One-Page Websites – Wise Choice?

Fashion.  One of the most powerful drives on the planet and also one of the most useless.  You don’t buy a fashionable product because it’s technically superior, the best value or earns the most impressive reviews.  You buy it because the ‘right’ people say you should.  Because it was featured in the trendiest magazine or spotted in the home of the hottest star.

One of fashion’s greatest weaknesses is that it has to keep changing – by definition fashions are transient and consequently new trends often evolve from little more than the desire to be different from what went before, whether that makes sense or not.

For that reason hapless fools would totter atop platform shoes, looking like low-rent circus acts and inviting hospitalisation at every step.  There’s no sense to it, but clearly such shoes are different.  Which brings us to one of the latest web trends.

One-Page Wonders

Small is beautiful; less is more.  Such is the philosophy behind the fashion for one-page websites.  Touted as artistic statements as much as anything else, the wunpage (as I shall call it, since I too am a fan of economy) is now held up as a thing of beauty.  Sites such as One Page Love and D-Lists showcase the best examples of the art and many businesses have chosen to jump on the bandwagon.

Now of course many of these sites are not all they seem.  Some feature links that jump you to different parts of the long page or indeed to other pages elsewhere.  In essence these are still multi-page sites, just dressed in the latest fashions.

There are even more that take the philosophy but don’t get the idea, stuffing their one page to the gills with a bewildering mass of detail that frustrates the entire purpose.

Others, though, are indeed just the one page with limited detail, often employing videos or scrolling visuals.  So, I stopped to wonder about the wunpage and how useful it is for business.

The Advantages

We’ve already established the wunpage is trendy and people like trendy, so fair enough.

It should also be a lot cheaper to create than multi-page sites and naturally that’s an important concern for any business.  Though of course successful businesses understand the best investment for generating returns is not necessarily the cheapest.

Perhaps the greatest appeal is aesthetics.  The wunpage, if properly designed, should look clean, simple and efficient.  Your site isn’t cluttered with nav bars and buttons to take you hither and thither; it’s pure, like a cooled bottle of Evian.  This should appeal to the typical surfer whose attention span is short and who wants to access information quickly and easily without lots of clicking.

And of course when you put it like that it does indeed sound appealing.  We all know what a tiresome business navigating the net can be; we’d all like simplicity and so we can buy into the promise of the wunpage.

Except that this doesn’t stop to consider the needs of the business site and the psychology of action.

The Problem

Business websites are there for one reason: to get more business.  That involves the visitor to the website taking action.  This may be buying a product online, signing up for a newsletter or e-mailing/phoning with an enquiry.  No matter what the action, though, if the visitor leaves without taking it the website has failed.

This is the eternal mistake made by so many businesses – the assumption that their product or service is so good that the consumer only has to hear about it to generate action.  The problem, however, is that people need more than information.  Facts don’t sell and people don’t make purchasing decisions on the spur of the moment; they need to feel confident about the action they take and this requires persuasion.  Sadly for the wunpage, persuasion also takes time.

The Psychology of Selling

Magazine Ads have a problem: they’re static and limited.  Advertisers face a huge challenge in making that space work for them and very often the goal is about little more than creating and reinforcing brand awareness.  A significant tactic nowadays, in fact, is to persuade readers to go online, where the company faces a far better chance of generating a response.

Why?  Because the great boon of websites is that they provide the opportunity of creating a relationship with the customer.  This in turn establishes trust and step by step can lead the prospect towards taking the required action.  That’s why it seems odd that a business would want to limit the vast opportunities of the net by treating their space on it like a magazine ad.

The great thing about the multi-page is that each click is a tiny action but actually makes the visitor feel involved and more in control.  They are doing things that your skilful web design should have mapped out for them, but in taking the action themselves they feel like they are calling the shots.

With just one page there’s only one option: whatever you tell them to do.  If this is phoning they may well expect hard sell.  If it’s submitting an e-mail address the expectation may be a bombardment of sales mails.  In short, given the opportunities provided by the web for providing plenty of information, you look like you’re limiting it and forcing the visitor to do what you want.

With multiple pages the visitor can see what they want to see.  This isn’t clutter, it’s openness and opportunity and it makes the viewer feel empowered.  In this state of mind they are more likely to trust you and may feel readier to take the action you want.

Why Waste the Chance?

Here’s the bottom line.  You can design a cracking home page that works as effectively as any one page site.  You may well have many people taking action on the strength of that alone.

But consider those people who haven’t been convinced by that single page.  What options are left for them? If it’s a wunpage, just the one – click away and try another business.  But if you have other pages there’s still the opportunity to convince and keep them.

For me, the logic of the wunpage is bizarre.  It’s like a marketer who finds an interested customer sitting down opposite to ask about the product.  He spends 60 seconds telling them about it and then gets up and walks away, leaving a business card on the table and shouting, “Call me if you’re interested!”

Why would you do that?  Wouldn’t you want to work as hard as possible to convince that customer your product is the one to buy?

Sabotaging SEO

Another wunpage problem is search engine optimisation.  The great thing about multi-page sites is that you can optimise their separate pages for different search terms.  If people could potentially use a number of different keywords or phrases to reach your business then you can cast your net as widely as possible with multiple pages, whereas the single page is much more limited and may lack SEO power even for your chosen terms because you need to include other information that dilutes the effectiveness.

Further still, if you choose to employ the typical wunpage strategies of videos or Flash presentations then there is no SEO benefit because those formats are hopeless for search engines.  For all the aesthetic beauty and cleanliness of your site, no one’s going to find it in a search.

Fashion Senselessness

Clearly the wunpage can generate business.  The real question, though, is whether a full website with the maximum opportunity to persuade potential customers would have earned even more.

As proud as you rightly are of your product or service, people finding you on the net know nothing about you and have a search page stuffed with your competitors.  You can either dazzle them with your psychedelic platforms or get busy convincing them to stick with you.

About David

I'm a professional copywriter from Nexus Copywriting and there's a little more about me here. Or, if you'd like to see how I can benefit your business, find out about my copywriting services.
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4 Responses to One-Page Websites – Wise Choice?

  1. Hazel says:

    When I come across a “wunpage” especially if it is a product I am interested in, my immediate thought is that the business or company is cheap and amateurish, and I will look for better sites. Even a site with just a couple of pages will put me off. Cramming too much information into the page also makes me think slapdash, cheap and desperate. I just can’t imagine why “wunpages” could be regarded as successful. People, consumers expect to click for more, they want more. The benefit of websites is that they allow you to click for more information until you are satisfied in a way that most other advertising mediums don’t.

  2. David says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Hazel! Which is why it just comes down to this year’s fashion – there’s little marketing sense behind it as far as I can see. As you rightly point out, webpages offer so much potential in terms of communication with the consumer and building up a relationship. Why would anyone want to throw that away?

  3. Gary-Lee says:

    I agree in the sense of one page websites having a negative impact on businesses trying to secure leads, the potential customer needs to be able to buy into the brand/concept, and as we all know, that takes time.

    However, they are not all bad… one page websites make great portfolio sites for designers etc, and even make pretty good online CVs – but it has to be well designed and written otherwise it just looks like a cheap and nasty attempt to ‘get on the web fast’.

    But certainly for business, one-pagers are a no-no in my book. A good business website should be a reproduction of your business online.

  4. David says:

    Thanks for the comment, Gary-Lee.

    Yes, there’s a truth to that, although I think these examples would work well when intended for a specific context. If a designer met potential clients and wanted to have the facility to point them to a stylish portfolio that could be effective. I’ve seen some excellent page designs for that type of thing. Equally, an online CV can work powerfully for someone who is directing the reader there from another context.

    On the other hand I’ve seen quite a few sites selling the services of designers or photographers that just rely on the images to do the work. That’s another pitfall! People looking to hire a service ultimately need more persuasion than that.

    Which of course is not to say that any of these examples won’t generate business, just to pose the question of whether they could have generated more.

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