Refocusing the Catalog toward People

Catalog Revision 1 On Tuesday I started the second pass on the catalog page, this time thinking from the customer’s point of view. I ended up reorganizing the page again, moving the technical information into the diagram itself, and writing up a draft of the things that customers might be interested in. Before, I was thinking like a developer. If you’re curious to see what the old draft layout looked like, click the thumbnail on the right side of this paragraph.

In the new draft, which is only halfway done, I made the left-hand side into more of a description of the design philosophy behind the page template. I’m also purposefully trying to avoid the use of the word “template”, for no other reason than I suspect it is too jargon-y.

Catalog Revision 2 On the right-hand side is supplemental information. It isn’t finished or formatted yet, but it captures my main concerns, which break down into several groups.

Listing the Goods:

  • Exactly what you get for your $75.00
  • What you don’t get (hosting, etc)
  • What can be customized for an additional fee.

Listing Extras and A la Carte Services

  • Hosting
  • Writing
  • Creative Services for hire

Putting people at ease

  • Defining what you get, simply
  • Taking the worry out of the commitment
  • Maintaining an enthusiastic, can-do tone instead of burying them with caveats and “it depends” kinds of answers.

This was rather painful to go through. Although I’ve done this many times before for larger design proposals, I’m trying to appeal to people with small budgets that aren’t familiar with web technology. And frankly, I don’t want them to have to worry about it. At the same time, I don’t want to end up doing endless customization. Web hosting, design, and customization is fairly complicated, and I don’t want to undersell the effort that goes into it.

After reflecting on this for the past few hours while puttering around the house, the solution to this dilemma is simple: don’t allow customization. The whole point of this catalog of simple websites is that they are simple, and that means not overloading the catalog page with too many options. Provide alternatives by providing new website design templates.

The way I would like this catalog to work goes something like this:

  1. Prospective client browses through the designs and finds something they like.
  2. They read what can be customized in terms of photos, colors, text, and links.
  3. They see one price for this kind of customization, and a second price for full customization that is more in-line with custom web development.
  4. They read exactly what they get, are comfortable with the terms, and act immediately by putting down a starting payment.

What is complicating this is the reality that the prospective client also needs to buy hosting and register a domain name. Everyone I talk to who is new to this is confused. To take away the pain of this, I should offer the following (perhaps with an attendant fee)

  1. A recommended domain name registrar
  2. A recommended web hosting provider / my hosting option, if available
  3. A checklist to follow and fill out, to return to me.

The prospective client also needs to deal with content creation. It’s one thing to choose a template, and quite another thing to provide high-quality graphics and photos, logo artwork in the right format, and write good copy. I think I’ll use another checklist approach:

  1. Client is provided with a list assets to be provided. They can be submitted electronically through email or an online form that I could create.
  2. The provided assets are used to fill out a “staging area” that shows those assets in use, grading each asset for quality and suggesting ways to fix any problems. Bad assets will look pretty bad, and I think showing them back to the client may make it apparent that the providing of good source photos is up to them. Or, they have to hire someone to redo it (photography, for example) for an additional cost.
  3. When all the assets are received, the website design can proceed.

Then there are all the add-on services that are not automatically included, like setting up email for the domain, analytics, newsletter management, search engine optimization, and figuring out who will be maintaining the website. At the bare minimum, making sure email is working is a given.  I can throw in analytics at the same time by using something like Google Analytics + Google Apps for Domains. Putting together a good package that serves the creative entrepreneur will take some time and research.

Tomorrow I’ll do some more writing, and try to finalize the catalog before Thanksgiving rolls around. The catalog will have exactly one product in it: the tiny multi-page website. It will also have all the ala carte packages that are necessary for very small websites in it, with descriptions. I have a few nibbles locally for websites, so I’ll do the test marketing on them and see what they say.