Storytelling is sustainable design.
Think about it—how long have stories been a part of your life? Your parents’ lives? And their parents? And…?
We often use storytelling and metaphor as a powerful way to convey our written message. The 7-step P.R.E.P.A.R.E. model helps you incorporate storytelling into your website design (or redesign).
In today’s saturated world, P.R.E.P.A.R.E. gives you an unfair advantage and allows you to make the most of the about 10 seconds you get to grab and hold attention your visitor’s attention. The 7-step model helps you understand the power—the how and why—of using storytelling to clarify and communicate your message so it comes alive visually from the moment your ideal client arrives.
PREPARE to effectively incorporate storytelling to impact and improve your website design.
The Power of fairy tales
Fairy tales are one of the oldest forms of storytelling. They have been sustained—passed along from one generation to the next—for longer than we know. The story might morph a bit over time with retelling or cultural differences, yet almost every culture has similar foundational tales woven into the fabric of life.
We are steeped in fairy tales. They are a powerful means of connection and communication. Whether you agree with, or rebel against, a tale, it impacts you and subsequently how you interact with your reader.
Most fairy tales revolve around some version of the hero’s journey.
Per Donald Miller of StoryBrand—
The customer is the hero of our brand’s story, not us.
When we position our customer as the hero and ourselves as their guide, we will be recognized as a sought-after character to help them along their journey.
In other words, your audience is Luke Skywalker. You get to be Yoda.
It’s a small but powerful shift. This honors the journey and struggles of our audience, and it allows us to provide the product or service they need to succeed.
You can illustrate this journey with your website design. How can your site convey your service or product as the guide that helps your reader solve his problem?
How can you incorporate the following elements into your website design to visually illustrate your potential customer’s journey from problem to desired outcome…
- Color: Colors elicit emotions—what emotion does he feel? What emotion do you want him to feel?
- Images: Images convey a message. What message do you want him to receive from the images you use?
- Font style: Fonts have a tone to them. Do you want to convey elegance? Hark back to a prior period in time? Instigate rebellion or calm? The fonts on your website set a tone that will connect with him, or not.
- Quotes: Quotes are powerful visual magnets that draw your reader down the page and help him keep reading. How can you generate intrigue and create a connection in just a few words?
- Bulleted lists: Lists are easy for your reader to consume. They succinctly share the problem or the solution and benefits. How can you condense the thoughts running through his head so he feels seen, heard and understood?
- Subtitles: Subtitles help your reader feel comfortable because as he skims the page, he knows the path ahead. At times, he may not start at the beginning. How can you craft subtitles that allow your reader to see the big picture and invite him into reading more?
The above are all visual elements that help your reader step into his new story—a story in which he is the hero with you are his guide, ready and available to help him conquer the challenge he is facing.
Resonance creates a foundation to gather community
Storytelling creates a sense of shared experience.
I convey possibility when I tell the story of how I conquered my fear of traveling in a country where I did not speak the language. Because I share about the benefit from overcoming an obstacle—having an amazing time despite making a fool of myself as I attempted to communicate with hand gestures.
Or the time we squeakily said yes to our first I don’t know what the hell I’m doing side project that appeared bigger than life. Not only did we survive, we came out the other side with a satisfied client who referred her friends, launching our dream.
Sharing our story allows others to walk with us—to know that they, too, can have a similar experience. A community of like-minded souls begins to gather.
Community comes in many forms. How can you help readers feel at ease on your site? How vulnerable are you willing to be in sharing your challenges? Or even sharing and celebrating smaller successes?
As you find your voice, telling your story is more than just the words on the page. When you communicate story through your website design in a way that is relevant to your ideal client’s journey, you help her find you and want to hang out as part of your growing community.
Elephants never forget
Or so the saying goes. And there is scientific evidence that, while we all forget on occasion, elephants do have amazing memories that help them be sustainable. Elephants remember other elephants, even when separated for over twenty years.
We strive to create memorable stories through experiences with our design. What experience does your reader need to remember you and your business?
Is your target audience into rock ‘n’ roll or heavy metal music? Is she into Mickey Mouse or Harry Potter? Does she learn best and thrive in a group or with one-on-one support? How can you reflect those qualities, using visuals and words, in your website design to be memorable?
People share what they resonate with and remember
I don’t know about you, however, I regularly have an experience where I’ve read or seen something that resonated, so I bookmarked it in Evernote—my go to storage system—and months later, I’d be reminded of the information and share it.
And then there are those magical moments where you resonate with some content and shared it immediately. The instantaneousness of social media today.
When you P.R.E.P.A.R.E. your sustainable website design, how can you incorporate social sharing icons as an integral part of the design process and not just as an after thought you added at the end? How can you include a call to action so she remembers to share what resonates?
Sharing with her friends and followers is great to grow your community. Yet even encouraging her to share with you is super helpful. It creates a dialogue with you and your reader. And gives you the opportunity to know and tweak what is not working or to have increased confidence to do more of what is working.
An Arc that connects the dots is part of your sustainable website design
A story arc creates cohesion for your reader. It’s a challenge to build a relationship with, let alone sell to, her without a clear story arc.
From the first page to the last, the reader should feel movement, changes, transformation.—Jill Swenson
Your story arc is the through line of your site narrative. We don’t usually think narrative when we think of design, yet a story arc is an important design element. And just like an infographic that helps the reader comprehend a message visually, you want her to feel the transformation from the cohesive content on your website.
How can you distill your story down to the essential elements—the main story arc? Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System shares her journey through an infographic of creating a new logo for her Image Lab. How can you use the same elements to simplify your website design to its essence and share your story arc visually through design?
And this before she even gets to reading most of the words on the page.
Referrals are your best growth engine
So how do referrals relate to your website design? Sustainability is the link.
You’re looking for something new and mouth watering to eat. You ask your friends and get a few recommendations (referrals). So you go check them out online. You want to impress your date. The suggestions from friends all came with glowing reviews for your fave, awesome Thai food. Which restaurant, amid the unknowns, will you choose?
Most likely the one that you choose is
- a) The restaurant whose site looks visually appealing. Because the story they tell on their website is the one you’ll unconsciously associate with how good the food will taste. You’ve heard the saying, “as good as it looks.”
- b) The site where you have the best user experience.
- Is it easy to find the restaurant’s open days and hours so you don’t show up with your date to a closed restaurant.
- Can you find where they are located?
- Easily make a reservation on their website?
- Is the phone number prominent?
- Do they share their menu in a format that is inviting and easy to read, heightening your anticipation of your night out?
Our subconscious is powerful. So you’ll associate your online user experience with the customer service you’ll receive at the restaurant itself.
- c) Which friend you know, like and trust the most to understand your taste.
So even though we thought referrals were tangential to your sustainable website design, you can see how they are directly related and play a large role.
This takes us to the final step in how to P.R.E.P.A.R.E. your website design with storytelling.
Engagement as a website design element
How and where you engage with your fans is an important aspect of your site design. We noted how effectively including social media icons is an important part of your sustainable website design. Knowing where your ideal customer hangs out must overlap with where you have the time and energy to hand out and engage with them. That is what is often called, the sweet spot.
Do you love visuals?
Maybe including your Instagram feed in your website design is important to engage your reader and help him get to know you.
Do you love the written word?
Then how you layout and visually present your blog is an important step to engage your reader.
Perhaps your blog plays a starring role on the home page of your website?
Can you include an enticing call to action to encourage your reader to engage in dialogue with you by commenting? And is it really clear and easy for him to comment on your site?
Creating your sustainable website is a journey
Like most areas of your business, how you P.R.E.P.A.R.E. will help you succeed by laying a solid foundation. A platform to build on top of that allows your website to grow and pivot as you and your business learn, iterate and morph.
- Use the Power of fairy tale and the hero’s journey
- Resonate with your community to connect
- Be like an elephant and become memorable
- Make it easy for people to share
- Clearly convey your story arc
- Cultivate referrals from others
- Engage with, and make it engaging for, those who show interest
When you take the time to—
Your website design is enhanced through storytelling so you successfully connect with your ideal reader.