21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website: Part 1
That’s a pretty politically correct headline I just wrote. But what do you say we get real now and examine the wisdom behind swiping ideas? Truthfully, no one will get hurt with the form of thievery I’m about to propose.
I submit the savvy way to get started on a new website is to pickpocket ideas wherever you can find ‘em. Now before you go and call the plagiarism police on me, give me a few paragraphs to explain.
Keep your greasy paws off my intellectual property.
I’m a writer. I’ve been slinging sentences together for profit for 25 years. So as you might expect, nothing fuels my fire like scraping the content I wrote to promote my business or my client’s. Copying copy is a dirty rotten disgrace. I guess to some degree, it’s something I’ve learned to live with because it happens all the time.
Now, as an article writer, or even a website writer, I want you to like my stuff. And if you ask me for permission to republish it, guess what? You’ll get it. In fact, I’ll be flattered. I’ll merely ask for fair attribution and we’ll have ourselves a mutually beneficial little deal. But should you decide to forgo that step and then take credit for it, well, um, then I’m gonna’ report you to the principal.
And now back to my “start smart” strategy for creating a website.
Unless my client has a very clear plan for all the nuts and bolts we’ll use to build his new website, I recommend we embark on a mission to have other sites inform our decisions. Without the tiniest tinge of guilt, I recommend we start by finding a handful of sites we agree are effective. I even suggest we begin our stealing spree at his competitors’ sites.
Gasping? I’m here to tell you it’s perfectly okay.
We’re not going to copy and paste.
That’s dubious. Copying and pasting another company’s property does indeed put a foul taste in my mouth. But finding inspiration from other sites is just plain smart. The same practice happens in every creative endeavor. Okay, every once in great while, someone invents a wheel. The other zillion times they attempt to borrow the basic idea and build something unique. Therein lies the key: build something unique.
Look at some of the many decisions you must make when creating a website.
- What content will it include?
- How will it be presented?
- How is the navigation setup?
- What goes where?
- How does it attempt to capture leads or sell product?
- What type of personality will it have?
- This list may have no end.
Mr. Godin agrees.
I’m going to live dangerously now and tell you the inspiration behind this article, to some extent, is also largely derived from stuff I’ve read online. Though I’m drawing from a commonly cited best practice, I have indeed put my own personal spin on the subject matter. I didn’t steal anything and call it mine. I borrowed a good idea.
Seth Godin, the best selling author and internationally recognized marketing advisor, sprinkled very similar ideas throughout his article “How to create a good enough website.” Seth wrote:
“I’m going to go out on a limb and beg you not to create an original design. There are more than a billion pages on the web. Surely there’s one that you can start with? If your organization can’t find a website that you all agree can serve as a model, you need to stop right now and find a new job.”
Godin points out your car isn’t unique and though you’ve decorated your house to your own liking, it’s not likely it’s unique either. Other people’s houses share the same essential framework.
He goes on to point out the morale of the story is not to commit copyright violations, but to recognize that modeling your site after others that have successfully laid the foundation for you is simply a smart way to start.
Care to share your thoughts? Please do.
And, if you found the pointer I’ve offered you here today helpful, there’s 20 more where this one came from. I invite you to read and apply a new series of site creation tips in my fun and informative primer “21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Site.”
I completely agree with this philosophy and teach the same in my workshop of Creating Websites. It is easier to learn from others than create from nothing. I recommend clients create a file of websites they like, adding to it whenever they come upon another one. Overtime as you review what is in your file, you’ll find similarities and that helps you decide the style, etc. that resonates with you and what your company represents.
Nancy, that’s a great tip you’ve offered. Thanks so much for contributing. I’ll be posting many more articles about improving your website effectiveness, so I hope to continue to hear from you here.
Barry, this is a great piece for anyone planning on launching or redesigning their website. The highest form of flattery is awarded to those that initiate a trend. Hundreds, thousands even millions following your design, fashion, music style etc. is a heck of a compliment. The same holds true in web design as most sites now are mashups of lots of pieces that create an appealing whole. The key is to differentiate via content, valuable, fresh and sharable content. This is the area that website owners should spend the majority of their time, seeking experts to craft a compelling message is always a sound investment. One I’m ready to make myself:)