Content and the User

Content and the UserContent and the User

This might seem obvious to say: the content you offer needs to appeal to consumers. However, the fact that it seems so obvious might cause some groups to fail. It’s possible someone will think, “We’re offering a great product, of course our content is good.” If a company creates content and they think it looks good, did they stop there? If so, there’s a good chance it won’t pull it in the business they expected. When presenting your content to others it’s important that they can easily understand what it is you offer. Thus, when putting your product together it’s important to try to understand it from a newcomer’s point of view.

Your content needs to quickly pull the user in; you can lose them faster than you’d think. In a study done by MIT neuroscientists, they found, “...the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.” That’s fast! While you might not lose a user within 13 milliseconds, it can still happen quickly and often in under 30 seconds. If your content is difficult to find, organized in a confusing manner, or hard to understand, the more likely it is that users will leave rapidly. You don’t have long to pull a customer in, so keep reading to see steps you can take to keep them coming back.

Who is the Audience?

No business creates a product without a customer base in mind. You have something to offer and someone you believe your product will be of use to in some way. The intended audience you are wanting to target may be diverse, and that’s more than okay, as long as you still understand who they are. As stated above, you might understand your content clearly, and that is important, but you need it to send potential customers a message as well. Take the time to do research into fully understanding your customer base’s needs and wants. It will absolutely pay off in the long run.

Your Message

Once you understand your desired customer base, now it’s time to craft your message. Some important points to keep in mind:

  • Clarity: remember you only have a short amount of time to pull customers in. Is your copy too wordy? Can you cut it down to leave a concise, direct message?
  • Beyond copy, how does your site look? There is the old (and yes overused) saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” While this isn't a reason to neglect copy, the visual content matters. Does it pull users in? Is it an accurate representation of what you’re offering? You don’t want it to be too plain and lacking, but you also don’t want to go overboard and cause someone to leave because the visual stimulation is too much.
  • What message are you sending? Are you telling a story?
  • Stories are a great method to engage with customers, convey your message, keep them interested, and ultimately keep them coming back. If you tell a story with powerful, compelling content you are doing well.
  • Visual is key. Of course, again, don’t throw copy to the wayside. However, what you are showing your customers will go a long way. Sometimes to fully explain things we over-explain and that loses people. Pictures, illustrations, videos, and various other forms of visual media will help them easily see the problem, how that applies to them, and what the solution is.
  • Focus the story on the customer. Make it clear what the problem is or what they are lacking, and what you offer to them. Allow them to insert themselves into the story you’re telling. You are offering them something. If your content is centered on I or We, they likely won’t feel you can do anything for them.

What Not To Do

While you don’t want to be overly verbose, your copy still matters. In a few words, you can win someone over and you can also just as easily turn off a customer for good.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • Dark Patterns - There are different kinds, with the primary objective being to get users to purchase or sign up for something they did not intend.
  • Bait-and-switch - This is when a business advertises a product that is free or significantly reduced in price. The customer will then realize it’s not available, and they are shown something similar but with a different price.
  • Roach Motel - A situation that is easy to get into, but hard to get out of; subscriptions are a common example. According to, LiveNation and Ticketmaster have each frequently used the roach motel method in the past. On the checkout page, they would include a magazine subscription that people would be subscribed too unless they noticed they needed to opt out. Frequently with magazine subscriptions, as was the case here, you need to send cancellation in via mail, which takes a while and you are uncertain of their receipt.
  • Confirmshaming - An increasingly common tactic, this guilts the users into opting in. They’re passive aggressive and make it look like the user is rejecting a good deal. Often, they are something like, “No, I don’t want X% discount” or “No thanks, I already know everything”.  The examples below are from YouTube, Amazon, and Refinery29. The Refinery29 example occurs on most pages, asking you to subscribe even if you’re already subscribed.

Not at all Dark Patterns are the same. Some are clearly much more insidious than others, in particular methods like the roach motel. Regardless, even a passive aggressive “confirm shaming” can be enough to ensure customers either won’t sign up and can make sure others won’t want to return at all.

Crafting Content for the Perfect Audience

Once again, your content needs to have a story and coherence. If your customer is confused or put off by copy or images, you can lose them for good. Some dark patterns are much more deceptive than others, but it’s better to avoid them at all. Rather than tricking or shaming someone, provide an incentive. Offer 10% off their next purchase, if possible send an email to remind them about a product they were looking at, or build a reward system to build loyalty. Even if those types of incentives don’t apply, still look for ways to show the benefits to your customers and potential customers. Use positive, encouraging language. If you do your research, offer a solid product, and clearly show the ways you’ll benefit customers you’ll build a lot of good will and loyalty. Don't try to win with deceptive methods; while you likely can get away with them for awhile, they can damage your brands growing reputation, and even destroy your repeat business. Remember, new customers cost you significantly more than repeat business!