Ever think about what attracts consumers to a website? More often than not, it is photos, multimedia elements such as video, audio, and flash effects, and colorful graphics. But, after the glory of these components wear off in a mere 30 seconds, most consumers move on if the copy doesn’t measure up.
Graphics and multimedia elements grab attention, but the text is what holds the consumer. This is a common mistake that website builders make. They put more emphasis on the visuals and then slap a few paragraphs of poorly written copy around it. Big Mistake! The text is the core of the site – it guides the reader, it offers explanations, descriptions, and most importantly, informs the site visitor. A web site must be a resource first and a sales showroom second which means that web site builders must invest the time and money into powerful copy.
When preparing copy, writers (and know that anyone can be a writer) must avoid these common pitfalls:
- Don’t Overwhelm the Reader: Too often, web sites bombard readers with too much information all at once. For example, the site I just visited had 25 product pictures with mini descriptions, three paragraphs of data about the owner, two coupons, and a sidebar with testimonials. Divide and Conquer. The home page should have clean copy that welcomes the consumer to the site and provides a brief (and I stress, brief) overview of services/products available with links to additional pages of text. Additional pages should then address each specific category of products with thorough descriptions, tips, and ideas that consumers can use. The site has to be resourceful, but it doesn’t need to throw each and every resource at the reader right away.
- Don’t Talk Directly to the Reader: I don’t know about you, but I hate being told what to do. When a site uses “you” in every sentence, it tells the reader how to act, what to think, etc. “You should consider this” or “You will love our new products.” Although this may be a sales tactic when a sale needs to be made, there are better ways to show the consumer what he or she needs, rather than tell them directly by using 2nd person writing. For example, “The [product name] features …” Let’s face it – consumers are not stupid. We know the gimmicks, we know the game. Inform us, entertain us, but never tell us what to do.
- Don’t Limit Text to Sales Copy: Since a web site should be a resource, it should do more than just sell products and services. Inform the reader through storytelling. Write interesting text that appeals to the human element. Bring in anecdotes, narratives, and personal stories to show the reader the value of a product or how a service changed someone’s life. Avoid limiting text to sales copy only and hook the reader with a real story that he or she can relate to. This tactic offers a much-needed human touch in a society that is bombarded with overused buzz words and sales phrases.
- Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Copy Editing: Once the copy is written, the real work begins. Just as in academic writing, proofreading web copy is crucial. If a site has multiple (or even one) spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors, it reflects upon the business. Think about it this way: if a business doesn’t take the time to carefully check its web copy, what makes the consumer think that it will carefully check and follow through with the products and services it provides? Well-written copy is powerful in more ways than one.
Written for Infuzion Resources: May 2009
– Shannon Philpott
1 thought on “Don’t be a Visual Showroom Only: Showcase the Text, Too”
Shannon, Loved it. Keeping the learning going on the web…