It happens more often than you think. A new small business website makes it all the way through planning and development, earning praise from the client all along. And then it happens. The site is boring. Nothing has changed, but you and the client agree. There is suddenly something indefinably boring about the whole thing. And trust me, it’s not the white background.
To find out wha’ happened, let’s unpack what we really mean by “boring.”
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
First, the bored feeling might be caused by fatigue. Web designer and client may both be tired of reading the same website copy and seeing the same pictures over and over again. While the site may be fine, it’s old news to those who’ve stared at it for weeks.
Be conscious of your own project fatigue and stop looking at the site for a while. Refresh your eyes with some new material, off-screen. Go the store and get a magazine on your favorite topic. Maybe go to an art exhibit or attend a concert. Just get out of your boring zone for a while. Here’s a few on-screen things to get you started:
- A professional artist who paints people shopping at Wal-Mart. While they shop.
- Insane skiers go as fast as they can, avoid trails, head for trees.
- Some high-speed photographs of dogs shaking. WARNING: hilarious.
Once you’ve got that joie de vivre back, get to work and review the strategy behind your website. Is it primarily informational? Or are you trying to get visitors to make a purchase or call your phone number?
An informational page, full of technical details, may be very plain on purpose, to minimize distractions. As long as it’s not overtly ugly, this type of boring may be exactly what your website visitors need.
A page layout designed with your inbound marketing strategy will have an entirely different look. Think about the difference between a business report and an article in Entertainment Weekly. Neither should be boring to look at, but one definitely catches your eye first. The magazine article’s bolder colors, bigger pictures and friendly, casual tone up the interestingness factor.
What are you writing your website for anyway? Pick the look and layout the matches your strategy. Once you’ve reconciled the website with its purpose, check for readability.
The Ballad of Easy Reader
Do you feel bored about the webpage because you can’t even read it? A haze of tiny print and lightly-colored letters causes anyone’s eyeballs to glaze over. Or maybe the whole thing’s a 600-word lump. Man, you gotta fix that schnitzel.
The Marketing Tech Blog has four guidelines for readable web content. Number one is “write for the web.” Basically, keep your sentences short. Keep your paragraphs short. Use direct, conversational language that offers useful information, not marketing fluff.
With short paragraphs, you can break up the lump with sub-headings that organize your information into chunks. Remember your high school English teacher? I guarantee they taught you about chunking. Back in school, that meant writing a sentence of evidence, followed by a sentence of commentary on that evidence. A paragraph might have two or three of these chunks.
Now that we’re all grown-ups, write however the heck you want. But let’s ruminate on that method for a minute. While one paragraph should have multiple chunks, your webpage must not be one paragraph.
Chunks and sub-headings improve readability by helping your website visitors manage the information. Try to chunk your whole page into groups of paragraphs collected under sub-headings. This helps readers skim to the headings focused on their interest.
Now that you’ve got writing sorted out, try some of these principles for readable web typography. A good web designer should have built your site with these in mind, but it’s worth checking to see if you can improve something. Scroll to the bottom for some neat tricks to add flair and keep things readable.
Feeling better about your boring website? Is it actually boring, or did you just feel that way? Don’t let your feeling of boredom can the whole thing. If you’ve checked for readability and matched the page’s layout to it’s purpose and it still feels boring, well. Maybe you’re just too exciting.