Connections, not coolness, are key to website success

What’s the objective for your new website? “We want it to have a cool design that will attract visitors.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I probably wouldn’t have to write as many websites to pay my mortgage. And each time I hear it, I have to take a deep breath and explain why that’s a terrible idea.

I’ve learned to start that conversation by asking questions. Why do you want to update your website? “Isn’t that obvious?” Perhaps, but please indulge me for a moment. “Well, we want to get business.” I see, and a cool design is what will get business? “Won’t it?” I don’t know, I’m asking you. Do your customers normally choose to do business with companies because of cool websites? And if that’s the case, why are your current customers doing business with you since your current site apparently isn’t so cool?

“Well, because we’re the best at what we do, and we give them more value for the dollar than our competitors.” So your new website’s primary objective is to convince your prospects to do business with you? “Exactly.”

Okay, I may be going out on a limb here, but is it safe to assume that your prospects are also looking for a supplier that is the best in your industry and that gives them more value for the dollar than the competition? “Definitely. When people find out what makes us different, they want to do business with us.” Ah. So you’re saying they choose one company over the others because of what those companies do and who they are, not because they have the coolest website? “Uh …”

I don’t ask these questions to be annoying, although I know you may be hearing them that way. I ask because so many companies start a project for a new website or a brochure by talking about how it should look instead of about what it should do. How it looks is important, but I think about that in different ways. “What do you mean?” I want to be sure it portrays your company as accurately and favorably as possible. I want to make sure that it’s inviting and everything that needs to be seen or read is visible. I want to be sure that it encourages your prospects to take the next step so you can land their business.

“Well, can’t it be cool, too?” Maybe. Sometimes “cool” is the right approach. Sometimes it isn’t. I’d rather focus on understanding what will connect with your prospects and convince them to do business with you. If being cool is important to them, we’ll create the coolest site we can envision. But if they’re more interested in stability and reliability, maybe we’ll approach it from a different angle. We don’t start by thinking about how something should look. We start by thinking about what it should do. That make sense?

“Sure does. And can we make the main colors be red and yellow?”