Today, most websites are created based on the outdated belief that if you build it, they will come. This may have worked in the big-fish, small-pond days of dial-up, when every new website was, by virtue of its existence alone, a marvel of marketing innovation. But the small pond has evolved into a roaring ocean swarming with millions of schools of wandering websites, the majority of which are, now, by virtue of their existence, terribly insignificant. The simple combination of “attractive, informative, and intuitive” may be sufficient to support existing customers, but it won’t likely attract new ones. And while good SEO might get people to your site, without the right messaging, it won’t do much more than make your site bouncier than an Olympic trampoline. And the more booming your industry is, the bouncier your site will be. That’s why messaging is essential.
And effective messaging will always avoid two fatal flaws of website development guaranteed to render a site virtually invisible, no matter how well researched—imitation and disconnection.
#1 Copying the Cool Kids.
I don’t know if it’s the junior high loser in all of us (or maybe just a subconscious desire to play it safe), but, in any case, there’s a widespread tendency to copy the site messaging of big industry players in the hopes their strategies will take us to the top, too. Blending in is a great strategy if your goal is to safely navigate the social hell of adolescence undetected. But it’s a really bad one if you want people to visit—and stay on—your website. The awesome message the big players in your industry are delivering works for them because they’re the ones who had it first. Just like the first forward thinker to bravely cruise the school halls donning, unabashedly, not one but two backpack straps, the big players own the coolness of the new thing because they were the ones who took the chance. After they’ve set the movement in motion, you can join their ranks, but you’ll forever be a lesser kind of cool (read poser).
A Web partner worth their salt will encourage you to fight the temptation to be another voice, parroting the same message for the sake of comfort and conformity. They won’t be afraid to tell you that it might be easier and quicker to just copy the big boys, but, if you do, you won’t get very far, and everyone will be snickering behind your back. The trick is to start a new clique. Be a leader, not a follower. A good Web partner will help you do this. (They’ll also know this kind of risk takes a measure of bravery, so they’ll really admire you for it, which is always nice.)
Our creative director, Dea Goldsmith, offered a few thoughts worth sharing on this: “We’re fortunate to have a lot of really brave clients. And I don’t use ‘brave’ lightly… It’s easy to say you want something new and different, but so much harder to actually venture into the unknown. And that’s why finding the right partner is so critical. They should be able to allay some of those fears, because, when you look at their work, you can see there’s a precedent for that risky approach. The thing is, if you don’t have a knot in your stomach, you might not be pushing it as hard as you should be—that is, if you want to be a trailblazer. The best ideas will always make you a bit queasy at first.”
#2 Failing to Connect.
This concept is a bit easier to explain. However, to do so, I’ll definitely need to depart from the middle school metaphor, because, unlike the average seventh-grader, a standout website is relatable and understandable. It makes a clear effort to speak to its various audience groups in a language they can understand. Take niche fields, for example, where very often there’s a tendency to communicate in discipline-exclusive jargon, to throw around acronyms and industry catchphrases that sound really smart, but that ultimately construct an impenetrable wall around your message. Assuming your audience knows what you know is the best way to send them running over to your competitor’s website.
Bringing It Together
Take a quick look around, and you’ll realize that the problems of imitation and disconnection are holding millions of websites back from achieving effectiveness. Referring back to sites in niche fields, underneath their often beautiful, intuitive designs, the messaging is typically characterized by unoriginal imitation and total disconnection from at least one important audience segment. Homepages read like science textbooks or investment white papers—rarely somewhat like both, and never in a language the average consumer might understand. Choose a Web partner who won’t let lack of verve and the neglect of thoughtful analysis render your site invisible—as just another insignificant little fish wandering in a giant sea.
Hey! Before you go, take a look at some of the standout websites (and other stuff) our team has put together!