Friday, December 12, 2008

Give 'em What They Want!

In developing your website, it is important to keep in mind that your web site is essentially a document, or series of documents, that your web visitors will be reading. Understand that this is the expectation that they are coming to your website with as well.

Recent readability studies prove that the eye is immediately attracted to text, not pictures or graphics on a web site. This may be bad news for website designers out there who have a penchant for developing very elaborate Flash animations, but it’s good news for you. It saves you the time, trouble and expense of developing such things.

Creativity Killed the Customer
Recently, a web designer (former creative director for an advertising agency) colleague called me up excited to show me a website that he had just developed. When I got to his office and saw his latest masterpiece I was a little concerned. He had indeed developed a magnificent dynamic, database driven web site. Unfortunately at his customer’s request he had also developed a 2 minute long Flash animation. This was the first thing a web visitor encountered when they went to this particular company’s homepage.

I stood there watching this spectacular high-bandwidth display of color and motion, while my friend basked in the glow of his creation. My only thought was how absolutely annoying this was going to be for just about every single web visitor that came to this particular website, with the possible exception of his mom.

I did my best to express my concern to my friend however, it was to no avail. In fact I just went and checked on this “spectaculon” and it’s still there. Fortunately my friend had the good sense to put a “skip-intro” button on the animation. Hopefully this company’s web visitors will find it quickly. Besides being a time waster a flash introduction immediately alienates those web visitors still using low-speed connections, and that’s still quite a few people in the US today!

Words, words, words...
Words are the most powerful communication tool known to mankind and the Internet is the great facilitator of this tool. In his somewhat eclectic, yet enlightened book, The Medium Is the Massage (Bantam Books, 1965), Marshall McLuhan stated, “Western history was shaped…by the introduction of the phonetic alphabet, a medium that depends solely on the eye for comprehension…” “Its use fostered and encouraged the habit of perceiving all environment in visual and spatial terms.” In the words of Yvonne DiVita, book publisher, author and Social Media expert, “Words count! The Right Words Count Double!”

All of the rules of good typography still apply. In this case, the more things change, the more they stay the same. (A quick search on “rules of typography” will produce several sources of information.) Keep this in mind as you develop your web content. As an example, bolded text and subtitles command more attention than pictures or fancy graphics and animations. Other things to think about are, spacing, font size and style… Don’t ignore a large demographic that is flocking to the Internet—baby boomers. Remember that they don’t like small script and they want information up front, top down!

2 Points on Good Web Content
As you develop your web content there are a couple other basic concepts for you to keep in mind. First, Be Brief! In most cases online -- Less Is More. Don’t say in two paragraphs what you can say in ten words. Second, the contents of your web site should reflect the real and measurable benefits that you provide to your customers. In other words, your copy should be about the unique value you provide to your customers and NOT about your marketing ego. The more you can build on your unique qualities, and their benefit to your customers, the better.

Several final notes on the development of your web site: It is a known fact that 70% of Internet users will NOT re-visit a graphically rich web site. This most definitely supports the point made earlier that web visitors are coming to a website with an expectation of gathering information, i.e.: reviewing a document. 59% of online shoppers want MORE product information not less. In addition, web site visitors demand speed and gratification. 40% of Internet users will not tolerate web pages that do not load quickly. The eight-second rule still applies – “Capture my interest in eight seconds or I’m gone!”

If you Twitter -- tweet -- don't "TWACK!"

I heard an interesting interview with Chris Brogan on John Jantsch’s DuctTape Marketing podcast yesterday afternoon. Chris, who is recognized as an expert in the social media space, was being interviewed about his use of Twitter, the micro-blogging utility that has become so popular of late.

Among the various and sundry ideas both men tossed around was a comment about how they loath getting blatant sales pitches from people who they don’t know who are following them. Neither of them had a good term, or any term for that matter, to describe this Twitter equivalent to junk mail or SPAM.

Well divine light has shown down upon me. Ladies and gentlemen, I have that term! And the term is, “TWACK.” Now I realize that sounds kind of goofy but, follow my logic. As with all words within the twitter lexicon, it begins with the letters T W, as in Twittonary (Twitter Dictionary). This is a cool tool you can use to look up the meaning of anything and everything on twitter. “TWACK” also sounds like Elmer Fudd in hot pursuit of Bugs Bunny. “Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m twack-ing a wabbit! Huhuhuhuhu…” LOL

Most birds chirp and tweet, the later being the term used to describe a micro-post (140 characters or less) by anyone on twitter. These chirps and tweets are melodious sounds that are pleasing to the ear. Ducks, by comparison, quack which to anyone but a duck hunter is not a melodious or pleasing sound. A “Quack” is also a derogatory term used to describe a doctor of ill repute or perhaps a shyster. The word “Quack” is rather abrasive and obnoxious, which is in keeping with the previous comment. The term “TWACK” is also rather abrupt and harsh, when you say it. Try it out. It also sounds similar to “whack,” which is to hit or strike something with a resounding blow.

This gets to the real meaning of the term. Twitter is a great utility for communicating (one to many) short bursts of information. The content on Twitter ranges from the typical “what I am doing right now,” to quasi chatting. As with all communications mediums there are those people who choose to throw a blatant sales pitch at everyone in the hopes of attracting an ignorant few with their message. Chris Brogan referred to this as marketing with a Bull Horn. As I alluded to above, this is abrasive and obnoxious and it also flies directly in the face of what Social Media is all about.

TWACKING then, is the equivalent to Twitter SPAMMING, and is the quickest way to become un-followed, or UF’d, by pretty much everyone. The bottom line is, nobody wants to hear your sales pitch without getting to know you first. Chris had a more colorful description of this when he said (and I paraphrase), “don’t try to stick your tongue in my mouth when we haven’t even shaken hands yet.” You get the point!