The good, the bad and the ugly. What potential clients really want from your website.

Sharon Tanton

What do people really want from your website, and how can you make sure yours delivers the goods? Try this simple exercise.

What do people really want from your website, and how can you make sure yours delivers the goods?

Website development and design are specialised jobs, ones which you’re wise to hand over to experts. But there’s a hugely valuable exercise that you as the business owner or leader can do in advance to help the designers and developers do the best job for you.

Articulate the business need and the customer/client view, and you’ll give your designers and developers the steer they need to create a website that’s going to say and do the right things.

Understanding what your buyers really want to know, and how you want to make them feel is key to getting a website that delivers what your business needs. The bottom line is always about trust. Your website needs to quickly instil trust in you and your services. But how do you do that?

Try this simple exercise to get you in the right mindset for website development that is customer first.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Web Design Exercise

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an exercise we devised for content strategy training programme aka Pub School to get people thinking in a customer-focused way. The goal of the exercise is to help you ensure that your website holds the information that people really want and need to make a buying decision, and in doing so, starts building trust in you and what you do.

Step 1. Define the questions in the buyer’s mind

In the pub we get everyone to imagine that they’re looking for a new web designer to help them create a new website, and to brainstorm all the questions they have as buyers. The list of questions that arise range from technical (will I be able to integrate third party apps on a new website?), to practical (how long will it take? How much will it cost?), to personal (will I like them? Will they be good to work with?).

For example:

  • Does this company want to work for a business like ours/will they care?
  • Cost/value? Are we in the right ballpark?
  • How has the process worked for others like me?
  • Who are the people behind the business? What are their values and personalities? Are they are good for us?
  • How well connected are they?

The same questions come up again and again for us as buyers. Your potential clients will have them too – and they’re the ones you’re website really needs to answer.

Step 2. Online search

Questions recorded, we give our Pub School group 20 mins to research web designers online. We ask them to note the reactions they’re having to the websites. What do they like? What frustrates them? What makes them instantly click off? Emotional responses are fine – irrational or instinctive reactions affect the buying process, and it’s good to be aware of quite how strong these impulses can be. We get people to group responses under Good, Bad and Ugly.

We’re aware that a genuine website search often starts with a referral of some kind. People tend to ask their networks first, before looking online. However getting people to search for a limited amount of time, in a group, replicates some of the important real life issues your website will be contending with. People are busy, distracted, time pressured, searching for you on their phone, dealing with intermittent wifi and full of questions.

Here are some of the things are Pub School group when we did the exercise last week at Pub School.

The good:

The following all got the thumbs up from the Pub School group. Websites they liked the look and feel of contained the following elements.

  • The website gave an idea of ballpark cost
  • Examples of work for companies ‘like mine’
  • Up to date content
  • Looks good – visuals
  • Saying who the company wants to work for
  • Interested in what they do – cares – blogs about relevant things
  • Written copy and message is conversational and other-focused e.g. “Who can solve my website woes?”
  • Simplicity – menu easy to navigate (who we are are, what we do, our work)
  • Humanity – shows what people are interested in outside work, picture of the office dog!
  • Easy to see credentials e.g. Google Partner, believable testimonials, awards
  • Runs events, pics of these – looks lively and plugged in
  • Life on social feeds – evidently well connected, well respected
  • Answered all my questions – easy to find answers
  • How it’s going to work – idea of where to start, and what happens and how long it takes. The process explained.

The bad:

The following are all reasons people disliked or distrusted the websites they found.

  • The website was all about them (the company), nothing for me (the potential buyer)
  • No idea if they wanted to work for a business like ours
  • Didn’t answer my questions or show me where to begin
  • No pictures of people, at all
  • Pictures of people but they look unfriendly
  • Only 7 Twitter followers – (they’re probably bots tooI don’t think this is a good firm! Can’t have good relationships if they have no friends on social media)
  • Don’t believe it if they have loads of reviews – too many positive reviews was seen as a negative by some as seemed unbelievable
  • No blog, no life, no excitement – do they care?
  • Presumptuous tone of copy: “no nonsense effective websites for small businesses like YOURS” (how do they know!)
  • Too techy – I wanted a ‘start here’ bit of helpful guidance
  • Portfolio of 1!
  • They look too big
  • They look too small
  • Company name can put people off – some companies were rejected without even being seen, as the name struck the wrong note.

And the downright Ugly!

And these are the things that had people rejecting the websites out of hand. Trust broken before it had a chance to develop.

  • The web company site that don’t work! Broken tech
  • Unreadable text
  • Don’t understand it
  • Look awful

Step 3. Repeat this exercise with your own website

The best websites are customer-focused and answer the questions in the buyer’s head.

“Great marketing is about thinking just like [your ideal customers] and knowing their questions and concerns – and then being willing to address each with thoughtfulness and clarity.” – Marcus Sheridan

Start with a list of all the questions your ideal buyer will have before approaching you for the first time. To strengthen this part of this exercise, do some customer research. What do people want to know? What preconceptions are you going to be dealing with? How do your kind of buyers interact with your website? Can they find out what they want to know?

Step 4. Map out the content that answers the questions

Turn these questions into valuable content. Forget about the design of your website. Instead, think hard about the work it needs to do to make the right impression with your ideal buyer. How will it answer their questions? How will it reassure them that they’re in the right place? What jobs does the website need to do?

We use Artefact cards to map out the content blocks, but you could use Post-it Notes or just sketch your ideas on paper.

Content mapping Artefact Cards

Website planning exercise at Pub School

The bottom line is trust – does your website build it?

The point of this exercise is to get people to look at their websites from a customer’s perspective. And holding that outside in view is something we all need to do.

The job of your website is to build trust in your business, so it’s good to think hard about the elements that can build or weaken that in the potential buyer’s mind. If you’re in the process of updating your website, it’s the best place to start. Trust building is the key idea to hold on to as you plan any changes.

Check out this helpful Trust Equation from Charles H. Green, author of Trusted Advisor:

The Trust Equation

Trust =.credibility + reliability + intimacy / self-orientation.

Many of the things people liked in the websites we looked at were those relating to credibility, reliability and intimacy. Humanity, credentials, evidence of life, pictures of people, links to thriving social networks all boosted trust. Self-orientation was a major turn off when it came to assessing a website (online as it is in the rest of life).

How does your website stack up?

Take a step back and think about your own website in this way.

  • Credibility: Does your website prove your expertise and credibility in your field, with customer stories, testimonials and thought leadership to demonstrate your mastery and interest in your subject?
  • Reliability: Does the website show that you’re dependable? Not just in hollow words but through your actions?
  • Intimacy: Trust is personal. Does your website help them get to know you and what you care about?
  • Other-focus (not self-orientation): How self-oriented is your website? Does your website focus on your ideal clients and their wants, needs and challenges? Does it to do the job of answering all their questions? Is it more you, you, you than we, we, we? >> Take the we we test

How good is your site at building trust? Does your business look like a warm and welcoming place? Do you look like good people to work with? Are you sharing your expertise in a useful way? How helpful in your online presence? Does it encourage people to dig deeper and get in touch with you?

Boosting the trustworthiness of your website is the fastest route to making yours one of the good guys. Try the Good, the Bad & the Ugly website exercise and tell us how you get on.

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