Pheil: Stop assuming everyone uses the Web like you do |

Pheil: Stop assuming everyone uses the Web like you do

Businesspeople using laptops
Getty Images/Fuse | Fuse

(Note to readers: This article is a shortened version of a blog post that appeared in the TimeForCake blog on 1/22/14. You can read the full-length post here:

At some point before our agency dives into a Web design, development or copywriting project, we begin discussing a website’s new content with our client.

Far more often than not, someone at the client’s company makes a blanket statement similar to one of the four listed below. (These statements are often prefaced by or contain the word “obviously.”)

The Four Types of Statements:

1. We’ll need to keep the content short and brief because no one reads on the Web anymore.

2. We need to provide plenty of details because visitors are looking for answers and everyone does all their research on the Web these days.

3. We need to include lots of testimonials as well as pictures of our entire staff because all prospective customers want to get a feel for what it’s like to work with us.

4. We need to have lots of super cool things in our site, like links to the local weather, interactive maps, dynamic and moving animations, and other things that none of our competitors have on their sites.

Most people who make these statements about what their company’s website content must be like are giving their recommendations based on how they, personally, use websites. They’re sharing thoughts on what should happen because they, understandably, assume everyone reads Web pages in the same manner they do, and looks for the types of content they look for.

Clients who insist “everyone uses websites in XYZ way” and demand their copy/content are written in that manner typically aren’t good matches for our company. They insist they know more about Web usability than the agency they’re looking to hire, and shut themselves off from learning about how people actually use websites — and we look for a level of intellectual humility in the clients we work with.

The Truth

In reality, there are different categories of website users. A common categorization is as follows (and directly correlates with the four comments listed above):

1. Competitive: Make quick, logical decisions. Skim content, want you to get to the point.

2. Methodical: Make decisions slowly. Very logical. Want all the details and want to do lots of research before determining a next step.

3. Humanistic: Decisions are highly emotional. Want to know what others experienced with you, and what it’d feel like to work with you.

4. Spontaneous: Make quick decisions that are also largely emotional. Their attention bounces around, and they often focus on interesting, “cool” website features.

To complicate matters, people act differently depending on where they are in the buying process. Are they just starting the research process, jumping about, and trying to understand their options? Or are they committed to moving forward and looking to spend time understanding the differences between a small group of options?

The moral

When it comes to your website’s content and copy, don’t make the assumption that your site’s visitors use websites just like you. If you’re committed to maximizing the effectiveness of your company’s website, consider instead partnering with a strategic web agency that can guide you toward copy that appeals to all types of website visitors.

If you don’t, it’s quite possible your business could end up alienating at least three out of the four types of visitors to your site. Perhaps you already are.

Erin Pheil is the owner of TimeForCake Creative Media—the Web Design & Strategy company voted #1 in Best of Summit. Visit her company’s website at or email Erin at

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