When in doubt, have the audience do the work for you (Blank-page syndrome, Part 1)

Your website aims to persuade people to take some kind of action. It sits there, staring out at the world, while you work, eat, and sleep. It’s very persuasive or not at all persuasive or, more likely, somewhere in between — but it’s never closed.

You know that, even as you read these words, some people may be navigating the site. And the website might persuade more of those people to take action if you just added a page to answer that one question people keep calling about; or revised the home page to better connect with a particular segment who could be converting more — like first-time customers coming from Google My Business, or published a new About page to connect with job seekers and increase the number of applications you receive.

But you keep putting off that work — you never quite “find the time.”

Why is that?

When we say we can’t find the time for something, what we’re really saying is one or more of the following:

  1. The change in question isn’t all that important to our business, and we’re just not admitting that to ourselves.

  2. We don’t know if the change will be valuable so, since we aren’t sure how to measure its potential value, we delay.

  3. We don’t know how to effect the change — doing so would take us outside our comfort zone — in other words, it feels risky.

I think of that third scenario as Blank-Page Syndrome.

You can suffer from Blank-Page Syndrome even if you’re not starting from scratch. If you’re considering changing the messaging on the home page of your site, for example, you’re obviously not starting from zero, but you still get that not-quite-knowing-how-to-begin feeling.

In fact, Blank-Page Syndrome can be more acute when you’re trying to optimize some aspect of your website that may be working with some degree of success — or at least it’s not failing to such a degree that anyone is complaining.

Whether it’s new or existing content, it’s still Blank-Page Syndrome because the fear comes from the same place:

You’re trying to figure out what you want to say.

The pressure is on you because you’re approaching the change with the expectation that you will be the one to solve the problem.

And that’s the mistake we make when it comes to making design changes.

We think we need to come up with the answers when it’s the people we’re trying to reach who should be coming up with the answers.

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?

I’ll share some ideas on Friday.

Till then — thanks for reading,


Kyle Bowen