Why would you want to be real in a web site?
- Let’s imagine a person entering a web site. Any person’s first tendency is to put everything into a virtual state – “Ah, a web site, this is something abstract. A photo – hmm, this might not be real, it may be fake. A product photo – yes, the product looks fine in the photos, but who knows how the actual product looks like? The contact page – a map, yes, but I know that in that city – X -, there are a lot of problems.” A lot of times, the customer starts imagining things about your offerings. “OK, this product – X. How does it look like when held from below? How much does it weigh?”. They also imagine having a relation with you – “Oh, they have this nasty pop-up window with a newsletter. I don’t like this web site. I bet the owners …”.
- There is a natural tendency to imagine things as “purely online”. And this has a lot of nasty side-effects – if you can’t relate with the web site you visit, you can’t imagine its owners, can’t tell what is real and not, you do things you wouldn’t do normally. If everything is virtual, and online, and abstract:
- You don’t feel as much pleasure when you do a positive thing (“OK, I bought a nice watch. So what?”).
- You don’t feel as much pressure when you do a negative thing (“OK, I didn’t pick up the product from the mail, and I haven’t actually paid for it. Who cares?”).
- A “real” presence on the web site helps the visitor get into a real-life state of mind. “Oh, this lovely store, with the nice owner I know, with this product which I can actually imagine, with the kind girl from customer service. They’re so nice!”.
What are the steps to create a real presence on a web site?
- Do a very good “Contact” page. This should include:
- Proof that you have a headquarters (photos with it, map, address).
- Evidence that I can contact you in many ways (phone, SMS, email, contact form, live support, social networks).
- Something about money – details about the card processors and legal information about the company (fiscal information for the company).
- Make things as interactive & nice as possible. Do videos. If not, some maps. If not, some photos. If not, at least some text.
- Create a very descriptive “About us” page. I’ll write a future blog post on this. But do include things like:
- Details about the business / owner / products / services.
- Do balance future & present & past, put all three of them in there.
- Details about the owners, small CVs, photos.
- What do you do and others do as well (“I make cars, and these help people to travel”).
- What do you do and only you do this (“My cars are the only ones which come pre-equipped with a …”).
- Awards / high successes.
- Ethical part (values / mission / aim / vision / objectives / motto).
- Financial data.
- Use real photos:
- For persons – use photos which look real. Don’t take a stock photo with a receptionist. Make them look real.
- For product photos – make photos yourself. This doesn’t mean your photos should look ugly & bad, but if I look for a product online, and find the product on 10 stores, and your store is the only one with the product in 5 different angles, and perhaps even a small video or a manually added review, this counts.
- Use a lot of photos. Your company (headquarters), your employees, products. Lots of them.
- Regarding product descriptions – write them yourself, as much as you can. Don’t use the same text other stores use.
- Videos, if made by you, can have a huge impact in creating a connection with the visitor.
- Put contact data in the footer.
- Create a relation with your visitors. Invite them to subscribe to the newsletter. Put visible social networks on the web site. Ask them if they are happy with an order. Send them a voucher on their birthday.
- Make your clients be very happy with your service. Create a wonderful experience for them.
What are the fears?
- Mostly, people are afraid of putting too many things “out there”. “Me on a photo?” “A video!? Are you serious?”. While, to some degree, the fears are justified (yes, it’s you, you are online), it’s still a lot of room remaining to just play & test. See how it goes. In my opinion, the benefits should far outweigh the unpleasant things.
Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues: IMRo. To join, email email@example.com and reply to the confirmation email.