Is your website a filing cabinet for your marketing brochures?

Frog and toad have a picnic

Frog and toad have a picnic

I’ve been a copywriter for a long time. I’ve written for the BBC, Yahoo, AOL, BT, Nokia, Boots and Pizza Hut. Recently I’ve been teaching people about writing for the web and have trained more than 1,200 people how to write for GOV.UK, which is one of the UK’s top 30 most visited websites.

But really, all you need to know about me is that I tell stories. Here’s my first one, ‘Frog and toad have a picnic’ from when I was around 6. I wrote it in the shed and tied up all the pages with red string. My nan still talks about this one.

The stories we tell about our business

These days I’m interested in how businesses present themselves on the web. Back in the day we produced brochures to tell people what we did. What we created. What we sold. Who we were. We printed it all out and gave it to someone we assumed was interested.

How much did we consider the person reading it when we wrote the brochure? Hands up if the first thing you tell someone about your business is how long you’ve been in business? It’s a classic opening line.

Then the internet came along and we said great! A place to put our brochures. We pushed information at people. Probably because our CEOs told us to.

But the internet works by people pulling information towards them by searching, not by you pushing information out and hoping that’s enough. There are thousands of companies to compete with.

How many websites do you see with too much stuff on there, much of it unrelated to why you visited?

Is your site a filing cabinet?

When’s the last time you went to a site to read through a company’s brochure compared to going to buy something, read a review, book tickets or similar.

Think about the difference there – the filing cabinet website is focused on the organisation, rather than the user.

What’s important to users:

  • finding (and understanding) information
  • completing an action e.g. buying or booking
  • speed

Do you think reading brochures belongs on that list?

Here’s the bombshell… your website isn’t for you. It’s for your users. And they don’t care about you, they care about their task.

Look at this example of why you should change your site to reflect what your users want, not what your organisation wants. If you answer user needs quickly, you will be at a competitive advantage.

>> This blog post is an excerpt from my sell-out presentation at Friargate Studios ‘How to write for the web and social media‘. Huge thanks to Cactus Images for taking photos on the night.

Christine Cawthorne


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *