No-one wants to talk to a robot, or enjoys exploring a space that feels sterile, cold and impersonal.
While some elements of web design are geared towards making your website readable for robots – SEO (“Search Engine Optimisation”), Googlebots – a human element should always be at the forefront of your site.
At its core, humanising your website and your business is all about building trust, credibility and authenticity. Otherwise, you run the risk of stripping interaction, emotion and connection from your user’s experience and from your brand itself. And, really, who wants to deal with (or run) a soulless business?
Is your website beautifully designed but a little robotic? It is usable and intelligently laid out but icy? Maybe a bit detached?
Here are five easy ways to start adding a human touch to your site.
1. Show real people
Photos of real people, real products, real customers and real locations can make your brand feel instantly more authentic.
Invest the time in creating great images that are honest and depict your business in a genuine light.
The importance of “Our Team” pages – and team photos – is highly underrated. We are naturally curious to find out who is actually behind a website, product or service, and having the option to contact someone is inadequate; we want to know exactly who we’d be contacting (and giving money to).
This is an excellent way to personalise your site, to create a story for your business, and to infuse your brand with a sense of realness.
Which brings us to…
2. Don’t use stock photos
Ever seen a picture like this on a website?
Or one like this?
Not very convincing, are they? Why are the people in stock images always so deliriously happy? And why does Generic Phone Person always have such great dental work?
Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Don’t get us wrong - using stock images is better than using no images at all (in a pinch). At the very least, find stock photos that aren’t cheesy. Selecting stock photos intelligently goes a long way. But the genuine article is so much more effective for so many different reasons, they’re virtually incomparable.
The thing is, these aren’t fooling anyone. Your visitor knows your stock images aren’t real. These are far more likely to actually minimise the credibility and trustworthiness of your business because they feel so staged.
A generic image of three posed businesspeople sitting around a computer or in a boardroom tells your prospective customers nothing about your company, and ultimately feels artificial and contrived.
Again, sure, you can utilise stock photos if you have no other images, but it’s a far better idea to use genuine images of your product, your customers, or your team. This will help develop the “realness” of your site and will make it easier for visitors to feel like they’re interacting with an actual human being.
3. Be likeable
Don’t undervalue the power of being perceived as likeable.
Likeable characters are a lot more trustworthy, and it’s easier to invest confidence in them. You could come off as the most competent, professional business in the world, but this would mean a lot less if you also came off as arrogant or pretentious.
Don’t be afraid to show personality, to display warmth and humour (a bit more on this in a moment), to be as transparent as possible, and to show customers that you genuinely value them.
Your website should be sincere and welcoming, not aloof and intimidating.
4. Use humour
A little humour can be an effective way of personalising your website.
However, it pays to be careful here. The key word is “little”.
Too much humour can turn your website – and, correspondingly, your business – into a joke. This can result in making it very difficult for prospective customers to take you seriously, thereby undoing trust and credibility. Humour is a great, potentially humanising thing, but don’t take it to the level of clownishness.
The wrong type of humour can also turn visitors off, or can actually offend people. This isn’t “edgy” so much as it is rude and insensitive.
Stay away from anything relating to religion, politics, race, gender, sexuality or class, and don’t be obnoxious. A little goes a long way, and it’s best to keep it safe.
5. Watch your words
Don’t scream at your visitors by belabouring your copy with all upper-case (“WELCOME TO OUR WEBSITE”) or an excessive number of exclamation marks.
Remember to say “please” and “thank you”.
Craft copy that actually engages the emotions of your reader and tells a story, rather than just focusing on the relevance of your content in a search engine capacity.
This also extends to your online presence across multiple channels. This is especially relevant in terms of social media, where the ways in which you interact and engage with your clients can have incredibly positive effects on your customer relationships and brand identity (and also incredibly damaging, if used poorly).
6. Include testimonials
Testimonials from previous clients are a great way of building trust, and establishing your business as reliable, credible, and an expert in your field.
Importantly, they also provide a more human feeling to the people who actually champion your brand.
Using testimonials helps your audience relate to their peers in a personalised way – a 5-star rating is one thing, but personal comments from real people are quite another.
7. Integrate live chat
A live chat function on your website can be immensely helpful for personalising your customer’s experience.
A live chat plugin – Zopim Live Chat, for example – is a fast, effective and proactive way to engage and connect with your customers. By enabling you to talk directly to your clients (and prospective clients), including during the checkout process, this makes it easier for you to develop, improve and humanise customer relationships.
This will also significantly increase conversions. A study by Forrester Research found that 38% of respondents who purchased online suggested that live chat was directly related to their purchase decision. 62% of respondents also said that they are more likely to purchase again from businesses who offered live chat.