Do You Have a Smiling Face on Your Website?

    February 17, 2004

If you think it’s great to have a smiling face on your website, join the crowd. It’s hard to find a website these days that doesn’t have a happy face. Unfortunately, the happy face syndrome is often a reflection of lack of focus. When everyone is smiling, where’s the differentiation?

The happy face is an idea borrowed from TV advertising. Observe the typical TV ad. You see a person with a pained look on their face. They’ve got a headache. They take tablet X. Cut to a scene where they’re smiling. Buy tablet X = smile. It’s a simple technique and it works very well for a 30-second TV ad. It doesn’t work as well on the Web.

Let’s say I’ve seen the ad for tablet X and I decide to go to its website. Why am I there? To see the happy face again? I don’t think so. The TV happy face worked. It roused my interest. I’m at the website to find out more. Maybe I want to know if I can take tablet X with an allergy I have. Maybe I want to know if tablet X is suitable for children.

The Web looks like Happyland because many organizations still haven’t figured out what their websites are for. It reminds me of how Aer Lingus, an Irish airline, used to approach web design. Some years ago if you went to the Aer Lingus website you saw a big picture.

The picture contained lots of really essential information including:

  • Planes: Yes, Aer Lingus wanted to inform us that it was an airline and that it had planes. Not just one plane. No. The picture showed five planes. We’re an airline and we’ve got at least five planes.
  • A serious-looking pilot: Because you can’t fly a plane without a pilot, can you? Very important to know that.
  • Two smiling hostesses: Where would a plane be without its smiling hostesses?
  • Luckily for us passengers, Aer Lingus had a near-death experience. It nearly went bust. It restructured itself, stopped charging rip-off fares, and developed a brand new website. Now, when I go to the Aer Lingus homepage I get two things: a booking process and a whole range of special offers. Aer Lingus is back in profit and I, for one, am a happy customer.

    About that smiling face on your website. Is it one of your customers? Or perhaps it’s staff? No? You’re telling me it’s an actor, a face that you bought from some photo CD ROM. And that actor is pretending to smile while pretending to be a customer or staff member.

    The Web reflects a more educated, questioning consumer. Those old marketing and advertising tricks are less useful on the Web. Effective websites tend to be useful. They avoid saying things like: buy our product and put a smile on your face. Rather they say: Find out what allergies tablet X should not be taken with.

    When I go to Aer Lingus and can book a cheap flight really quickly, then I’m smiling. That’s a great web experience. That’s great branding. That’s great marketing. On the Web, put a real smile on your customer’s face by letting them do what they need to do as quickly, cheaply and easily as possible.

    For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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