I was speaking at a conference in Baltimore. Just days before traveling to Birmingham to speak there. One of those crazy weeks where living out of a hotel sounds more glamorous than it really is.
The email came in started pretty simply.
“We’re in need of a site revamp to better get across our message. We’ve got a few thing that have been really hard to overcome.”
I don’t know about you but I love those emails. I love them for three reasons:
They suggest that the author of the email understands there’s a problem. In and of itself, that’s huge because I can’t tell you how often we’re all wearing blinders. We’re able to see things that aren’t right elsewhere without being aware of our own blind spots.
They suggest that they want to change their situation using things that are under their control. Again, I can’t tell you the number of times I hear people complain about “the market” but then want it to change. You start a change from inside, not by blaming your customers and prospects.
Lastly, they suggest that they’re open for external feedback. For most of us, we’re in the exact place that our own decisions bring us to. So if we want to land elsewhere, we need to get some outside support to help make new decisions.
I quickly replied, suggesting that I would love to help, but that the week was particularly busy and that I’d love to talk soon, and talk we did by the end of August.
Four Paradigm Shifts
Early in September we began a series of conversations that would lead to some observations and my analysis. It’s not a major part of the story, but it did give me direct insight into what they were up to.
Because then the real work started for them. They spent five or six weeks taking the insights and turning them into a design and new content.
What’s powerful about the difference will now be hard to grasp, because unless you’d recently visited their old site, it will be hard to remember how different it used to be.
But I see the difference and I thought it would be worth highlighting four paradigm shifts that went into their site overhaul.
Outside In instead of Inside Out
If you spend time with my friend Lee, he would tell you about some of the amazing calls he has with prospects. They get on Skype and talk and soon the prospect is a customer. But that’s because the interaction he has on the phone starts with the customer. Lee asks about their situation and understands it before sharing.
Unfortunately, most of us, including the old Cart66 site, start with ourselves and our products. We talk about ourselves like the guy at the bar who keeps talking at you but not with you.
The first shift wasn’t hard to articulate but it was hard to live out and that was to think about the customer and their values first, not the very features that we knew they would come to enjoy.
Benefits over Features
The result of the first shift in thinking is a quick shift from feature articulation to detailing the benefits of a decision. In a follow up, Lee said it best.
But like the owner of a ginger-ale company, nobody really cares all that much about how cool it is that you use organic, non-sulfite, real ginger. They first want to experience and refreshment of the ginger-ale. Once they like the product, then maybe they’ll read the ingredients label to find out about what cool stuff goes into making it. Talking about the features in isolation is like getting folks to enjoy a single ingredient at a time. As much as I love stuff made with cinnamon, nobody can enjoy a spoon full of cinnamon by itself.
Less is More
I don’t know about you but I’m glad I learned to skim read as a kid in school. It’s become the most common way I read anything online. And because most of us do the same thing, the challenge to Cart66 was to limit how much text they had on a page, and to make sure that all of it reinforced each other along some major themes.
Why over How
The old site was a mix of news articles, blog posts, how-to articles, support posts, and sales copy. In terms of raw material, it was awesome.
But from a conversion perspective, the notion of driving you to action and to a decision had been watered down.
So the folks from Cart66 decided that their site would address the “Why?” question and that their Zendesk site would answer the “How?” question. In splitting these concerns, they were able to design their site with better focus.
Some Last Thoughts
When you look at site redesigns like this, you’re tempted to think a whole bunch of outside companies were involved. But the truth is that they did all the work themselves. They created their own theme. They created their own design. They wrote their own copy.
And that should give all of us hope. Because if Cart66 can do it, so can you!