You know how sometimes a particular topic comes up repeatedly, as though it were forcing itself on your attention? The question of focus has been that way for me lately. I found myself writing about focus on the papers from my writing class so frequently that I ended up spending the whole hour on it this morning.
Focus has also been coming up in the context of websites a lot lately, too. One of my clients, a New York software developer, is adding a new service to the broad range of things he does already. He’s planning a redesign of his website, adding a new section for the new service.
This could, for some websites, be a simple enough task. We look at the menu of services and add a page for the new one. Problem is, there isn’t any listing of services now. So how can he distinguish the new section from the old one?
I suggested making a list of services to which we could add the new one. The client was hesitant: he doesn’t want to limit himself.
I completely understand that. Another client, a music arranging service with a specialization in orchestral arrangements for brass, is actually quite capable of doing gospel choir arrangements, or jazz violin, for that matter.
Talented people like these have a high level of flexibility, and they don’t want to miss out on exciting business adventures by giving too narrow an image of their abilities.
In person, this flexibility is a great advantage, and a great selling point. On a computer screen, it can look like vagueness, uncertainty, or an unwillingness to commit oneself that leads the visitor to search in frustration for the answer to the question, “Can these guys help me, or not?”
How can a business show agility without sacrificing clarity?
The musicians went with a clear focus on their biggest market, combined with a front and center statement, “We arrange for all types of ensembles.” This, combined with samples of the music, gives an idea of their versatility, but still lets them focus in for search on their most important market.
For the developer, I’m thinking of a language-based solution. I know from my own experience that people often have only sort of a vague idea that tech people are “computer guys.” People ask me to do design work, hardware repairs, software installation… you name it. So I reminded my client that there probably are limits to what he wants to do, even if there aren’t limits to what he can do.
He allowed as how he didn’t really want those midnight calls saying that the server was down.
So once we’ve looked at the kinds of work he prefers to do, we can come up with some phrases that encapsulate his preferences broadly enough to keep him from feeling inhibited, but narrowly enough to direct visitors to the right parts of his website.
Does your website need a bit of narrowing?