Visually stunning – but a marketing tool it is most definitely NOT!

Yesterday I took another look at a website that is, without doubt, one of the most visually stunning websites I have seen in a long time. Widgets that glide smoothly around like some state-of-the-art sliding doors wardrobe… Massive images obviously taken by skilled photographers… Indeed the first image you see takes up the entire ‘above the fold’ area on my desktop with a flowery animated tagline that screams out ‘advertising creative department brainstorming sessions’. In the corner is a tiny menu of the kind you find on mobile phone websites, almost as an excuse, as if ‘we had to put a menu in somewhere, so let’s make it as small as possible so it doesn’t get in the way of our hugely CREATIVE opening shot’. And when I click on it, the website goes into overdrive with things sliding across the screen from the left and then the right, widgets springing open and whizzing around. Quite frankly, I feel seasick.

The same happens as I click-through the sub-pages.

By now I’m on my knees, frantically feeling around for the travel sickness medication.

Oh, and one-third of the page’s headline and copywriting has part-slipped off my screen to the left. I can’t tell what it says. (Obviously thoroughly tested across all platforms, hey…)

And hang on there… where is the call to action? Blimey, all I want to do is to contact these people. So I click back onto the tiny navigation widget and up springs the nausea-generating navigation again… WITHOUT any means of getting in touch! No ‘Contact’ link. Nothing.

So I scroll down the page. It’s a huge page full of big images and text that slide around from all sides making me feel seriously ill.

Only when I reach the very bottom do I find some contact details, tucked down at the foot of the page in plain text as if they’re getting in the way of the REAL ART.

This website bothers me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s purely art for art’s sake, showing off the creative skills of the web designers and photographer. It does not do what it is there to do: generate enquiries.

Secondly, it’s a school website, primarily aimed at prospective parents. As a prospective parent there is certain stuff that I would want to find out about a school. This website fails on every count. All it says to me is that Big Bucks have been spent on website design and photography to paint a glossy picture of the advertising agency’s idea of a school. Young creatives that probably haven’t ever been in the position of being a parent seriously searching for a suitable school for your child.

Thirdly, I was familiar with the school’s former website. Yes, it was clunky in places and had outgrown itself with bits and bobs added on over the years. But at least it did the job it was meant to do. It was informative. It was easy to navigate. It told us what we, as prospective parents, would want to know. I personally spent many a spare minute clicking through the website in the years that preceded that all-important decision of selecting a senior school for our child.

Most important of all, the website made it easy to contact the school to find out more.

I am not just a freelance copywriter with more than 27 years’ experience under my belt. Having worked in top advertising agencies, and latterly in top direct marketing agencies where the emphasis is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS on Getting That Sale, my whole working life has been focused on delivering copywriting that generates sales for my clients.

Over the years I have worked with many designers, both print and online, and although they’re great at what they do – graphics, layouts, clever html, etc – they aren’t always great marketers or sales men and women. Just like I, as a direct marketing copywriter, am not a great graphic artist and my html skills are pretty basic.

But put the two together – designer and sales-orientated copywriter – and you get an explosive combination of great design and business-generating copywriting.

This is one of the main reasons why, in an advertising agency creative department, we work in teams of two: copywriter and designer (also known as an ‘art director).

Yet so often businesses forgo the professional copywriting / sales experience element with the result that they end up with a website that’s a Visual Work of Art but which fails to do its job which is to GENERATE BUSINESS.

Add a load of photos and graphics that swim violently around the page from all directions and you get a website that doesn’t just fail to tell the prospective customer what they want to know, it makes them positively SEASICK!

Visit my copywriting website:


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