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Avoiding Disaster When You Upgrade Your Website. A Website Marketing Makeover.

by Paul Montreal. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.


I’m doing a marketing makeover on Julia’s website. She has 3 vacation rentals in the Cape Cod area which she’s running on a pretty old website template. She wants to update everything and move over to WordPress, but she’s feeling overwhelmed at the prospect. There’s a real danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water when you move websites. So I’m going to make it clear what I think she should keep and what she should leave behind. And sometimes, what we most need to leave behind is a mindset that leads us astray. (I’m listening to Patti Page while I work.) So hold onto your sand dunes, here are my top 8 tips for turning this website around…

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Click for fullsize

1. Open each page up by offering big tasty morsels of what’s to come upfront.

So the first thing I notice is how cramped this website feels. This is understandable, monitor resolutions and screen sizes have expanded year-on-year. But even on small screens, there has always been the challenge of how to draw people into large chunks of information.

The problem your customers will have is how to assess all the information you’re throwing at them. When we create a website, our perspective is that our customer is enthralled by what we’re saying. We naturally believe that they start in the top left hand corner and read every word we’ve laid down until they get to the end of the page.

Of course this isn’t true. As customers, we scan quickly, trying to find the minimum amount of critical information to make a decision. And the first decision is always – should I invest more time in this particular website or move on to greener pastures?

We demand quick results, we are an impatient species and the grass always looks greener over there.

When something LOOKS dense, we perceive it as complex. We imagine hard work. We don’t like hard work, so we scan and scroll and look for an easier “way in” to the content. If one isn’t forthcoming, there’s a good chance we’ll skip to the next website in the list.

With a new template, the first opportunity you can take advantage of, is more space. Use that space to draw people into your content. You have to sell the content on every page and it’s really simple.

Headline, picture, introduction.

Think like a newspaper or magazine. You’re attracting a distracted user on every single page and drawing them in. With a giant compelling headline, a giant compelling image and a compelling introduction that stands out more than your body copy. You’re essentially selling the rest of the content on that page. It’s a summary, a taster, a teaser, a hint at the value to come if only they will invest their time to read on.

Action: Use the space of a wider new template to draw users into each page. You have to give them a tasty morsel, before they will invest their time in the long drawn out details.


2. Make comparison easy.

You’ve got 3 properties in the Cape Cod area. Two of which can be rented together. Giving a total of 4 options. I got a bit of a headache trying to compare the features of one over the other. The more a user has to think and decide, the more likely you are to lose the sale altogether.

From a design perspective, you’re trying to feed the user information vertically about 3 different properties. They can’t process it that way, so they have to take in all the information about property 1, then property 2, then property 3 and then try to work it all out in their head. That’s totally impossible.

There is some justification for having multiple options, if they’re all in the same area, but the first thing you need to do is very clearly distinguish the features and benefits that are most important, so that the customer can select ONE and drill deeper.

So you need to present that information Horizontally. 4 options side by side.
Then, at a glance, with no thinking involved, a user can see the features of each property.

You can incorporate the same technique I discussed in point number 1, start each comparison with a headline, large image and description of the most important features.

Action: Use extra space to create a horizontal layout that will allow users to see and compare the most important features of your 4 rental options side by side (without having to study and process lots of information).


3. Focus on image clarity and appeal over style.

You’ve got a bunch of these photos where you’ve laid snapshots over each other in a sort of collage. It really detracts from the clarity of the images. So, rather don’t replicate it when you move over to a new site. There is no point having a large image, then covering it with smaller images that obscure each other. This creates visual confusion and adds to the cramped, dense looking copy.

Action: Never sacrifice clarity for style, unless you are a branding genius. Users want to get the job done. So give them big, clear, unobstructed and unmoving images.


4. One page, one goal.

In a sales process, you ideally want to sell just one big idea and have your user make just one big decision on each page. Right now your homepage is trying to get them to decide between three different properties. You could call that one decision. But it’s also trying to convince them to choose a vacation rental instead of going to a hotel. That’s two totally different things to consider and decide upon.

Now, I’m not a vacation rental specialist, but I doubt than many people land on your homepage and need selling on the idea of vacation rental vs hotel.

There’s nothing wrong with including all the benefits you have over a hotel in your individual pitches for each property. And there’s nothing wrong with reinforcing the logic in a FAQ, deeper in the process. (After the user has already made an emotional decision and is now just looking for logical proof to reinforce it).

But to make it the main pitch of the whole site, is just wasting your most valuable real estate on a decision they’ve likely already made.

Action: Never ask the user to consider more than one major decision per page. Instead of selling the idea of VR v Hotel, incorporate the unique benefits of each VR property into their individual pitches.


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