Article by: Michael Van Ausdeln
Most websites are boring.
Oh, those dullards serve important aims. They sell a product. They provide information. Contact and career links are available. And content is continually updated to help with SEO.
But most of them do not inspire. And that’s the most important function your website can provide.
In thinking about your current website, answer this. Who are your most important visitors? For many, they are first-time users who find you through marketing or search. They are interested buyers.
They are, using an old analogy, on the car lot with the specific purpose of buying something new. (Or even buying into your mission.) First impressions are of the utmost importance, and you can lose them fast, like driving up to said used car lot and finding a dozen salespersons standing outside waiting to pounce – and speeding away.
The greatest first impression is inspiring them, moving them to engage more.
An Inspiring Example
A labor of love here at eDesign, the BIVF Foundation website gives financial support to those who cannot afford fertility treatment to have a family.
A non-profit, the foundation allocates grants for treatment to those eligible. The expected site of this kind would simply start with a bland description of the BIVF Foundation. Then, provide a list of grants and facilities. Job done, right?
But think about the audience. It’s already a highly emotional issue when you need fertility treatment because there is no other option. You feel a swirl of emotions that makes you dizzy if you can’t afford it.
Inspiration, therefore, becomes paramount. Let’s give them hope. In this case, a simple message – Your dream of parenthood continues – taps into that swirl of emotions. It’s your dream. It doesn’t have to end. You can become a parent.
From that single phrase, everything else follows. The design is simple but warm because being too flashy would make it seem less real when “please let this be real” is a highly intensive desire.
And think about the headlines as you scroll down, working in sync with the design and images. It follows an emotional structure:
Your dream of parenthood continues (hope)
How we help (look at the image – demonstrates this can be done)
Grants helping families grow (it’s real)
Are you eligible? (audiences have a path)
You are not alone (you have a support system)
Emotionally, the page says:
And you’re not alone
An emotional story that’s inspiring and taps into that swirl of emotions to move the target audience.
Inspiration Increases Engagement
First-time users land on your site anywhere, clicking on a link to a blog, for instance. If that blog is interesting enough, they’ll click on the home page to check you out.
When coming to the homepage, the first thing they see is your hero section. It’s your best opportunity to increase engagement. But think about your own internet habits. When visiting a new site, you decide in seconds whether you want to continue.
According to Forbes, the average time spent on any page is 54 seconds.
In that time, you haven’t read this far in this post.
Engagement is everything. In B2B, for example, users are not making a quick decision to buy. They need to be convinced. And, as shoppers for a business, they are initially skeptical. You overcome that by moving them to believe in you.
That’s where inspiration comes in.
We could provide many examples of websites that fail to inspire. But there’s too many. Let’s focus on what makes a website inspiring.
Design is a tremendous part of it. In fact, design often tells the user immediately whether you’re real or not. Whether you’re successful at what you do. Because, in the end, we all want to align ourselves with winners. It’s a natural human instinct. (In B2B, affirmation of choice is the most powerful emotional trigger because others are depending on you, the buyer for a company.)
Great web design doesn’t have to be flashy. (See the BIVF Foundation above.) However, it must be compelling and tell a story that makes everything else on the site – service and product descriptions, history timelines, careers, etc. – important and whole. Design brings everything to life.
Don’t settle for looking like everyone else in your industry. (Copying the market leader only helps the market leader. Because, when all things are equal, audiences default to the market leader. Because it is the winner.)
Words matter too. At eDesign, we start every project with a strategic theme, a brand strategy. What is the story? What is the single most emotionally persuasive thing we can say to sway audiences? From that single-minded theme, everything else flows.
And it must inspire. Don’t start with a list of services. A description of what you do. A map showing your locations or anything that’s the expected message.
Stay Out of Your Own Way
To inspire audiences, you must be different and better. Don’t default to industry cliches. Be honest with yourself. The differences between products and services in any market can be measured by a slip of paper.
Your approach to audiences is the only meaningful difference in a mature market. Yes, we’re talking brand here. Don’t get lost in the morass of your competition. Innovation, friendly people, leadership, we’re the best, trust us, and similar themes are the most overused cliches and speed through a user’s brain without making an impact.
Think only from the perspective of your target audiences. That’s the only perspective that matters. Otherwise, why even have a public website in the first place?
To truly inspire, you must find/consider the emotional drivers of your audiences. Who do they aspire to become? What personal fulfillment do they get out of using your brand? What is a strong enough message – expressed by design, copy, and image – to get someone to change their behavior and prefer you?
Your dream of parenthood continues. You inspire.
We hope this article was useful and has inspired some ideas. If you need help with your website design or ideas for your social campaigns, don’t hesitate to reach out. Simply say firstname.lastname@example.org, we welcome a chat.