Wednesday, February 14, 2007

3 Things Your Website Should NEVER Say

Despite the wild, unrestrained nature of the Web, there are some things you really shouldn't say. Especially on a business website. I'm talking about language which causes a noticeable, but hard-to-pinpoint dent in your response factor.

I'm listing below three things I've come across in the past few years. Each of these language gaffes either irritated, confused or amused me. (You'll have to guess which is which.)

I want to be clear - the 3 things I'll mention are content-based. There are design taboos too, but i'm no designer, so I've no leg to stand on there. May I humbly suggest Webpages That Suck.

These 3 things address both product- and service-based companies. However, service-based companies have a bit more flexibility, since customers should recognize they're dealing with people, not products.

Don't Say: "Yes, we do that (when you don't, but want more customers)."
Where: Homepage
Why Not: You could be planning on subcontracting, or partnering with a specialist to handle the request. That's fine. But if you don't clarify this right away, and there's a mishap down the line that allows the customer to learn the true relationship, you've poisoned your chances of repeat business. The customer will wonder if you're being honest.
What to Do Instead: Lay it all on the line. "We also partner with CDR & Associates for managing our client projects." Simple, straightforward - and honest.

Don't Say: "We don't accept..."
Where: Payment Area/Shopping Cart
Why Not: It starts a chain reaction in the customer's mind. Not the payment options, but the "Don't." The customer could easily start thinking, "If they can't accept a credit card/PayPal/check, what else can't they do? Get customer service together? Replace faulty products? I'm not buying from them."
What to Do Instead: If you can't accept something, don't mention it. Talk only about the payment options you DO accept. And beware of this "negative-thinking language" elsewhere in your copy.

Don't Say: "We do everything/We have everything you need!"
Where: Anywhere!
Why Not: It's a hard, but necessary business lesson - you cannot be everything to everyone. No way. You'll kill yourself and your business in no time. If you catch yourself with content that has phrases like "All your XYZ needs," call an editor.
What to Do Instead: Resist the temptation to leap at customers like a dog with muddy paws. Provide as much detail as you want about your company, but leave it at that. Chances are, if a customer's reading your website, they're looking for a specific product/service anyway.

Still amazes me how much effect a word or two can have out there on the Web. I believe it's because there's no nonverbal communication online. The copy's all a customer has in front of them. And if it says something they don't want to hear -- bye.

Check your content!



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