Sometimes I chuckle when I read "about" pages on professional websites. I really don't care if my plumber likes to hike in his free time, or if my dog walker knits puppy sweaters for the local shelter. When I'm the customer, I want to know whether the people I'm going to hire can meet my needs.
So who are my customers? Who are you?
You own and operate a beauty salon. You need to stand out among thousands of competitors. You work long hours—sometimes six to seven days a week. Your website was designed in the late 90s and still has a blog page with one "Hello World" entry. You haven't had time to update your business cards so you write your new cell phone number on the old ones. Your customers sometimes miss their appointments because you don't have an application to remind them of their appointments.
You are a general practice physician trying to navigate what's become the Medical Industry, while providing excellent patient care. You don't want to join a big medical group. Your patients appreciate that you run a small office and they know your nurse and receptionist by their first names. Your website was developed by an out-of-state company that used stock imagery, so it looks like your medical practice operates on the beaches of Florida. Your patient forms haven't been updated in years—neither have your pre-procedure instructions. Your staff is wasting time rescheduling appointments when patients misunderstand instructions, and reprocessing hand-written patient information.
You developed a revolutionary motor oil. You are trying to break in to a market full of national brands that have all the prime shelf space. You know you have a great product, you just need to get your idea in front of more people. You want your company to grow, but not too big that it loses its integrity. You've already paid for a flashy website, but you don't know how to update it as your product line grows. Your best friend's sister made your logo, but you're embarrassed because it doesn't look good on your printed materials. What's worse? You're having a hard time hiring and keeping dependable help.
You manage a family business that makes and sells road construction equipment. You are proud of your work, and you've got a great reputation for offering high-quality products. Most of your sales are to return customers. New customers learn about you by word of mouth. Your products are second to none, but lately you're spending a lot of time answering customer service calls from operators in the field. They don't always understand the instructions for your latest technology. You are starting to wonder if your inadequate operating instructions might cause an accident.
You spend your days trying to educate or serve the public. You often work on your own, with very few resources. You try to get information out via email, but you struggle to keep your user list up to date. People rely on you to maintain an accurate electronic calendar of events. You know you have to have a website, but you have no idea how to keep it current. You reproduce most of your printed communication materials on a copy machine. You know you aren't taking advantage of current technology, but you just don't have time to learn something new all on your own.
These are fictionalized clients, but the scenarios are true to life. Many small- to medium-size businesses just don't have the time or resources to keep their print and electronic communication materials up to date. Often engineers are writing technical documents and front office staff are writing customer-facing documents. The people you've hired are great at their jobs, but most were not trained to write or design information for optimum understanding.