Every time I hear someone say that "every website is different" I want to rush outside, grab an ancient oak, rip it up by its roots, swing it wildly and lop the top off the nearest mountain.Every time I hear someone say that "everybody is different" I want to rush outside, race up the nearest decapitated mountain, prostrate myself, and scream very loudly.
The very success of modern capitalism and mass production is a testament to the fact that people have a great deal in common. Human beings have the same basic needs. Sure, there are differences here and there but we have the same basic drivers.
I have been in 35 countries in the last five years, and have met thousands of web professionals. The same basic challenges come up again and again. When I see studies of web behaviour, I see the same basic patterns.
In every country I have been in, I have asked audiences to tell me the one word that best describes people on the Web. One word comes up again and again and again. What do you think that word is? IMPATIENT
The Web delivers maximum value when there are clearly defined, common tasks. The best web business model is one in which lots of people want to do the same thing again and again. It's as simple as that.
Look at Google, Skype, Amazon, Ryanair. What makes their websites successful? The fact that they have identified common tasks and created very streamlined, rule-based processes to manage them.
I'm told that I don't understand the vast potential of the Web. What about it's potential for emotional branding as a result of deep interactivity, I'm asked. Huh?
There is indeed an emotion that dominates on the Web. I've found it all over the world. This emotion is called: CHEAPNESS
People are cheap on the Web. They want stuff for free. They want deals and special offers. I've found that, on the Web, even the Swiss are cheap.
Please don't think about your website from the point of view of emotional branding. Don't fall into the trap of designing for exceptions. Please, never utter this vague, meaningless statement: "People come to our website to find information."
Treat your website as a basic, lean, mean, self-service machine. Seek to maximize the value from your website. You can do this by identifying the most important tasks of your most important customers and by relentlessly focusing on these tasks.
Nobody ever comes to your website looking for vague information. They want to know what color a product comes in; how the changes in the pension plan affect them; what the weather is like in Ireland, etc.
Your website should be formulaic in both its design and its processes. If you want to really do emotional branding on the Web, give stuff away for free. Or better still, provide genuine support that quickly helps people solve problems.
Most websites face the same basic problems, for which there are the same basic solutions. There are now solid rules for managing websites. The first one is: Design for what is common, not for what is exceptional.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.