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The One-Click Rule
By Gonzo Schexnayder

The "One-Click Rule" is about putting your visitors needs first and making it easy for them to hear your voice. Every extra click a visitor has to make to hear your demos is another hurdle between you and a paying gig and one more chance they might get bored or frustrated with looking for the link to your MP3 and, well, just go away. That's why it's important to design your web site so that your demo is always one click away from being heard.

A Web of Dreams

"Build it and they will come," said the voice in Kevin Costner's head in "Field of Dreams" and the voice in your head, which hints that you aren't doing enough to market those acting skills you want to bring home the bacon currently being brought home through some other, less enjoyable profession. So, in lieu of mowing down a local cornfield (and facing the business end of an irate farmer's pitchfork), you decide to build a web site for your voiceover demos.

Yet, unlike a corny baseball field filled with the ghosts of famous ball players, the visitors to your web site -- not including family, friends and the web curious -- are looking for the voice, a new voice, the right voice for that commercial/narration/trailer they're casting. You want that voice to be yours.

A producer, copywriter, or casting director looking for a new voice might listen to hundreds of demos or auditions before they find the one that matches the voice they hear in their heads when they read the script. If you're lucky enough for someone to bring your name to their attention and even luckier to get them to visit your web site to hear your voice, don't make it difficult for them to find your demos.

Whether your site is designed in HTML or Flash, you can accomplish the one-click rule by using simple, clear navigation links.

Blocking Rehearsals

Navigation links are like a book's table of contents (TOC) -- they offer visitors an overview of the content on your web site. Unlike a book's TOC, they assist in the process of moving your visitor from TOC to actual content. If you point your finger at Chapter 2 on a book's TOC, you've pointed your finger at Chapter 2; when you click a link on a web site, you get that content.

Navigation links can take a visitor directly to your demos by linking directly to an MP3 file or to the pages with those demos embedded in the code and set up to play the moment the page is loaded.

Recent web usability eye-tracking tests show an "F"-shaped left-to-right pattern to web site reading, which indicates that links placed at the top of your site or in the left column are in a natural and comfortable position for the brain.

Speak Clearly

When creating your navigation, use industry-friendly words as the links. I had an editor of a college publication who named articles after current events from his personal life. While it was good to know that he had a great date the night before, the file name " FunwithJanet.doc" was of no use in locating his review of R.E.M.

Navigation links should be descriptive of the content your visitor will find. If you want them to listen to your commercial demo, make the link "commercials" or "commercial demo."

If you have more than one commercial demo, link to the best and shortest version, but give visitors access to the others. You can embed them all and only have one auto-start or link to the rest.

Side note: Always include a clear and prominent "Contact" link. There's no point in getting visitors interested in your voice if they don't know how to find you to hire you.

Web Meisner Technique

As important as it is to have easy-to-find and clearly understandable navigation, the navigation should also be mirrored on every page of your site. Making your visitor relearn the path to your demos will frustrate their experience and may cause them to leave your site.

If your design is flexible and you have a lot of content on some pages, put the navigation links at the top and bottom of the page. When a visitor reads all the way down your resume -- including that performance as the uppity egg in Alice in Wonderland -- you don't then want to make them scroll back to the top of the page to find your navigation. Think about your experience on other web sites. Nine times out of ten, if you find a web site's navigation non-navigable, so will other visitors. Remember that experience when you build your site and use the knowledge to create a better experience for your visitors.

Designing Your Production

As actors, we spend inordinate amounts of time trying to convince other people that we are the unique solution to their particular needs, be it for voiceovers, on-camera work, theatrical performances or any of the various ways we perform our craft. No two web sites -- like no two actors -- are the same. So, the look, the design of your site is important.

But, just as you wouldn't show up to an audition and tell the casting director that your resume and headshot can be found in the lobby, somewhere, perhaps behind the large ficus in the corner, you shouldn't require a visitor to wander around your voiceover web site looking for your demos.

When you build or rebuild your web site, make it easy for casting directors, producers and copywriters to get what they need. By keeping the one-click rule at the top of your priorities, you'll eliminate one barrier -- maybe the last barrier -- between you and your next acting gig.

* * *

Gonzo Schexnayder is an actor and web developer. You can visit his voiceover web site and his web development site to see the one-click rule in action. He often reminds himself that there are twice as many letters in "business" as in "show."

This voice over Helpful Hint is brought to you by Sherri Berger.
For more helpful hints and information about Sherri Berger or Voice Over U, visit www.sherriberger.com.
Voice Over U: 773-774-9886