In most forms of offline media you are invariably trying to get attention. On the web you should be more focussed on giving attention. Your website should be a fabulous listener. If it learns to listen it will get the girl.
In a cluttered newspaper you want your company advert to scream out at the casual reader, its colours, style, message, copy and design all need to get your message across. Your reader is relaxed, they are reading a magazine and you are trying to get their attention by hooking them in any way you can.
Your thirty second advert during Coronation Street needs to be funny, needs to appeal to its target market, needs to be unique, needs to inspire chat for the next morning’s coffee break. Your viewer is wondering if Chas is going to find out about Carl & Carrie’s one night stand and you need to get their attention by getting their mind off the latest happenings in the Street.
On the web, you wish your company website to download quickly, put the reader in control, quickly allow for next steps, clear out all of the clutter and allow the reader to get their wishes across. Your reader is focussed and task driven, they are reading your website and you must give them your full attention by listening carefully for what they want to do next.
If the offline world is driven by the need to get people’s attention, the online world is driven by the need to give people your attention.
When someone arrives on your website, presales has been completed. They are coming because they have some idea of who you are, they have an idea for what your company does and they are there to find out more. They want to be in control, and they want to find out their information on their terms.
Offline communication often faces the challenge of trying to arouse someone’s attentions as they lie back in their most comfortable armchair. Online the challenge is the opposite. When they come to your site the chances are they will be leaning forward in their office chair trying to get a job done. Your website should have them back in their favourite chair as quickly as possible.
This is why showreel introductions to websites are so ineffectual and happily are generally now a thing of the past. Not only do they waste time, they continue the presales process when it is already completed. Showreel introductions don’t recognise that you already have people’s attention and that your online visitor now wants to explore your offering in some more detail.
So what does this actually mean for your website?
It means that you need to know the most important questions your potential customers want answered when they come to your home page. Do you know what those are? Have you asked them?
If you are a products business it almost definitely means that you should feature your best products and prices on your home page. The ability to search for products through most common methods should be featured heavily also. All other clutter should be removed.
If you are a services business it means you need to get your means of differentiation, and key services featured quickly and efficiently. You should allow your visitors to link, search and read on their own terms.
This all reduces space available for smiley stock photography faces, messages from the CEO, animated showreel introductions, large graphics and quirky designs. And for all of these things we should be eternally thankful.
So shape up your website like an ideal man. Listen more. Stop trying to sell yourself when the presales is done. Put the other person in control. And enjoy the many benefits!