Every website owner wants their creation to be as fit as possible. No doubt you want your website to be well. But how do you define website well-being? What are the symptoms of your website being “under the weather”? And if your website does have “the flu”, how can you cure it? Your website has flu if it has any of the following symptoms:

  • Low levels of traffic
  • Irregular or infrequent sales
  • Lack of time to update it regularly
  • Few sign-ups for newsletters and so on

If you have any of these issues with your website, then the chances are it has caught the flu. So you need to do something to combat the infection.

A prescription for your website

Now, having presented you with this list of somewhat vague “symptoms” I’m confident that many people will now be saying “that’s me – my website has flu”.  Research shows that the way material is presented to us influences the way we think. If your sales pages, for instance, present a list of problems your product will solve, if you present the list correctly you increase the chances of sales because  potential buyers will almost automatically agree they have those problems. But if you list the solutions you can provide incorrectly, you reduce the chances of getting that important agreement.

New research into the way we perceive our risks of illness has discovered that a short list of common symptoms makes us think we are more likely to have the disease. The study was conducted to discover if the presentation of healthcare information on websites influenced whether or not we thought we had an illness. It turns out that when symptoms are presented in short, bullet-point lists and they are bunched together into relevant groupings, then we perceive our risk of illness to be greater than when the symptoms are simply discussed in prose.

In other words, people can be more convinced they have an illness if the website creates a short list of common symptoms, than if it discusses the condition in full. For example, many cancers result in fatigue, lethargy, lack of appetite and weight loss. Put those four symptoms in a bullet point list entitled “common cancer symptoms” and people will be much more likely to think they have cancer. Yet those symptoms are also true for anxiety, stress, infections and dieting too much…! What the study shows is that the presentation of the symptoms on the web page can influence what people think.

It suggests that if you want your website visitors to think that your product will solve their current difficulties you need to list the “common issues” that people in their situation will share. It needs to be a short list, as well. So, forget the temptation to list as many solutions as your products and services provide. Instead, group them into threes and fours instead of one long list. That way you influence your website visitors to think along the lines you want them to.

The research shows that online it is often not WHAT you say but the WAY that you say it.

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