The advent of social media has, in no way, undermined the crucial importance of the webpage as the central hub of an integrated online strategy that is worthy of that name for both companies and individuals. If anything, it has underscored its role as the organizing principle behind the disparate social networks, microblogs, pinboards and other newcomers to the Web 2.0.
Inadvertently, at times, for the untrained eye, the webpage (or blog) sets the tone of our online adventure and no effort should be spared to ensure that it captures the imagination of our target audience, presents us in the best possible light, and acts as the meeting point of all our online initiatives. And this is especially true for personal branders whose pages are often their first and best introductory visit card in our networking world. Our webpages are our online homes. The time and effort we put into them proves how serious, careful, and passionate we are about our brands.
Factors to know before creating your webpage or blog
Before we venture into spending our hard-earned money into a beautifully-designed, fully functional, and usable webpage or blog, we must be clear about two key factors: the purposes it will serve and the specific goals we seek to achieve. There are as many answers to these questions as there are webpages, although we can quickly establish a key distinction between those which will convert online (as in online shops or e-commerce) and those that will not. One should hasten to add that online conversion is not necessarily about purchasing a service or product and may including downloading a document (such as a CV/résumé or white paper), filling in a form, joining a database or other conversion criterion that helps our cause.
So many are tempted to cut corners when they don’t convert online and/or sell anything on their pages, regarding their webpage as ‘an expense’ and minimizing their investment consequently. As it happens, they do so at their own peril. Offline conversion is massively important in personal branding. A webpage with not just great content (ideally aimed at a specific audience), but has superb aesthetics and that personal touch that speaks tons about our personalities (businesslike? intimate? geeky? nerdy?) sends a powerful message that can get us that job, contribute decisively to securing that interview or attracting prospective evangelists, influencers and customers to our business.
The importance of “visual creators”
And this is why the role of professional and über-creative webdesigners – those online artists of the XXI century – should under no circumstances be underestimated or overlooked. Neither should that of photographers or graphic designers, by the way, since a quality and compelling picture or logo is often one of the first salient element of a webpage or blog conceived for personal branding purposes. Ideally these key professionals should be presented with a list of goals, that is filled with as much detail as possible, so that they can carry out their difficult task with the right guidance from you. It is no exaggeration to affirm that a great webpage can take you places and quality webdesign can be the make or break of your online brand.
While it is not always easy to strike a balance, the ideal state of affairs is one where both them and you are happy with the end product: your webpage must feel ‘yours’ while meeting all the necessary usability and design trimmings. Perhaps more importantly, it must be attractive to your target audience even if that means sacrificing some elements you’d rather not do without. Generosity on your behalf in this sense will pay off handsomely once you start converting your goals into tangible realities. Let me illustrate this last point with a practical example:
If your audience is ‘Generation X’ rather than ‘Generation Y’, you might want to be slightly more conservative in the use of visual and/or digital elements that might otherwise confuse a less digitally-conversant public. Unless your webpage exists merely for your personal pleasure or satisfaction, it is one of the best places to start putting into practice that ‘put customers first’ mantra we so often hear but are not that often keen to apply.
Web design truly matters. Making sure that our online homes are suitably upgraded, given a facelift every so often, and equipped with all the technical, aesthetic and functional elements makes a visit to these online abodes an enjoyable experience for our target audience. This is one of the best recipes for our online success. With flexibility, generosity and the aid of the best in the business, we can make it happen.