Jason Fried's Design Checklist Applied to my own Website

B2B Bandits
1 Nov 2012

Here’s a checklist Jason Fried (from 37 Signals) wrote for reviewing a design.  It popped up on my Basecamp to-do’s that I needed to review the design for SmallBizTriage.com, so I figured I’d do it publicly.  I’ve removed some items from the list not relevant to me.

SITE:  www.SmallBizTriage.com 

What does it say?

  • About – good mission statement, a team list, top testimonial … on the bottom
  • Blog – i have recent blog about ice cream
  • Clients – we have clients across many industries, none are big box or franchises
  • Contact – contact us, nothing personal, no maps, no social media counts, no smaller accounts, no team link
  • What we Do (HOME) – we help small biz owners get more customers & we can help


What does it mean?

  • About  – we really give a shit and are real humans
  • Blog – we have a blog, so what
  • Clients – we’ve had a lot of clients this year
  • Contact – not much
  • What we Do (HOME) – If you are a Small Biz Owner and need help, you are in the right spot.


Why do we need to say that here?

  • About – Team, Marketing Definition can easily go
  • Blog – breadth of knowledge, allow self-guided exploration of small biz, free resources
  • Clients – how we helped them?  maybe.
  • Contact – give several methods for contacting us.
  • What we Do (HOME) – It’s the home page … first impression.


If you stopped reading here, what’s the message?

  • About  – this if for you if are in DIRE need … but not any other kind of need
  • Blog – none, no calls to action
  • Clients – that we help Mfg, Industrial, Health and Beauty businesses in Washington State
  • Contact – we have three offices, are active on three platforms, and have an actual phone number
  • What we Do (HOME) – This site is for Small Biz Owners

What’s the take away after 8 seconds?

  • About – an arrow and “Marketing” definition – OUCH
  • Blog – recent article, classic picture, catchy “non-MBA” headline
  • Clients – that we help Mfg, Industrial, Health and Beauty businesses
  • Contact – we have three offices, are active on three platforms, and have an actual phone number
  • What we Do (HOME) – Small Biz Triage helps small business owners


How does this make you feel?

  • About – bored
  • Blog – slightly interested, if I like ice cream
  • Clients – BORED
  • Contact – confused … nothing is prominent on the page
  • What we Do (HOME) – confused … *how* do you help


What’s down below?

  • About – well laid out team listing with fun bios
  • Blog – more blog, recent posts, no comments, footer call to action
  • Clients – good call to action, and secondary call to action (no learn more though, hmmmmm)
  • Contact – nothing (except recent articles)
  • What we Do (HOME) – A definition of the word “triage” & Recent blog posts  


How else can we say this?

  • About – shorter OR have someone else tell the story (Testimonials) with link to a seperate team page
  • Blog – n/a
  • Clients – Visuals, Graphics, Logos, Columns, Total Stats (# clients, across # of industries, X amt of $’s)
  • Contact – simpler … or more options (we can test with A/B experiment) … or lose it and make it a same-page jump
  • What we Do (HOME)  –  with an image


What’s memorable about this?

  • About – the fun bios
  • Blog – good photo, good headline … eyes not drawn anywhere though
  • Clients – not a damn thing
  • Contact – not much
  • What we Do (HOME) – nothing


Who needs to know that?

  • About – anyone interested in who they are working with OR why we do what we do
  • Blog – all small biz owners that give a shit about their business
  • Clients – anyone that needs help trusting us
  • Contact – anyone who wants to interact with us
  • What we Do (HOME) – Above the Fold: all small biz owners visiting the site, below the fold: only people that don’t know what triage is 

What’s the payoff?

  • About – NONE
  • Blog – knowledge baby
  • Clients – not much
  • Contact – a phone number (that’s rare these days)
  • What we Do (HOME) – more information & a way to contact me to solve a problem … can i solve any problems


What does someone know now that they didn’t know before?

  • About – team size, that we do marketing, philosophy / strategy
  • Blog – a LOT
  • Clients – that we are not a ecommerce company, and we work with “real” businesses
  • Contact – we do social media – triple yikes!
  • What we Do (HOME) – That Small Biz Triage helps small biz owners by prioritizing their needs.


Why is that worth a click?

  • About – only one thing to click on, tough to see and no it’s not worth it
  • Blog – nothing to click on … OUCH
  • Clients – nothing to click on above the fold other than a menu … double-OUCH
  • Contact – I dunno
  • What we Do (HOME) – Drop us a Line … it’s not really worth a click … Let me Earn Your Business … satiating a little curiosity … maybe?


Is that worth scrolling?

  • About – NO
  • Blog – YES 
  • Clients – maybe we should tell them to scroll … or use categorical page jumps
  • Contact – n/a
  • What we Do (HOME) – nope


What’s the simpler version of this?

  • About – shorten the copy … make a learn more option, add a hire us call to action
  • Blog – remove menu and/or logo … otherwise very minimal
  • Clients – side-scroller (gallery style) … logos are clunky though … an info-graphic
  • Contact – just a phone number and pop-up link for all of the other ways of getting in touch.  nothing else … or lose it entirely, and incorporate into header as well via javascript pop-up.
  • What we Do (HOME) – Make it all on one page, remove the definition (but make a small pop-up with the definition if someone needs it) … include testimonials, a blog teaser for ‘not ready to buy’ visitors


Why that order?

  • About – because I’m an idiot
  • Blog – n/a
  • Clients – made sense … masculine and feminine from the get go
  • Contact – order of preference … colors on the icons make me look down before I look up.  a problem.
  • What we Do (HOME) -getting to the point … the brand personality


Why would this make them choose that?

  • About – it wouldn’t
  • Blog – no choice available
  • Clients  – no choice available
  • Contact – preference
  • What we Do (HOME) – there is not real choice … should there be more choices? 


Why would someone leave at this point? 

  • About – no clear call to action, no clear non-sales call to action
  • Blog – no call to action, no alternative topics, no options other than a menu and scrolling
  • Clients – no call to action, or anything clickable until the bottom
  • Contact – no clear preferred choice. no payoff communicated
  • What we Do (HOME) 
    • They aren’t a small biz owner
    • They don’t need help of any kind
    • They are confused by what we do
    • They don’t see what they need done listed
    • They don’t see any social proof above the fold.


What’s missing?

  • About – where we are & where are customers are
  • Blog – no call to action, no alternative topics, no options other than a menu and scrolling
  • Clients – call to action
  • Contact – other social media icons.  form for those that like that, link to pro-bono page.
  • What we Do (HOME) – how we do it, social proof above the fold.


What’s the obvious next step?

  • About – there isn’t one
  • Blog – NONE
  • Clients – NONE without some serious scrolling (no benefit to scroll)
  • Contact – lots of next steps … too many.
  • What we Do (HOME) – Drop us a line & no clear secondary call to action


Would it matter if someone missed that?

  • About – not really … the team bit is important for injecting humanity into it.
  • Blog – nothing to miss except the menu
  • Clients – maybe
  • Contact – nope
  • What we Do (HOME)
    • Triage – NO
    • Blog – Maybe
    • Menu – NO


Does that make it easier or harder?

  • About – harder … page is a mess
  • Blog – easier if they are just wanting to read without distraction
  • Clients – forces them to scroll if they want any pay-off
  • Contact – no clutter
  • What we Do (HOME) 
    • lack of buttons makes it harder … forces them to read
    • lack of clutter makes it easier for small biz owners to self-identify

Would this be better as a sentence or a picture?

  • About – both
  • Blog – n/a
  • Clients – combo
  • Contact – picture or photo (black and white)
  • What we Do (HOME) 
    • calls to action should be graphical
    • a picture of who they are
    • a picture of who we are
    • a graphic of what we do


Where’s the verb?

  • About: making, draw, are, is, help, make
  • Blog – none
  • Clients – trusted
  • Contact – contact, meet
  • What we Do (HOME): Drop, Ear, help, Call


What matters here?

  • About – not a one man shop … rest isn’t clearly communicated
  • Blog – compelling content … no next step ID’d
  • Clients – breadth and depth
  • Contact – lots of options.
  • What we Do (HOME) – everything above the fold … below the fold is expendable in its current form

What would happen if we got rid of that?

  • About – don’t know
  • Blog – in-direct effect (SEO), and makes it difficult to see copywriting for the web when we don’t have a blog
  • Clients – one of the top traffic pages … we’d lose some trust points
  • Contact – not much.
  • What we Do (HOME) – Below the fold … don’t know … not much probably.  Above the fold … confusion.


Why is this better?

  • About – there’s no discussion of alternatives or internal / external competition
  • Blog – no selling or distraction, just education
  • Clients – very simple, no distractions
  • Contact – n/a
  • What we Do (HOME) – no comparisons are made

How can we make this more obvious?

  • About – say it bluntly … use photos … “we help these people solve this problem”
  • Blog – tell them why they should read the blog, and what else is “behind the curtain”
  • Clients – put it all above the fold and tell them why the breadth and depth makes us more competitive / a better choice
  • Contact – highlight the easiest way, then make the options all same-sized.
  • What we Do (HOME) 
    • buttons for calls to action
    • before / after pics
    • client categories
    • service categories

Is it obvious what happens next?

  • About – nope
  • Blog – nope
  • Clients – nope
  • Contact – nope
  • What we Do (HOME) – nope … maybe it’s obvious that it takes a phone call (or email)

Whew … it took awhile, but now I have a clear idea what needs doing.  Coming next week … the Landing Page Checklist



  • Snippets of every page should be incorporated on the home page, so we don’t lose anyone if they read but don’t click
  • a call to action and “explore more” call to action should be on EVERY page
  • testimonials page should be integrated with the clients page
  • at least one relevant testimonial should appear on EVERY page
  • Facebook “Recommend” Count in the header strip, far right
  • Follower / Subscriber / etc… counts on relevant pages (sidebar maybe)
  • Recent articles only belong on “certain” sidebars … rest should be customized based on content (cross-linking)
  • the next step should be customized and made clear and consistent in each frame (no scrolling required)
Short answer … I need more visuals, need to make the calls to action VERY clear, and I need more real estate to minimize scrolling.


FYI, Here’s the original version of the checklist.   What do you think?