voice

This will be dictated in part by the corporate image or the style of the business. A solicitor will want a different tone to a hair stylist. But there is no excuse for flat, dull content. Make it lively and interesting. And don't write for search engines, write for PEOPLE.

The copy on your website must speak to one reader. Use a good copywriter rather than the boss's son, or worse, the boss himself. Copywriters are trained to write personally. You must address the one person who is on your site at any particular time. Make them feel wanted. Invite them in. Share some information with them. Encourage them, bond with them. Do anything you can to make them feel wanted. Connect them emotionally with your service or product or company.

Stress Benefits not Features

This is the thing that's often overlooked. Stress the benefits of your service or product rather than its features.

First you have to understand what the benefits are. Take time to work it out for your product or service. In a sit-on lawnmower for example, an 18 horse-power engine is not a benefit, it's a feature. The fact that the lawn will take less time to cut is the benefit. Time-saving, cost reduction, longer life, cleaner teeth are all benefits. Stress the benefits first and add the features later.

Slogan/Headline

Get a memorable slogan. Put it on all your communication - website, letterheads, e-newsletters. Think of all the great adverts past and present. Beanz Meanz Heinz. Shake and Vac and put the Freshness Back. Think rhyme and rhythm. Think memorable, humorous, snappy. Get that copywriter to do it for you. One day that slogan may be worth millions. Make it shine.

Navigation

Navigation. It's how people get around. We're talking menus, buttons, even arrows if you need them. Make sure your visitor can find his or her way around your site.

That means you have to think of the whole site when you start planning it. Use meaningful tabs for the menu headings. Don't forget the contrast either - white text on light blue is not readable. Put the menu in a prominent place on every page of the site. Maybe in one or two places.

Lastly, have a tab to complete the sale. This means that whatever you want the visitor to buy, make sure you know where they can do that. After you have sold them the benefits, engaged them in your product, got the snappy slogan ringing in their head and detailed all the features of your wonderful gizmo or offer, SHOW THEM WHERE THEY CAN GET IT!

And don't be shy.