Before I talk any more about defining and designing for customer intentions, you must know none of this talk matters if you’re not ready for your business’s website to clearly communicate your unique business values with every word, image, interaction, and feature it contains. This may seem obvious, but I assure you it is not common practice.
In fact, the behavior I more often see is businesses replicating parts of other businesses’ websites. They try to mimic other websites’ structures, interactions, and features, assuming that by doing so they will see similar business success. What they don’t see is by replicating these items, they choose to use their website to communicate the values of other businesses, as opposed to their own.
Why do businesses choose this path? I tend to go with the evolution angle to validate the reasoning. One of the scariest things in the world for us humans is to find ourselves alone. Being alone makes us vulnerable and being vulnerable opens us up to defeat. This is why we tend to band together with others, or why we follow the lead of other more successful people. Doing so seems a better assurance of our own survival and of making sure we stay alive long enough to prosper.
The same can be said for businesses. After-all, they are made up of humans. I think this fear of vulnerability and being exposed is probably why many tend to mirror certain facets of other more successful or well-known businesses. They believe by doing so, they are more likely to find their own business success, and nowhere does this seem more easy that on the web.
There are countless examples of a business taking endless hours to prepare their offline brand, product, or service offerings to be unique and provide competitive advantage, but when it comes time to put their offerings online, competitive advantage goes out the window. Instead of trying to design their website specifically for their offerings and their values, they say things like “I want the homepage to be like
Many times, these statements can be helpful in directing the tone of the site. However, when businesses simply copy the features of other websites thinking this will equate to their own online success, they are missing the point.
Your website is not just a place where people can find information about your business or where they can buy your products and services. Your website is the online version of your business. Therefore, it needs to reflect your unique business values in every way possible. This includes words and pictures, yes, but it also includes the way your menus work or the way you organize all the information. Each and every decision you make needs to be a reflection of your unique business values and needs, and sometimes this means making decisions which go against what all the other other more successful or businesses are doing online.
Making these decisions is where the fear comes in.
Due to the large number of business websites out there who are copying each other, it can be pretty intimidating to choose to go against the grain. We’re humans, right? We believe there is strength in numbers. We believe more numbers ensure our survival.
The fact is there is only one business like yours, and your business values alone are why people do, and keep doing, business with you. Defining customer intentions is for not, if people don’t know who you are, and there is no way for them to know who you are, if you are defining your online presence by copying other businesses.
The mantra of “A lot of other companies designed their website this way, so it must be the best way” won’t stand, especially not in this brave new world. Why? Because the companies whose websites are successful, the ones that all the other businesses are copying, aren’t being anyone else online but themselves. They don’t care how anyone else is doing it. They do it their way.
By you treating your business website as a reflection of your business’s unique values, and displaying those values in all that your website does and says, your customers can know your business and what it stands for within seconds of visiting.
It’s only after they know this, that they’ll be able to set intentions that you can design to exceed.