Your corporate website already has a distinct tone and style – is it by design or by accident?
As a writer, I need to understand a company’s tone and style before I start writing. The corporate website is the first place I look. But it doesn’t always send the messages that companies intend.
Elements of online style
Although I focus on writing style, a website communicates brand personality in many ways, including:
- The balance of text to graphics
- Choice of pictures and fonts
- Navigation (how easy or hard is it to find what you need)
- Whether you ‘gate’ content or make it freely available
Then, finally, there are the words and what they say. The combination of all these factors creates an online personality that the site visitor will associate with your business. Once that perception is in their heads, it can be tough to displace.
“Inconsistent” is not the style you want
Sometimes your website communicates a brand personality that you don’t intend to present, such as:
- Carelessness (multiple grammatical or spelling problems)
- Lack of consideration (hard to read and navigate)
- Arrogance (talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’ without considering the visitor)
- Inconsistency (writing style varies widely between pages)
These probably aren’t the brand images you want to project.
Do a quick ‘style audit’
Take a look at your website. Does it accurately communicate what you perceive to be your business culture and personality – either where you are today or where you want to be shortly?
It’s often best to ask a third party to do this audit for you. You could spring for full usability testing or use an unscientific panel of people in your target market. Just make sure that you get honest responses.
And at the very least, perform this basic tone/style check for the following red flags:
- Grammar or spelling errors
- Excessive use of “we” and “us” on your pages. This belongs on the “About us” section, not everywhere else
- Large blocks of text – break them up into smaller paragraphs and bullets
- Long sentences – break them up into smaller sentences if you want people to read online
You can fix most of these problems quickly, without a major site redesign. Usability and design issues will take more work, but are a worthwhile investment.
In upcoming posts, I’ll write about identifying an appropriate tone and style for your business, and then making it stick across your content marketing efforts.