Sometimes – not nearly enough – I am so taken with a corporate website that I want to be part of that company. Something about the way they portray themselves, their culture or their industry appeals.
This isn’t just about the career sites, either. Some companies manage to convey something new and intriguing about themselves in the other stakeholder sections too.
Some of them, of course, deliberately set out to change people’s perceptions of the company as part of a rebranding exercise; others seem to enchant almost accidentally. Part of the enchantment, of course is delight in the unexpected, whether this is crystal-clean copy, information explaining something I didn’t know I was interested in, images showing something truthful and honest about the company culture or site architecture that connects and illuminates.
Since I spend much of my time exploring corporate sites, it’s quite hard to enchant me, so what is it that these rare companies are doing that is so persuasive – and how can others copy this effect?
I recently received a review copy of Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki so I thought I’d see whether he could cast any light on this. My copy of the book is now littered with sticky-notes; there are several ideas I picked up for my own use, but there are also key strands I’ve noted that are relevant to corporate websites. I’ve paraphrased Guy’s points, because he isn’t writing about websites, but it is interesting to see how many of his thoughts apply.
- Imagine yourself as the person you want to enchant, and ask: what does this person want from their visit? Ideally, a website would be designed with the visitor in mind, but this isn’t always so. It’s always good to see a site set out to make it easier for the visitor to find what they need, quickly.
- Be likeable: use clear language – simple words, the active voice. Keep it short and unambiguous, avoiding internal language, culturally-specific language, and corporate-speak.
- Be trustworthy: help the visitor by providing high quality information; demonstrate expertise; disclose where appropriate; make it clear what you stand for, what you do, and what your goals are.
- Smooth their path. Make it easy for visitors to interact with you and to achieve what they set out to do. Design the site to eliminate obstacles – user experience testing, anyone?
- Tell a story; plant many seeds. Who knows when something that you say or do on the web, whether at your social media outposts or on the main corporate site, will have an effect on your visitor, and move them towards action: investing, buying from you, selling to you, working in partnership, applying for a job, writing a story about you, commenting to others… Remember to talk to the influencers of your audience too: the wider community.
- Build an ecosystem (or community). Guy’s backstory includes working as evangelist at Apple, which has a huge community of enthusiasts who talk among themselves about the Apple products. But there’s no reason why other companies shouldn’t engage their stakeholders in discussion, encouraging criticism and new ideas, feeding back some of this discussion to the website to make it clear that the company is listening. And this is a valid approach for more than just product design or customer service.
- Get people and your story together, whether using push or pull technologies – enabling, and optimising for, whatever technologies, browsers and devices your audience prefer.
None of these strands should be news. But this isn’t easy to implement – we know that – which is why finding sites where it is done well is such a delight.