One of the most interesting and challenging questions that I am often asked is what shall I write on my website?
There are tomes written about SEO and I don’t wish to dismiss that but there is also the basic principle of being able to connect or as the modern phase goes to be able to engage with your audience which we are all encouraged to do by our peers when in the social media world.
If you want stronger communications that improve your connection with your audience I firmly believe that you need to give devote more time and energy to what happens in people or your reader’s heads. Here’s a few thoughts about how communication actually works as once you start thinking about how to connect with your audience better, you realise it involves substance that goes on in people’s heads which is very complex and occasionally a little peculiar
Humans are social, pattern-seeking creatures. We approach written communication in a similar way to face-to-face contact: we look for clues about who the ‘speaker’ is and what their intentions are. Most of this is subconscious. Are they like us? Can we trust them?
You can think of it like this. Your foreground message is the thing you thought you were saying and the background message is the other stuff they’ll pick up. What sort of organisation and people are you? What’s your style? Are you a supplier they can get on with? If they get the wrong background message they won’t hang around for the foreground message.
I am sure this all this sound familiar and it will if you’ve looked at ‘branding’ but really it’s what people think about when they think about you. I think the key thing is to take some time to reflect on the impressions you want to project and what you want to happen in your reader’s thoughts and emotions. Indeed, once you know that, you can ensure all your communications reflect it.
There are many things to consider such as think about your values, your approach to your business and to your clients and think about who your audience are, and what kinds of impressions they will want and expect to get. What sort of background and culture do they have? In short your foundation messages aren’t just about your projection as they also need to connect your client’s world and your community.
Communication training tells us that when we’re speaking to someone we need to think about what we say, how we say it and our body language. I firmly believe that written communication is the same and as regards websites the body language of written communication is visual design and the way your site is presented is the first thing a visitor will process.
The acid question is have you looked at the way you write? You need to write for the web, with text that’s well broken up: keep sentences and paragraphs short. Write in Daily Mirror language with everyday plain English that gets information across efficiently avoiding long words and jargon and be sure to write correctly, as this will affect visitors’ perception of you…
The next issues to address is was your site’s visual design planned with message in mind, or is it just what someone thought looked nice? Is it attractive? Is it easy to read? What sort of ‘feel’ does it have? Think about colour, fonts and layout. Test it on different devices and browser software – what looks fine on one may have a problem on another.
You are three clicks away from your competition and all web users know there’s a sea of information competing for their attention and we all develop habits to protect our time and while searching for what we want and expect to find what we want on another site if this one as we filter ruthlessly, speedily and often without a lot of conscious thought.
When someone arrives at your page you have on average 1.5 seconds to convince them to stick around as their brain is looking for an excuse to discard you from their search. Make sure they don’t leave if they are faced with an ocean of text! Most will be turned off if they have to squint to read the text, or shade their eyes from the colour scheme, or they can’t tell where to click to find what interests them.
In the final analysis ask yourself this…
Does the site say one thing but give off signals that tell a different story? Visitors might not pick up on these things consciously because do you claim to be highly professional or well-funded or influential at a high level, on a website that looks very amateurish? Or are design elements like your colour scheme at odds with your message? For example, if you’re promoting an exciting project for young people you don’t want too mechanical and with a calming blue scheme and try to be always authentic.
Am I engaging with my audience as if it feels like your site is churned out by an information robot the visitors simply won’t engage? Please try to personalise things by making it easy to find information and pictures of some of the people involved or clients you have worked with and always aim for a writing style that feels conversational while getting info across clearly.
Just a few thoughts to put to the test and ask an impartial observer to visit your website and give you some feedback and you might be pleasantly surprised or horrified!