June 21, 2011

Keep your “drill down” down

Writing for and designing websites means serving three audiences, all of them important: people who want to hear your brand story (Quals), people who also want to know your proofs and processes (Quants), and search engine robots (Bots).

Most websites fail this test. The biggest failure is not realizing that 86% of visitors, the Quals, just want to hear your brand narrative, plus at most one proof statement. When they land on your home page, they’ll give you 4.5 seconds to make clear we-make-widgets-that-wiggle, and we-ship-globally-in-24-hours. (One defining story, one meaningful differentiator.) If the first paragraph is ten lines long, they bail out. If you layer on 10-reasons-why, they cease to believe you, and bail out.

But our next two important audiences want more detail, as much as you can make available. The Quants are those people who stop their supermarket cart to read the nutrition chart on the peanut butter jar, read the prospectus, read the insurance policy, and so on. They want more than your story; they want drill-down data about ingredients, processes, testimonials, proof statements of any kind – they’ll even sit still for 10 reasons why. These data points can’t be ignored since this is 14% of your human visitors. Add to them 100% of your noiseless patient spider (bot) visitors.

How to reconcile these conflicting demands?

Carefully and strategically. First, understand our Quals and Quants. Know that their minds work differently, and that each tribe processes information along different neural pathways. (Ever hear a meaningful conversation between an engineer and a poet? Didn’t think so.) We’re not saying one approach is better or worse. Just different.

Second, structure your delivery of information so that you visually satisfy your largest (Qual) audience, since they’re 86% of human beings, and probably 86% of your best prospects. Never overwhelm the page with too much text above the fold, and resist the temptation to introduce that second benefit. To stand out, stand up and stand for something.

The Quants, on the other hand, will be happy to scroll down, to click on links, to drill, baby, drill until you’ve won them over. And bots are the soul of patience. Unlike people, they’ll read it all, and the more original content you throw at them, the more botcred (a word we just made up) you’ll accrue, even if it takes three clicks to find it all.

There’s a story to make obvious, and drill-down stuff to make available. Never confuse the two.