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I hear it over and over again from business owners: “We need a redesign.”  

Design is not the problem.

  If sales are lagging, business owners jump to the conclusion that the answer must be customers getting turned off by a less-than-sleek or confusing-to-use website.   99 times out of 100 the real problem has nothing to do with design and everything to do with content—and how your content is driving customer motivation.   Don’t believe me? Here’s a story:   I occasionally have to pay parking tickets. Let’s not say how often, but often enough that I’ve become quite familiar with the online system for paying them. And I hate it. The interface is awful. The buttons are tiny (and at least a third of the time they’re broken). But I do it. Why? Because dealing with the online system is still faster and easier than manually mailing in a payment, and it’s confirmed digitally immediately.   Without needing to make use of any of even the most rudimentary rules of good design, the parking ticket website compels me to follow through on my “purchase” because the value of the service is made clear.   Admittedly, your product or service likely isn’t carrying the weight of legal repercussions that can compel people to follow through on purchasing it no matter what. Yet I all but guarantee there’s more you could be doing to help your customers understand the value of what you’re providing.  

How is the customer experience?

  If you’re an ecommerce business owner, when was the last time you actually went through and purchased something from your site? Are you really aware of what information your customers are being presented with as they navigate through the site? Is the information they want to know and need to know to be motivated to make a purchase readily apparent?   As the owner, you’re typically too close to the situation to see the issues clearly. You’re already sold on the value of the product. You may well have gotten into the habit of setting up your sales system in such a way that it makes things easier on you without having a clear understanding of how that setup affects your customers.   From that perspective, it’s unsurprising that taking a scorched earth approach to redesigning things feels like a rational solution. Instead, I encourage you to focus on rethinking your content to engage with your customers’ motivation.  

Purchasing is an emotional decision.

  If you drive by a Ben & Jerry’s on free cone day, you’ll see a line wrapped twice around the block. People who make $20 an hour will wait in line for two hours for a free $3 ice cream cone. There’s no logic there. They’re motivated by the emotional appeal of getting something for free that they would normally expect to pay for. Their tolerance for friction (i.e. waiting in line) goes way up.   If you have a product that’s as emotionally compelling to your customer base as a free ice cream cone, those customers will jump through as many hoops as you throw at them to get it. Making your buying process less confusing will help, sure. But analyzing which color for the “buy” button is most effective is f@$#ing pointless if your customers don’t understand why they want to click the button in the first place.   So how do you find out what content and information your customers are missing? Pick up the phone and call them. I’m dead serious about this one. It’s old-school, but it gets the job done. Ask your customers what it was that sold them on the product. Ask them why they didn’t buy more. Ask them what their buying experience was like. The answers to these questions are the root of your real problems.   Tweak your content to the point that your value is undeniably clear. Only then should you undertake a redesign.  

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