The Three Key Factors in Building Websites

I was answering a question posted on LinkedIn, when I decided it would make a good blog post. The original question related to whether the person should use first person or third person for team bios. However, the advice I offered applies to any customer-facing communication, be it your website, marketing collateral, or social media tool. Just substitute your particular activity for “bios” and what I wrote still applies.

There are three factors that you should consider in making your decision: your audience, your company’s personality, and best practices, with audience being the absolute most important one. That may seem obvious and most people would nod their heads in agreement, however, it’s often not what companies do.

Your Audience

Whenever you make a decision on what to include or exclude on your site, it should first and foremost be based on what will resonate with your audience. While what you write and how you write it needs to be an authentic reflection of your company and what it’s like to work with you, what matters most is whether what you’re writing is what your audience wants and expects to see–and will, again, resonate with them.

Ask yourself will first or third person be best for my audience. Better yet, ask your audience, if possible. Asking them may not be necessary or make sense in relation to bios, but it’s something to keep in mind for your website overall. But whether or not you do user testing or surveys or similar activities, you should always look at things from your audience’s perspective first.

Your Company’s Personality

Whatever voice you choose, it needs to be an authentic reflection of your company and its people. Your audience will eventually realize if your voice isn’t a true reflection and respond accordingly.

If first person makes sense for your audience and is truly what you and your company is about, then write the bios in first person. Having each one sound different, as long as they follow a similar format (you can set up parameters to ensure this), isn’t a bad thing. The bios will reflect the personality of each individual. Chances are that’s a good thing if first person is right for your audience and your company. If there’s still a worry about them sounding the same and following the same format, but you still really want first person, you can have a professional editor/writer go over the bios to ensure consistency yet retain each authentic voice.

Best Practices

Being aware of best practices is a good thing. It makes decision making easier and saves time–why reinvent the wheel. However, I am a big proponent of knowing what the best practices are and why they are best practices, and then evaluating them to make sure they make sense for 1) your audience (first), and 2) your company.

I have a strong bias against using best practices as cookie cutters for how to a create website (or anything else for that matter). I don’t advocate breaking a best practice just for the sake of doing so. After all, providing an experience that users expect makes it easier for them to find things on your site. But don’t follow them just because they are best practices either.

Know them, evaluate them against your audience and your company, and then decide what to do and not do based on those factors–and be clear why you aren’t following them.

As for best practices on bios, most business-to-business companies use third person. However, many use first names after the first callout vs. last names to make the bios more personable and the people appear more approachable.

Your business is business to consumer. Following the recommendations I made above, I would guess that your audience would gravitate towards a bio that’s professional (I want to trust that you know what you’re doing) and personal (I don’t like cold, unfeeling healthcare providers). I would also guess that you’d like to come across the same way. If these guesses are accurate, I’d recommend third person, using first names after the first callout (vs. Dr. Gerstin) and infusing the bios with a little personal component–not the “married with two kids king of thing,” but rather why you became a chiropractor or community work that you do, etc.

avery@aveconsulting.com' About Avery Horzewski

Principal of AVE Consulting, Avery is a marketing and customer communications consultant, and serves on WIC's board of directors as president. As a consultant, she works with companies of all sizes to develop compelling, persuasive, and effective customer-centric marketing and communication strategies that encompass everything from websites to social media to print collateral. Avery assumed the role of WIC president in January 2010, after overseeing the organization’s marketing, PR, social media, and website initiatives for three years.

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