now and again I talk about the value of brilliant copy
to your e-commerce efforts. Words are magical, and
within them is the power to inspire, motivate, persuade
and literally call your customers to action. Just as
easily, your words can bore folks to tears, leave them
yawning with indecision and persuade them that greener
pastures lie elsewhere.
is no substitute for superior copy. You must have
perfect words and perfect phrases to make your copy
vibrant and immediate. This simply will not happen if
you bury your message in text written in the Passive
so what is the Passive Voice, you ask? It is a
verb construction that shifts the focus of a sentence
away from the doer. The emphasis in the Passive Voice is
always on what is happening, not who is doing it.
The mail was delivered in a timely fashion. ("by
someone" is implicit, but not stated.)
The postman delivered the mail in a timely fashion.
The stew was being gobbled by the ravenous crone.
("by someone" is the crone)
The ravenous crone gobbled the stew.
sense? The Passive Voice has its uses, but for sales
purposes, it is wordy, vague and distances your
customer. Your goal in e-commerce is to be as
customer-focused as possible in order to bring them
closer, remember? Try this one on for size:
Once the button has been clicked, the order is
generated immediately and an e-mail confirmation
will be sent automatically to you.
When you click the button, we immediately generate
your order and automatically send you an e-mail
the difference? Feel the difference? Description
1 is wordy, vague and requires the customer to make some
assumptions - who's clicking, who's generating, who's
sending. In contrast, Description 2 is short and sweet.
You do this and we'll do that. Ta-dah! There's comfort
in the Active voice. You can trust the Active Voice. It
gets things done. It makes promises that don't sound
wishy-washy. It's the voice of accountability!
think about this:
The Sonic Drill can be used to make holes up to two
inches deep and one inch in diameter using the
accessory kit that is packaged in the set. Expanded
possibilities are made available through additional
attachments that can be purchased separately.
The Sonic Drill has everything you need to make
perfect holes up to two inches deep and one inch in
diameter, quickly and easily. We also stock
accessories that make it a snap for you to expand
2 involves your customer and puts her inside the
activity. In Description 1, she's got to work hard to
make the description relevant to her. More than that,
Description 1 just sounds too pompous to be appealing.
One of the greatest attributes of the Active Voice is
that it embraces the individual. And when you can get
your customers imagining your copy is speaking directly
to them, you have their emotional attention and
involvement. They are engaged. They are with you in
spirit. You are that much closer to a sale and a
was the last time a passive pitch got your juices
flowing? Can't think of one? Me neither! So purge the
passive. Keep your customer center-stage. Think ACTIVE!
soon to a website near you –
in fact, maybe YOURS!
guys and gals have been asking and asking, so OK:
I'm now making house calls. That’s right, I'm
visiting your own websites and will be writing in
future issues about how you can apply the stuff we
talk about here.
want a free Grokanalysis of your site? It’s
simple. Just click
here, fill out the form, send it to us, and
if I think your site illustrates something that will
be of interest to a lot of our readers, you’re in!
Harness the Power of the Rainbow
Some very well-intentioned person on the bus the other day
advised me green was an unlucky color for cars. I'm still
wondering if she thinks it's a lucky color for Martians! I
don't know if she's right or not (they do call unlucky
cars lemons, not limes, after all), but I've been thinking
lately about color and how it can work for or against your
doesn’t simply look nice (or not). It speaks to
the subconscious, evokes meanings and feelings
and moods, and has an incredible ability to influence
buying behavior. It’s a huge subject,
and I was thinking about where to start this when
a human here at the office dropped a copy of a perfect
little starting-point article on my desk1. Read on and
learn how to harness the power of the rainbow.
are oodles of things I have to say about color (you
guessed as much, right?), but I think it's best to start
just like Dorothy did, at that first interior
spiral-point on the Yellow Brick Road. Once you've begun
the journey, you’ll see all the individual bits and
pieces fall into place. Think of this as the basics that
should go into planning the use of color on your
website, even before you write your first line of
up front, remember that the way you use color when you
design for e-commerce is very different from the
way you'd use color if you were designing for a personal
home page or pushing the outer edge of the avant-garde.
As a business, you have some very real constraints to
cope with: credibility, legibility, navigation,
persuasion, down-load times, browser compatibility, and
more. Ignore these, go wild with a cutting-edge design
exercise, and you may delight a few design aficionados
but you will probably alienate the vast majority your
customers and prospects.
Walker suggests you start the process of color
design with words: take a piece of paper
and write down adjectives you think describe the
ambiance of your business. Think about your style, the
feel you want to convey, the characteristics of your
target audience, and pick all the words you can think of
that apply. Now, from this list, select the Top Five -
the best of the best. These are the words that will
guide your imagery and selection of colors.
once overheard a mom telling her child she seemed
"very pink." We associate colors with moods,
qualities and emotions. And that's where you want to go
next in selecting your colors. What colors come to mind
when you visualize your Top Five words? Deep greens?
Rich tans? Soft blues? Urgent reds? Pick two or three,
absolutely no more than four colors. I've seen super
sites that simply rely on monotones! Fewer colors make
for a stronger statement and tend not to over-stimulate
or tax your viewers. In e-commerce, color is a clear
case where less is often more.
don't rely on color as the core of your design.
Walker reminds us there are six basic and equally
important elements that make up effective design: line,
shape, value (lightness, darkness, shading), blank
space, texture/pattern and color. An excellent way to
see if your layout works well is actually to remove
the color. If it looks good in black and white, then
you've probably got a good design that can come alive
with the judicious use of color.
can play other important roles, as well. It can
help organize your site visually. It can draw your
prospect’s eye toward the most important information
on a page while it deemphasizes other information. It
can help convey the structure of your navigation system.
You can use it to color-code different features you
offer or areas of your business. Color can highlight a
special offer or a limited-time offer. The keys are to
use it intelligently and intentionally.
there you have it: what I consider the best information
you can arm yourself with before you take your first
step onto the Yellow Brick Road of e-commerce.
Define the mood of your business.
Select a limited palette of evocative colors.
Make color an integral element in a strong design.
Make color work for you in organizing your content.
should get you started … and I'll catch you later,
further down the cobblestones, with lots more thoughts
on using color to nurture your prospect along the sales
process toward that pot of gold at the end of the
rainbow, the Close.
"4 Simple Steps to Coloring your WWWorld!"
Alex Walker, SitePoint, 2/25/2001. <http://www.webmasterbase.com/article.php?aid=357&pid=0>.