I Want to Date Your Website

I don’t know your company. Your company has something I want, but I need to know if you can deliver, if your trustworthy and what others say about you. Sound familiar? If not, replace the word “website” with “prospective employee” and you may get my drift. But I like to take things one step further. I think a website visit should be more like a date. That means you have to impress your date, buy flowers, show wit, share knowledge, be charming and gain trust. I know what you should NOT do. Being pushy usually turns a date off. Dressing down is a no-no. A marriage proposal on a first date is generally not appreciated. A marriage proposal during each and every conversation is only tolerated if it’s meant as a joke. If there’s no trust, forget it. Being all talk and no substance might get you a one night stand, which is ok, if that’s what you’re after. But if you’re in the business of relationship building you have to ask yourself the following question:

Do you want to build a lasting relationship with your customers or have a flighty encounter?

If you answered “a flighty encounter” I suggest you stop reading now and go read some other articles. Sure, building a relationship with your customer is much, much harder than making a quick buck, but wouldn’t it be so much better when your customers keep coming back for more? So what techniques can we employ to create returning visitors? How can we increase user satisfaction and make them come back? Stephen R. Anderson just wrote an excellent book called “Seductive Interaction Design” in which he describes 4 methods of winning your customers over. In short it comes down to:

Aesthetics – Dress up nicely

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but organization and finesse will not go unnoticed. Make sure your appearance is down to a tee. Quality control is essential. Donald Norman’s book, “Emotional Design,” makes the case that users are very forgiving for flawed functionality if the interface looks attractive. Ergo, if you want to stand out in the crowd, look your best. Make it fun to be on the website, give it a personality. Even a daunting task like filling out a mortgage application online can be made fun if designers use their imagination. True, it’s serious business and you shouldn’t make it into a joke, but hey if users can have fun while doing it, great! At the same time you do want to be somewhat mysterious in your approach to your user. Give them a little teaser of what you have to offer but make sure you fulfill your promise of providing the goods later on.

Be Subtle – Don’t push too hard

Ever get annoyed by a pushy salesman? I know I do. Granted, when I am ready to buy, I want the cash register nearby. When I first enter your shop and don’t know anything about you, chances are I’m not ready to buy. Stop breathing down my neck and let me get to know you.

Gameification – Play hard-to-get but offer rewards

Thousands, probably millions of websites hardly get any traffic. Out of those there are probably a substantial number that were a really cool idea at the time when they were build. Some of these even got good marks during user testing. So what happened? Why don’t they get any traffic? Because they are no fun! Wonder why LinkedIn has such a high percentage of profile completeness under it’s users? Why does foursquare does such a good job in user retention? Because they make it fun – yet they make you sweat for it. In his book “Designing for Emotion” Aaron Walter takes up the case that we are evolving from usable interfaces to pleasurable experiences. As an example, he shows us Mailchimp, an application for sending email marketing campaigns. For some users, setting up a campaign in Mailchimp is a real pain. We know from psychology that users will perform better on a difficult task when they are in a good mood. Ergo, by giving the interface some personality – in this case a chimp that shares witty one-liners upon logging in – you take away part of the pain by instantly generating a feel good moment. We now know that a design has to be usable and content has to be trustworthy and reliable. Why not take it a step further and create emotional designs that really connect with users? After all, we are designing for humans, right?