gingerbread men

Your website could benefit from a good cookie analogy

“I don’t want a cookie-cutter website!” said my customer. I understand his desire to stand out, but I disagree with the belief that his site needs to be mind-blowing to attract customers. The fact is, being too edgy can turn off the very people you are trying to attract.

It’s similar to physical shopping. You know what to expect when you go into a clothing store: Apparel on racks and tables, arranged according to size, color, function. Does this consistent organization make all clothing retailers boring? Or all look the same? Far from it! There is plenty of room within the organizational framework for originality. In fact, creativity thrives within boundaries.

Just look at the coloring book craze. Would you rather be given a blank sketchbook and told to start drawing, or be handed a coloring book? Are coloring books killing people’s creativity or giving them an outlet for it, providing those boundaries within which people can go creatively crazy?

The same is true for websites. It’s great to look good (and effective websites should be appealing), but if you’re not connecting with customers and meeting their needs, you won’t make a sale.

Tip #1: Scale back your ego.

Your website is not about you. Yes, it’s a reflection of you, but the primary purpose of your site is to serve your audience, not glorify yourself. You may be proud of your unique site, and it may proclaim the wonders of your business, but if it’s not answering clients’ questions or serving their needs, it’s a fail.

Tip #2: Embrace the cookie-cutter.

Your visitors have already been to thousands of websites, and they come to yours with certain expectations. For example, they expect to find:

  • your logo at the top left.
  • main navigation at the top.
  • a clear value proposition (what you do and how you can help them) high up on the page.
  • social media icons (often found in the footer).
  • a way to contact you.

You don’t want your visitors to feel confused, annoyed, or embarrassed that they can’t figure out how to navigate your site. You want them to come in, check out what brought them there and maybe explore a little more.

When you embrace the basics, the creativity can begin. Just like literal cookies. A gingerbread man has got all the expected conventions–head, torso, limbs. Do you reject it because it’s not unique? Or do you take colored frosting and sprinkles and candies to customize it? I challenge you to make your website one amazing gingerbread man.