What pages does your website need?

Writing for the web is different than writing for you high school English teacher.  Read more about that here.

Here is a list of standard pages you’ll need when you’re starting work on your website.

  • Home
  • About us
  • Contact us (include all the ways to get in touch)
  • And then a page for each of your products

What other pages might you need on your site?

These will be specific to you and your company. Do you have:

  • Blog
  • Calendar
  • Login for users
  • Membership info for users
  • Shopping cart
  • Press page
  • Directions to your facility

How will those things be included in your top level navigation? Definitely pick a short descriptive name for each.  The longer the name, the wider the navigation link.  So you’ll run out of room pretty quickly if your navigation is across the top of your page. Keep that list of links to not more than 8 or 9 links.

Here are a couple other pages you might need.

While this information is important, it’s not the stuff most people will start off looking for on your website, so include links to these pages in a footer that shows at the bottom of each page.

  • Privacy statement (These actually affect Google rankings. And the more you tell people about what you’ll do with their information, the more confident they’ll be.)
  • Policies and/or payment and shipping info
  • Guarantees
  • Copyright info
  • Site map
  • Custom 404 Error page

What is a “404 Not Found” error anyway?

If you’re lost, don’t you want help to find your way? That’s what a good 404 Not Found error can do.

404 error sample

I know you’ve come across pages like this while searching for something really important (or not).

When I stumble on one, especially in the middle of some beautifully designed site, I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face. Everything else was lovely.. or at least had some color and some visual connection to the rest of the site.  But this is just plain UGLY!

What is this “Not Found” error message?
And why did I wind up here?

It could mean, that there used to be some content at this web address but there isn’t any more.

Maybe the web guy moved the content to a different place and didn’t leave a forwarding address (How Rude! And yes, you can use a forwarding address. That’s generally called a 301 Redirect but I digress)

It could also mean that:

  • A bookmark or favorite you  used is out of date.
  • Sometimes a search engine link can be out of date.
  • Maybe there is a broken link on the site itself.
  • Maybe you just typed the address wrong or copied it wrong.
  • If you got the link in an email, the link broke while being sent. (That often happens if the link is very long and gets broken in parts to fit them on the email page)

But whatever the reason, that generic Not Found 404 Error feels like a slap up-side the head. AND it’s not helpful.

What’s a site owner to do?
Make a custom 404 page that’s useful to your visitors

Think about if you’re on a car trip and you figure out you’re lost.  What do you do?

If I had put my life in the hands of “Jill the B.. in the box” on the dash board, she would already tell me, “Recalculating!” (I, however, rarely listen to ethereal beings, while some other people who live in my house just might be having an affair with that wench!)

  • But  on my own, I’d like a paper map (The site map does that job on a website.)
  • I’d like to be able to go back to where I was last and see if I made a wrong turn (Use the back button)
  • I’d like to ask somebody on the street (Use a search box)
  • Or, I’d just like to go home and ask my mother where I made the mistake (Hit the home button)

There are lots of creative 404 pages out there. Check them out over at Smashing Magazine or at WebDesignLedger.com

Some of these pages are just cool but not particularly helpful. But others are both.

What I’m asking you to do is think about what belongs on your “Lost in Space” page. And make it useful!

[kerch]

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What goes on the Contact Us page

Contact me, contact us or just contact. Just include all the ways a person or potential customer can contact you.

Perhaps one of the most important pages on your website (and the easiest to write!) is your Contact page.

Contact Us—Me—or just plain Contact.

It doesn’t matter. But if your visitors can’t contact you
they can’t buy what you’re selling.

Without a way to contact you, you have no opportunity for connection.

Connection happens for a host of reasons, like a shared history or common ideas or values. And connection is required before trust is ever possible.

So include—obviously:

  • Your name
  • Your geographical address. If it makes you queasy to include a street address, then at least include a city, state and zip.
  • A phone number for people who prefer voice to the written word.
    If you use SKYPE, you could include that contact info. Or if you use some other contact system like Google Voice (like I do) include that.

  • Links to your Twitter and FaceBook pages—IF you want random, and possibly unknown, people to know that much about you.

noticeofrant

A short note about FaceBook, Twitter and even your blog in general.
Take some care in your postings. Future clients or employers WILL look you up. What will they find? Hourly updates about your drinking or clock watching will give some people pause when considering your suitability to their organization

endofrant

  • You need a contact form. You could include just your email address, but I don’t recommend it for a couple reasons
  1. Spam robots have a habit of trolling websites and adding your info to massive lists and then use them to send you multitudinous offers to buy performance enhancing drugs or Rolex watches (and I will NEVER understand that attraction!)
  2. Some people are not real good about their subject lines. So they might include no subject, or “hello” or something else that does not scream, “I am contacting you because of your website.” When you use a bit of code (no, you don’t have to write it yourself) you can decide exactly what the subject line should say. Use different subjects for different forms. And never miss an important email again.

Hey, check out my contact form.  And use it!

What goes on your About page

Now, I’m willing to consider—perhaps—that this is true mostly for women, but guys, please play along.  Here’s the question:

How many times have you gone out to buy something and then didn’t just because the sales person was a jerk? Or too pushy? Or too uninterested? Or too busy with someone else to even answer a freakin’ question?

Maybe you did buy something this time, but you’re never gonna go back.

It might not be the case if you’re shopping big box stores where the only thing that matters is the price.

But if you are looking for something special or slightly out of the ordinary, you might need some help making a choice… and that’s when the sale is all about the relationship.

And that is precisely what your About page is for.

It’s not a sales page or an opportunity to give more information about why your visitor should buy your product. This is the page to build relationship with your customers.

Personally, I don’t care if any given merchant loves dogs … unless I’m buying a dog product.  I don’t care if they have kids … again, unless it’s important to the product. Similarly, I don’t need to see a list of all the degrees they ever got. (Years ago, I had a minister friend who said, “Well, thermometers have a lot of degrees, too. And you know where they stick some of them!”)  Look, I want to know that my doctor has the appropriate degrees.  But I don’t care how long it took him to get them. Or how many he has… as long as he listens when I talk and shows me some respect and compassion. And that, friends, is all about the relationship.

But in particular, because I’m looking to buy something (or even spend my time reading a website) then I want to know what the person behind the ideas stands for.

So when you’re thinking about what to put on your About page ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • What do you stand for?
  • Where is your passion for the information you share on your website?

Do you have other questions you think should be answered on an About page?  Please share them in the comments area below.