Like any team activity, river rafting requires highly effective communication. In the case of rafting, we want to get everyone down the river to the takeout point successfully and without injury.
Right now, I can hear your thinking…I work in an office alone. How does team activity help me?
As a freelancer, small business owner or non-profit, even if you work in your office alone, you are still part of a team collaborating with your client, donor or audience and effective communication is important.
And while you’re not likely to be injured or injury others physically from a poorly designed website that doesn’t communicate clearly, you are likely to lose sales or miss out on donations.
5 tips learned white water rafting to help you create a sustainable website design to engage your audience
- Sit in all the seats
- The power of pause
- Scout the rapids
- Speak clearly and loudly
- Wear the right gear
#1 Sit in all your audience’s seat because perspective is important
When river rafting in a paddleboat, you’re often six people moving down river at the same speed and moment. You are having a simultaneous experience, or not?
Because each paddler sits in the boat in a slightly different spot, even moving together, her experience is unique. She is also focused in a slightly different direction. It’s a sublet, though important, nuance to the shared experience.
The slightly different viewing angle and position gives each person an unique experience. It is the same with your website visitor. Though everyone is having the same experience—visiting your website—each has a different viewing angle. Her experience is influenced by various factors.
When you sit in all the seats, you are better able to see and empathize from each person’s perspective.
Some factors that create her unique experience are:
- Which browser is she using
- Her comfort or discomfort level with technology
- What is her native language
- Her cultural background—what messages do the images and symbols you use in your design convey
- What device is she using to visit your site—mobile, desktop, laptop and operating system…Mac or Windows
- How does she see color—is there enough contrast so the links are easy to distinguish from the main content
- How does she navigate your site—is she using assistive technology such as high contrast, a large font size or a screen reader. To accommodate all users, include alt tags on images and create hierarchy by using headline and subhead tags correctly.
Have you viewed your site from her perspective?
There are a number of options. One easy and informative tool you can use to test for things like high contrast or correct hierarchy is WAVE. I’ve definitely made some updates to my site after running it through WAVE (web accessibility evaluation tool).
You do not need to know code to implement correct hierarchy in your website. There are tools built into WordPress that allowing you to, similar to Microsoft Word or Google docs, select various heading or subhead options, create a blockquote or tell the browser this bit of content is a paragraph of text, all from a drop down menu. This will help you create the correct hierarchy.
#2 The power of pausing allows us to engage
You’ve sat in your audiences seat, grabbed the paddle, aimed the boat, and swiftly headed down river.
You and the team have successfully navigated the first small rapid. Paddles in the air for a high-five.
You look up and suddenly the river splits into multiple channels—which way to go?
This is when you need to catch an eddy
As a river rafting guide—I learned how to use eddies to utilize the power of pausing. An eddy is a pocket at the side of a river where the water reverses itself and flows up river for a moment. This provides an opportunity to pause and look around.
Yet to get into the eddy, you have to plan ahead and move quickly or you miss the moment. And paddling back up river is—hella hard. The same applies to your website design. You need to have a plan to quickly capture your audience’s attention because otherwise, getting him to come back is—hella hard.
On the river—if you miss an eddy, you hope to catch the next one.
Today, like never before, your audience has multiple options. Your website design needs to quickly capture his attention—entice him to pause long enough to get to know, like and trust you.
Whether he is aware of it or not, he is looking to you to guide him. Your sustainable website design needs to help him understand his options so he can easily navigate the rapids of his current challenge to a successful solution.
One quality great river raft guides have and use to build trust is, they tell stories. Stories are a way to help often total strangers bond as a team and get to know their guide. Trust and collaboration are two important aspects of team-building that make it possible to successfully navigate the rapids of a river or your client’s business challenge.
#3 It is important to scout the rapids ahead before proceeding
You’ve effectively paused your audience—caught her attention. You’re paused in the eddy. The next step is to scout the rapids to determine the best route to successfully navigate to the other side of the current obstacle.
- What are your potential buyers fears that keep her from saying yes?
- What routes has she tried previously without success?
- What are her financial or time limitations?
- Does she have or lack the skills she needs to navigate to where she wants to go?
- Does she have an inner critic she needs to negotiate with to proceed?
You, as the guide, need to have travelled the path so you can anticipate her needs and objects, even before she does. Your website design and content must help her see herself on the path ahead and alleviate enough of the fear to allow her to get in your boat. To click the yes button to sign up for your free offer or purchase your service and allow you to be her guide.
#4 Speak clearly and louder than the surrounding noise
On the river, the most important time you need to hear and follow your guide is going through the rapids. It is also the hardest time to hear him as his voice is competing with the sounds of the surrounding rapids.
In today’s online world, it’s no different. Not only are you one of many offering similar services or products, you are also needing to be heard over the noise—including the objections and fears in your audiences head. And those in-the-head noises are usually the loudest.
Your sustainable website design needs to break through the noise with clear heirarchy, compelling visuals, colors that resonate and connect with your target audience (because they won’t resonate with everyone), content that persuades and a powerful call to action that visibly stands out on the page saying, “This way.”
#5 Wear the right gear to stay afloat
While river rafting, it is important to wear the correctly rated and fitting floatation device. They are all rated, based in the class of rapid. And, of course, like insurance, you hope you never need it. Yet having it offers a sense of safety and comfort—it allows you to take a risk.
Similarly, you need a safety net that is visible and easy for your audience to understand so he is comfortable taking a risk.
Some safety nets you can offer your potential buyer
Offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee? Or a money back guarantee within a certain time period. That is not always possible, though if you do offer one, state it prominently, with a clear description of the terms of the guarantee, especially near the “buy now” button.
Offer a free mini course so he can test the waters before diving deeper. Or offer a free trial of your full product or course for a limited period of time.
Consider offering live customer support with a promise to get the user through any obstacles they might encounter.
Clearly state, both in writing and visually, any return policies, money back guarantee, free trials, benefits your product or service offers that are unique. Help your audience trust that, not only are you the best guide for them, you’re willing to pull back the curtain so overcome fears of hype. That you are confident in your service or product.
- Empathize by seeing the world through her eyes
- Create engaging design and content to capture her attention quickly
- Anticipate her potential limitations so you can help her navigate them successfully
- Calm her inner critic’s objections with answers on your website
- Create a risk-free zone to help her take the next step and say yes
On your journey to build a great client relationship remember to:
What’s the biggest noise inside your head that keeps you on shore waiting to enter the rapids?
Let’s do this together. And remember to share your successful guiding, or being guided, tips below.