If you want to create a website that really works, make sure it passes the coffee shop test.
I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Meeting with clients.
We drink coffee. We talk. And we look at their websites.
After working with small business owners for 15+ years, I’ve evaluated hundreds of websites.
What I’ve discovered is that 80% of them are too complicated. And few do an adequate job of communicating what the business does from the customer’s perspective.
Guess What I Am!
Essentially small business owners are asking their customers to play a game of “Guess What I Am!”
My kids and I had a lot of fun playing this game when they were little. But if you’re a small business owner trying to build a business, this is not a game you want to play.
Why do so many small businesses owners make their customers work so hard to try to do business with them?
Small Changes Can Produce Big Results
Most of the time, you just need to apply a little feng-shui to your website. You know, declutter the messaging. Hone in on what’s important. Simplify things. Rearrange everything so the website really works. When you’re doing a website makeover or a even a complete overhaul it doesn’t need to be complicated. Let your customer be the guide.
“Companies rarely fail because they lack a product; they fail from lack of customers”
Remember, you’re not going for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
It’s important to put your ideas out there, and get feedback on them. Let your customers help you fine-tune your messaging.
In my experience, there’s no better way to find out if your messaging, or your website, needs work than the coffee shop test.
The Coffee Shop Test
Instead of the kid’s twist on the classic game of charades, you want a complete stranger to tell you exactly what your business does after looking at your website for just 5 seconds.
Here’s how you do it:
Go to a coffee shop with your laptop. Go up to a complete stranger, and say:
“Hi how are you today? I’m conducting a little experiment.
I’d like to see if my website passes the ‘coffee shop test.’ Would you mind looking at something for me? This will only take a minute.
I’m going to open up my laptop, show you my website for 5 seconds, then close it. Then you tell me what type of business I’m in.
It’ll only take a minute of your time, and it will really help. Thank you so much!”
People are more than happy to help. I’ve never had anyone turn me down. It’s actually quite fun.
You’re really putting your creative to the test. You should try it.
1…, 2…, 3…, 4…., 5…
“Ok, tell me what you just saw.”
If you get a shrug or a perplexed look, don’t be disappointed.
On the contrary, you should be of good cheer, because you’ve just figured out you might have a problem. And all problems are fixable.
If a stranger can’t tell you what your business does after looking at your website for 5 seconds, it doesn’t pass the test.
Back to the drawing board!
Revise the headline & the subhead. Choose a new feature graphic. Rewrite your lede (I can’t count the number of times you’ll find this buried at the bottom of the body copy; sometimes all you need to do is cut and paste).
You see, nothing stops your prospects faster than confusion.
It’s important to aim for clarity.
How To Get Clarity
There are seven things I’ve identified to help small business owners communicate what they do.
To help their websites pass the coffee shop test.
I call them the “7 Creative Essentials of a Minimum Viable Website‘.
Until your site has passed the coffee shop test, don’t bother spending your money on any other form of marketing.