Great content is wasted if there is no focus!

January 6, 2012
Great content is wasted if there is no focus!

You have a message to share, a product to sell, a service to offer — but it may be all for nothing if your website doesn't have focus. When we design a website, we are always looking to focus our client's message so that the message can be heard over the "noise" of our culture.

Tiered communication

A great way to get your message across is through tiered communication, or a way to organize information. Here's an illustration to explain the idea.

Tier 1: Imagine you are driving along the highway and you are hungry. You see a sign for your favorite restaurant — just the name of the restaurant.

Tier 2: You pull off the highway, pull up to the restaurant and walk up to the door. You see a sandwich board with today's specials.

Tier 3: You are seated in the restaurant and they hand you a menu.

Tier 4: (rare) You ask for allergy information and they bring you a very detailed document.

On your website

Tier 1 (the sign) is very focused and tells you one thing at a time. On your website, tier 1 is usually the home page rotator. It can rotate, but only one message at a time and very little detail.

Tier 2 (the specials) is very brief. You only have a moment to scan it. It just lists important details to encourage you to come in and find out more. On your website, tier 2 can be the information below your rotator or the landing page of each section of your website.

Tier 3 (the menu) is well organized. The information is grouped and presented in a way to help you scan and get enough detail if you look closely. On your website, these are the pages of content on your site. The goals are good headings, brief overviews and useful information.

Tier 4 (allergy information) is detailed. This information is only provided upon request. It is still good to organize the information and present it well, but at this point, your customer has asked for fine detail. On your website, this may be a privacy policy, it may be your media kit that is ready to go; but you don't offer it unless someone specifically asks for it.

In addition to this analogy applying to your website as a whole, tiered communication can work at a more granular level as well. Any web page you have can be organized with the most important message at the top, then go further into detail as you scroll.

Why do we need to do this?

In our culture, we cannot assume people will spend time reviewing information we provide. In my head, I try to always picture my website visitor holding a crying baby in their lap. I ask myself, can they "hear" the message I am trying to convey over the baby? I know that is a little silly, but as a parent, I've been there.

If you organize your website well, you have a better chance of customers connecting with you, buying your product, or hearing your message. It is also good for SEO: Google is looking for well organized information, and this is a step in the right direction.

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Image credit: Ihtatho