One of my least favorite words is creeping back into business conversation. Board-room brainstorms, conference calls, Webex walk-throughs — I’ve heard it enough of late that I need to speak a fast piece about its uselessness: unique.
I thought unique had died a quiet death about a decade ago, a welcome casualty of the dotcom implosion. But it’s making a comeback. As the economy grinds back to life and companies are taking a closer look at their websites and social media properties, they understandably want them to stand out. I started to worry a couple years ago, when I heard phrases like “I really want it to pop,” and “it’s got to have some punch to it!” or [cringe] “Make it edgy, but accessible. Know what I mean?”
No, I don’t.
Expressions like that are usually delivered with wide-eyed enthusiasm by someone on their third or fourth macchiato. Now, I have nothing against macchiatos, but I bristle at abstractions being used to inform the production of what will be very tangible online assets. The virtual realm be damned, a website is as concrete as any trade show display or wrapped bus.
But giving a site the impact you want requires follow-through on your thought process. You want a site that stands out? Something that sticks? Turns visitors into users? You’re in a big club. And that means “unique” is not where the conversation ends, but rather where it begins. Can’t define it? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Most of us know we want it, but we also only know it when we see it.
The job of a good web agency is to help you define unique on your terms. Think about what you want the site to convey, its first-impression impact, so to speak. Start by asking yourself three quick questions:
To develop answers, start with the basics: Is it brochureware, a credibility play, thought leadership, lead gen? Most likely your answer will be “all of the above”. Now, prioritize those needs based on your audience and their expectations. And what about the experience? Do you want users to download a trial? Request an e-book? Follow you on Twitter? Understand the expectations and how you want that site to perform, and you have a handle on how to prioritize the appeal of your site’s functionality.
These insights allow us to begin deconstructing “unique” into appealing design and persuasive content — the stuff that creates an engaging online experience with the best chance of getting visitors to do what you want them to do. And trust us: It will be pretty. It will be convincing. It will be effective.
But it won’t be unique. It will be yours.