When It Comes to Websites, Simple Is Still In

Google

Thanks to Steve Jobs, Google (and others), simple is here to stay. It may not be easy to accomplish, but I believe it’s worth striving for — in our home lives and our work lives.

Keeping a website simple is a constant challenge. As our businesses grow and mature, it can be so tempting to add another page, another client testimonial, another case study, another accolade, another bullet point to the already too long list of services we provide. Of course, we’re told that the more content, the better — if nothing other than to attract the almighty search engines.

My advice? Don’t do it. Continue to keep your site simple. Your clients will thank you for it. Your authenticity will shine through. Yes, relevance and authenticity still count.

How do you keep your site simple? Here are 7 key tips:

  1. Focus on your most essential product and service offerings. Your site visitor doesn’t need to know everything you’re capable of. When you later connect with that prospective client, you can fill in the blanks, as appropriate.
  2. Reduce the page count. Most visitors need just an overview of who you are and what you provide to decide if they should contact you.
  3. Limit the number of tabs and navigational choices. If we offer visitors too many choices, we paralyze them. I equate this to the cereal aisle in the grocery store — too many choices and, hey, do I really need cereal this visit?
  4. Keep your most important content above the scroll. The majority of site visitors still don’t scroll (at least on desktop devices). Contact info should definitely appear high up on the page.
  5. Choose a palette of 2 or 3 colors. If we use any more than that, we confuse the eye and dilute our brand identity.
  6. Write content for your human audience first. Yes, keywords still matter, but ultimately, once you “get found,” you still need to be able to convince your visitor to buy from you. Keep things relevant and use your authentic voice.
  7. Continue to simplify. Sure, we all need to add content as we grow and evolve, but remember to subtract content that may no longer be important or relevant to your business today.

Don’t we all prefer to do business with people who are authentic and uncomplicated? Your clean and simple website can help you project an image of polished professionalism. Less is definitely more.

by Rebecca Cochran

 

Walk. Look. Create.

footprintsI’ve been walking daily since I was a little girl. I have my father to thank for that. I relished my evening walks with him during my adolescent through teenage years. We’d set out, just the two of us, every evening after dinner, walking, sometimes talking, always observing the world around us. When we’d return, we were ready to tackle the dinner dishes and relax into the evening.

Walking is a gift. It is something most of us can do for free. Walking doesn’t require any special talents. We don’t have to buy any special clothing (although a comfortable pair of walking shoes is recommend). Most of us can simply head out our home or office door and just walk.

Walking is nature’s cure-all. No matter how I feel when I set out on a walk, I always feel better by the end. If I’m tired when I start my walk, I’m rejuvenated when I finish. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with work or personal issues when I begin a walk, I am clear-headed and focused by the end. And, of course, the long-term physical benefits of moderate-impact aerobic activities like walking are well known.

As an adult, no matter where I’ve lived – city or suburban setting, no matter the climate, I’ve always kept up my walking ritual. A daily walk, even a short one, is a must for me. I’m not one to listen to music or the news while I walk. I focus on my stride (to create a sort of natural rhythm). And I focus on my surroundings, trying to notice things that I’d miss if I were driving the same route.

I walk best alone. (Sorry, Dad.) Friends regularly invite me to join in their walking ritual, but I usually decline their offers. The benefits I derive from walking come when I’m able to think and observe in silence.

The simple act of a daily walk allows me to solve problems. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve begun a walk thinking I had a big problem to sort through, only to determine, 10 minutes in, that I’d been blowing the issue way out of proportion.

And, best of all, I regularly experience creative breakthroughs when I walk. These breakthroughs happen when I’m not even trying. The act of walking and focusing on my stride clears my head. Ideas flow naturally. Dots connect themselves.

Walk. Look. Create. It’s really that simple.

by Rebecca Cochran

The Art of Empathy

ArtEmpathy

Photo by Ryan McGuire

If you’re a creative person, empathy can be your most powerful weapon. Why? Because practicing the art of empathy can enable you to solve real problems for your customers.

Yes, empathy is an art. And, like any other of the arts, empathy needs to be practiced regularly in order to excel at it.

So, how do you practice empathy? Start by sharpening your senses.

Listen: Practice really listening to your customer. Listen when he/she makes a big, bold statement. Often, that big, bold statement is a clue to what he’s most concerned about, i.e., what he may consider his biggest challenge. Listen for words or phrases he uses over and over. They could provide clues to what’s most important to him. Listen, also, for silence. Depending on your customer’s communication style, he may suddenly become silent when quizzed about a particularly problematic area of his business. This could be a signal that he feels he has an “unsolvable” problem.

Ask: Ask your customer, “Why?” and “How?” about everything. Ask even the obvious questions. Don’t assume you know the answers. You might be surprised at some of his answers. Asking those questions several times again in different ways will help you get to the real answers. Asking can also help you uncover your customer’s unarticulated needs.

Look: Watch your customer when he/she speaks to you. Body language can be telling. A sudden animated gesture may point to what he currently considers his most pressing problem. If he shrugs his shoulders in resignation, it may indicate that he has all but given up on finding an answer to a particular problem.

Feel: Consciously think about how you feel when using your customer’s product or service. Give yourself this feel test and be sure to take notes: Document how you feel just before using the product or service. Next, document how you feel as you’re using the product/service. Then, describe and document your feelings after using the product or service. Be specific. Don’t leave anything out. Small things can turn out to be important things.

Touch/Taste: Put yourself in the shoes of your customer’s customer. Walk the aisles of his store. Touch his products. Put together that toy or shelf with your own two hands. Dine in his restaurant. Taste his food. Drink his coffee. Experience the buying process from start to finish.

Observe: Take time to observe your customer’s customers as they interact with his products or services. Not everyone will interact with them the same way you do.

Combine: Combine your senses to become a better observer. Watch and listen for inconsistencies in what your customer says and does. If he says one thing and does something else, this may alert you to a problem in need of solving.

Practice: Practice these empathy exercises to learn more about your customers and their customers. Take notes. Organize your thoughts. Share your ideas with others on your team. Draw conclusions together.

Empathy is an art…and there’s no such thing as too much art.

by Rebecca Cochran