My first website was launched on St. Patrick’s Day of 2006. I changed my logo and website for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day of 2009. The previous version of my website was launched on St. Patrick’s Day of 2013.
It’s only fitting that I continue the tradition and announce the latest incarnation of ScottMcKelvey.com today. I hope you’ll join me in raising a pint of Guinness to toast the occasion.
But it wasn’t exactly an easy process. What started as simply moving my website from one WordPress theme to another turned into something much more complex.
A lot of different factors were weighed as I made decisions about the new website, but I kept coming back to three key questions.
Does this support the goals of the website?
My website has two goals. The first is to get people to contact me to schedule a consultation.
The second is to get people to read my blog, which is intended to build trust, establish my expertise, and convey the value of what I do so someone will hire me or refer me.
Does this enhance the user experience?
I realized over the past two years that my website, as simple as it was, included a lot of features that added nothing to the user experience.
Some things made my website more complicated than it needed to be. Other things were just self-serving and delivered little or no value to the user.
Which leads to the third question.
What can I get rid of?
My smartphone has a ton of bells and whistles. I use a small fraction of them.
Just because bells and whistles exist, it doesn’t mean you have to use them. The same applies to a website.
My goal was to eliminate any design elements, content, pages and functionality that didn’t support my business goals or enhance the user experience.
I made a million little tweaks, but I’ll focus on the major changes and how these three questions guided my decision making.
Home Page Content
The old website had a slider with three images. As a content writer, I’ve always struggled to come up with images that reinforce what I do and the value of what I do.
Seriously, how many photos of keyboards and pens can you use?
Then I said to myself, “Hey dumbass, you always tell people that your heavy lifting is done before the writing begins. Keyboards and pens just feed the stereotype that writers do nothing but type.”
I couldn’t help but agree with myself.
The vast majority of images I see on websites serve no strategic purpose. They were put there for no other reason but to have pictures.
The images I used on my old website didn’t detract from the user experience, but they didn’t enhance it. And they didn’t support my business goals.
So I got rid of the slider and focused on making my case like a good copywriter should.
I did manage to add imagery to the Home page and support my goal of promoting the McBlog by including the six most recent posts with feature images. A side benefit is that these images will change as I publish new posts, which will add a dose of visual freshness each week.
The old website included the following page headings: Home, Why SM, About, Services, Portfolio, Contact, and The McBlog, as well as social buttons.
My logo links to my home page, so I decided there’s no reason for another link in the navigation.
The Why SM page was originally intended to make a high-level case about why someone should hire me. I decided that every page of my website should help to make that case, so I got rid of the Why SM page.
I’m always torn about the presence of social buttons. I want people to connect with me, but I don’t want them to leave my website. So I removed the social buttons from the top navigation and put them in the footer.
The new navigation has been reduced from eight headings to five: About, Services, Portfolio, Contact, and The McBlog.
My old website had four widget areas in the footer. Naturally, I felt the need to use all four, which left me with a cluttered mess.
The old footer included contact information, a secondary blog sign-up form, recent blog posts, recent Tweets, a secondary navigation menu, and a search box.
I had a sign-up form in the footer because, with the old theme, the main sign-up form in the sidebar disappeared on mobile devices. This turned out to be the right call because a number of people signed up for the McBlog through the form in the footer.
However, the new theme doesn’t eliminate sidebar content on smaller screens, so I was able to get rid of the second sign-up form in the footer.
As you can see if you scroll down, I kept the contact information and added the social buttons, which had previously been in the top navigation bar. I also added an all-white version of my logo that links to the home page should someone feel lost.
When the dust settled, I reduced the number of elements in the footer from six to three. Simpler, and better.
In Some Cases, More Is More
My website overhaul wasn’t all about getting rid of things.
My old About page told a brief story about my professional background, but it didn’t explain how that background is relevant to someone who’s thinking about hiring a copywriter.
The content on the About page is now longer, but more relevant.
There’s more in the sidebar, too. Previously, the only things in the sidebar were the McBlog sign-up form and a search box. To draw more attention to the McBlog, I added links to my five most recent blog posts, which were buried in the overcrowded footer on the old site.
I also added more size. Larger fonts and blog photos. More white space between headlines, content and paragraphs. More space between blog posts. I thought my previous website was easy on the eyes, but I wanted the new site to be even more readable.
Does everything on your website have a purpose?
My new website won’t win any design awards. Not that I care.
My new website isn’t perfect. Not that perfection was the goal.
What my website does is clearly convey what I do, and the value of what I do, with minimal distractions. It’s easy to navigate, and it’s easy to view on any device and browser not built during the Stone Age.
If you’re thinking about updating or completely overhauling your website, ask yourself these three questions repeatedly when you start drooling over the latest bells and whistles:
- Does this support the goals of the website?
- Does this enhance the user experience?
- What can I get rid of?
The two things people appreciate most about a website are clarity and simplicity. Not coincidentally, people want clarity and simplicity from the people they do business with, too.
Keep it simple. If it doesn’t serve a strategic purpose, it doesn’t belong on your website.