Improve Your Firm’s Website with the 50/100/150 Rule

This Smashing Magazine article by Brad Shorr identifies five fatal copywriting erros that can ruin your firm’s website.  His first cardinal sin?  Making your firm’s site all about the firm:

Problem is, the rest of the world isn’t interested in your story. Customers don’t have time to admire your greatness. They’re too busy searching for ways to make life better for themselves. A high-level Web page answers one question of the reader above all: What’s in it for me? To illustrate, we’ll stick with products, although this applies to other types of pages as well.  It’s not about you. A well-written category-level product page talks a bit about features, a little more about benefits and a great deal more about the experience.

The author suggests you create a “Word Budget” that limits the number of words you can use to describe the features, benefits and experience your product or service offers.  Given 200 words on your firm’s home page, here’s how you should “budget” them:

  • 50 words on the features
  • 100 words on the benefits
  • 150 words on the experience

Here’s why:

  1. Setting a “word budget” forces discipline. Not only that, it relieves the anxiety over having to determine how to approach each individual product page, thus eliminating one of the biggest causes of delay in Web development projects.
  2. Focusing on the experience forces you to think about the target audience of the page in question. The experience I described speaks to an operations person. If my audience is made up of C-level executives or purchasing agents, then I would need to describe a completely different experience. If I’m writing for all three audiences, I may have to rethink my word budget. In any event, having an audience in mind prevents a Web page from devolving into that cursed, watered-down, “everything for everyone” messaging that says absolutely nothing.
  3. The purpose of a high-level page is to get people interested in the product. Once they’re interested, they may crave more information about features and benefits. Perfect. Tell the long version of your story on a detail-heavy product sub-page. Companies need not neglect features and benefits; they just need to suppress the urge to hit visitors over the head with them the minute they walk through the door.

Here’s how:


  • Before you start writing, collect feedback from customers and prospects. Ask them why they buy from you, why they don’t, and how doing business with you has affected them.
  • Start with an outline. Associate every feature with a benefit and every benefit with an experience.
  • Have a customer read a draft and then explain to you why they would want to buy the product. If the customer “gets it,” you’re a star.
  • Do the same thing with a person who knows nothing about your product and industry. If that person gets it, you’re a rock star.

The entire article is worth a read, and after you check it out, head on over to your firm’s website.  My guess is that it makes at least three of the five mistakes Brad identifies.

And if you don’t have the ability to make meaningful changes to your firm’s website, at least start with your bio, and use Brad’s 50/100/150 rule to make it better.

One Response to Improve Your Firm’s Website with the 50/100/150 Rule
  1. […] [non] billable hour blog points administrators in the direction of Brad Shorr’s Smashing Magazine article, which […]

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