Language Matters: How to Give Your Website a Language Makeover

I just gave my website a LANGUAGE makeover. For example, take a look at my about page and read my backstory.

Most people only do website DESIGN makeovers. But sometimes, as I’ve found in my website critiques, the real problems with a website’s performance is not design, but language.

language matters

Why Language Matters

When you sell your product or service in person, there is lots to the experience besides words. For example, a consultant can send a good vibe by a strong handshake, by looking like a professional, even by smiling and making their client feel relaxed.

When you sell your cupcakes, there is the smell, the visual, the other customers around the counter laughing and nodding approvingly as they devour your creations.

On a website? All you’ve got is language: the words you use, either in print, on a video or audio. Thus, because your customers don’t have those other crucial cues to help them come to a purchasing decision, you must choose your words very, very carefully.

We all know this, right? What I want to re-emphasize with you is that this careful choice of language must be pervasive. You must carefully choose your tagline. Your product/service names. The story you choose to tell about your business and about your offerings. It’s all so, so important – especially for today’s consumer, who is overwhelmed with choice and is interested in purchases that “feel” right to them. Yup, language = feelings.

My Language Shift

The big change here on my site was a shift from “web strategist” to “creative web producer.”

When I think of strategist, I think of pencils and powerpoint.  I also think of lots of people in stuffy suits and happy hours where someone overindulges and something awkward happens.  (For the record, I was never any of those things as a strategist.  In case you were suggesting otherwise.)

When I think of producer, I think LIGHTS. CAMERA. ACTION.  And who doesn’t want a little bit more action in their biz?

The term producer is a better fit for the work I do, and makes it a lot easier to explain it to people, both via the site and in person. Once I got that vision clear, it made it easy for me to ensure that my about page, my critique, and my free training offerings all aligned. It feels great – and I can tell it has made an impact, because of the many comments I’ve received already.

Tips for Giving Your Site a Language Makeover

Ok, first off, if you’re considering a language makeover for your site, I strongly suggest taking my free training course first. Two of the five lessons actually talk specifically about this.   If you want to go deeper, we do cover it together in my website critique as well.

And then, a few things you can do to identify weaknesses in your site’s language:

  • Print Out important pages of the site in text-only mode, so all your site’s visual design is gone.  Visuals are VERY important, but what does your text say when all of that is gone.  You might find some gaps or surprises.
  • Read it Out Loud to a trusted friend or colleague.  What feels unnatural?  Trust me, if it feels unnatural for you to stay it out loud, your customers can tell when they read it.
  • Remember who your ideal customer is, and make sure the language is accessible to them.  Review the site from top to bottom and call out any jargon words or “talking down” language.  Eliminate.

Your business is constantly evolving, so do your customers, and the language you use has to evolve too – so instead of splashing out on a big visual design makeover, consider starting with a language makeover first.

Let me know if I can help.

andy

Language Matters: How to Give Your Website a Language Makeover

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Andy for these tips. I wonder if you’re using conversion tools out there to test which of the revamps you’ve done worked best. I’ve just encountered the topic on the Web and it’s really an intriguing concept – like people are annoyed by the simplest things that you thought are harmless; even colors can turn them off from your website.

    Shaleen Shah December 4, 2012 at 11:37 am #
    • You’re very welcome, Shaleen. And as for tools, I simply have some custom dashboards and goals setup in analytics for my important conversion points. I like to keep it simple :)

      Andy December 5, 2012 at 5:38 am #

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