How Fast Does Your Website “De-Dumb” a Reader?

Chamber of Commerce
How fast does your website de-dumb a reader?

I love business-led, civic-economic nonprofit entities (chambers of commerce), but the affection is seldom nurtured by their electronic identities. I know and respect what they do and who they represent! Why don’t chamber websites and social media accounts demonstrate and amplify their initiatives, services, and passion?

Don’t get combative on me! I hate most business and association sites, too. AARP‘s home page is one big magazine-like ad. “JOIN OR ELSE!” Compare this to the enticing “5 Top Reasons to Join” on the Georgia Chamber’s home page (love).

Instagram is a Google subsidiary, but the prime image on their homepage uses an iPhone instead of Google’s Pixel phone. The Mercedes and BMW websites look like… well, like car company ads, rather than oozing elegance and power. I experience a similar kind of brand confusion when I see a chamber site that gives equal space, typography, and attention to every program, sponsor, news item, and invitation. Surely, we can do better!

In both business and nonprofits, however, there are features and design elements that enhance the company brand, user experience, and what I call “rapid de-dumb.” They give the visitor two, one, or even no-click information that matters in a hurry and in a way that sticks.

Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Navigation Impact – Gotta love the “Search” feature on GE’s corporate site. Instead of “Search” being relegated to an itsy-bitsy magnifying glass icon, General Electric’s “Search” is the bold cornerstone of the homepage. Wow!

The impressive Memphis Chamber website offers a similar experience with its front-and-center, comprehensive “Menu” button.

Information Forward – I love the instant “de-dumb” on United Way’s national homepage. They use real-time, rolling data gauges (people served, donor count, etc.), which offer more understanding of what United Way does than 10 drop-down menus.

I’ve had a love affair going with the Des Moines Partnership for years. Their website shouts their impressive city rankings, which makes me love the great town and the people who make it so.

Powerful StorytellingNucor Steel’s homepage is dominated by an artsy photo of a hardhat employee with a tagline of hope: “Engineer Your Own Career Here.” And if you click on the “About Us” button, you don’t get a list of departments and investor relations mush. Instead, the visitor is enlightened with a story – a beautifully presented video about Nucor’s origins, success, and philosophy. And they’re a smelting company! A community development entity should have a much easier task to produce such a story.

User ExperienceBowling Green Chamber in Kentucky presents events in both chronological and alphabetical listings. Not hard or creative – just user-friendly.

Since Jim Rooney took over the Boston Chamber, their site has steadily improved. It now features a cool homepage widget – a fill-in-the-blank tool that instantly grabs the site visitor’s name and the problem they want to solve. It sends a powerful message to members AND non-members.

I won’t take the time to point out bad chamber and association websites, but I hate that so many aren’t maintained. The most recent stories in “News Room” sections date from before the last communications director left four months ago. The legislative agenda is dated 2017 and the board chair’s photo is of the last guy. And worst of all, they offer no insights, past or present, on how their work actually improves the community or region. Come on, man!

With a score of other vehicles for making an electronic first impression, why is Fleming, a Paleolithic remnant, so hot on improving websites and homepages?

Because I love that chamber sites are still the place that visitors, developers, and talented vagabonds go first to take the temperature of the region or neighborhood. How quickly and clearly does your website relate your primary stories about life, prosperity, and service?

Does looking at your hompage and a few click-thru pages inspire confidence in your ability to serve business and community? And perhaps most important, if the site doesn’t sing to them in a New York Minute, will an investor be inspired to join the chorus?