The Good Enough Website: Copywriting and Comedy Writing

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“What is one thing we don’t know about you … something that would surprise us?”

When you attend live seminars and networking events, you may get asked this question. Sometimes I say, “I am a huge fan of WNBA basketball.” Sometimes I say, “I’ve done stand-up comedy at open mics….and mostly it was successful!

Philadelphia has a lively comedy scene with lots of classes and energy. So a while back I found myself taking a class in sketch comedy writing. Now, given that I am a professional writer, you’d think I’d be a natural. But actually my first attempts were more likely to provoke a puzzled frown than a hearty laugh.

When it came time to turn in our first assignment, I knew I wasn’t being funny … but I had no idea how to make my sketch funnier. What I did bring to the table (literally) was a lifetime of writing. I know that first drafts can be horrific … but if you don’t write a first draft, you won’t have a final gem. I know that when you’re stuck, the best thing to do is share, talk and get reactions from other people.

Sure enough, my classmates were polite enough to keep a straight face (not always a good thing in a comedy class) when my turn came to present. And they did give me some great ideas for our second assignment — a rewrite. Our instructor — a comedy pro — knows the rule: writing is 10% idea and 90% rewriting. And you don’t invest too much of your ego in a first draft.

So … how does this story relate to website copywriting?

All too often I meet with clients who are terrified to take the first step to create a website. “It’s got to be just right,” they say. Or, “I know just what I want … “

The truth is, when you need a new website, or when your site is so old it’s doing you a disservice, it’s better to get something out there. I’m not suggesting you create a sloppy or ugly site on purpose, but I do know some high-earning professionals who have websites that would make a grown designer cry.

Let’s get real: if you’re a time-starved professional (like most of my clients) you don’t have time to get involved with a huge project. You’re wise enough to avoid throwing huge sums of money at the problem. If you wait till you’re ready for that perfect, mind-blowing, drop-dead gorgeous website, nothing happens. You miss opportunities, leave money on the table and feel stressed about one more thing hanging over your To Do list.

It’s like that advice we get tired of hearing: Half of success is just showing up, dressed to play. When I was a college professor, one of my deans used to say that, over and over. We used to joke about it, but he was right.

When you get a good-enough website out there, you’re showing up. You’ll start to get reactions. In fact, you will look at your own website differently; sometimes you will be inspired to change your offerings or your business model. Gradually you can build up your site…if you find you need to. A lot of entrepreneurs find they never need anything better.

In fact, over a dozen years ago, Seth Godin wrote a blog post, “How To Create A Good Enough Website. “ He encouraged everyone to find a website they liked, preferably in a different industry, and then hire someone to use that design as a starting point — not steal, just get inspired.

Today you don’t have to do that: you’ll find thousands — possibly millions — of templates, especially if you use WordPress. No need to worry about intellectual property. And you won’t even need to hire a designer if you’ve got the time to DIY.

You will find many different ways to create that website. Every year some company rolls out a new program to make the process easier or more flexible. These days not everyone needs to use WordPress. However, it’s important to avoid getting locked into a service that’s fine for a stop-gap measure but forces you to start over as you grow.

Most important: start with the content. All too often web designers get bogged down because they need the copy to finish the project. Many business owners don’t realize that copy can “break” a design or at least lack congruence.

Avoid an “Under Construction” website. There’s really no benefit to a site with a heading of “Under Construction” or “Pardon Our Dust.” You don’t get any benefit from this page. People rarely bookmark anything these days and they won’t remember you.

Besides, landing on an “Under Construction” page makes visitors feel they’ve arrived for a party while the caterer is still setting up. They don’t know what to do and often wander off to another event.

If you’re too busy to dive into the project with both feet, ask your copywriter to help you develop a stand-alone opt-in landing page and a lead magnet.

Seth Godin made two points which still seem valid today:

1. If you are unable to agree on an existing site, you are sure going to spend a lot of time and money trying to agree on a custom one.

2. The process of design and user interaction is best done separately from the process of server speed, database structure, and uptime.

I’d bring them up to date with:

1. If you can’t find a template you like — WordPress or otherwise — you will have trouble explaining to a designer exactly what you’re trying to do. Finding a template can take time, but so does defining a new website from scratch. And with some themes and programs like Divi and LeadPages, you can actually start with a blank canvas.

Be aware that working with a quality theme comes with these two advantages (and probably more).

First, your site automatically will be set up to be responsive, i.e., you’ll look good on a variety of devices, not just a desktop. Back when Seth Godin wrote that piece, these devices weren’t used as commonly as they are now.

Today you must assume your site could be viewed on an iPad or cell phone. Hiring a designer to move things around? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Second, many templates have been tested. The designers know the layouts and styles that will most likely motivate your visitors to take action. They know what looks professional. Of course, many design-from-scratch experts know this too. But the good ones are priced very, very high.

2. Your choice of theme and web host will influence server speed, database structure, and uptime. The process of design needs to be integrated with user interaction and message. I like to say that the copywriter is your quarterback on the team, calling the plays and making sure the “ball” gets to the goal post so you get a win. The web designer is your offensive line, making sure the message gets through to your audience without interference.

If you need a new website or website makeover, I’m here to help. We start with your purpose, your copy and your message. You get high-converting copy, a stronger message and a platform to share your story. Start with a one-to-one consultation or send me a message to get started.

Originally published at https://cathygoodwin.com on October 29, 2019.

Helping entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their businesses one story at a time. http://cathygoodwin.com

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