WHAT DO YOU WANT SITE VISITORS TO DO WHEN THEY FIRST LAND ON YOUR HOME PAGE?
There, that wasn’t too difficult was it? A nice simple question that is likely to give the client more of a headache than you. This is because it’s a thoughtprovoking question, a question that most clients are not expecting and, thus, don’t have a ready answer to. You see, until this question is answered you simply can’t design a web site. The answer to this one question will set the scene for the whole site. It will determine what goes on the home page as well as its basic design, and, to a large extent, it will define the navigation and subsequent content pages.
Your client may try and tell you that he doesn’t want site visitors to do anything. This is a lame answer that usually gets borne out of the client’s reluctance to admit he hasn’t thought about it too deeply. If you get an answer like this, use it as your cue to explain that if he doesn’t have a “call to action” to put on the home page, he doesn’t need a website – and this is a fact. Think about this for a moment. Whenever you visit a GOOD website, there is always a “focus” on the home page to do something. On a government information site, it may be a simple search box prominently displayed somewhere in the top third of the page. This may be immediately followed by a list of common search categories. Such sites are designed to be used, and therefore, the focus of the site is to get people searching for the information they need.
In a product or service-specific site, the focus may be on checking out a new product or service. This is aptly illustrated on the Serif Website. Visitors to serif.com immediately have their attention focused on a product banner containing two highly prominent links. One is to a video presentation, and the other is to more information. Clicking either link will start visitors on a journey through the site that is engineered to achieve a desired objective. In the case of Serif, the objective is to get visitors to buy something. This brings us neatly to the second question that must be asked of your client.
WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE, OR ULTIMATE AIM OF THE SITE?
When asking questions of your client, there is a fundamental rule that you must follow. Don’t be tempted to just give your client a list of questions and then expect him to answer them. This will not produce the desired result because the purpose of your questions is to trigger a very precise chain of thought in the mind of your client. What you don’t want your client to do is give you answers to a random selection of your questions, and leave the others blank. Ask your questions one at a time, and don’t move on to a subsequent question until you have an answer to the preceding question. Having got your answer to the first question, your client will be able to more easily answer your second question regarding the objective of the site.
By gleaning the answers to these first two questions, you’ve effectively mapped out your starting page and your end page. Remember, a website should be a journey that starts and ends with the visitor doing something. Your next step is to map out the various ports of call on the journey in between the start and end points of the site. The third question you ask will give you a clearer indication of the content of intermediate pages of the site, and the navigation structure that enables visitors to travel neatly through the site