Don’t give your friends Hepatitis C
Don’t reuse content.
I’ll never forget sitting down and getting my first tattoo. It was my 19th birthday. I was in college and living in Seattle at the time. I was away from my friends and family, so I had nobody to tell me getting a tattoo of Bam Bam from the Flintstones cartoon was something I might not want years later. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
I’m staring in the mirror looking at myself and listening to the devil and angel on my shoulder battle it out. “This is stupid” my rational voice said. “Girls will think you’re cool” my YOLO voice said. Well, obviously we know who won that battle.
This was also before the slew of tattoo reality TV shows that show you what to expect and what happens when you get a tattoo. All that I knew about tattooing at that time was that it involved needles and it hurts. It probably involved a biker or someone with criminal tendencies as well.
I looked up tattoo shops in the phone book (Google it if you don’t know what it is). I called and asked for directions because we didn’t have smart phones or GPS in our cars, and drove down to the shop.
I walked up to the building after finding a parking spot. There was a light drizzle in the air as I walked up to the red door that said, “TATTOOS”. I open the door and a bell rang. Not an electric sensor, a real bell over the door. I could smell a distinct clean smell that I would eventually come to know is Green Soap.
There were two guys in their 30’s behind the desk One of them stood up and greeted me. I didn’t really know what to expect so I just said, “Hi, I called earlier about a tattoo”. I hand him a coloring book I found at a grocery store and he flipped to the dog eared page I flagged with the Bam Bam image on it. This was really happening.
My heart was beating out of my chest as I signed some paperwork and the artist told me to sit down in his barber chair and he started shaving my shoulder. Then he grabs some Speed Stick deodorant and I panic thinking that I have BO because I’m nervous and sweating or something.
He takes off the top and starts rubbing it on my shoulder. Then, he grabs the stencil of my tattoo and lays it down on my shoulder and peels it off. The Speed Stick made the purple outline from the stencil stick to my skin so he could simply trace it.
“Let’s let that dry for a few minutes and I’ll start, OK”?
I didn’t question it because he’s the expert. But, I should have.
Fast forward ten years and I’m now the guy behind the desk that stands up when a new customer walks through the door.
During my apprenticeship, I learned more than I ever thought I would know about disease, transference of communicable disease, and pathogens. I also learned that using speed stick to transfer a tattoo stencil is a great way to give a client Hepatitis C.
When you shave the hair off of a client’s body so you can work on a bacteria free area of skin, you also leave tiny cuts and irritations in the skin leaving cooties on the freshly shaven area. Rubbing Speed Stick on that same area afterwards transfers those cooties to the Speed Stick. The next client has those same cooties rubbing into their skin and boom – I just unknowingly trasnfered a disease from one person to the next.
The better way to do this is either use Green Soap instead of Speed Stick or rub the Speed Stick onto a paper towel and rubbing it unto the skin. Either method works and makes sure anything that touches the skin is disposed of and never used again.
Cool story bro – what does this have to do with website design?
The beauty of WordPress is that it combines standard themes, plugins, and widgets to make a beautiful website. You can literally reuse the same elements on five different websites and walk away with completely different looking sites.
You’ll be tempted to reuse content and designs you’ve used before because it’s worked in the past. It’s what everyone does. It’s standard practice. Well, just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
You still need to fill the website with content. The content on your website is like the Speed Stick in a tattoo shop. You need it for the stencil so the customer knows exactly what they’re getting before you start tattooing. Your new website needs content. It’s tempting to just rush through the content, “just to get something up for now”.
I’ll be honest. It’s easy to do but, it’s lazy. I can literally show you a post on one of my sites that’s still there from last year announcing a Movember promotion. Guess what? That was for LAST November. Life happens and just getting my site up and running was my goal.
When I finally published everything, “just to get it up for now”. I was mentally drained. I didn’t have it in me to write better content right away and that free time I expected to have never came.
Learn from my mistakes and set aside time to write or contract out brilliant copy before you start designing. Let the content guide your design. The content in this example is your stencil. It’s the base that everything builds on.
Clean and concise copy guides a visitor through a site. It greets them and invokes an emotion. It should be inclusive and inviting. It should expose a need the visitor has and have a call to action that fills that void you just exposed.
Choose your words wisely. They literally make or break a great visual design and layout.
You can have the most amazing design every published on the internet. It might have an amazing responsive design and a slider that would rival the best 1998 Flash intro ever produced. If the words suck – your site sucks. It’s that simple.
Next time you sit down and open up your favorite parent theme and you start drawing shapes and columns on a napkin or in your favorite sketchpad – stop. Think about the journey you want a visitor to take and write amazing words that take them on that journey first.
Once you have the content nailed down and edited, then start building a site around that journey. It’s the same thing a tattooer does with an outline on a tattoo. Building the lines on a tattoo is an art. This line stays thin, that line is thicker to add dimension. Then the color and shading builds up the composition of the tattoo.
When everything is done, both clients – the business owner and the tattoo customer both walk away with a piece of art that makes a statement about them and what they’re about.
Until it’s time to redesign the site or cover up good ‘ol Bam Bam.