How to Make a Website That Tells a Story

Storytelling is essential to any modern marketing strategy. Customers gravitate towards classic tales of heroes triumphing over adversity, even if it’s in the context of an advertisement. But creating a story for an advertisement is relatively straightforward. What turns out to be more difficult for most marketers is translating that story into a medium like a website. How does one tell a story through a series of web pages meant to convey information? Here is all about how to create a website that conveys a story.

Above the Fold

“Above the fold” is a term that originated with newspapers, and references the fact that headlines above the fold in the paper will get more attention than those below it. The same is true for your website, with “the fold” being the area that a user would need to scroll to in order to see. What appears when a user lands on your homepage is the most critical part of your website. It’s the hook of the story, where the user decides whether they want to abandon the story or continue on.

When people visit your website, their eyes are naturally drawn to two different spots. The first is the top-right of the page, and the second is just below the header image. These points are both above the fold, and are critical. Put your most important calls to action here. You can even use both spaces to host the same call to action. Repetition is key to making the eventual sale, and so is making things easier for your customer.

website above the fold on a laptop screen
This may just be a stock image, but even it shows that the tagline is above the fold.

Create the Conflict

What will happen if customers don’t do business with you? They can image it, sure, but it’s even better if you spell it out for them. Mention on your website what will happen if a customer continues to operate without your product or service. Whatever you’re selling presumably resolves some sort of pain point. Make sure that you specify these pain points and how your product or service solves them. The customer has to realize what they’re missing and they need help envisioning a world in which your offering can save them from pain or challenges.

Challenges are incredibly important to your story. Who would care about the hero of a story if they never faced any roadblocks?

Guide Your Customer

If the customer is the hero of their story, then you are the guide. Therefore, you should guide them to the information that they need. Even though you may sell dozens of products that solve dozens of problems, the messaging on your website should make a singular, simple promise. Make it easy, make it short, and make it clear. You don’t provide coffee, tea, and energy drink services – you provide people with the energy they need to push through their workday. See? Simple, and all-encompassing.

Similarly, you should be clear about what you want from the customer. Even if you know a prospect won’t buy immediately, an ever-present “Buy Now” button should exist somewhere above the fold, whether it’s in the main header or in the navigation bar. Don’t dance around the subject. Prospects know that you want them to buy. Make it easy for them to do so when they’re finally ready, while not being too in their face beforehand. It’s more of an “I’m here when you need me” reminder.

Show the Final Result

A lot of companies show a lot of irrelevant things on their website. But really, prospects want to see one thing: results. Images on your website need to show how people will feel after using your product or service. As cheesy as it sounds, pictures of happy and smiling customers will do the trick. To go back to the coffee, tea, and energy drinks example, you would love to see happy (and most of all energetic) people who are hard at work. How much more impactful is that than just showing dew-covered cans and bottles on your header?

Be specific in how you intend to help a potential customer. Will they be saving time, saving money, will their life become more simple? Make it incredibly clear how their lives will change, both through pictures and words.

Put the Details Where They Belong

I know you’re excited to talk about every feature of your products and every detail of your company’s history. There is a place for these things, but it isn’t your homepage, and it may not even be in any of your primary navigation at all. On your homepage, use bullet points of your most important selling points and promises. If you have more to say, then a “Read More” or “Learn More” button that either expands the text box or takes the user to a dedicated page will work wonders. You still get to say everything you want to say, but the customer gets more control over whether they read it or not. You may be very excited about the camera specs in a smartphone you’re selling, but does every customer really need to know the focal length and megapixel count in order to make their decision?

website above the fold on a mac screen

Be Transactional

Over the last decade or so, the idea of a transactional website experience has proven to work very effectively. You offer your website visitors a “free” PDF, training course, or cheat sheet, and they give you their email address. This imports them into your CRM, gets your name into their inbox, and signs them up for your newsletter or nurturing campaign. The prospect can feel like they got something of value for free, and you can begin the sales process. Everyone wins, and in the end, you may end up with a paying customer. Your job is to be the guide to the hero, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit along the way.

Combine Authority and Empathy

What separates you from the competition? Authority and empathy are the two factors that can make a customer decide between two options.

Authority refers to how qualified you are to solve a customer’s problems. It puts customers at ease when you have a high level of authority, because they know they don’t need to doubt you. You can prove this authority in a combination of several ways. The clearest way is through testimonials. These are quotes from real customers who benefited from your services, and they serve as great examples of what could happen to future customers. Logos of brands you’ve worked with is another way of showing authority. Beyond that, any sort of meaningful statistics can help imbue confidence in your offerings.

Keep it Simple

To sum it all up, keep it simple! If there is anything you take away from this article, it’s to keep it simple. Customers are bombarded with information not only from you but also from your competitors – along with everything else in their life! The more simple you can keep your messaging, your taglines, and your calls to action, the less confused your customers will be. The best stories are simple, and your website should tell a story that is memorable and easy to understand. And if you can be the one to break through the cloud of confusion, then that increases your chances of making a sale.

One Reply to “How to Make a Website That Tells a Story”

  1. Chris Laarman says:

    You won’t believe it, but I have a text-only website with my stories. Pages with the bare minimum of HTML, no scripting, no style sheets. And few people are given the name.

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