WordCamp San Francisco 2013 Liveblog: Natalie MacLees

WordCampSFThis weekend, I’m virtually attending WordCamp San Francisco. What an amazing virtual world we live in, when we can see all the talks at a conference live, from our own living rooms! Of course, there’s no substitute for actually being there, meeting people and participating in discussions, but sometimes circumstances mean that attendance is impossible.

But hang on, I can hear you asking. You live in San Francisco! Why are you not attending in person?

Well, even though I did attend the 2011 WordCamp in person, and had a great time, it’s extra hard now to organise getting out for the day when I have a toddler. So I attended last year via livestream, and am doing the same this year. Throughout the day, I can dip in and out of the conference between naps, playground and meal times. Genius!

I’m going to try to liveblog as much as I can, which will hopefully be a decent amount!

The first talk I wanted to tell you about is Natalie MacLees from Los Angeles-based Purple Pen Productions. She has just finished her wonderful talk entitled “Setting Up Your WordPress Site: Six Stories of Joy and Despair.” In the talk, Natalie used case studies of clients she has worked with to discuss the importance of web content strategy.

The six stories referenced in the title relate to six questions to ask yourself when setting up a new website. The answers to these questions form your website plan, which is a crucial item to have before you even think about getting quotes or installing WordPress!

The six questions are:

1. WHY does your website need to exist?

The story here was about a construction company who didn’t seem to want people to contact them through their website. This seems really weird to most of us whose website is completely for that purpose! But as it turns out, this company just wanted their website for people they had met in person to visit, who were already very likely to use their services. The purpose for the website was therefore just to show some credibility and push the client the rest of the way.

If you’re not sure how to answer the question of why your website needs to exist, try thinking about what you want people to do when they visit your website. Do you want them to buy tickets? Sign up for a course? Contact you? Once you figure this out, you will have a better idea of why you need a website.

2. WHO is your target audience?

This story was about Carly, a busy mother and wife who barely had time to brush her teeth. She thought that there must be some gadgets or apps out there that would make her life easier, so she decided to make a website to showcase these. Every Monday, she uploaded a 5-minute video in which she not only showed one of these gadgets, but also demonstrated how to use it. Her website is now very successful and she appears on various television shows.

This is an example of someone who nailed their target audience. Who is your target audience? Remember, it’s not everybody!

3. WHAT formats will be included on your website?

Margo and Norman wrote a novel. As well as having this available as a printed book, they wanted to create an e-book. But they were underwhelmed by the current possibilities, so they decided to make an immerse online experience as an e-book.

So, think not only about your content, but also about what formats your content will be in. Will it be text? Video? Podcasts? Some combination of these?

4. WHERE are people going to find your website?

This point came with a story about domain names. Not much to mention here, except that it makes a lot of sense to lock in your business name AFTER you’ve found out that the domain name is available!

5. WHEN are you going to update new content?

Natalie’s friend Mark runs a film production company. On his website, he blogs a lot. He has various features such as film reviews, and lists. These features are updated on a regular basis.

Even if you only have a simple business website of three pages, it’s important to sit down at least once a month and go through your whole website. Find out if there’s anything that needs updating, and keep it current.

It’s a great idea to have an editorial calendar for your website. Make a plan for when you are going to blog, do updates, make videos, etc. And stick to it!

6. HOW will you know if your website is meeting your audiences needs?

This point is too often left until after the website is up and running. Natalie used the case study of a client who really wanted a responsive website. However, they had no idea whether people were actually visiting their site from mobile devices! If they knew that nobody was actually visiting from mobiles, they could save themselves a lot of time and money on something that wasn’t actually going to help their business.

Think about how you will know if your website is successful. Installing Google Analytics is a big one, and everybody should at least do this step. But perhaps there are other metrics, like how many tickets are sold, how many comments are made, etc.

So that was Natalie’s talk! I found it really enjoyable and informative, and I hope her points also help you. It’s so important to sit down and come up with a strategy for your website before even getting quotes or installing WordPress.

I’d like to leave you with a thought from one of the audience questions Natalie answered at the end of her talk. The audience member asked her for an idea of how much her rates are to build a new website. Of course, this is an impossible question, as every project is so different. But she answered instead with advice for businesses considering websites:

Rather than wasting time getting a load of quotes for your website project, first work out what you can realistically afford. Then, tell the designers to quote based on that figure. Ask them: “What can you do for this much money?”

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