Imagine that your website was a living, breathing human being. If you met this person on the street one day, would you stop and chat or keep walking? Would you keep in touch after getting to know them?
The answers to these questions can give you insight into how people view your brand. If you want your website to successfully represent you, then you need to consider the human experience.
True, your website isn't a person. That doesn't mean, however, that visitors can't instantly detect the underlying human feel that pervades it.
Consider what kind of individual you'd select to fill a sales, brand evangelism, tech support or other highly-visible position. Prospective job candidates would have to appear professional, authoritative and accessible just to make it through the interview. Shouldn't you be evaluating your website's design and functionality on the same kind of criteria?
For many consumers, your website is their first point of contact with your organisation. Visitors are highly likely to judge you based on what they see and experience. According to consumer-research agencies like the Nielsen Norman Group, the level of trustworthiness you establish online has a major impact on the decisions your users make.
Suppose your website was a shop's sales assitant. If they approached you selling something without knowing any of the answers to your questions about the product, you'd be unlikely to make a purchase. Although consumers are often unaware they're doing it, most apply similar criteria as they evaluate your brand online.
Your website has to establish its credibility to foster the kind of trust that results in conversions. As Nielsen points out, this means the information it contains needs to be current, comprehensive and correct.
It's also worth noting that credibility goes beyond simply providing the right answers to consumer inquiries. Would you ever revisit a car salesperson who failed to tell you about purchase fees or taxes until after you'd signed the contract? Probably not. Your site should be just as up-front as you'd expect a live brand representative to be.
In the end, it doesn't matter whether you envision your human website as a tech guru, industry insider or even superhero. Regardless who they are, they must be able to create and maintain fulfilling relationships with users. If they can't provide lasting value, why would visitors return for more?
The way your site speaks to viewers is one of the most important aspects of bringing a business online. While there are unique best practices for each business niche, some ideas are universal, such as:
What's the unifying factor in these diverse elements? In short, good sites act like old friends who always treat you the way you like being treated. They're attentive to consumer needs, so it's only natural that people grow to rely on them.
Companies that use their websites to build rapport have it much easier when it comes to breaking the ice in person and establishing protracted business relationships. Striking the right tone essentially boils down to whether someone reading your site feels like they're having a comfortable conversation or being yelled at by a pushy used car dealer.
The way your site build ties with users and consumers isn't the only important aspect of its digital personality. It's also critical that it treats your organisation well.
If an employee failed at a given task, you'd most likely talk to them in the hopes they'd improve. If they continually failed even after the conversation, you'd have to let them go. Smart businesses take a similar approach to online brand presence.
You can't afford to foster sentimental attachments to a website that doesn't work, and you also can't afford not to improve. If your site doesn't facilitate consistent refinement and optimization with analytics, content-management tools and adaptable design that caters to consumer needs, it's time to move on.
How do you use your website to boost your brand with positive promotion? Share your ideas in the comments below, or get in touch for more great insights.