Resist the Shiny

a close-up view of a disco ball

Shiny objects are tempting. It’s easy to get sucked into the world of new things that make us feel trendy, important and relevant. But as life will have it, good things don’t last forever, and these shiny objects can fade quickly into the shadows of the next big thing.

What are examples of shiny things?

We need an app for our business. Are you really sure? There are thousands of apps submitted to app stores on a daily basis—a daily basis! If you think you’re trying hard to cut through your industry of competition in just your local landscape, don’t think that it will be easier in the app world.

According to TechCrunch and Nielson research, people spend a lot of time on their phone devices yes—but they are typically only using 5 apps regularly. They are also quick to uninstall apps they don’t use regularly. How influential is your app going to be to fit into that regular usage for a user? Are you making an app because it will actually solve a problem, or are you making an app because it will give your business the appearance of being “current” and you “think” users will love it?

Creating apps as a standalone product to solve a real-world problem is one thing, but creating apps as an “extra” just to say you have one for your business is another. Be sure it’s app-solutely a need for your audience! 😉

We need a Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blog, and every social media channel that exists. Don’t get me wrong. Social media is great, and I personally consume and create content on many channels. I use these channels to promote my business as well. However, it’s important to understand that social media is like a garden. If you don’t nurture all the plants (social channels), they are going to wither away. And if your garden looks neglected, your image (brand) suffers. It takes a lot of work to maintain social media, and it’s hard to learn the “green” social thumb!

You know the saying that you can’t help others until you help yourself. It’s sort of the same concept here. How can you help your audience if you can’t even manage your own brand consistently? How is your audience able to trust you if it appears you can’t juggle all the social channels you have open?If you are serious about social media, you need to stick to a thought-out strategy and show up consistently in pattern to your audience. Know that it takes great time to launch and maintain any social channel in order to provide unique, valuable content to your audience.

We need our website to look like those cool scrolling kinds. Ah, the parallax scrolling and usually with a hint of some sort of bootstrap framework. It can be appropriate for some websites, but for others it just isn’t. If everyone is using the cookie-cutter scroll and template, how do you stand out? Do you want to look like every other website out there? Does it really fit your brand and match the intended user experience? It’s not always the case, so be sure to do your design homework.

I could add far more examples to this shiny list, but these are just a few. Now, I’m not implying that any of these shiny things are bad and shouldn’t be used; nor am I implying they will go away in trends. What I am saying is that if shiny features are used, there should be a valid business and user experience reason behind it with ways to measure its effectiveness.

Takeaway: Do your serious design and business homework before diving into popular design trends and shiny features. There is a difference between purposeful and intentional website functions vs nice-to-have features that may add more glitter cover-up to your palette than actual value. All your design decisions should line up with a business goal.

Action Steps: Prior to making any design decisions, it’s important to do research.

  • Stay connected with your audience and ask for their feedback. You are trying to meet their needs, so listen to what they have to say. Then analyze this feedback and see how it can influence your website design in a positive direction.
  • Do a thorough comparative and competitive analysis to see what others are doing. What are you doing differently, and can this gained knowledge be used to positively influence your brand?
“A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last.”
– Jeff Bezos –

The Power of Indirect Complaining

a sky view of power lines criss-crossing on a pole

“If no one is complaining about our website, then there is nothing wrong.” Have you heard this before? It’s a reactive attitude toward design and business, and it’s not a mindset you want to be in. How often had you had a bad experience at a website or business and made an effort to file a complaint? Wasn’t it easier to simply move on and take your business elsewhere? The truth of the matter is that most people behave in this way. They are more likely to quietly take their business to another competitor if they have a bad experience.

So you’re saying people who have bad web experiences don’t tell anyone, Maria? Oh it’s definitely no secret. Yes, they do tell people, but they’re not going to be filing complaints to the people who can address and/or fix the problem. We’re busy people. We don’t have time for that interaction. They will talk about their bad experience to their friends and family and in between to ensure their voice gets heard and that the “bad” business doesn’t get any new business! And the negative branding continues from there.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before—someone has a bad experience and they tell 10 other close acquaintances about it. These days, they’re more likely to also blast it out on social media channels and hashtag it up. However, despite this knowing, businesses often forget the power and realistic facts about complaining behavior. They spend costs and effort on a website as if it’s a commodity that gets done and rests on its own afterward. A website design is a living document that must be continuously nourished like a fire, or its purpose will burn out.

You cannot run a business with a mindset of assumption. Just because no one is complaining about your website directly does not mean it can’t use improvements to its user experience, content, design, and all other marketing systems that connect with it. Quiet too can have its way of speaking loudly. Don’t wait for this news to get back to you.

Takeaway: People who have a complaint about their website experience will often quietly take their business elsewhere rather than directly address the problem to the company and give them time to correct it and try again.

Actions Steps: Don’t wait for feedback before considering design improvements. Be proactive, and ask for feedback as an ongoing process before, during, and after making changes.

  • Make it part of your business process to regularly assess your website design with your audience users. Use this assessment to determine if your design is helping or hurting your business goals.
  • Find and make opportunities to ask for feedback about your website, whether its through surveys, interviews, focus groups, usability tests, or another method of User Experience (UX) research. This will concurrently provide an opportunity to connect with your audience, build trust, and promote your brand as doing due diligence in keeping your business relevant to their needs
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
– Jack Welch –

Will an FAQ Help?

A pile of foam question mark shapes

Many websites make use of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page or section of one. This can be a great method of communicating answers to common inquiries from the respected audiences of a business. Having an FAQ can direct users to a one-stop-shop for finding answers to their internal questions that they may have otherwise spent time in contacting someone for help. Let’s face it, our attention spans are short and time even shorter. Users generally visit a website to answer unconscious or consciously thought questions in order to gather data and make a buying decision. The faster their answers can be delivered, the happier they are.

From a distance, an FAQ section sounds like a quick and easy solution for users and a 5-star win for websites, but are there any downsides? When it comes to FAQ’s, there are a few things to consider:

What is your true call-to-action for your website?

I often hear clients say they want an FAQ section so that they won’t receive any phone calls. If your company is small and busy enough, this can be a viable reason. However, is that your goal? What if we flip this? Maybe your business has strong communication and sales skills, and they can win a customer over in a phone call or email every time. In this case, perhaps that person-to-person conversation is desired because it will convert customers better. There is risk in both cases – of encouraging or discouraging this type of communication.

For the user that wants quick info, an FAQ may be perfect. And if they don’t get their quick answer, they may not bother asking for help to start a conversation because it’s time-consuming. But for the user or audience that wants to talk, an FAQ may not be effective. In short, you want to really understand your audience when deciding methods of delivering information on your website.

Is the question really frequent?

People think in questions, so an FAQ makes sense. However, it’s easy to stretch any question as an FAQ. If one person calls or sends an email about a question, this does not mean it’s appropriate for an FAQ. There are no shortcuts. For a question to fit the criteria of an FAQ, it must indeed be a frequently asked question. If you have too many questions listed, it can come across as overwhelming to a user and therefore not valuable.

To reiterate what was mentioned earlier, our attention spans are short, and it’s rare that users want to read a lot of text content to find a question. If you organize the information carefully on your website, those internal questions should be easily found without the need for an FAQ.

Takeaway: Frequently asked questions can be useful content to use on a website, but there must be standards for making the list.

Action Steps: 

  • Start keeping track of the questions you receive from your audience and observe the true frequency.
  • Regularly audit your FAQ’s for relevancy and if they are indeed frequently asked.
  • Review your website’s information architecture and if content can be organized better for finding information quickly.
“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.”
–Charles Eames–