There are lessons to be learned in everything we do. Yes, even from watching TV. No matter if the show is educational or mundane, there’s always a takeaway, if you look hard enough. So, just for fun, let’s see what we can learn from some favourite TV shows over the years that we can apply to web design.
Everybody has at least one favourite line from the ’90s “show about nothing.” Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer always had us in stitches as they scrutinized the minutiae of so many situations. And that’s something you should be doing with your website, if you want the best results possible. Split A/B testing or simply asking a varied audience for opinions on several different factors on your site, particularly its home page, can be very valuable. Is one shade of a background colour more effective than another? Does your audience respond better to a particular font or font size? Does your call-to-action button have the best combination of words to get the most clicks? These and many other factors are things you may want to dissect in order to get top results. If not.. no soup for you!
Dunder Mifflin had its share of kooky characters that taught us things like how to hide your office mate’s stapler in a jello mold. But none was more out-to-lunch than the manager, Michael Scott. As annoying as most of his employees felt that he was, his priority was always to keep things light (while somehow, amazingly, keeping the company afloat). I’m not suggesting that you be a total goofball and never take anything seriously and all will be fine. However, a certain degree of levity can go a long way on your website. While first and foremost should be getting your message across, including a bit of humour shows personality and can help your potential customers relate to you. Of course, use appropriately.
Ah, who can forget Sam and Diane’s on-and-off love affair, Coach and Woody’s misunderstandings, Cliff’s annoying trivia, Carla’s barbs, and most of all, Norm’s one-liners as he entered the bar and sat on his favourite stool? My personal favourite (after having been asking by Woody how he was): “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing milk bone underwear.” Hilarious, yes? And… memorable. The point is that the first thing you say has a huge impact – that being the case, of course, on your website as well. We all know that, on the Web, you only have a few seconds to grab people’s attention. In addition to good design, that first impression is usually made by the headline on your home page. It needs to grab your visitors’ attention quickly – whether that’s with a stunning fact, by pulling on heartstrings, or with a good sense of humour. Once that’s accomplished, you should have them hooked to keep reading.
Orange is the New Black
This Netflix show about the goings-on in a women’s prison has captivated many fans. What makes viewers keep coming back and binge-watching? It has a lot to do with the fact that each episode focuses on a different character’s story. People love hearing new stories and can’t wait to see which will be next, so we keep coming back for more. That’s what you want happening on your website/blog. Publish useful and interesting articles on a regular basis and you’ll develop a following, who will check your site frequently to read your latest story.
Key to this fascinating show is the evolution of characters, specifically the lead role, Walter White, but also Jesse and Skyler. They adapt to the times and situations. Again, this is something your website should do. Having been in this business for almost 20 years, I’ve lived through the days of websites being no more than 800 by 600px, having a mere 256 colours, and only a select few “web safe” fonts to full-colour, many fonts, responsive sites that scale to fit on any viewing device – desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone. Design trends come and go. The Web is a constantly changing world. Your website should be changing over time to meet the latest standards or else it’ll get left in the New Mexico dust.
No, the lesson from Mad Men isn’t that to get the best results on your marketing material you should be smoking and drinking all day. What we can learn is that sometimes really good design/marketing ideas can take a while and then just appear when you least expect them (often after subconsciously percolating). The other lesson, of course, is that, man, retro is cool!
Six Feet Under
Each episode began with someone’s death and the rest of the show would revolve around that. It was always interesting – and sometimes, funny – to see how the death would occur. My favourite was the bakery worker who got caught in the dough-mixing machine – yikes. If you’re doing a weekly blog (and, if you’re not, why aren’t you?), you may struggle at times to come up with a new spin on your area of expertise. But remember, you’re the expert and your audience is looking to you for your knowledge. If you keep in mind that they don’t find your stuff to be the same-old same-old like you might, you can provide useful information to them on a regular basis. Just think about what they would find interesting and talk about that.
What can Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey teach us about web design? Maybe it’s that you often need a complementary group of different talents – from Rachel’s design sense to Monica’s project management skills to whatever database work it was that Chandler did – to get the best results on a website. Or maybe it’s that sometimes we all need to take a break and go for coffee, just for a change of scenery. Whatever the case, hopefully you have at least some fun working on your website with others and it results in a hit!