Help Your Visitors Achieve Their Goals

In my previous blog post I made the point that clarifying the goals that you have for your website is an essential step in making sure the website you create is a success.

It is also important to be aware that the goals you want to achieve with your website are sometimes different from the goals of your visitors.

If you keep your visitors happy they will be more likely to browse your page for longer and hopefully decide to take the action that fulfills your goal as the website owner.

For instance, a common website goal is to collect names for a mailing list. This is not usually on the top of most visitors list of things to do so to achieve this goal we can take an educated guess as to what might the visitors goal might be.

Going back to the example I used in my previous post for site advertising a festival, you (as the festival organizer) may want to build up a mailing list of interested people that you can contact about future events. However perhaps your visitor only wants to find out when their favorite band is playing at the next festival.

To reconcile these goals you could offer a downloadable program which will give the visitor the information they are looking for. This information will probably not be available until close to the event so you can give the user the option to enter their email address so they can receive the program via email when it is available – which also adds the email address to the mailing list.

This fulfills the visitor and the website owners goals at the same time so everyone is happy.

To maximize your chances of making your website visitors happy, try taking some time to think about all the possible goals that your visitor might have other than your own goals for the website.

If you or your web designer can think of a way of combining the action that achieve your visitors goals with the action that achieves your own goals you are much more likely to create a successful website.

Clarify Your Goals for a Website That Works

Some time ago I wrote about the most important thing you need to know before setting up a website – a clear overall purpose.

In this post I’d like to suggest the next step to take while you plan your new website.

Once you are clear on the overall purpose of your website it’s time to think about how the website will achieve this purpose. What will your website help your visitors do to make this happen?

Usually you can identify one or more outcomes or goals which if achieved will fulfil the purpose of the website. For example, say you wanted to set up a website for a music festival.

The overall purpose of a music festival website is most likely to make the event is a success so the attendees have a great time and the festival organisers and acts can get paid and go on to put on or play at more events.

How could our website help achieve this?

It could:

  • Encourage more people to come by make the festival look good.
  • Announce the line up of acts playing at the festival to attract the fans of those acts.
  • Explain how to get there, where to stay and what to expect so that no one is put off by the logistics of attending the festival.
  • Sell tickets online. The easier it is for the visitors the more likely they are to buy.

If the website achieves these goals then tickets will be sold and the website will have done it’s job.

So now that we have a plan of how the website will achieve it’s purpose we can use this to decide how to structure the website. Ideally each page of the website will help the visitor achieve one of these goals. In our example a simple solution could be:

  •  A home page that uses photography, video and audio of a previous event to show people what a great time they will have
  • A page with a detailed line-up and perhaps a programme
  • A page giving directions, accommodation information and other general informatio
  • A page to sell tickets.

Once you have this structure you can continue to work out what information and media would work best on which section of the website.

Clarifying your website goals in this way will help you take your overall purpose and turn it into a plan for an effective website.

Note: This is a simplified example which I hope will help you plan your own website. There is of course a lot more that a festival website could do for the organisers and the attendees and I will be writing more about this in future articles.

If you liked this article please share it with anyone who you think might benefit from reading it and feel free to comment if you have something to add.

Thanks for reading!

The Most Important Thing You Need To Know Before Starting a Website

The World Wide Web is an amazing invention. Growing at an exponential rate there are billions of websites on every conceivable topic. Pages can contain any form of media, from plain old text to digital art, photography, spoken word audio, music, animation, video, 3D virtual worlds. The capabilities of what a website can do get more impressive every day.

It’s easy for your website idea to get lost in a maze of features, functions, bells and whistles.

Your website can have all the features in the world, but the only way it can be a success is to have a definite purpose.

If you have an idea for a website, stop and think before you hire a web designer or get busy with the latest web authoring tool.

What is the purpose of your site? Are you conveying a particular message? Selling a product? What are the visitors to your site looking for?

Are you putting on an event? Then the event information should be front and center so your visitors can see at a glance where they need to be this Friday.

Are you selling a product? The first thing your visitor should see is why they need what you are selling.

You only have a fraction of a second to get a person’s attention on the web. Fail to prove your relevance to your visitor’s needs and your potential client will be off to the next Google search result.

If you have an idea for a website, think about everything you want to include and work out what is most important to your visitors. Give everything on your list of requirements a priority and drop anything that isn’t relevant.

This is the foundation of a solid content strategy from which you can design a website that is truly useful to your visitors.

This is the key to a successful website.

Showcasing Art and Photography Online

Since this article was written serveral years ago some technology has changed and I now recommend WordPress as the content management system of choice for photographers. This article is still useful for understanding some terms and technologies you will encounter. To read about the latest developments in websites for photographers please visit the new Photographers Resource Page.

There are many ways to display photography or other images on the web. This article as a brief guide to some of the options that are available and some to the important factors to consider when setting up a website to showcase your work.

All the solutions here are open source, use technologies based on open standards and are free to use, customise and build on.

Most websites that display photography use a gallery, a slide show or a combination of the two.

Galleries

Galleries consist of a page or a number of pages of small thumbnail images which the user can click on to see a larger version at a higher resolution.

These are useful for visitors who are looking for a specific image or two and do not wish to have to browse the whole gallery to find them.

Common features of galleries include:

  • Displaying a caption for each image
  • Display additional information about each image, for example resolution, camera specifications etc
  • Organise the collection of images into albums, grouping them by subject or other category
  • Visitor comments

Galleries, like most web-based software consist of a collection of web pages and scripts. Most can be set up by copying the files to a particular folder on your website and uploading your images to a subfolder using FTP or an online file manager. Some galleries will run from a web page on your site which you can then customise, whereas others can be inserted into a page you have created yourself, giving you more control over the layout.

The more advanced gallery programs store all the photograph, album and related information in a database, such as MySQL Not every hosting account will include this so it is important to check that a database is available when choosing your hosting package.

Galleries which use a database are much easier to maintain and allow you to update and organise your gallery using an online administration tool instead of having to copy files to the server, edit text files and resize your images manually.

Many galleries include slide-shows, however you do not need a fully featured gallery if all you need is a slideshow.

Slide Shows

There are also a large number of different kinds of solutions for displaying your images in a slide show. These range from the simplest technique of moving through a list of images every few seconds, to visually impressive special effects and transitions.

The most popular techniques are Javascript and Flash slideshows.

Both of these solutions involve adding some kind of code to your website and uploading your photos to a source directory on your host server.

Using the Flash option also requires that any visitors to your site have the Adobe Flashplayer installed in their web browser. As any delay in a website loading can put off potential viewers it is important to ensure this is done properly and that if the user is unable to install the flashplayer, a fallback method is available so the images can still be viewed.

This has become even more of an issue recently due to the widely publicised arguments between Apple and Adobe. Apple have banned the use of the Flashplayer plugin on their iPads, iPhones and the iPod touch, claiming that it’s heavy use of the devices processing power will spoil the users experience due to slow loading and crashing. Considering the increasing popularity of Apple’s devices world wide, especially in the design and creative industries, it is a wise move to ensure that users of these devices are not excluded from viewing your work.

Unlike the other options, Flash is not open source but is owned by adobe. As such it is hard to customise one of these slideshows as once the author releases the Flash file it cannot be edited, so usually you only have the option of changing the photos which are displayed.

The most widely accessible method of creating a slide-show is to use a Javascript solution. This involves uploading some script files to a particular location on your server and including a link to the main Javascript file in your web page’s HTML code.

There is plenty of choice in Javascript based solutions out there offering different transition effects and levels of customisation. If you are familiar with Javascript you will find you can generally customise these to your heart’s content.

Recommendation

I would recommend that if you are serious about making a professional looking site with your art or photography that you choose a combination of these two methods. A gallery program which allows you to easily upload, tag and share your images to keep things fresh, and a slide-show which will run without the need for 3rd party plugins to ensure you or your web developer can fully customise the viewers experience.

Below are a selection of links for gallerys and slide-shows. All of these are open source and free to use. Gallery and Coppermine are one – click installs with all Creative Transmissions accounts. All of the slideshows can be used with pretty much any web hosting account as they do not rely on any particular server – side technologies. I would suggest checking them all out to see which suits your needs. There are of course many more out there and new solutions are being developed all the time.

Gallery Links

Please note that most of these galleries can be previewed using a number of themes, look for a drop down box at the top of the page to change them.

CoppermineDemo Page

GalleryDemo Page

PloggerDemo Page

Zen PhotoDemo Page

Slideshow Links

Leigeber Animated SlideshowDemo Page

Barack SlideshowDemo Page

Space GalleryDemo Page

PikachooseDemo Page

NoobSlideDemo Page