Making your website your best employee

How to make your website your best employee, with a little help from my grandmother and the original Mad Man himself.


A lesson learnt from my grandmother

My grandmother is in her mid 80’s and last year she set up her own Facebook account. What’s more, it was a few weeks after she had purchased her first ever computer at the ripe old age of 83. Initially, the need for the purchase was questioned amongst the family, mainly due to the foreseeable challenge in teaching a member of a generation so new to technology. And then, of course, navigating the most complex utility of them all – the Internet. An arduous task…I’m sure many of you can relate to.

“Hold on, what about the whole website is your best employee thing?”… bear with me.

Fast-forward to now, she is a daily user ‘liking’ photos, posting comments and has chosen to wave goodbye to snail mail to keep in touch with her friends, instead reconnecting and sending messages via Facebook. Advocating Facebook’s advantages amongst the ladies at her weekly bowls session has seen her successfully convert many of them to dive headfirst into the realms of the online world… A metaphorical dive that is, I don’t expect nor do I encourage any elderly women to be diving anywhere headfirst, unless it’s a pillow in their bed, even then I would recommend against doing so.

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all this? Because the interesting part is that there aren’t many other websites my grandmother can use – even Google confuses her to an extent. So, what can you and your website learn from Facebook’s success in being accessible to all levels of Internet proficiency?

For most, Facebook wouldn’t be top of mind when the topic of easy to use websites came up. Yet here we have my 83-year-old grandmother confidently navigating her way through the world of Facebook. I’ve put this down to four key principles Facebook follows to turn even the most inept users into online ‘pros’.

Some Key Principles to guide Website Success

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” wrote Albert Einstein. Facebook adopts the crux of this theory in the first principle, to increase visual contrast. Everything on Facebook is easy to read, nothing is to small to see, the layout is aesthetically pleasing and as a user you are very much aware of where all the links take you.

The next principle is navigation accuracy. Everything on Facebook is done instinctively from posting an update, to pressing the ‘like’ button, to messaging friends and viewing photos. It lets the user do what they want without the worry of second-guessing or doubting a specific functions use.

The third principle, a no brainer for any successful website, Test, Test, Test. Testing has always been key practice in marketing; it has just evolved with technology. Facebook are pioneers in testing elements of its website to help improve their consumer experience & engagement. If used correctly, it can give your business a powerful edge. However, it’s often not leveraged well enough amongst marketers.

Finally, the fourth principle is to develop clearly defined focal points. Typically a focal point is the area of the page where your eyes focus on. Facebook’s layout means that most important information – such as the latest updates, uploading content & friend activity- are all easily accessible under the one focal point. The idea behind this is to allow users to consume more and the more they consume means more publicity for Facebook… Win! Linking back to the instinctive navigation, Facebook consciously hides features it doesn’t want you to do in the most i.e. Privacy settings and Deactivating your account.

These principles sound familiar…

They should! These principles draw distinct similarities to those practiced during the so-called Mad Men era of advertising in the 1960s. Of course technology has evolved since then but the core principles hold the same value. The principles Facebook adopted were forged originally by the father of advertising, David Ogilvy, who used these principles as the pillars of all his work

”You’re drunk Tom, go home.”

Here me out, of course there has been a significant evolution in technology since Mr. Ogilvy’s era, but the core concepts in each of his principles can be loosely adapted into today’s digitally driven marketing spectrum.

So how can we put this all to practice?

Give people what they want

Why are people visiting your website? Don’t make your prospect hunt for what they want, give them what they want. And give it to them as fast and as simple as possible. “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy”  David Ogilvy famously said. This is the first step in the process: have a headline that tells the user exactly what the website is about and why they should continue reading. You want the website to communicate that customer centric value of “We get you. And, what’s more, you belong here” (or something along those lines). Its important to note it’s not about what you sell, it’s about what you can do for your customers. That small shift will make all the difference…Don’t just be another brick in the wall with “Welcome to our website”– stand out, you’ll shine.

Make it aesthetically pleasing

The visuals need to be on point. Your audience WILL tune out and exit your page if they find it difficult to read and the aesthetics aren’t pleasing on the eye. Make the website easy to read, find a clear, easy to read font which works well with the colour scheme of the website and the size of the text. Your audience will not appreciate having to zoom in just to read about your company (and most won’t even bother).

Help people get in contact

A big pet hate of mine is when I find a website that features a product or service that tickles my fancy and I wish to seek further information yet, finding the company’s contact information is like looking for a needle in a haystack. It can be very frustrating and often the downfall for a number of websites. Imagine if you went into a Nike store and wanted to purchase a pair of shoes, yet there weren’t any staff members there to serve you. Unlikely, I know, but you get my point. Don’t make it difficult for your audience to get in touch with you. You’ve done all the hard work in convincing your prospect to stay on your website and engage with your content. The last thing you’d want to do is lose their potential business – all because your website lacked a good call to action. Seriously, add something that tells the consumer what to do next. “We’d love to chat, get in touch”- or something of the like. You want the visitor to take action on your website almost subconsciously, that’s a true measure of your websites success.

Test, test and then test some more!

Lastly, test. Test everything. To paraphrase David Ogilvy on the importance on testing content on your website: “Never stop testing, and your website will never stop improving.” I’m kidding. Of course Mr. Ogilvy wasn’t talking about websites in the original quote (websites weren’t around in his era), which is actually “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving”. But the concept definitely loosely translates to websites. Constantly testing will allow you to distinguish between the good and not so good content. It is a lot of trial and error at start, with much of the website’s content being based on assumptions, which are often wrong or not as good as they could be. The revolution of the Internet (Google Analytics & AdWords) have taken testing to another level, with digital marketers being able to split test any part of their online marketing strategy to determine the best position for headlines, keywords, banners, emails and web pages or anything else that will produce the greatest response. The best approach is to find one that works well, keep it and then introduce a new variable. Then test again. You always want to improve and better your last results (much like an elite athlete!) This will help ensure you stay ahead of the competition.

Your website is now your number one employee

Past are the times where your website was just a glorified brochure of your company. Your website is now your number one employee, it works 24/7, never complains, never asks for a raise and if maintained and adapted well, will bring an extraordinary amount of business to your company. Adapting is the key to success. Facebook adopted and then adapted the same principles David Ogilvy used, to help many, like my grandmother to navigate her way around the online world. A sight I thought I’d never see. Yet, it’s very much reality and I put it down to the sheer simplicity these principles promote, as to why they work so well.