Blank-page syndrome (part 2)

On Wednesday, I wrote that the cure for Blank-Page Syndrome is to delegate as much of the decision-making as possible to the people you’re trying to persuade.

How do you do that?

You have to do some research.

Yes, the best cure for Blank-Page syndrome is prevention.

You can’t trot out a bunch of customer insights to bake into your content without, well, actual qualitative data that came from customers. So, if you’ve got a bad case of Blank-Page Syndrome, it means you may be facing some urgency that prevents you from taking the time to research audience needs.

The time to start collecting that data is always yesterday. Short of that, it’s best to get started today so that you don’t wind up terminally blank-paged next month.

Born again

Every piece of content should be connected to a business goal. Business goals are tied to actions people take, so that means there should be a before-and-after experience you can pinpoint for the customer:

  • Before they decided to become a member / After they became a member

  • Before they made a donation / After they became a donor

  • Before they submitted their job application / After they became an employee

The outcome is some sort of change of status or identity.

Some outcomes are more dramatic than others, but even minor changes like making a small donation can be a source of uncertainty or anxiety when someone is handing over their credit card number.

Those emotions are the obstacles your audience has to overcome. To help build trust with your audience and guide them to the promised land, you need to make your blank page sing the hymns of those who have crossed over to the other side.

“How was your conversion experience today?”

Start surveying the people who visit your site.

Use a survey tool that will trigger a not-terribly-obtrusive call to take a survey on your site on certain critical pages. I like Hotjar, but there are plenty of similar tools out there. Capture responses from first-time visitors to your donation page or application form by asking them a few simple questions — things like:

  • What position were you looking for today?

  • What’s the one thing that’s preventing you from making a donation?

  • Did you find what you were looking for?

Set up landing pages on your site so that when people complete a task they’re automatically taken to a page that includes a survey — no more than one or two questions if you actually want to get responses— that asks what influenced their decision. I use Typeform for this, but there are a million others.

If the task results in some longer-term relationship with your company, create email campaigns that follow up with users to capture more data over time.

Surveys let you build up a language library. Over time, you’ll be able to spot patterns in the way users talk and think about the task in question. Use those patterns to understand people’s mental models. Address any hesitations head on as you try to improve your website. Do people who have just converted always talk enthusiastically about some aspect of your business? Dig into that through interviews.

Sculpt your blank page in the image of the converts who have come before.

Once you begin doing that, you’ll look back and laugh (cry?) at how much time and effort you wasted trying to “create content” all on your own.

Thanks for reading,


Kyle Bowen