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Get People To Actually Read Your Website (With A Filmmaking Trick)
After watching a new movie, I always hightail it to Wikipedia and IMDB to check out all the behind-the-scenes trivia.
Do you do this, too?
I especially like reading about Easter eggs I might have missed in the film. (An Easter egg is a message, reference, or joke hidden in the background.)
Like how R2-D2 and C-3PO appear in background hieroglyphs in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Or how the carpet in Sid’s room in Toy Story is the same pattern as the carpet in the hotel from The Shining. (Someone took the trouble to put a whole bunch of Pixar Easter eggs together here, and Disney ones here).
Easter eggs reward people for watching closely. It’s easy to pay attention to the main action. But when fans can feel smart for recognizing a reference, or for spotting something subtle, it encourages them to watch more times, pay attention, and talk about it with fellow fans.
Now, how do you read most websites?
We spend most of our time in skim mode. We have to. The onslaught of incoming links and information is too great to do anything besides get in, get essential info, and get out.
So what’s a small business owner to do?
Reward people for close reading.
Hide a few Easter eggs, so to speak, just little jokes or fun things to make people smile.
They don’t have to actually be “hidden,” just show up where people don’t expect to see something.
Because the minute people think they can anticipate what you’re going to say, or think it’s non-essential, they skip right over it.
What are cues that start to make them skip? They usually include:
- If you’re using the same verbiage everyone else is using (for a photographer, this would mean you might be heavy on words like memories, moments, capture, precious, life).
- If you’re repetitive.
- And if what you’ve written is standard to every site ever, like “To book a session, email me at email@example.com.” (That’s not bad, just skimmable.)
You don’t want to add clutter for the sake of being interesting. But there are places where you can add a fun surprise that rewards people for paying attention to detail. Some humor, a reference, something they didn’t expect.
Keeping people’s curiosity piqued can have a bigger impact than you might think! They’re far more willing to read through what they would otherwise deem ‘background noise’ if they find little rewards for actually looking at everything.
Some simple examples:
This one’s a gimme. Sure you could stick with “submit” on your contact page, but if it’s obvious from the design and placement of the button what it does – why not at least try “Fire Away!”?
When readers see personality someplace like a button, they start to look for it elsewhere, too.
The secret to making this successful instead of hokey: Write like you would normally talk, and use the same tone everywhere.
I’m obsessed with snail mail, my weekly emails are written like letters, and I’ve built a general words-and-paper vibe around this site. That’s why my contact page button currently says “Seal, Stamp, and Send!”
Now, if your site is super formal, then “Bombs Away!” on your contact page would sound odd. Be congruent. But chances are, your site isn’t miles away from your personality.
If you’d never say “Fire Away,” what would you tack onto the end of a sentence telling a friend “Sure, go ahead and text me anytime – fire away!”? Use your version instead.
This is a tiny detail, but one that can make your site friendlier and more fun – and encourage people to get in touch. I’ve actually had people email me to tell me how much fun it was to click various buttons I’d created. Think about that. They EMAILED about a BUTTON. People notice!
(By the way, if your email sign-up button says something like “Release the Kracken!” or “Accio Wardrobe Guide!” I’m roughly 7000% more likely to want to be on your list. Just saying. Find what works for your ideal client!)
Headers and Footers
I had to laugh when I saw Spencer Lum’s header on his photography site:
(Screenshot used with permission, of course.)
Email, phone number – good things to have. But that caption underneath? Makes me laugh. Especially in his Brooklyn market where everything cool is small batch and local. It both embraces and pokes fun at the local ethos – which the rest of his site does too.
Think about your target client. What 1-3 little references, humor, or quips can you put near your phone number, in a footer, or on a plain stock page?
If they’re in the same life phase as you, give that a nod: “Call me anytime 8am-4pm, or during your kid’s nap. I promise I’ll keep it short ;-).”
Do they have the same favorite movies, favorite bands, or watch the same shows as you? “Sign up here for our weekly emails! We never share your email with third parties. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and….wait sorry, got carried away there.”
(Please tell me you got that reference BTW.)
When you write your error page for your site, instead of just “Sorry we can’t seem to find that, try another search term,” why not stick in a Lord of the Rings reference? “You shall not pass! Sorry, those search terms did not match anything on the site. Quick, try something else before the Balrog shows up:”
You don’t need one of these everywhere, but 1-3 sprinkled in can be fun. Never underestimate what an unexpected pleasant experience can do for people!
FAQs can be where interest goes to die if all your answers are dry and procedural.
Give them the info, but every second or third question or so, throw them a bone. Look to your own interests for inspiration – and talk how you would really talk:
I mean, if you really want to print your own photos along with the 3,492 on your hard drive, may the force be with you. 🙂 But I’m guessing that having me handle this for you will be a huge relief that ensures you and your kids will hold these and reminisce over them at future Thanksgivings.
Will these little additions BY ITSELF make an amazing site?
No, other things should be in place for sure. But let’s face it: Most websites we look at are competent, but forgettable. We remember people who tell us stories and who surprise us.
Also, if people see that they get bits of humor and fun when they take the time to read…they’ll be more likely to read! How much inbox clutter and headache would you eliminate if people came to you having read your site? Yeah, I thought so.
Why not pick one place on your site to hide an ‘Easter egg’ today?
Just try it out. If you like it, add 2-3 more. Keep it uncluttered and simple, and you never lose making things more interesting.
P.S. Want to add more personality your site – while staying fresh and persuasive?
Check out Irresistible You. (You’ll also learn how your favorite bloggers and Instagrammers keep you coming back, in ways you didn’t even realize.)
Love this Jenika! So simple and yet so effective… now just to try and think of something clever I can use on my site. 😉
Always love hearing from you, Charlotte! Hmm, well I feel like you will probably have an easy time since you love animals and they’re such a big part of your life and what you do. I’d start by just looking at your FAQ or contact page and thinking how you might say something to a good friend who is also a pet owner! 🙂 Good luck with it!
Wonderful ideas! It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of site organization and providing the necessary facts that we sometimes forget that people need a reason to stop and actually read what we wrote. Thanks! (and yes, I got the Easter Eggs!)
You nailed it. We have so much work to do and I don’t blame any website creators for just trying to get it done! Hope this helps everyone bring back some life and humor. Have a great week!
Such a great tip!… now for the hard part – thinking of something unique!
Yeah – the best ideas often come when you aren’t expecting it too, don’t they? I hope something perfect pops up for you! Thanks for reading.
Love you. Always! Seriously. Such great ideas. On my contact page I used a photo of me on the phone when I’m abut two. Mouth open wide and knee socks pulled up to my diaper cover. It’s pretty fantastic. Always makes me laugh when I see it. I have done other small things to make the text lighter here and there, but love your ideas! I am going to go look around to see where I can add some now.
That is making me laugh! What a great image to have on your contact page. I bet it makes emailing you feel more natural. 🙂 And thanks for your kind words! I’m happy to be a little (hopefully helpful) part of your week.
I didn’t leave the right website link like you asked the first time. I missed it! ha (:
Love this! Some fun easy ways to make the sites stand out. Thanks!
Yay! Hope you have fun with it!
I love this. Thank you.
“Release the Kraken” is so ME. ? I’ll be over here furiously working to come up with things to add to my site.
And BTW, I recently signed up for unroll.me and your newletter is the only one that now comes directly to my inbox. I want to see it as soon as it comes out! It’s my *favorite*. ?
Hahaha I love it!! Hope you find one or two that feel fun and “you.”
And truly, I am honored to be in your inbox. I know how much email noise there is even amongst stuff you want to receive so thank you for giving me a place. Hope the emails continue to help! 🙂
Take a look at ManCrates.com. They have taken this principle and implemented it everywhere. I like to go there, just to see what crazy things they are saying this week!
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(I get nothing for sharing this, but the coupon code does work)
Thank you for EVERYTHING! Love love love all things Jenika!
I love that you have an example!! 🙂 More evidence of how much people remember this stuff, even not taken to big extremes. Thanks for sharing and for the kind note! Have a fabulous day!
Love LOVE this article. Really made me think about my website and what I would need to rethink/redo/restart. Makes me think my website may be a tad Blah blah snoozeville. Any comments or suggestions would be most welcome. You are keeping us Creatives sane so please keep up the wonderful work, emails and love ! We So need it !! A BIG Thank You !!!! If I could see you, I would hug you for sure !
Jenika, great work as always. With the Twitter and Facebook addiction habits engineered to keep people engaged, it is critical that we state novel enough to keep people engaged. You are absolutely right about adding some surprise to our sites. I have some work to do this week. Thank you.
This is great advice! One of our staff writers is constantly adding smart, funny, nerdy Easter eggs in his articles. If you have ever read anything about the prepaid wireless industry, it’s often not interesting whatsoever but Sam Liedtke is always throwing clever hidden messages in his writing that readers love.
I’m no photographer but I’ll definitely be following your articles because this one was AMAZING! Thanks again!