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Making the most of your feature panel: WHY/what

Most websites nowadays have a big feature panel (“hero”, call to action, banner, call it what you will). They’re great for catching the eye and communicating immediately to new visitors. But they have a serious limitation in most cases: they have limited space for content.

You don’t want your feature panel to extend below the fold on your site. Now, many would argue that websites don’t have a “fold” – all the content is an easy scroll away. But that first impression when a site loads is all-important, so many sites now make sure that their feature panel is a single, full page banner – see as an example of this.

So how do you write your copy for this feature panel? I’ve been looking at some examples, and there’s a clear pattern: I’ve decided to call it WHY/what.

In big letters you have the “why”. This is a bold, usually emotional statement about a benefit (remember the old marketing mantra that people buy benefits, not features? Yeah, that).

Next up, you have a strapline: a smaller line of text explaining a little about the what: what the product actually is.

There’s strong logic to this approach. People find your site because they have a problem which needs solving, whether it be the need for an accounting system or somewhere nice to take their wife on Valentine’s day. So the first thing you need to tell people is that you can solve that problem; appeal to their emotional side, or hit another aspect of their requirements with a benefit. For the FreshBooks example on the above link, for example, the problem people are trying to solve is that it’s hard to do book-keeping for small businesses. The WHY statement is:

Accounting made for you, the non-accountant

…which answers that original need (for book-keeping) AND addresses another: you’re not an accountant, you’re a normal person!

Now, you could just keep it at that, right?

Well, possibly. But the web is so full of different products of varying levels of usefulness – and with such wildly hyperbolic claims or stupid vowel-sparse names – that most cynical website visitors need to be told up front exactly what your offering is. That’s where the what comes in. What exactly is the product, and what does it offer? So for FreshBooks, the WHAT doesn’t fully answer the question: is it a team of accountants who’ll do your books for you? A book about how to do accounting? Some handy templates to fill in? So the why comes in:

Join 5 million people using FreshBooks to painlessly send invoices, track time and capture expenses

Right, so FreshBooks is a system which lets you do common book-keeping tasks as a small business.

Notice how much extra stuff they managed to squeeze in to this single sentence? It’s also massively popular (so they must be doing something right) and there’s another appeal to your emotional side: it’s painless.

I’ve created an example for a fictional dog-grooming business. You can see it above. You can also see why I’m neither a designer nor a dog-groomer.

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