I just learned the Yiddish word ungapatchka. An ungapatchket house is filled with too much junk. A girl can be ungapatchket if she’s going out all dolled up. It has the sense of a good thing ruined by adding too much on top, like too many sprinkles on the cake or, at this time of the year, a glut of child-made decorations on the tree.
It makes me think of the way in which many businesses want to present themselves through their web sites.
To you, your business is a complex organisation, with a history, with staff, with processes and systems and targets. It is a many-tendrilled thing. You almost daily have challenges and triumphs, great ideas, and mistakes from which to learn. You invest in training or new software or take the staff out for team building. You get recognised in an industry award or perform way better than this time last year or have a great story to tell about your new management structure.
The question is, how much of all that do your customers need to know about?
Let’s start with absolutely none at all.
The main difference between you and your customers is that they do not care a monkeys about your company. Harsh, but true.
So when you create a new web site, they simply don’t care about your history or your team training. About your new recruits or internal reorganisation. About your annual goals or your stated core values. Even, about your new web site.
What they care about is whether you are useful to them, right now, for doing what they are trying to do.
Everything else is noise. Adding everything else to your web site is the certain way to make it ungapatchket. You are not sharing the love; you are hiding it behind an ornamental clock made of shells that you picked up on holiday because there was nothing else to buy at the airport.
Instead of starting with all the things that you could say about your company – start with absolutely none of them. Nada. Zip. Now ask yourself, what one story should you tell your customers about how they can accomplish something on your site better than anywhere else, right now?
Find the message, the thread, the line, that explains simply to an online visitor why they should give a crap about your product or service.
One story, two trees
Once you’ve got the story, share it simply and clearly. Start by showing it, with a few images – a way to visualise the story. You’ll need a few words, too, but only a handful. Use sparingly. You need to interrogate mercilessly every element that wants to be on the site, grilling it on how it helps, uniquely, to tell the customer story. Otherwise don’t let it anywhere near.
Too many websites are trying to lift the iceberg to show customers what goes on at their companies, when customers need only see the tip.
And my solution for an ungapatchket Christmas tree? Buy two. A small one for the kids to have in their own bedroom on which they can hang anything and everything that they once made/found/ate, and a family one in the living room which has stringent editorial guidelines to keep it looking pretty.
There must be somewhere else you can hang all that other stuff.