Before you start working on the story that your web presence will tell about you and your business, it’s a good idea to warm up by considering your competition and colleagues.
If you don’t have competition or colleagues in the local area, expand your search. People find goods and services across a much larger geographic area on the Web, so don’t limit yourself with geography. Resist the urge to think of yourself as so unique that you have no competition–very narrow definitions of competition will not serve you well here.
If you know what you like, what your competition is up to, and the norms of Web use in your market, you will be much better prepared to tell a compelling version of your own story.
Don’t forget the lessons of fairytales and folklore—any one story can be told from many perspectives. It matters which character does the telling, what their goals are, and how much of the overall plot they understand.
You can always amuse yourself with the animated movie Hoodwinked as you discover what happens when traditional fairy tales are told from the perspectives of different characters.
Now, on to stories told (sometimes unwittingly) by a business web presence.
Do take notes as you do the work, it will make things easier in the long run.
In general, what is the first thing you notice about a website or blog?
What do you tend to appreciate in a website or blog?
Make a list of 5 competitors or colleagues and their websites. Prepare for some investigation and analysis.
First, take a long look at their homepage. What are your overall impressions?
Second, get a feel for their website or blog as a whole. What do you think?
What works for you?
What can you figure out about their target markets and target audiences?
Who are their customers?
Who else makes up their competition?
Assess their web presence in terms of story. What story would you tell about this business based on your impressions of their:
- Website content?
- Visual layout?
- Design choices?
What do you think they are trying to communicate about themselves with their web presence?
- How their content is organized
- Use of images, audio, and video
- Clues they provide about core business values
- What you can expect when working with them
- Who they think their target audience may be.
Pay attention to design basics when you evaluate a website or blog.
- Is the site fully functional?
- Is it usable? Are you able to find the information you need without thinking too hard or looking too long?
- Are the aesthetics appropriate for the business, industry, market, and audience?
- Are the organizing concepts clear? Are they saying something?
- Is the site implemented effectively? Are you confident you get their point?
Once you have a better idea of what others are doing and how well it’s working, you’ll be in a much better position to tell your story in a way that does you and your work justice.