Does writing up a brand new webpage feel like starting a novel?

Why does is seem so hard to get your thoughts out of your head, and onto paper?

Why does rewriting your website leave you gasping for air, seeking for purpose in the void?

On top of that, you have to incorporate other stuff, like making it readable. Easy to scan. And error-free.

Every writer struggles with this. You know, the secret answer might surprise you.

Remember those essays from in high school? They always asked you:

  • Know what you want to say
  • Create an outline
  • Explain your thought in about 3 paragraphs.
  • Summarize what you just said.

Boom.

That’s it. Follow that, and you’re basically golden. 

(TL;DR – take me to the template)

I remember the day when the light clicked on.

When it made sense.

That no-brainer structure is what worked in high school.

And it’s exactly what works online.

Start using it, and you’ll be able to write any page. You’ll be able to write a blog post. You’ll nail that next business presentation.

Because now you have a method.

Let me show you Enable’s method for building web pages.

Case in Point

Just yesterday I got off the phone with one of our clients; he’s a ‘solopreneur’, building out his old website to take it to the next level.

His problem was that his current site was a decade old. He had done the best he could to create his pages, but never felt strongly about them. Now he wants to become better known as a thought leader, and promote his services.

So we started off with our standard message clarity session, or ‘Brand Narrative’. Then I sent him over our set of fill-in-the-blank templates for his new site. They break down all the steps, and make the process easy to rewrite his new pages.

Or so I thought.

He was stumped, scratching his head. Unable to understand why it seemed so complex.

“What are all these sections for?” he asked.

Darn. I’d been moving too fast.

Professionals like you and me walk around with a wealth of backlog in their brains. And often when we try to distill it for others, they have a hard time catching up.

Like a rocket scientist and his napkin at a bar.

So I jumped on the phone with him and walked him through the theory behind the template.

Then he got excited, hung up, and started typing away.

Next morning, another client emailed me, asking what do to with these templates.

Ok. Message loud and clear.

So here’s the rationale that Enable uses for building out a great web page.

This is the secret sauce to a compelling reading experience.

Wait for it…

No one has time to read.

We need to give them a reason to care.

Yep, you read that right.

Try to imagine that most people browsing online have brain fog.

No one picks up the Times when they’re tired. It’s too much work.

So a good webpage is broken down into bite-sized pieces.

It has to be easy to scan, so that people can find what they’re looking for.

The body copy has to be readable, so no large, block paragraphs. Plenty of white space. Variety in the short and long sentences.

And of course free of typos.

So let’s show you the magic.

The Key Theory

As soon as someone lands on a page, they have 7-10 seconds to decide if they want to stick around.

If you make them work for it, your reader is more likely to hit the back button.

Remember, people don’t necessarily buy the best product, but the one they understand the fastest. (Donald Miller, StoryBrand)

So you need to start your page light. Like a first date.

Then offer a couple more pieces of the information. Keep it punchy, and informative, and inspirational. Like a couple of follow up dates.

If someone is sticking around after that, you’ve hooked their interest, and they’re now primed to get into the nitty gritty of the details.

Big blocks of text right up front feels like a major commitment. It feels like too much work.

Lead them in with bite sized pieces, like a fisherman angling his catch.

Template: The Top of the Page

Lead with a Clear Headline

Start every page with a short, clear sentence stating what the site/page/service does.

Keep it simple.

The best idea is to lead with the name of the thing. Or lead with the expected result, the ‘promised land’ that someone will enjoy once they’ve bought it, or used it.

Subhead

Unpack your key statement in one to two sentences. Imagine you had the length of a tweet to describe why someone should sit up and listen.

Focus on your approach to using it,and the specific benefit someone will get from using it.

Breakdown Key Benefits

At this point you likely have your reader hunched over the screen, interested in more, but not sold yet to stick around the whole way.

So provide a short set of points to think about.

These could be parts of your product. Aspects of your services. Key benefits that you can bring them.

The formula is the same as before; lead with a super simple headline, and explain it in about 1-2 sentences.

3 is a magic number, if you can swing it.

Try not to go more than 6. After that you’re becoming too specific, and you can move all this detail later on in your page.

The key  here is to bring up the top 3 broadest reasons why someone should invest more time in reading more.

Template: Your Page Body

Here’s where you can use the good stuff that you knew you wanted to write, or perhaps what was on your previous website pages.

The key here is to follow a distinct flow of thought.

I followed this in writing a website for a free medical clinic. Later on I showed it to my wife, and she read over the page, nodding over and over again.

By the end she couldn’t get over how the text seemed to be reading her mind, answering her next questions as they appeared. She was ready to start donating then and there.

So here’s how you can get this goodness going for your page.

Restructure what you have to say according to these three themes:

  • Who is your audience and what is their problem?
  • What is your approach to solving that problem?
  • What will life be like for your client/customer after that problem is solved?

All you need is a couple of sentences for each.

This helps ground your product/service in your reader’s experience.

There’s nothing we all like better than someone telling us ‘I hear you. I understand what you’re going through.’

Empathy. It’s magic.

And it’s sorely lacking in the business world.

So if you can bring empathy to the table, and show your readers that you know what they’re going through, you’ve won half the battle.

Show them how your solution works, and how they’ll use it.

And then help them clearly see how much more they will enjoy life, or their project, or their peace of mind, after they’ve bought it.

Because when it comes down to it, you’re not selling your product.

You’re selling the happy outcome of that product. That’s what people will pay for. That’s what they’re shopping for: that outcome.  

If they’re not buying it, it’s either because they’re not the right audience, or they need help understanding how it’s perfect for them.

Your job is to help them envisage a future where your product/service has delivered that outcome. 

So don’t lead with the specs and the parts. That’s for later. Lead with the future your product will help them reach.

Imagine someone sold a time machine: which ad inspires you to buy?

  • Time Machine: 5″ ft, anodysed aluminum, ergonimic seating. Top of the line chronometers for to-the-second arrival and departure. NASA-grade HUD, 2032 Lockheed Martin F-Class Gyronometer.
  • Time Machine: Visit the future, or jump into the past in an instant. Relive the best memories of your life -literally! Or find out what new ones are round the corner. Why live in the present, when you can see it all! Our time machine guarantees that you’ll enjoy the journey with comfort, and be back before you know it.

I think they speak for themselves. 

Template: Page End

Now that you’ve gone through all this hard work, here are some additional elements you should layer in as soon as you can get them.

They are what’s called ‘trust indicators’, or social proof. You can talk up a storm about how amazing your work is. But it’s better to have a happy client lean over and do the talking for you. It’s far more convincing.

Where possible, add these:

  • Testimonials and references
  • FAQs
  • Media – like photos, videos, etc.
  • Additional resources, like blogs
  • Further breakdown of features and benefits
  • Anything to showcase

You know, we can’t get away with hiding anything today.

Not that you’d want to.  

Customer service and gossip is only tweet away.

Therefore, honesty, openness and authenticity is critical to being believable.

No one buys with confidence from people they distrust.  

So look around at ways you can bolster your message with trust indicators.

Testimonials from happy clients are the best thing you could ever have. Reach out to past clients and ask them for referral, explaining what particular point clinched the deal.

If you don’t have them yet, then focus on being crystal clear about benefits and features.

Clarity is a big trust indicator. 

So there you have it.

Every page will follows the same general outline.

Your Homepage Template

Headline: Simple summary of the promised land.

Subhead: 1-2 sentences about your approach and how its special. A call to action somewhere on the page is strongly recommended

Major Site/Page Sections: Break down your products and services into bite-sized categories: simple headline, with supporting sentence. 3-4 is best. Don’t overwhelm with too many options. If you offer a simple service, display the steps people need to take to get started.

Optional Recommendations
Depending on how much content you have to display on the page, you can add additional success indicators, or elements to provide clarity and authority:

  • Latest blog entries
  • Entries from a knowledgebase,
  • Research
  • Answer commonly asked questions – as faqs.
  • Breakdown of features/benefits.
  • A gallery
  • Do you have anything to showcase?

Key Takeaways

As soon as someone lands on a page, they have 7-10 seconds to decide if they want to stick around.

If you make them work for it, your reader is more likely to hit the back button. Lead them in with bite sized pieces, like a fisherman angling his catch.

Start every page with a short, clear sentence stating what the site/page/service does.

Unpack your key statement in one to two sentences. Imagine you had the length of a tweet to describe why someone should sit up and listen.

Provide a short set of points to think about.

Restructure what you have to say according to these three themes:

  • Who is your audience and what is their problem?
  • What is your approach to solving that problem?
  • What will life be like for your client/customer after that problem is solved?

All you need is just a couple of sentences each.

Customer service and gossip is only tweet away. Therefore, honesty, openness and authenticity is critical to being believable.

Clarity is a big trust indicator.

And there it is.

Questions, comments or praise? Fire away in the comments. I’m only too happy to help!

Did this article work for you? Share a link to a page where you used this layout, and let us know how it worked for you.

So till next time, thanks for flying Enable Airlines!

Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.

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