It’s quite remarkable just how heavily people continue to underestimate the importance of website optimisation.
Worse still, this doesn’t just apply to hobbyist bloggers eager to maximise their view and monetise their opinions: it also applies to people tasked with overseeing the development of major business websites. They tick some website boxes, then they move on.
After all, they reason, how much difference can any given page make? Well, here’s the answer: a significant difference. (This is why quality web design is among one of the best ways to bootstrap your freelance business.)
While there are some pages on websites that aren’t particularly important (and are thus relatively rare), those that crop up regularly are common for a reason. And if you’re going to include a page, it should rival those of your competitors.
Fail to meet that standard and you’ll see people visit your website briefly before leaving in disappointment, never to return. When that happens, it won’t matter how good your products or services are, or how low your prices might be. First impressions are everything in an online world flush with alternatives that can be accessed in seconds. Your reputation matters.
In the post, then, we’re going to look at four of the most common web pages, considering why they’re so important and setting out some tips for getting them right. Let’s get started.
This is of course the most common web page because you can’t have a website without it. You can have an unusual homepage if you want, but if your website has just one page then it’s the homepage by default since it’s the inevitable destination for the average visitor. And if you want people to stick around, your homepage needs to be as good as you can make it.
So what does a good homepage achieve? Well, it essentially needs to perform two roles: confirming for the visitor that they’ve come to the right place, smoothly pushing them towards whatever action they’re looking to take. It has secondary goals, like reflecting your brand identity and simply loading quickly, but those two roles are core.
For the former, you need to think carefully about the message you encounter when you load the page. What’s the first thing that appears at the top? Is there a suitable hero image? The content should reflect the intent of the website. If it’s a blog (like this), then you can cut directly to the articles. If it’s an ecommerce site, you can highlight a product, sale, or brand story. When a visitor arrives, they should immediately know that they haven’t misclicked.
For the latter, you need to understand what the visitor is looking for and make it optimally easy for them to find it. A well-advertised product needs a clear CTA for ordering it. A free digital resource needs an obvious button for downloading it. Before you can receive any value from a website visitor, you need to provide some — so make that process as simple as possible.
While you should have some kind of contact option on every page on your website (if only in the header or footer), you should still have a dedicated contact page. This page allows you to offer various contact options and make it easier for people to find you. It also gives you the chance to make it abundantly clear how quickly people can expect to hear from you.
You might be able to guarantee a response within one working day, for instance, in which case you can lean on that as a selling point. You might even have the capacity to provide a live chat service and offer instant responses (during your working hours, at least), in which case you should do that as a way to ramp up your customer service.
But if you can’t respond that rapidly, you need to let people know so they’ll be less likely to criticise you for it down the line. If you make it abundantly clear that you have an average three-day turnaround on messages, then you’ll get some credit if you’re able to respond within just two days — a delay that might otherwise prompt a negative reaction. It’s all about finding a balance between keeping people happy and managing the stress on your business.
Additionally, be sure to include links to all your social media profiles, sharing links so visitors can more easily mention you to their friends, and confirm that everything works as it should regardless of the device or operating system being used to access the page.
Brand reputation is everything these days, whether it’s a company brand or a personal brand such as that of a freelancer. If online sentiment turns against you, everything you attempt will fall apart, and it doesn’t take much to earn a social media backlash. To get people on your side, you need to show that you are worthy of their support. That means telling your story.
How did your freelancing business begin? What was the original goal? What do you hope to achieve now? What makes you uniquely qualified to help your target audience? This page is your opportunity to get into detail about all of these things. You can include rich media if you have some to offer, and even add a photo of yourself to put a human face on your business.
There’s a caveat, though: if you don’t have too much to say, keep things brief. State your purpose in simple terms, then move on. Too many people waffle on for pages but only trot out the same things about treating colleagues like family and thinking outside the box — and that material will only ever serve to annoy your readers.
If you sell products then you might not need an overarching product page (just a page with a customisable filter), but if you offer services — as a freelancer does — then it’s generally a good idea to have a central services page offering a succinct summary of each service (and ordering them appropriately). You can even use this page as a landing page for a broad PPC advertising campaign.
The problem with a lot of service roundup pages is that there’s too little useful detail and too much useless detail. Provided each service snippet leads to a dedicated page, you don’t need to cover anything in great complexity. Instead, every service must be presented with a set of vital at-a-glance pieces of information about what it costs, what it’s for, and how it works.
Aside from leading people to the specific services that might interest them, the purpose of your services page is to paint your business in a positive light. Your range of services should seem formidable, giving the impression that you have something to offer everyone and can meet any given visitor’s requirements if presented with the opportunity.