No matter what your business, your website acts as your online storefront. Whether you're selling goods or services, an online presence is a necessary part of marketing yourself. And, just like a good piece of journalism has the who, what, where, how, and why, a good website should address the basics of what you offer right up front.
Sounds obvious, but it can be easy to get distracted with design and lose sight of the first thing a customer should see: the name of your business. It should be at or close to the top of all of your pages, so people can surf around your site and continually see your brand name. And if you have a logo, use it — incorporating your company name into a design element makes it easier to remember.
You don't need to get into a lot of detail on the front page, but you do need to state clearly and succinctly what you offer. It works well to come up with a short blurb that gets people's attention: "The largest supplier of home office equipment in the tri-state area, making your office as comfortable as your home" or "Proofreading services with fast turnaround and great rates, so you can get your projects out when you need them." A brief description of what you're selling on the front page can be linked to a more detailed page outlining specifics.
This is only relevant if your location is a part of your business. If you're a brick-and-mortar store, your website acts like your calling card. If you want to draw people into your business, make sure your location and contact information are prominent on all your pages. In many cases, a visitor to your site only wants your physical location anyway – so make sure they can find it. If your location isn't relevant to your business, you don't need to put it on there at all.
How do you do what you do? You have experience, a track record, past successes that you want to relate to your customers. Especially if you're selling a service, make sure that you put down your background, past clients, or samples of your work. Chances are that you're not the only one offering these particular services, so toot your own horn a bit and show customers what you've already accomplished so that they can see what you might be able to accomplish for them.
So now they know who you are, what you do, where you're located, and how you do what you do. But why should they hire you? You probably don't do or sell anything that's never been done or sold before. That's where the Unique Selling Proposition comes in. A Unique Selling Proposition is a brief, catchy message that explains what makes you different, and why you are better than your competitors. Like everything else on your site, your USP should be brief, easily found, and repeatable.
There's a whole lot of stuff going on online. Peoples' attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter. The crux of the website is to get to the point quickly and make it appealing and interesting. You can do a lot of fancy things with a site — flash, sound, video, blogs — but you still have to shout your main message loud and clear.