Wanted: Multi-Task Writer

This week, I want to talk about the somewhat broad task that is shouldered by the writer of a half-decent e-commerce web site.

Writing a web site is nothing like writing a catalog, an ad, a mailing or a letter.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s put together an imaginary site, four pages long, that sells a choice of four stone carvings. We’ll make the carvings of a dog, a cat, a bird, and a fish.

Our domain name will be granitepets.com.

First, we have to write the home page. If the home page has an equivalent offline, the closest I can imagine is a storefront that has a large display window and also makes its store directory visible from the street.

It would be nice to imagine that once you have someone at your homepage, they’re already within your virtual store and ready to buy.

You wish.

I think it’s more realistic to view visitors to your homepage as still being out on the sidewalk. They’re looking at what you have on show, but haven’t made the commitment to step inside.

Within our granitepets.com storefront, our home page, we’re going to have to show and say enough to entice potential customers to step inside and look around.

Our designer colleagues can look after the layout of the store window. But as the writer, we have to display a variety of skills in order to make our homepage work effectively.

  1. We need the skills of a headline writer. We’ll need to use some words that can attract attention and hold it long enough to tell people what we have to offer.
  2. We need the skills of a directory writer. We’ll be writing a few links to other parts of the site. We need to be able to simplify and clarify the navigation process and describe it clearly and quickly.
  3. We need the skills of a creative writer in order to create the voice of a friend. Bits and bytes are cold things and a warm voice can make a big difference. A tough job on a home page.

Right there on the home page we’ll show thumbnails of our four carvings. A smart thing to do in our shop window. Click on one of these carvings and you’ll come to the second page.

The second page shows the carvings in more detail, each with a 50-word description. And a call to action.

Two more skills are required of our writer.

  1. First, we’ll need the skills of a catalog writer. This is a lifetime worth of skill all on its own. Describe the item, paint a picture, evoke an emotion and create a desire to possess — all in 50 words or less.
  2. Second, we’ll need the skills of a direct response writer. Our description may sound good and evoke great feelings, but we want to be sure that we close the sale. That takes a slightly more direct approach.

Let’s assume that we get that wonderful click-through to our secure order page. Now our multi-tasking writer has to write an order form that isn’t going to cause our prospect to lose the impulse to buy. Tough work — especially as we’ll be asking our prospect a bunch of personal questions — like his or her name, address, credit card info, etc.

So let’s hope our writer has the skills to write a clean, clear order page — with the voice of a helpful and friendly sales assistant.

Page four? Page four is the page to which our prospect may or may not decide to go. It’s where we have some FAQs. Our privacy statement. Our shipping and return policies. Our warranties.

So here’s hoping our writer has an orderly mind and is working from clear instructions and policies.

Our writer also needs the skills to describe policies and procedures without sounding defensive and restrictive. Even if some of your policies are in place to protect your company — they should be written in a way that makes you sound like your customers’ best friend.

So if you’re short a writer or two, try this ad:

“Web site writer required. Must have experience in the following: Direct response, catalog, promotional, creative, retail and directory writing. Experience in window display preferred.”

And good luck to you.

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