I’m an admitted museum junkie. I can walk the halls of any art, history, or science museum for hours. I love to learn and museums provide an opportunity to engage with things greater than me. I want to pass this love of learning on to my kids so we visit museums when we can. They love going to the Cincinnati Children’s Museum because they can interact with the exhibits. They have a dedicated Kids’ SPACE; Science, Play, Art, Creativity, and Exploration.
In many ways business websites also act as a virtual museum of sorts. They house information, some that mirrors relics, and are meant to serve the purpose of education. The problem is companies don’t create sites that engage.
People visit your website because they’re seeking information. But people choose to stay on a website because they discover there’s more to learn. Adults, like kids, are naturally curious. Anything developed for a child, be it a toy, show, or establishment, is designed to harness that creativity. Why is it we assume adults are myopic when approaching self-education? Why is a company’s central information repository, a website, designed without imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight? It’s as if we want people to leave our site. “Here’s the information you were looking for, now calls us if you’re interested in learning more”. It doesn’t work that way. We’ve all seen the stats, Gartner states that 70% of the buying process occurs before a sales rep is engaged. Don’t you want your website to compensate during 70% of that journey?
I had a colleague who would argue during web design discussions “When was the last time you visited a site because it looks cool?” Valid question, and there is some truth to that … sorta. But when I think through the sites that keep me engaged it’s typically because they’re interactive.
The information recall rate of individuals is 10%. Scientists have discovered that by engaging multiple senses that recall rate increases to 60%. Interactive sites are successful because they engage the senses; not just the traditional sight, feel, hear, taste, and smell. Interactive sites allow the visitors to build, create, contribute, learn, and stretch their imagination.
Ideally, your website would be built by the customer. The challenge, of course, is everyone has a different idea of what they want. If I were to design the Zappos site it would only have stilettos and running shoes. But there will be commonality in the wants of your visitors, start with that. Engage them and build the site around their activity. Bonus points if you can build the site to respond to their activity. Provide them the ability to contribute and develop this hub of information that is meant for them.
Indiana University engages its students in content creation. Everyday students upload proposed blogs to the University content management system, Compendium. The content director simply logs into the system, reviews and edits blogs for branding, grammar, etc and then publishes the blogs. IU generates hundreds of posts, in the voice of the student, every year, and with little work.
Intel engages with its resellers on the web by providing the ability for resellers to pre-order products. They added an email inbox into their communications so resellers could view emails that were previously sent to them. They provided an event calendar so resellers could view when events were taking place and register their interest in joining them. They also provided a rating system for parts of the site with new products or features. This allowed resellers to vote for elements that were more relevant to them and drive the direction of the campaigns.
Prudential set out to change how people prepare for retirement. They partnered with professors from leading universities to create The Challenge Lab, a destination where people can understand their behavioral challenges and learn how to overcome them. Through videos, experiments, expert articles and over 60 interactive pieces, the site breaks down five key challenges. It explains the science behind why we crave instant gratification. Why we put things off. Why we follow the herd. Why we misjudge risk. And what it means that we’re living longer. The Challenge Lab is a place where people who may not know anything about finance can understand something even more important: themselves.
When evaluating your website remember to define a clear purpose, make it easy to understand, develop interactive elements, and let the customer drive the direction of the site.
How do you engage in customers in your website development?