Tough Love February: Looks Will Only Get You So Far

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Imagine going to a store. Its window displays are gorgeously designed and carefully curated. As you open the spotless doors the lighting changes slightly above you as if in welcome. The music perfectly matches the setting and everything featured is unique, delightful, and useful to you. It’s love at first sight.

You select one of the wonderful items and turn it in your hand. You’re thinking of buying it, but there’s no price listed. You search the shelf but there seems to be no tag. Oh well, price is no object for something this useful! You look for a place to make your purchase but there seems to be no counter, no person to take a payment with her phone, no cash register…After searching for ten minutes, you find a friendly employee but he doesn’t have helpful answers.

Wait, what?

Your contentment comes to a sudden, screeching halt.

It’s easy to understand why: your expectations were that you’d go to the store and be able to buy something. And even though your experience started out wonderfully, the outcome was not good and ultimately, you would have left dissatisfied and unhappy. While everything looks great, looks only get you so far. There has to be some substance to go with the style.

You don’t want people to have that kind of experience, or associate that disappointment with your brand, right?

Of course not. But that’s exactly the kind of thing that happens on beautiful but useless websites all the time. A site can be modern, have great SEO, look incredibly hip, and yet fail to deliver.

Think of the last few times you visited a website. Why did you do it? (For example, you’re probably here on the Sutherland Weston blog to read this and become more educated on websites!)

Generally, people want the same things in any customer interaction: to buy a product or service, learn something, be entertained, or become educated. Whether a site is about a product, project, concept, or ideal, most actions will be variations on these themes. Whatever the nature of the site, a visitor has to successfully find or do what they need in order to have a satisfactory online experience.

We have a fairly large tolerance for websites that aren’t elegant or beautiful as long as we can do what we want on them. This is why we’ll put up with clunky systems that let us meet our goals — to purchase, to pay, to communicate, to learn. It’s also why people will quickly turn on a beautiful but useless site if they become frustrated and can’t successfully manage to do what they want.

What do you want a visitor to do with your website? It could be as simple as finding a phone number or as complex as designing and ordering a custom kitchen.

Is your website meeting expectations? Is it bringing you the kinds of relationships that you want with your site visitors? If someone comes to your website and can’t do what they expect to be able to do then there’s room for improvement.

A site that is meeting expectations and furthering the relationship is always better than one that isn’t, no matter how sleek or glamorous.

But fortunately, you can have both style and substance. (And if you need a little help with that, we’re right here!)

Looks will get you only so far – but the ability to deliver on expectations will help get you the rest of the way!