Servee.com gets a sales-letter format makeover

On one hand, I can't leave well enough alone. On the other hand, there are a lot of good reasons for this realignment.

Permalink by:Kasey Kelly Tue May 12th, 2009 View Comments

Those close to me know that my personal design projects are never "finished." Whether it's a redesign of this site, of the Servee interface, or the Servee marketing site, I've always got ideas for improvement. These ideas sometimes strike in the shower, in church, or anywhere else that I should probably be paying attention to what I'm doing. I immediately sit at my computer or sketch pad and start to tinker.

It's a disease, I know. I'm trying to cope. But this time, it's different.

This one started with a discussion with Issac. He had a conversation with a site owner who cited "research" that says in order to sell anything on the web, sites should 1.) be written in a "sales-letter format", and 2.) use green. This combination opens up Pandora's box, and your target market will buy two of whatever you're offering.

Briefly, the sales letter format contains the following:

  1. A CATCHY HEADLINE IN 42px BOLD-ITALIC-ALL-CAPS THAT MAKES EVERYTHING SEEM IMPORTANT (ahem, sorry)
  2. • Bullet •point •lists •of •all •the •awesome •features
  3. Ridiculously enthused testimonials
  4. A your-hair-is-on-fire-urgent call to action

The sites that very obviously take this approach are often poorly designed, they scroll forever, and they scream.

My first reaction was to shut him down. I didn't want to have any part of this. I put these sales-letter sites right up there with the SEO people who claim they can increase my traffic by 200% with the right meta tags. (The irony in the above example was unintentional. Blame Google for proving my point.) It's Billy Mays. It's the guy-in-a-gorilla-suit-on-the-street-corner. I'm not (completely) knocking it. It works for some. If you scream loud enough, everybody will hear you, and some silly fool will buy it.

However, it doesn't work for me because I don't want to sell Servee to silly fools.

Companies like Apple, BMW and Nike don't need to shout about how great their products are, because the products speak for themselves. So if somebody has to shout with giant red text about how great their product is, I am immediately turned off. As soon as the medium for the message gets in the way of the message itself, the writer, the marketing pro and the designer have failed.

All that to say… I was skeptical.
After all, we are trying to sell Servee to other designers.
 

Then, Issac pointed me toward some other sites, and we noticed a pattern. If you strip down many very respectable sales-oriented websites, they might not look all that different from the used-car approach that I've been ranting about. Take a look at Apple and Mailchimp. These sites follow the above pattern without screaming. They're beautifully designed, and they do an excellent job of selling the product. The user doesn't have to click through to find out more. Everything they want to know is right there in front of them.

I was sold. Issac was right. I hate it when that happens.

I began to wireframe a new concept with all of these things in mind. I had a great quote from Paul Boag that didn't really fit into my last design. I also wanted the new layout to pack more feature-punch on the homepage, and I wanted the design in general to be reminiscent of our new advanced editor design: 

And the ironic thing after all of that is… my headline is so completely bigger than the 42px height that I ridiculed only a few short paragraphs ago.

So here's the biggest reason for my rant: I'd like your help. Designing for other designers is perhaps the most intimidating audience possible for me. I am admittedly hard on other people's work, without knowing the time and effort that went into a particular design. I can only assume we're all this way. But I don't just need to not offend designers, I need to impress them. I want designers to use Servee because it makes them look good. That's a tall order.

So if you're a designer (or if you're not), any and all feedback is much appreciated. I designed this with all sorts of things in mind. First and foremost was my message and my audience… but also various page sizes, SEO, accessibility, and scale. I didn't go for glossy buttons or elaborate textures. I'm not the world's best pixel pusher, but I have a knack for typography, and I used it. I used dramatic lighting on matte surfaces to give it an exclusive 'showcase' feel, and was careful to make the message, well, the message.

To top it off, Issac rolled a new forum engine from scratch (with a nod to stack overflow), and we've got our online payment system (almost) finished. We've been busy.

I think we're headed in the right direction. But there's always room for improvement, so let me know what you think:

NEW AND IMPROVED:

 

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