Websites, succeed or fail based on how cool they look, right?
The other day I read this post on Bob Bly’s copywriting blog: Web Copywriting: Ted Nicholas vs Jacob Nielsen. For anyone who doesn’t know, Jacob Nielsen is probably considered the World’s foremost expert on web usability (on making your website easier for people to use).
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Mr Nielsen taken on by a copywriter. The disagreement goes right back to 1997 when Nielsen wrote about How Users Read on the Web. In 2001, I remember reading a rebuttal to Nielsen’s findings which stuck in my head. I just spent 2 hours looking for it and here it is, Writers Unite: Stand Up to Usability Experts.
Writing good copy is a vital element if you want your website to achieve its goals. To sell the occasional widget, or generate the occasional enquiry, or reinforce your marketing efforts and add credibility to your offline sales pitch. To do these things, you need to talk to your visitors, you need to convince them of something. The visual design of your site can help with your online image for sure but the visual design of your site is not likely to convince anyone of too much. For that you need content.
It’s not altogether easy to get clients to put due effort into the content on their site. This is understandable, they are busy and they don’t understand. They want a nice looking site and they want me to go make them one and stop asking them irritating questions and trying to get them to waste half a day concentrating on writing something. I get it. I have been that client.
More to the point, I have written reams of poor content in my time and occasionally something that does a really good job. It’s not easy and if you don’t understand how important it is, it doesn’t seem worth it.
Jacob Nielsen and the copywriters that disagree with him all seem to agree on one thing. It is something that any small business website owner should take note of…
… Neither of them think you are going to sell anything, or have a successful site, just because it looks pretty.
I suppose the point of this post is to give a brief window into the extent of thought and research that successful online marketers put into the sales copy on their websites. Also, the level of research that is continually ongoing into how visitors interact with websites and how their experience can be improved.