When we write a new website, we get a good idea of the client’s business and the goals of that business, we identify keywords, we check out the competitive environment, and identify the tone that the client prefers. We work with the client and designer to determine the overall architecture of the site, plan a path through the site that will be good for the visitors and the business, and then we get to writing.
It’s pretty straightforward. But what if you don’t have just one path in mind? What if your business requires more than one path?
For this hunting site, for example, we needed to have exciting hunting photos, but also to make sure that visitors looking for the photo safari information would not be startled by pictures of dead animals.
Right now we’re working on a site for a solar power company. They have a wealth of useful and highly technical information about what kind of wire to use for your solar installation and stuff like that, but most of their business is doing installations for people who have no desire to think about amperage and volts. We don’t want to scare off their core customers, but we also don’t want to get rid of the valuable content for the DIY solar power users.
We’re also doing a site for a home security company which also offers solar panel installation (they’re in a different geographic area; we don’t write competing sites). How can we make sure that people looking for their solar energy services don’t click away again when they see the security company info on the homepage, thinking they’ve reached the wrong place?
In all of these cases, it’s a matter of organizing the information.Then you have to make sure that your organization is obvious so that people end up in the right places.
Here are some strategies:
- His and hers. It isn’t usually his and hers, actually, but you can think of this strategy as akin to having two restrooms, one for men and one for women, each with a clearly labeled door. For this approach, you want big, bold buttons that allow your visitors to sort themselves out right away. The site below has a clear division in the header for individuals, agencies, and schools. The rest of the homepage has information that can be useful for all the groups, but the header sorts people pretty well from the start.
- Hierarchies. If you offer things to different groups but they fall into one general overarching group, you can arrange your site in a clear hierarchy and count on your main navigation. For this pool service company, for example, we created six different galleries showing the different types of work (maintenance, remodeling, energy saving technology, etc.) the company does. Whether a consumer wants a travertine tile deck or a solar heat pump, we figure they’ll recognize their need as a subset of swimming pool work. Note that in this case, unlike some of the other examples, there’s no negative about having visitors see options that don’t necessarily relate immediately to their needs; someone who comes for a pool cover might be seduced by the lovely photos to plan a new deck.
- Landing pages. Every page on your site can potentially be a landing page through search. However, if you know that you serve quite different populations, you can plan for some to come in through one page and others to come in through another. Your homepage can then provide information about your company, but customers may really learn about the product they want on a different page, which must also be graphically welcoming. Sometimes this arrangement ends up with mini-sites. The site below, for example, is for a special event. It’s available from the main navigation of the main site, but it has its own domain and is generally reached directly by search.
- Call out. Sometimes the homepage simply has to have a particular focus for the main audience, but you want to be sure to reach your smaller audience from that page as well — and certainly not to lose them because they can’t see right away that you serve them. This site for a whole foods grocery store focused on the grocery aspect in the main text but has an eye-catching photo showing the in-store deli.
As long as the content is all organized in a logical, intuitive way, any of these approaches will work.