24 Jun 2014

Web Page Core: Energy, Personality and Creating Desire

We can tell the difference between a website that wants every visitor to enjoy the experience of being there, because it is the same feeling we get being around a person who enjoys the experience of being here.

Since most web sites are designed and built in environments that drain human energy, by stressed out people with fire breathing dragon management hovering about shouting encouragement like “This is due tomorrow”, “Test it later” and “Put these 5 ads over here”, is it any wonder that so many websites are not only built improperly, but altogether useless or frustrating to visit?

Last week I asked you to “remove your parts”.  On your homepage, remove your logo, header, footer and if your global navigation is in your header, remove that too.  Next, remove your animated slider.  Let’s continue by removing all of the main pieces typically placed on homepages (excluding parallax and end-less scroll layouts).

Remove everything except the text inside the body section.  (If none exists, you are already in trouble.)
Homepage with Elements
Most homepages, if they contain body text in the content area, will look like this:
Homepage with Removed Elements
If the meat of your website is in the middle, such as what is about or why it is the best choice instead of your competitors, this information is what people want to know first.  Why?

  • They have no idea who you or your company are.
  • They have no reason to trust you or your rank, because fake people are just as common as fake rank.  Any website can “act” like a star with the right marketing strategy.
  • A visitor who has arrived because of a link, social page referral, word of referral, etc., still has doubts and needs convincing that the reference was a good one.
  • Search engine bots are looking for content that responds to searcher queries so that it will consider the page a good match candidate.
  • You have five seconds to communicate that you have what every visitor came for, whether via a search engine, link, print or word of mouth mention.
  • People have short memories.  By the time they scan to the middle of the homepage, they should already know the company or site name and its purpose.  The middle section is there to repeat this information rather than present it for the first time.

Why do some web designers insist that people do not use web sites?

Because they are asked to not build them for people.

Web sites are made for revenue generation and search engine rank. The way to earn to revenue is by placing ads on web pages, including the homepage.  Another way is by putting a form that collects data on top of the homepage that MUST be filled out before anyone can use the web site, or as in the case of clothing sites, see the products that are blurred out until the clothing company has been given your name, email address and favorite ice cream flavor.

The Web Page Core is Nothing More Than Being Human

Which is why so many web pages suck.  There is nothing human about them.  Corporations know nothing about being human.  They know a lot about being robotic, rules driven, investor dictated and ego driven.  This is the energy they put into driving their companies.  It is the energy they pump into employees.  When creativity, expertise, training, testing and the desire to produce a product or service of value is not part of the working environment or supported, something like a web site or software application is not going to thrive or survive.

There was nothing human about the original Healthcare.gov website.  While it was intended to be used by an enormous number of people, it was not built for them to use.  Target.com was sued because blind users were unable to use it.

Predicting how people use websites should be part of keyword research but it is not a task most SEO’s do, nor are they taught to.  Who are the people who use frequently used search terms?  What devices do they use?  Did they have bad day and are now asking Google search in their Android device where the closest beer is?  Does your web page reach out to that person and invite them in for that beer, or does it bombard them with slow loading images, affiliate ads and badly written content?

Looking at your homepage, with the main elements removed, is there anything left that provides a clue about the site’s brand, character, personality, interest in who uses it?

Every time I test a website, this is what I find most often:

  • No text tagline or slogan under or near the logo that gives an immediate clue about what the website is about.
  • No alt attributes behind photos describing what they are for the people who don’t see them.
  • Uninspired link labels in navigation that don’t motivate any interest in clicking them.
  • Life-less, boring, wordy content.  (Like a monotone voice speaking to you.)
  • Gigantic sliders with no content or calls to action.
  • Hero image that takes up the entire top half of a homepage and focuses on one product or idea, only.
  • Automatic sliders with no content or calls to action that cannot be turned off and are therefore extremely distracting.
  • No value proposition or “Why this company/person is credible” stated anywhere on the top half of the page.
  • No photos of real people using products, or videos of satisfied clients/customers/students.
  • The failure to pass color compliance, which makes reading content and finding links next to impossible for sight impaired people.
  • Unorganized navigation, with terms that are not universally understood
  • No calls to action
  • No text (this is my favorite).  The first thing I do is remove all the images from a page to see what is left and most of the time there is no text or if there is, it is worthless.  It’s like throwing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak over the page and wondering why mobile device users are frustrated and special needs users are outraged.

People Sense Intent

Whenever I discuss the intent of a web site, someone should start thinking about gathering web site requirements, creating user personas and planning test cases for user testing and page layouts.  This also when stakeholders should do some serious soul searching. Their intentions may be nothing like those of their website visitors, and it shows with the final site design.

When you meet someone, especially for the first time, you look for body signals to help you understand something about them.  We look into the eyes of other people because we know we get information from eyes, facial expressions and whether or not there is even eye contact at all.  Many people are sensitive to energy fields, even at a distance, of all living forms.  We use our senses to gauge intent.  We decide whether to continue a discussion this way, and we make quick decisions on fear, trust and safety.

I feel that our experiences with the Internet and what I am attempting to convey about finding your web page core, is designing and building web sites can be made for people to want to use because they can feel the essence of the site coming through.

Avinash Kaushik, wrote in Digital Design & User Experience Best Practices: Happiness + Profits!

We have more data than God wants anyone to have. We have more talent deployed than was ever true in history. We have more money being pumped into our ecosystem than ever before. We have our senior leadership involved like never before.

Yet the end result of all that is so far away from where it should be. We definitely stink less in most cases. But with all this data, talent, money and leadership support, we are not knocking the ball out of the park.

I mean look at Zappos. It is functional. If you know what you want, you can buy it. But does the experience have to be like you are staying at a Motel 6?

Can your website take a deep breath?  Probably not.   It is likely congested.   Does your website have character and personality?  Who is the voice behind the content?  If that voice is leaking ego, arrogance, and dishonesty, this is a turn off to people.   This is where we are in our Web journey.  We are past the gray web page backgrounds and we are social fanatics.  We search constantly for information.

But we do not understand why we are here and where to go next.  Most websites exist because site owners are told they need one and they create situations where their business lives and dies by the latest search engine algorithm.  I believe that the truly successful website wants every visitor to enjoy the experience of being on their site, because it enjoys the experience of being a web site.


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