Using personality on your website

I am currently conducting a survey of my clients (exciting!).  I will be posting more about that in due course, but looking at the survey responses I’ve received back so far, something stands out pretty clearly.  I asked people why they’d originally chosen Hexagon, asking them to select their three main motivators from:

  • Track record
  • Cost
  • Personality
  • Reliability
  • Recommendations
  • Design Style

For over 70% of respondants, personality was one of the main motivators for selecting Hexagon.  This is a reflection of an old old fact – people buy from people.  Particularly if you are going to be working with someone for a while (like when creating a new website) – it’s SO much easier & more productive if you get on.

So what are people doing (& hands up, I’ve been guilty of this in my time) creating websites that have a faceless, corporate, no-feeling, feel to them?  Why do people attempt to stifle the personality of their organisation online?  Online, your website IS you.  If your website is boring and out of date, your visitors are thinking you are too.  If it’s bright, bubbly and helpful… well guess what, people might expect that you are too!

I’ve recently being reading ‘Designing for Emotion’ (published by A Book Apart), which covers this exact topic.  The author, Aarron Walter, uses the example of Mailchimp pretty extensively.  Anyone who uses Mailchimp will know instantly what I mean – they have turned what is frankly a pretty ‘grrr’ type task into a simple & friendly experience with random quirkiness thrown in.

Don’t think this means you suddenly have to turn your highly professional accountancy practice into a ‘Yeah, we’re cool…we have monkeys’ sort of outfit.  Copying someone else usely flops.  Rather, let the values and personality of your professional organisation shine.

So what does this mean for your website?  What can you DO?

    1. First of all, know who you are!  Make a list… and better still, ask your clients – what do they appreciate about your personality or the ‘personality’ of your organisation?  Easy to approach? friendly? relentless in search of an answer? reliable? perfectionists? hard-hitting? laid back? driven? courteous?… the list goes on!
    1. Secondly, make it manifest on your website.  There are a number of ways to this; here are a few:
      • Look at your website copy.  Does it reflect the words on your list above?  Does it reflect how you would speak to a new or existing client?  If not, change it!
      • Blogging – for me, this is the single biggest tool for allowing my personality & opinions to shine.  One of my clients once said to me that they liked my blog for this reason – it allowed them to get a feel for what I was like – before meeing me.  Use your blog, and be you in it!
      • Social Media – if you use Social Media, what personality are you putting across?  If you are a professional service agency, but have delegated the job of ‘tweeting’ to the graduate intern, check that your tweets reflect the business personality, not the views of graduate intern!  Even if you are tweeting yourself – a prospective client may well check out your twitter profile before contacting you – are you happy with the impression you give?  If not, change it!  Too many times, I see Twitter/Facebook pages (belonging to business professionals) which are totally self-centered & boring.  Aside from the fact that they therefore won’t work, they also don’t give too much of a good impression either.  Get it sorted!
      • What do the colours on your website say?  This is not the be-all and end-all, but colours do have an impact.  Blue tends to be seen as ‘corporate’ for example.
      • What images do you have on your website?  They say a picture is worth a thousand words – so if you’ve got terrible, faceless, boring images, have a think about what you can replace them with (unless, of course, you are a terrible, faceless, boring business 🙂 they do exist you know!)
      • If you pride yourself on being friendly & accessible, are your contact details clearly reached?  Do you respond in a timely manner?
  1. Thirdly, make sure you carry it through.  So if someone gets in touch, if you’re friendly, your response will be friendly.  If you’re approachable, you won’t repond with a whole load of jargon & acroynms.  The key to this is simple but crucial – be honest.  You should be changing your website to reflect your character & behaviour, not the other way around.

That’s it for now.  I’m sure there are many other ways to let your personality shine through your website – if you’ve got suggestions, I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below.

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