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User Centered Design: Your Hot-Headed, Enthusiastic Web Site  

:: Monday, April 03, 2006 ::

It's difficult to communicate passion and enthusiasm on the Internet by design alone. Do you try? Does it matter to web site usability? Will a spirited approach help tease out a coveted link from another website? You bet!

Tell Me Something Good

This is what we usually read on a homepage.
(Read outloud in your best gloomy, "Eeyore" The Donkey, voice.)

"Welcome to my website. I do this, that and the other thing and if you believe me, click here to use my form to buy this or contact me about that."

Sometimes there may be a stock photo of a man looking important inserted on the page. Or, a picture of a machine part. Or, textured background from the 1990's that signals a "We haven't touched this web site in years. Why are you here?" type of message.

For a homepage that communicates excitement and passion for your topic, I find the easiest trick is to answer these questions:

Who am I
Where am I
Why am I here
What am I offering
How am I offering it


That's the starting point.

Move To Your Web Site Beat (also known as Dancing With Yourself)

Even better is:

Who am I and who are you: Who is your target market/audience? Acknowledge that you know who they are. That includes their gender, age, eyesight and favorite flavor of ice cream.

Where am I and where are you: If you want to stress you are a local business, point this out and acknowledge that you service your specific area. More importantly, if you expect to sell golf balls in China, make sure it's obvious you sell to China.

Why am I here and why are you here: Prove you understand why someone has just clicked into your web site. This means you must make it easy to perform tasks. Provide validation that you actually do what the search engine description just said you would do. Need more clues? Research "scent of information", "call to action" and "Don't lie to me." Okay, I'm just kidding about that last one.

Kinda.

What am I offering and why you should care? This one is for every baby things, jewelry, wedding gifts and accessories and crafts themes web site ever lovingly built. By the time brand new visitors (your potential customers) read the 132 links to your stuff in the left side navigation, they no longer care or remember why they came.

Categorize.
Organize.
Specialize.

Read up (again) on "scent of information", "call to action" and buy the book by Steve Krug called, "Don't Make Me Think."

All I'm really saying here is, "Yes, there are many people who will happily poke around the medicine cabinet in your bathroom, but there are many more who trust that if there's something really cool and special in your house to look at, you will show them off yourself." Pick a few. Don't overwhelm. Flirt with your web site visitors while at the same time, inspire them. Indulge them. For heaven's sake, convince them that your web site is not one to go blindly whizzing by.

How am I offering it and why my deal is better: You ship golf balls to China in cute little boxes stuffed with coupons for discounts on future shipping. You carefully write each baby announcement, one by one, from your kitchen table, while your toddlers are napping or playing with sock puppets.

Convince your stubborn customer that yes, Paris Hilton wore this same shoe before you found it on Ebay, bought it and added the glitter and pink silk straps to it. Absolutely, you must show close ups of the glitter and pink silk, at every angle, and that matching little doggie outfit you designed to go with it.

Value proposition, product features, customer benefits and all the extra special things you lovingly do are wonderfully powerful things to put into your website content.

Know When To Shut Up

There's a lot to be said for sharing your passion on your website. I'm always looking for new and creative ways to do this in user centered design. It's something people want to know about once I inform them that it's safe and good to share one's intense devotion to their service or products on their web site.

However, there's a line you can cross over. This is when you see a melodramtatic site that goes on for 3 hours, on just the homepage, about how impressive, fantastic and incredible their service or product is. You know this one. It's the kind of web site where you read it all, get to the bottom of the page and still have no idea how or where to place the order.

This is because they didn't shut up long enough to notice you were even there.

How Do We Share The Love?

I bet you think I'm going to tell you how to share the love. You want to know what colors to use or design tricks or how to write value proposition content chock full of desirability, engagability and captology. I could do that.

But you will only be frustrated in the long run because it's yet another technique or technical thing or standard to impress the boss.

The true emotional energy driving your web site must always come from you, because of you.

The best way to show passion on your web site is to be very clear about everything you want your visitor to know. Visualize taking their hand and showing them around by linking and building logical navigation around your web house.

Be honest with yourself, first, about why you have put up your web site. Do wish to convey that you're doing this because you want to get rich in two days? Do you prefer to be open and up front from the start that your idea of customer service is to spend two days selecting the right beads to match the dress your customer has ordered the earrings to go with?

Passionate, enthusiastic, heart-to-heart web design is about establishing trust, communicating excellent customer service, proving expertise and not being afraid to admit you absolutely love what you do.


Happy Dog

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 4/03/2006 12:58:00 PM

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