Cabinetmaker Business Website Design and Content
I feel as though you can tell a lot about a company just from photos. If the jobs look expensive maybe they won't be in my budget. If they look cheap then maybe they won't be able to give me a quality project. If they have a large variety of simple jobs and complicated jobs then that's probably my best bet. My thoughts are that we can sit and write anything. We can write a bunch and it doesn't mean anything. Aside from that, we could always write a blog if that's what we feel will help sell ourselves. I guess the question is, is it more professional to fill the site up with mumbo jumbo people may not even read, or fill it up with photos and let the work sell itself?
While my site is an ever-ongoing-work-in-progress, I think it is wise to have the short story right up front - in pictures. The viewer can click on that to find out a bit more - either more work in that range or more info about that work in particular, with more text and more pictures. Then you can have the in depth story, with images of rough sketches, some shop in progress, and close-ups for those people that want further assurance you can do the work. Keep this format consistent throughout the site so it is easy and predictable as they look around.
Wordpress is the dominant format in use today, an exceptional bit of software for all of us to make use of. Everyone from New York Times to sawmills have found ways to utilize its very flexible nature. By all means avoid the blue text on black background or similar that is currently so prevalent and entirely unreadable. Remember - it is a visual media.
From contributor P:
Keep your top-level pages simple and to the point, but allow users to drill down to get more details if they want. A good photo gallery viewing scheme is important. There are free ones out there that help you organize and display your photos on your site. Coffee Cup Photo Gallery is one that I've tried. WordPress is great, but it's geared more towards blog style sites, where content is added regularly, typically in a timeline fashion. Go look at lots of other cabinetmakers' sites, and emulate the aspects that you like. Build a test website and invite your friends (and enemies) to try it out for you.
From contributor H:
It is all about diction, punctuation and paragraphs, and making it easy to read. Make your point and don't ramble. It is difficult to get people to read what you have written.
From contributor U:
I believe most will quickly scan your website and move on, but as said earlier some will really read the fine print. If you only get a couple of large orders from your website each year, I guess it was worth the extra effort. Even for those who look but do not read, they will also form an opinion of your site and your business, and that is certainly worth the effort, especially when some may return later to take a longer look. I also think that some will look at the site, then take the easy approach and make a phone call and let you tell them yourself what they could have already read. If that website gets them to call you, then again it is worth that extra effort.
From contributor G:
I second the idea of Wordpress, if it fits into the overall scheme of what you want for your website. It is mostly popular as a blogging platform, and it the one I have chosen for my blog. A great feature is that it's easy to use. I'm a complete novice and I was up and running in a few days of work (still far from done). I also agree with the others about giving the people options to dig into deeper information if desired.
From contributor I:
I like to read about the background of the owner. Not a whole page but a couple of paragraphs - maybe how they got started, how long they have been in business and maybe what their outside activities/ interests are (if any). To me it adds a personal touch.
From contributor L:
I don't know anything about websites but whatever you do monitor your hit rate and bounce rate and correlate that changes you make. If you want to manage it you have to measure it. I would emulate the websites of companies that are successful. You care about what the customers think not what other cabinetmakers think.
From contributor Z:
Pictures on websites are great for the human viewer. The machine viewer ( search engines , Google, Bing, etc. ) can only read words. If you want your site to be found by people searching for your product you will need both. Words that are pertinent to the product that you are selling and words that people use to do searches with.
From contributor Q:
I sell about $100K a year of 95% gross margin items (no, 95% isn't a typo, collectibles have almost zero CGS) on eBay, a few other auction and fixed price sites and on my own site. After a dozen years of doing so, I've noticed a few things. Even though my listings only contain 25 short sentences (23 are boiler-plate) covering all of the important stuff in as few words as possible, almost no one reads any of it beyond the first sentence or two. Most of it is idiot-proofing. If auction listings weren't a contract in and of themselves, the listing would be two sentences long: A description of the item, shipping method, and cost - the end.
That is a lot like what your presentation should be. Very little verbiage, lots of pictures. Even so, people can barely be bothered to look at the pictures. Scrolling down also seems to be a task many can't handle. The first rule is keep it simple. Every single word that doesn't absolutely need to be there is a detriment to your purpose, which is generating interest and inquiries. Lots of white space, make what's there easy to read (compare the way this post is formatted to your post starting this thread).
Avoid the need to scroll. No stupid bells and whistles. As in moving/scrolling stuff, flashing stuff, frames, weird colors, strange backgrounds, etc. Always use a white (or very light color, if you insist on color) background (note the practice of the site you're now on.) Pick one dark color for text (blue or black is good) and stick to it. Hold bolding, other text colors and caps for emphasis to a minimum.
Include approximate pricing (and keep it up to date) for common projects. If you don't give people some idea of what costs will be most of them will keep looking until they find it. It will also stop morons who don't have two nickels to rub together from bothering you for quotes. Provide as much more detailed information as you want to in the form of links for those who want it. Few do, but they'll follow those links and vacuum up every single tid-bit you want to give them. For that type of buyer, the site can make the entire sale, they'll call or e-mail wanting to know where to sign (they'll already know how to pay because they followed your link to your terms of sale.)
Make sure that there are absolutely zero typos, grammar/usage errors and the like anywhere on the site. Nothing makes any intelligent potential buyer run away faster than sloppiness with something as simple as English. Any hint of sloppiness is not a good thing on any web site, but especially not on a craftsman's site.
While you note that you are building your own site, that may not be a good idea if your original post is any indicator. Without some experience, it might be better to hire someone. Finding a good web site designer/code writer is at least as hard as finding a good cabinet shop, maybe harder. It could even be two people, design and code are two different things, not many do both well. Be wary of any claims made. Get references. Also might be a good idea to have your lawyer look at any finished product so you can add a link to the voluminous disclaimers and caveats that need to be there.
From contributor E:
About the only reason I can see for a small cabinetmaker to have a website is to show potential clients a portfolio without having physically deliver one. You could achieve this by storing a photo gallery online and directing clients to it when they contact you. I could be wrong, but it does not seem like people go online to find a cabinetmaker in their neighborhood. I live in a small town and maybe things work differently around here.
From contributor Y:
Two points: Most visitors will not read what is written on a web site, and your writing in the early pages is designed to encourage search engine spiders to classify and rank your site.
The way to get around this is to write quite a good deal on the early pages, but also provide links and buttons that allow the visitor to skip it. The search engine spiders are machines and cannot see pictures (though they can read picture tags and alts.). They are counting key words and phrases to see what the site is all about. And they tend to deprecate meta keywords since these are so easy to spam. So what you write and how often you say it is very important.
You should also subscribe monitor your raw logs. By doing so, you can tell how long visitors stay on each page and the path they take through a multiple page site. This can be very enlightening. Our doorway page, for example, takes about three minutes to read. Visitors typically spend less than ten seconds on it.
From contributor Y:
I might add, that if you are attempting to attract a local audience then you’re writing ought to include your state and the name of your town and other local towns or geographic names (Northwest Indiana, Eastern Washington, the DC Metro Area). Local search is a big area of concentration for search engines and they are always trying hard to make search engine results more geographically relevant. You really have to sit down and ask yourself, "What are my potential customers going to enter into a search engine," and then make sure you've uttered that exact phrase in your early writing.
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