Are you impressed by business jargon? Will you go out of your way to hire a firm whose message is conveyed in marketing doublespeak? Do you consider it a fun challenge to dissect Web copy to decipher its hidden meaning? I didn't think so.
As Internet users, we've all come across sites filled with corporate buzzwords and convoluted sentences that make us roll our eyes. But what of our own sites? Is your site clear and easy to read? Or have you tried so hard to make it meaningful that it actually ends up meaning less?
When a visitor first lands on your site, whether they arrive at the home page or an interior page, they'll quickly skim the page to see if it has the potential to solve their problem.
They've searched out your site, or followed a link for a reason. They want to know if they should buy A or B, learn how to maximize their SEO, bake the best chocolate torte, hire your design firm, etc. If your site clearly indicates that it will provide the answers they seek, they'll stay.
If the copy is confusing, and readers can't easily skim the page, they will assume the answers aren't there. Then they'll return to their search results to find a site that makes more sense.
If your site really does provide the information they seek, then make that obvious. Don't risk making them leave before they can discover the valuable resources you offer.
Last week I stumbled upon two Web sites with confusing copy that may help to illustrate this point. The sites are for Web design firms with offices in the United Kingdom. Here are 2 paragraphs from their home pages.
Company A: We take pride in every piece of work we do, and guarantee a visually stunning design to platform your company.
Company B: X a web design company is here for a purpose to make art and design of your imagination alive and real on the web platform. After several months of hunting of the best talent and struggling for the name of their design company they finally reached a vertical which engages their vision of togetherness.
Imagining myself as a potential customer, I knew I would leave—instead of exploring the sites—for two main reasons.
The first example seems innocuous at first. But the phrase "platform your company" made me pause. The use of platform as a verb is unusual (perhaps it's an idiom in use outside the U.S.?) and makes me think that they don't actually take pride in their editing. They may do stellar work, but this sentence gave me a different impression. Granted we're all human and easily capable of making editorial errors (I'm sure you'll find some on my site too) but when you only have a few seconds to make a good impression, it often helps to have an editor review the copy.
This sentence was also somewhat vague. I'm guessing they mean to say that they'll produce a stunning design that visually supports your company's brand. If you sell bespoke suits they'll design a tasteful site in navy and charcoal rather than a whimsical site filled with pink fluffy bunnies. If that's the case, why not just say so? "We custom tailor our designs to suit your specific brand and image."
Such a sentence may not sound exciting, but it's descriptive and specific. It shows they will keep your current brand in mind when working on your project and not run off on some creative tangent that doesn't really serve your needs.
In the second example I'm totally lost. Perhaps they have a very creative creative team. But again, what will they do for you? Is your goal to make your imagination alive on the Web? Or do you want to recruit students to your MBA program and would be pleased if the Web site could also look cool in the process?
In trying to sound clever and compelling, these sites risk turning away prospective clients who don't have the time to figure out what was really meant.
Headscape, a well known British Web design firm, knows how to keep it simple. Their slogan is "creating attractive, usable websites." Through four simple words found in the top banner they've made it clear that they:
Within seconds a visitor is able to figure out what Headscape does. The simplicity continues in the "About section" in which they write,
"The sites we build are accessible to the widest audience, easily updated, and designed to meet your business objectives. We provide design, application development and consultancy. "
This paragraph clearly lets visitors know if Headscape has the potential to serve their needs. If the answer is no, then visitors will leave after having made an informed decision. If the answer is yes, visitors will continue to explore the site, review their portfolio samples, and fill out the contact form.
We can convey similar messages in many different ways, but if we really want to connect with our audience, it helps to be as clear and precise as possible. With mere seconds available to capture a readers attention we need to keep it simple. "See Spot Run" may be boring, but if your readers will grasp that more quickly than "Envision Spot energizing his quadrupedal potential" then the 1st choice is the obvious choice.
Jargon allows us to camouflage intellectual poverty
with verbal extravagance. — David Pratt