Bringing Digital Feng Shui To Your Brand
by Kevin Linsday
Director, Product Marketing
At this time every year, you’ll likely find the Lindsay family engaged in some good old-fashioned spring cleaning. Something about it always leaves me feeling calmer, more collected, and ready to tackle anything. This year, though, we tried something different. Instead of reorganizing the cabinets and steaming the floors, we opted for the full California treatment: an energy clearing. You read that right.
- If your site is cluttered and visitors can’t get through the weeds in a fraction of a second, they’ll leave and likely not come back.
- Good personalization naturally facilitates a less-is-more approach as well as less clutter.
- “Right-sizing” for tiny screens doesn’t just mean making everything smaller; it means making choices about what’s in and what’s not.
Let me explain. Trying to get the bidding going at a recent silent auction, I slapped my name down on a blank sheet. Instead of kicking off a flurry of activity, I walked away with what was, hands down, the wackiest prize of the night. Days later, I was face to face with that prize: an energy guru who was intent on righting the wrongs in our home. I followed her from room to room, trying my hardest to keep eye rolls in check. Within seconds, her Spidey senses pulled her toward what she dubbed our greatest offender: the mudroom. The room is, truly, a wasteland despite my best efforts to get—and keep—it organized. It doesn’t take an energy guru to spot that.
While certainly weird, this approach to harmonizing with one’s environment is far from new. Feng shui has been around since 4000 B.C., as have a host of similar philosophies. Chances are that you strive for at least some level of harmonizing at home, be it ditching old magazines, donating clothes, tossing broken gear, or storing seasonal items. As my newly appointed energy guru made her way around the house, she was essentially doing that but in a bigger, bolder way. She said “no” to the bedroom/office combo among other things. She said “yes” to open windows and natural sunlight. Then she left, leaving me in my now-cleansed living room. And do you know what? I felt good. I felt calm. I felt recharged.
Could there actually be something to this?
Could You Benefit From A Digital Cleanse?
What my energy cleansing taught me is that, at the end of the day, it’s all about clutter. There’s an infinite amount to be said about clutter, from what it represents to how it makes us feel to how it pulls focus from what matters most. A jam-packed closet stresses me out, and I’m apt to shut the door and never think about it again. But what if I’m your consumer and that filled-to-the-brim closet is your Web site? Or mobile app? Are consumers just shutting the door on you and your brand? Do you need a little digital feng shui?
I’ve been talking a lot about brain science and neuromarketing over these last few weeks, and hands down, the experts agree when it comes to the end effects of clutter and the deep need for harmony. “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system,” writes Princeton University researchers in The Journal of Neuroscience.
A cluttered environment makes us feel like we can’t focus. We get distracted, can’t process information, and can even wind up feeling anxious, confused, or put off by the experience. And thinking about how important the last millisecond is to marketing success, this can be a major stumbling block. If your site is cluttered and visitors can’t get through the weeds in a fraction of a second, they’ll leave and likely not come back. It’s shutting that messy closet door and never thinking about it again.
On the other hand, though, if your site looks like my house post cleanse—decluttered, serene, easy to navigate—consumers are more focused, engaged, and productive. Think about Apple’s Web site and stores. They’re a model of successful minimalism, and they use negative space extremely well—absolutely no clutter there at all. Online shoppers can effortlessly fixate on the core products since they’re readily the go-to focal points on the page. You feel calm, and you can breathe—and while you’re breathing, you can check out the latest must-have items.
Consumers And Clutter Don’t Mix
While a decluttered site can pull customers in, the opposite is also true; even if I really want to do something, clutter can still drive me toward alienation and anxiety. I remember being physically exhausted after trying to buy my son a computer at a gaming-oriented online store. The repeat assault on my visual senses completely overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Something I normally enjoy became a negative, energy-sucking experience.
But the next day, I settled in to pay my home-insurance premium—a total chore—and found myself on an elegant, clear-cut, clutter-free journey through the carrier’s site. I forgot I was supposed to be tackling a draining chore! I finished the task and moved on to some less ho-hum activities, feeling energized, alert, and positive. What would my energy guru have to say about that?
Want to know how to be less like the anxiety-inducing computer site and more like Apple or even my insurance site? Start by asking yourself a few questions about your digital platforms:
- At first glance, will the consumer be clear on what your brand does, what it’s about, and how you can help them right now?
- Are you being clear on what, specifically, you’re asking the consumer to do at every stage of the experience, or are they left wondering, guessing, and second guessing? Are you even clear on what you want consumers to do?
- Is your experience creating consumer anxiety as a result of too many options, twists, turns, and possibilities?
- Think about color, images, and content. Is there too much or too many? What feelings is the visual content creating for consumers, and is it personalized or simply cluttering the experience?
- Are there too many calls to action that, ultimately, drive your visitors toward indecision and stagnancy? Or do your calls to action conflict with one another?
- Is your site exciting, compelling, and action-driven, or is it an energy drain on consumers?
Keep in mind that good personalization naturally facilitates a less-is-more approach as well as less clutter—you simply don’t have to be all things to all people all the time. More optimizationally mature organizations can probably fly through the bullets above, while on the other side of the spectrum, this list will probably give brands just starting their personalization journey some serious food for thought.
But even then, you can still integrate some core best practices—embrace the power of white space; focus on delivering clear, clutter-free experiences; tap into great UX; and be mindful of what you’re trying to say and do with every piece of your digital experience.
Where To Start? Tackle Mobile First!
Then there’s mobile, specifically, mobile Web. “Right-sizing” for tiny screens doesn’t just mean making everything smaller; it means making choices about what’s in and what’s not. How can we make the mobile Web not only inhabitable, but also a useful and productive experience with your brand? How do we rid this experience of digital clutter?
My colleague, Shoaib Alam, had a great analogy at Summit last month, comparing mobile experiences to his move to New York City. He landed in a much smaller apartment than he’d had before and, of course, couldn’t just pack everything he owned into this new space. He had to downsize and think about this apartment. What would fit best? What would make the flow in his new home more positive? Web is the house; mobile is the NYC apartment.
Ready to roll up your sleeves? Now’s the time to start. You could wind up with just a quick scrub—or a full-on energy cleanse. On a personal note, my home has never looked (and felt) better, and despite my initial hesitation, I feel more energized. Granted, maintaining this will take some serious discipline—wish me luck in convincing my kids this is a better way to live—but I’m up for the challenge.
Same goes for you and your site. Tackle your own digital feng shui with the same considerations and core needs as my energy guru did and be that first step in purging consumers’ lives of unnecessary chaos, clutter, and stress. You’ll create harmony, and ultimately, build strong, lasting, high-value relationships for your brand.