I'm writing this on the long flight back to Montreal, a little travel weary but also energized by all the great musicians we met at the New Music Seminar in LA and the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis. For the benefit of those who who couldn't attend, we'll be posting a summary of our talks here, starting with mine from the New Music Seminar: "Your music is your Art. Your website is your Business." Here goes:
As a web business, we've designed our site, Bandzoogle.com, to grab visitors' attention and lead them toward an important action: signing up to try our service. Band websites are no different. Even if you have a great sound and a product that people want, if you don't design your site properly, you aren't going to engage visitors and they won't take the next step to download a track or buy your album.
Now, I am not talking about making your website look corporate--the art comes first--but let's face it, potential fans have unlimited choices, and very short attention spans. Web businesses have figured out some great techniques to make their websites as effective as possible, so I'd like to show you how these techniques can be just as effective for Bands.
Let's start with the wrong way to build an artist's web page:
Unfortunately too many bands and managers focus on creating flashy visuals first. Important goals like growing your mailing list are tacked on after the design is done. The result is a website that may be pretty but doesn't engage your visitors.
Smart web businesses on the other hand, do the opposite:
Before even thinking of a design, they'll decide the goals that they want to achieve on the page. When they're ready for the design step, they’ll make sure those goals are prioritized over other content or design elements. Then, they'll track their progress to make sure that visitors are accomplishing the goals they set out.
The good news is, planning things properly isn't hard. With a little thought up front the payoff can be huge--I've seen websites drastically improve their effectiveness just from a smart redesign.
The first step in planning an effective website is to figure out your goals. What do you want your fans do to when they hit your page?
An easy answer is "buy my music", but this will only work for bands with established fan bases. There is a process of building engagement that will get a casual visitor into an interested visitor, then into a fan, and then into a buyer.
Let's look at these engagement levels:
Engagement levels are important to think about, because they help you decide what goal is appropriate for your website. A casual visitor probably won’t buy your CD, but might want to download a free track. A super fan, on the other hand, checks your site regularly, excited about your new limited edition vinyl.
Let's match these engagement levels up to the real actions that fans of each engagement level might take:
Web businesses refer to these steps as "the funnel." At the top of the funnel are all your potential fans; at the bottom are those who have completed your ultimate goal such as purchasing a product or referring a friend.
Your job is to decide what the #1 goal is that you want your visitors to accomplish on your site, taking into consideration the average engagement level of your visitors. Once you've decided your key goal, the next step in making an effective website is to design your website to support those goals.
There are several techniques that web businesses use to translate visitor goals to real functional web page layouts. I'll tackle this topic in my next blog post! If you have any questions about deciding your website's goals, feel free to comment here.