This post is for: business owners who are making decisions about the content and the presentation of their websites.
Websites are built and presented with technologies that continue to evolve. Every month, there are new tools, tricks, fads, and ways to present, adorn and animate a website’s contents. And that’s great. The web would be a boring place indeed if every site looked the same, like different entries in the same dry encyclopedia.
The problem, though, is that websites that use the newest web design fads and techniques sometimes suffer from the “because we can” syndrome. Which, for most small business owners, is precisely the wrong answer to the crucial question, “Why exactly are we using this new tool / method / trick?”
The attraction is understandable: the web is crowded, people are busy, and you have to grab their attention with something that they haven’t seen before. No argument there. It only becomes a problem when the new tool or technique attracts more attention to itself than to the actual message that you want to deliver.
At Best Light, we routinely review showcases of the latest and greatest trends in website design. We read and share articles with titles like “The 40 Most Stunningly Beautiful Websites on the Planet Today”. And many of the examples are indeed eye-catching, attention-grabbing, clever, or technologically amazing. They’re very impressive examples of “look at what we can do” (a close relative of “because we can”).
Unfortunately, for many of those visually or technically impressive sites, we often have to work to figure out exactly what they’re selling, or saying, or showing! They got our attention, but then we’re not sure what they’re trying to tell us. And that’s a bad result, for most businesses and organizations, because if your visitors aren’t sure what you’re saying or showing, they’ll just leave.
The first and most important decision that you should make for any page of your website is this: what do you want to say? What’s your message? If you look at any truly effective website, that message practically leaps off the page. There is no question about what the website’s owners wanted you to know about their product, their service or themselves on that page. And every bit of technology on that page (and, for that matter, every graphic and phrase as well) is there for one purpose only: to serve that message. To help deliver it more effectively.
So if you’re considering using a cutting edge technology or technique on your website, great! There are many that are truly useful, like responsive web design for example, which ensures that your message will also leap off the page on small screens. Just be careful not to fall into the “because we can” trap, or else that attention-grabbing technology may end up hijacking your web page and diluting or upstaging your main message. You want your audience to be impressed with your message, not just with the way that it’s delivered.
Once you answer the question, “What do we want to say here?”, the purpose of that web page is clear. Then, for any tool or technique that you’re considering using on that page, don’t forget to ask the very next question: “Will this help us to get our message across?”