There is an old saying that goes, “When you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.'”

I’ve been working with clients on their on- and offline presence for quite a while, almost twenty years. A lot of conversations about strategy, content, flow and user experience take place in the course of each project. One of the most important things that I tell clients is that if they are assuming that people viewing their website or perusing their printed collateral will make any mental leaps, they are heading down the wrong path. A path that will lead to lost opportunities and lost revenue.

This is not to say that the people who will encounter your content are stupid—though that argument could be made about a lot of people—or that the general public suffers from a collective case of ADD—that too could be argued.

There is an old saying. “When you ‘ass-u-me,’ you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.'”

The problem with assuming that people will figure something out on their own is that it assumes that your website visitors or those who have received your printed materials care enough to invest their time in digging into your content. And, even if they do take that step, who knows if they’ll stick with it long enough before becoming disinterested, bored, distracted by Facebook or hypnotized by a shiny object.

Clients are really close to the content.

Part of the issue is that clients are really close to the content. They know their respective businesses and their industries intimately. They understand all of the ins-and-outs and that if they offer one service, it makes sense to them that they include another service.

For example, if a contractor has pictures of kitchens and bathrooms and patio decks on his website, it is not reasonable for him to assume that visitors to his site will know that he can also build a two-story addition and/or offers design services.  Often, the client tells me, “Well, they’ll learn that on the ‘services’ page of the website.” That’s true, they will. But if they don’t click over to that page, they won’t, and that business may go to the next contractor on the list.

Even if that information is on the home page of the website, presentation and positioning is key. Is that information highlighted in a bullet list or is it within a paragraph or two of text? If it is in a paragraph, the assumption is that visitors will be interested enough to not only read the copy but also decide what is important.

Of the 100% of people that hit the website…the majority will click away either uninformed or confused…or both!

Of the 100% of people that hit the website, a percentage will start reading the text. A percentage of those people will read it entirely, and a small percentage of the people that read everything will get the takeaway. That ends up being a very small fraction of the whole. The majority will click away either uninformed or confused…or both!

However, if you pull that information out of the copy and into a clear, concise bullet list, not only will 100% of site visitors see the information, but they will also know it is important because, well, it’s in the bullet list on the home page!

Providers of health, wellness and medical services are also good examples. A massage therapist may wrongly assume that visitors will understand that the office does not deal directly with insurance companies. The business owner may think, “Well, all massage studios work that way.” But, who outside the business would know that. Learning that after arriving for the appointment can be very upsetting to the patient, considering how difficult it can be to deal with insurance companies. The client may be happy with the service but also feel a bit misled and may share that experience in an online review, like Yelp! You don’t want that!!

Here is a good way to think about it. If, instead of visiting your website, a potential client called you on the phone or met you in person, you would not give them snippets of information and wait for them to fill in the blanks or convince themselves that your business offers the services that they need. Speaking with them, you would recognize their need—or their pain—and then clearly communicate to them not only how you and your company provide the required services but why you deserve their business.

Your website and other collateral materials need to be just as effective.

In person, you don’t assume people will make mental leaps or connections. Your website and other collateral materials need to be just as effective.

About Larry Bloom

In addition to being the editor of the BOC | NETWORKING blog, the host and facilitator of all BOC meetings and events, as well as the Vice President of the prestigious Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, Larry Bloom is the President of ATI Graphics, Inc., a Highland Park, Illinois based branding, graphic design and web development and consulting firm established in 1997. In a crowded field of branding and web consultants that have materialized to capitalize on an expanding industry, Larry Bloom stands apart. With 16 years of web development and over 20 years of design and branding under his belt, Bloom eclipses many of today’s “experts” by offering a modern eye for strategy and a “pre-web” sensibility about business and marketing. Over the years, he has helped businesses make millions of dollars by educating clients on effective messaging and the difference between a web site and a web presence. Bloom's "On-Demand Advisor" program offers great value to clients. You can learn more about ATI Graphics, Inc. at www.atigraphics.com