:: By Mimi Young, Behavior Design ::
De-clutter your surroundings. Simplify your life. Don’t overcomplicate. Whether you’re cleaning your home, building your wardrobe or deciding what to have for lunch – there’s a recent trend toward streamlining to make life simple and easy. This message, however, hasn’t hit home for brands and marketers yet.
In fact, most brands are churning out more content than ever before – in the form of landing pages, blog posts, whitepapers, infographics and interactive media (video, photo etc.). The content marketing boom of the past few years has had a negative impact on user experience (UX) – resulting in bloated, cluttered websites with lagging traffic, low engagement and decreased conversion.
Brands have found themselves in a tricky situation. They know that their audience wants to consume and interact with content, but they don’t have a UX strategy in place to ensure that site visitors are able to access the content that they want, at their exact time of need. Many brands wrongly believe that the more content they produce and host, the higher ROI will be for their website. The directive is clear: UX must sit at the center of online content strategy. Taking a step back to create a UX strategy that supports a brand’s story and unique differentiators is critical to online customer engagement and retention.
Here are four steps to get started:
1. Define Your Brand’s Differentiator/s.
The first step in creating an impactful user experience is to define your brand’s key differentiators. This is not a list of 100 brand qualities that the marketing department believes are interesting to customers. Your 1-3 defined differentiators should focus on what truly makes your brand unique and sets you apart from the competition. All website content should support and prove these finalized, core differentiators.
(Example of Behavior Design client, The Royce Funds, key differentiators)
2. Create the Story to Support It.
Your website is like a storybook. Landing pages should be treated like a table of contents for what will live in the corresponding section of the site. This means quick indicators that overview the subjects and themes that will be covered. In other words, each main page should give users an idea of what they can expect with short descriptions for each offering. All of this should highlight your brand’s core differentiators. Each page should have enough content to drive interest and engagement – without overwhelming, confusing or driving away the end user.
(Example of brand storytelling on The Royce Funds website)
3. Use Content as a Proof Point to That Story.
The average customer doesn’t want to read what a brand has to say about itself – they want proof. Web content that serves as a proof point to key differentiators and supports your brand’s story is incredibly impactful – and can also provide a foundation for your overarching content strategy. Your proof doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with an increased reliance on mobile and shortening attention spans – time is not on your side for engaging users. Strong proof points may include data and statistics, easy-to-interpret visuals or short narratives (like thoughtful testimonials). Remember that all content should be relevant to your story while providing insight and value back to your audience.
(The Royce Funds homepage showcasing the firm's unique insights as a brand proof point)
4. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.
Once you’ve defined the content that you need, do an audit and reduce it down to its essence. Every single page of website content should be important. This means that users should be able to quickly scan and understand headlines – and summary content should be no longer than 2-3 sentences. As a rule of thumb, every Web page should have one clear takeaway – and any content that doesn’t support it should be removed. It’s also important to have content tailored to all audiences – whether they are looking for a bite (e.g., quick visit), a snack (e.g., looking for more information) or a meal (e.g., doing deeper research, hoping to engage).
(The Royce Funds website showing the most critical top-line fund information at a glance)
Telling your brand story through your website is ultimately an act of choreographing an experience that communicates your offerings broadly, deeply and in the most relevant way possible to your audience. The best way to garner positive impressions is to think like your audience to ensure that your website serves up the content, resources, knowledge and tools that they’re looking for.
About the Author
Mimi Young is the co-founder of Behavior Design, an award-winning boutique interactive design studio whose roster of clients has included HBO, JPMorgan Chase and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.