Websites can be cold, technical, boring, and merely informational. Or they can be welcoming, friendly, informational, and reflect your personality. Which do you think your users will prefer? Which will do the best job of helping them choose you over your competitors?
Nobody means for their website to be impersonal. It usually happens because we’re so used to seeing websites look a certain way, so we make ours that way, too. Our competitors have a way of doing things, so we follow the group. Or we’re just a little afraid and don’t know where to start. Some of that is perfectly fine–users expect websites to behave in a certain way, and they’ll appreciate it when your website works that way, too. Clear, simple navigation. A consistent location for major elements from page to page. An easy way to contact you. These are the basics that you should follow in your website…or in the words of web usability expert Steve Krug, don’t make them think.
However, a safe and impersonal website won’t necessarily let people know that you’re different and worth getting in touch with. Don’t let that happen. Make it personal.
Get (and display) testimonials
You’re unique. You may offer the same services as your competitors, but there are things that set you apart. So let’s start there. What is it about you that makes people choose you over your competitors? Ask your clients for testimonials that address this point, then feature them on your website. Potential clients love testimonials. Not that they don’t trust your claims, but it’s nice to hear it from somebody who’s worked with you.
Show your personality in the design
What are your favorite colors–those that you wear a lot, or that you’ve featured in your office environment? Are you more of a red person, are you all earth tones, or are you hot pink with lime green accents? Share your favorites–and least favorites–with your web designer so that they can be incorporated into your design. Besides, if you don’t love your own website when you look at it, it’s unlikely your potential customers will either.
Typography is another great way to show your personality. You might be formal and old-fashioned (script fonts), elegant and fashionable (serifed, Vogue-magazine type), simple and clean (non-serifed, thin), casual (handwritten), or dramatic (chunky and bold). Collect some printed materials with fonts you like–with modern techniques, it’s likely that they can be reproduced in your website.
Symbols and icons can be used judiciously throughout your design to further the personal touch. Does your company have a wildcat mascot? A well-placed paw print can tie your website in to the rest of your branding materials. Are you a craft shop? Try hand-drawn social icons. Even if you’re in a more traditional field, you can find new ways to use the obvious (zoom in on the carving of a gavel handle, use graph paper as a background).
And of course photography is a plus. Not just photos of you (although we fully support that), but photos that you’re drawn to, that really “say” you and your company. Consider photos of nature, architecture, cityscapes, or people. Just try to avoid the stock photo pitfalls–happy multiethnic people laughing together, overly attractive people shaking hands, lawyers in front of bookcases, etc.
Use your voice
Writing for the web is different then writing for print. Website users tend to skim over copy rather than read it all, looking for terms they’re interested in and main ideas they can identify with (use bold font or bullets to make these stand out). Since you don’t have much time to capture them, make sure that your web content is in your voice. Is your company’s philosophy to be down-to-earth and accessible? Then avoid jargon, and explain things on your website the way you would to a client sitting in your office. Be professional, and use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation (yes, these matter…a lot), but don’t be afraid to sound friendly and real.
Your website is most likely your major piece of marketing, so make sure that it reflects who you are. These are just a few ideas–let us know if you think of more.