Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Webmaster

Kurt Vonnegut At New York Film Festival About Schmidt Premiere
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While evaluating a potential client’s Web site for proposal fodder recently, it quickly became apparent that this organization had made the common mistake of burying the good stuff.

It is remarkable how often people put so little thought into their organization’s home page, especially when you consider that for a typical web site, that page gets the vast majority of the site’s traffic.

Every site is different, of course, so your front page content will differ based on what you want to accomplish with your site.  But so often you see organization Web sites with blah blah bland Welcome to our web site, this is our organization! front page content when the real good stuff, the stuff that really tells the organization’s story, is buried deep within the site.

My college writing professor was a student at the Iowa Writers Workshop when Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. taught there and he relayed this story:  One of Vonnegut’s teaching techniques included tearing off the first five pages of a student’s story and declaring that the story started there.  I don’t know if the story is apocryphal but I tell it all the time because it so elegantly makes the point.

We tend toward prologue. Everyone’s got that friend or family member who tells you they bought milk by describing in excruciating detail everything that happened prior to getting to the store and buying the milk.

We have a natural tendency to set up a story with what preceded it, the journalistic equivalent of burying the lead. Vonnegut’s point was that you start a story with the action.

I see the same dynamic often playing out with Web sites. Instead of using the photographs that tell your story at a glance or the video that demonstrates your organization’s mission or purpose,  the front page is filled with prologue.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.