Which Celebrity is Your Website?
Human beings are pretty good at metaphors—so good, in fact, we create them even when we don't fully understand them.
Here's an example:
When designing a new website, the first thing we do is send our client an online pre-project questionnaire to fill out. While we're off researching our new client—their industry, their competitors, etc.—they're filling out this lengthy, detailed survey with questions like:
- Who are your three biggest competitors? What do you like about their websites?
- Describe your website visitors' demographics—age, job, location, etc.
- What are you expectations for the website redesign process?
And then, about halfway through the survey, is the question:
If your new website were an actor or actress, who would it be?
Later, when we have our initial meeting with our client (aka, the Discovery Session), this question always inspires conversation, giggles, even a bit of discomfort. People will often present a disclaimer to their answer—e.g., "I don't know why we picked The Rock, but..."
By the time we review this question, we've already spent an hour or two discussing the client's business, their market presence, their goals, etc. Interesting—but rather dry—subjects. In contrast, the celebrity question can seem silly—almost gimmicky.
After all, what do the people in People magazine have to do with a website for a startup, a nonprofit organization, a government agency?
First of all, simply asking the question can lighten the mood in the room. The stakes seems so low, and thus, people feel comfortable speaking frankly. People laugh, they smile. They begin debating who's more fun, Keanue Reeves or Sam Jackson. They compare the gravitas of Anne Hathaway and Judi Dench. (And, inevitably, someone does a Matthew McConaghey impression.)
But this question isn't simply an icebreaker. It's an easy, relatable entryway to a thorny conversation—i.e., What do you really want your new website to be? Answering the celebrity question helps people talk about characteristics that are abstract, nebulous.
It's one thing to say, "We want our new website to be professional and sophisticated." Those words can mean different things to different people. But, "We want our website to be a mix of George Clooney and Halle Berry" is a more concrete way to dive into the subject of website goals, digital branding, etc.
We also offer an "Other" field, where our client can select whomever they want. (We admit our celebrity knowledge is a bit behind the times.) The key is to ask “Why?” Even those clients that dismiss their original answer will often say, “Oh, I was thinking about how down-to-earth Sandra Bullock is, and that’s why I chose her. I want our website to show that we are easy to relate to.”
The follow-up to the celebrity question in our pre-project questionnaire?
"If your new website were a car, which kind of car would it be?" More on that in a future post...