What Web Designers Can Learn From Theatre

David Hamilton Quick Tips

Behind the redwood curtain, we are blessed with a thriving artistic community. It seems like every time that you tip over a trash can in Humboldt County, a mime pops out and stuffs imaginary garbage in your pocket.  Not that my web business is complaining.  Artists – though notorious for surviving off grant money and pocket lint – are always eager to tell their story and many of our best clients have been known to pass a cup around the street to collect their web design fees.

What strikes me, looking at this ancient and incredibly persistant profession though, is that they have been selling primarily the same product for two thousand years and people are still lining up to buy it.

Wait. Two thousand years? Actors can get people to file into an auditorium, shell out money, and watch rehearsed lines for two thousand years yet people get bored with most websites in less than thirty seconds?

So here it is, short and sweet. The top three things that small market web design professionals can learn from the Theatre.

1. It’s All About the Story

The sad truth  is that about 90% of the internet is based around people trying to sell stuff. Your average web surfer suffers through what I like to call buyer’s fatigue.  When theatre audiences are shelling out their savings to go watch Death of a Salesman, how long do you think you would hold their attention if the play was a non-stop attempt to get them to buy soap? If you’re working in a small market, you can’t compete with the ease of buying stuff on Amazon. Unless they’re appealing to a niche market (and I mean heated snowshoes for elephants type niche) your client is always going to be just one of a herd of businesses trying to sell their product, so your best hope is to sell the story. What makes this business or organization intereting and worthwhile?  Sell your client’s personality first, and then maybe they will stick around to buy their product.

What Web Design Can Learn From Theatre

2. Catch Them In The First Minute

This is even more important with websites than with theatre. Even the most elitist snob probably isn’t going to walk out of a play before intermission, but if you don’t grab your web surfer with a polished, professional, and striking first image, nobody feels guilty about clicking the back button on their browser. Build an opening tableau! Have good photos? Use them. Need good photos? Get them. If you don’t show them that you know how to put on a show, they’ll hit the doors and never come back.

3. Polish the Details

Few things kill a play more than one bad actor.  Even if he’s just the guy who walks the main character’s dog and only has ten lines.  That one actor takes the audience out of the moment and makes them lose their fantasy world.  Suddenly the only thing they can think about when he’s on stage is him.  So even if you’ve put eighty hours into a website and are almost done, take the time you need to polish the details before going online. Check for spelling errors in your alt text tags, make sure that the link text color is readable even if someone has already clicked that link. If you focus on the little details, you’ll have a polished professional production that will have them come back for closing night.