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Case Study: How to Check What's Missing

aka spotting the gaps in a Redditor's portfolio

Enter our challenger

As an experiment, I put an offer up on Reddit to give feedback on their copy. Tara was the first brave soul to step up and offer their cherished website for analysis. 

The following is a slightly more polished version of the advice I gave her with screenshots from the time of writing.

Look for the Bare Necessities...

At a fundamental level, I view any business website as there to answer the unasked questions of the reader. This means when planning what to include I'll write out what I think they are. For Tara's portfolio, this might look something like...

  • Where am I? Am I somewhere of interest to me?

  • What outcome or result is Tara offering for my business/life?

  • How will she bring this change about?

  • What's great about her approach?

  • If it all sounds good, what should I do next?

Our challenge then becomes to make the site answer those questions with as much insight as possible using a balance of show and tell.

Q1, Where am I?

What was displayed above the fold, shrunk by 50%

Above we have a mini-screenshot of her homepage. To answer where am I there is a tag of 'Designer, curator, digital artist' plus some images, so there's a bit of a clue. However, the visitor shouldn't have to hunt around to flesh out the answer.

If expanded to a short sentence it could be much more specific. For example, 'hand lettering for print and digital marketing' suddenly gives a much clearer idea of what is being offered and for whom.

However, the visitor shouldn't have to hunt around to flesh out the answer.

Q2, What outcome is being offered?

For the what outcome answer, this isn't obvious to me. It could maybe be hand lettering for businesses, or there's a shop link so maybe selling prints is the aim...either way it's not clear.

This could be included in subtle ways like an intro line for each portfolio item telling the story behind it. You can also cover this by starting your About page (shown below) with something that boils down to 'I help ___ achieve ____'.

Or alternatively, as a more ruthless writing prompt, I gave Tara a challenge of rewriting the About page to making it answer the question 'why should I give a damn about you?' which thankfully she appreciated.

Let's hope Tara doesn't mind me butchering her visuals by shrinking them down!

Either way, I'm looking to see what positive change you think your will be bringing to my life or business so I don't have to work it out for myself.

Q3, How will you bring about this change?

The how question is covered by your portfolio items, although again more insight could be offered by adding some supporting text. If each one was made for a project, a story format could be used of: 

  • who was the customer, 
  • what motivated them to reach out to you, 
  • how you ended up with this particular design graphic for them, 
  • what change it made to their business. 

This might only be a couple of sentences, but now the reader now has something to self-identify with.

They're great images, but I don't actually know what I'm meant to be appreciating

The mouse-over text for each image on the homepage could also become a snippet of this. 'Hand drawn lettering, digitized' gives me much more to go on then 'me, you, earth', but each could be more of a hint as to the background and why I should click through.

Q4, What's great about your approach?

Woo! Metaphor Time!

Now, let's imagine you were buying some furniture. You walk into two stores, and it all looks generally fine. 

You then walk into a third where it looks similar, but the owner talks to you a bit about the joints they use that makes each item more durable and how the high quality varnish will protect the surface from damage. I don't know about you, but I'd suddenly want to buy from them not the first two stores.

This is because they've now helped us understand what's great about their approach. Heck, maybe the first two stores use the same joints and varnish, but with an untrained eye there's no way we'd know that. 

So I would feed this back into the earlier stories. Each portfolio item could include some prompts about your approach and why it should be valued. Bonus points are also on offer for any work-in-progress pictures that clearly show the craftsmanship involved.

N.B. This isn't the same as talking about your training. I'm thinking more immediate things like the use of space, balancing colours, whatever...

Q5, If I like everything, what should I do next?

Lastly, the what to do next. Sounds super obvious, just put up a contact form, right? 

Well, think about this step as the start of your working relationship. Would you sit in front of a client and silently stare at them until they began talking, or would you somehow start the conversation going?

A contact page doesn't have to be a sterile form. Instead, it can set the tone for the rest of the relationship. If you'd normally open a conversation with 'so, tell me the story behind your project' then go ahead and include that prompt.

Closing thoughts

Have you ever tried to search for what's missing? It's always surprisingly hard.

Thankfully, judged against these five questions it suddenly became much easier as we then had a benchmark. So, if you want to do a self-assessment on your site then give this method a go and let me know how you get on.

p.s. if you've enjoyed the visuals, then check out Tara's page at www.taraesposito.com

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