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Old School Jeopary and New School Web Design

Yesterday, while doing nothing after landing from LAX, I caught the very first episode of Jeopardy! The game show is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and there's no hiding that this episode dropped right out of 1984.

What I found most intriguing was how much Canada's own Alex Trebek talked. He explained everything. He told us why the show was called Jeopardy!, why the second round was called double jeopardy and how everything worked.

Of course, he had to. No one had ever seen it before. Tune in to a new episode and Alex keeps quiet, just reading the clues and the results. Jeopardy! is such a part of our culture now that most people who watch know the rules and aren't confused by the fact that the questions are answers and the answers are questions. Sit down with a first timer, however, and you can watch their brain literally explode.

The same can go for your Web site. You may assume that everyone coming to it knows a little bit about you. So, the layout and copy speak a certain language. Or, you may assume that everyone coming there knows nothing about what you do. So, the layout and copy are tailored to those people.

Chances are, you have some of each audience coming. So how can you design a site that provides them both with the information they need? How can you educate a newcomer without boring a repeat guest?

At Cool People Care, it's very tempting to rerun articles. After all, the article that ran last year on September 9 was only seen by about half of the audience we have today. So, who cares if we repeat ourselves? There's a whole lot of new eyeballs to please.

Then again, last year on September 9, we had thousands of people already subscribing. So, don't they deserve something fresh and new?

Here's how I'd suggest you think about your Web site, blog or email newsletter in order to both attract and retain visitors.

  • Keep the main thing the main thing. Whatever it is you do (feed the poor, sell a blanket, write a book), make that front and center on your Web site. Return guests will know to skip it and visitors won't be confused as to what it is you can offer them.
  • No one likes wild goose chases. Make sure it's easy to find more information, should someone want it. Not everyone wants to read every last detail of your mission statement, financial reports or your staff bios. So, place them on appropriate internal pages. Some people will be curious about all of that, which is a good thing. Reward their curiosity by making this information easy to find.
  • Do something that other people will talk about online. If you're good, then people will blog and tweet about you, meaning that social media - and not your Web site - will be the first encounter that people will have with you. So, you won't necessarily have complete strangers to your work, just a lot of people with a very vague idea of who you are. If you were to watch Jeopardy! with a first timer and they were confused, they'd either ask someone or use Google to find out what was happening. Folks may do the same with you, too.

Of course, if you have no clue about who you are, what you do or why you're doing it, then it's hard to design a Web site, pick out a company name, or start blogging. So, before hopping online, you'll still need a clear vision of where you're headed. No Web design - simple or slick - can help people figure out who you are if you don't even know who you are.

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