My dad’s New Year (ok, Hogmanay) tradition was to clean the house from top to bottom, and then make lentil soup. I think the theory was that if you enter the New Year with your house in order and your soup on the stove, you have as good a beginning as you can have.

(The other part of his tradition was a laser-guided trip to the wee off-licence round the corner, where he bought industrial quantities of Tennent’s Lager, Whyte and Mackay whiskey, and ginger ale. And several teeny bottles of Ball’s Advocaat and Babycham. There’s my Celtic Twilight history. Ah well. :-) )

Anyway. I haven’t managed the soup making but the hall’s all freshly vacuumed and there’s home-made lemon tart ready to take to our New Year gathering. Nothing to do but wait. There’s the beat of a moment between now and next year. I love that sense of warm possibility.

The post I’ve been meaning to write here was about voice. I hate to admit it, but not every great business has a website to match. In fact, I see some businesses who (from here) seem to be doing perfectly all right, yet have rather horrible websites.

Visual design isn’t everything.

Yet, if I examine the websites that make my teeth ache, I usually see two things that are very, very important.

First: Great web-based businesses provide things that their audiences want very much. Could be a product or a service. Whatever it is, it’s highly desirable and the audience will put up with a lot to get hold of it.

And second (this particularly applies to the coaches and consultants out there): Successful online enterprises have a strong, confident, unique voice. A great voice will overcome the less-than-perfect visuals.

So, when I look at a website, I look at the visual design, but I also examine the content carefully. We’re drowning in websites. So many voices, so many options. People struggle with visual design, but they really, really struggle with their voice.

A good look is a great starting-point, but it’s useless without mission and conviction. The uncertain voice is easy to dismiss, because there are so many other things out there just like it. The clear voice is hard to define, but you know it when you read it.

Of course, finding your voice is easier said than done. But I think it’s the key. Once your voice and mission is clear, everything else begins to fall into place.

So that’s my New Year sermon. I’ll raise a glass to you and your enterprises, whatever they are. Find your vision, project your voice, and wrap it in a way that brings your audience running to you.

Have a great New Year.