There I was, running my hand over the plant encrusted ‘living wall’, desperately looking for a sign. Or a door. Or a handle. Or any damn thing that even vaguely resembled the restroom/loo that I was looking for.
Moss, lichen and succulents covered every square inch of this stunning work of art, a focus piece of a cool new bar in a cool part of town. It should have been beautiful. Unique. Breathtaking.
But at that moment to me it was just frustrating. Because it was hiding the very thing I was looking for. Eventually a weary looking waitress showed me the camouflaged door handle nestling between the fronds of a fern. “It happens all the time,” she sighed. “And it drives us crazy! Every five minutes we have to show an annoyed customer what to do.”
It was a classic case of ‘SOS’:
Style Over Substance.
Some bright spark trying too hard and forgetting that function is often just as important as form.
Now I love a cocktail in a jam jar as much as the next person. I’m a sucker for an overpriced ‘sharing plate’ and I’m easily seduced by a matcha green tea sorbet. But the hipsters have to learn to leave some stuff alone.
Because some things you don’t mess with, right? Like your website, for instance.
Your site may be in line to become the 8th modern wonder of the world for its beauty, but it counts for nothing if it’s slow to load, hard to navigate around or if your contact details are hard to find. These are all huge turn offs that will lose you prospects, fast.
So What’s My Secret To Avoiding Style Over Substance?
I recommend asking your grandma or 10 year old relative to cruise around your website and find specific information, such as your phone number, your best-selling service or your latest blog. Time them doing it and note their successes and frustrations. Can they understand what you’re offering in just a few minutes? Do they know how to get more information? Is the booking form quick and easy to use? You’ll soon find out what’s working and what you need to fix, fast.
This same theory can be applied to other materials – email signatures, brochures, business cards etc. Above all, it’s got to be EASY for your clients to engage with your business.
Now of course the holy grail is where style and substance co-exist beautifully, complementing each other in a Zen utopia. But until you’ve achieved this state of bliss, just make sure you’re not hiding your light under a bush(el).
P.S. A special shout out to my dad for that terrible pun. Dad, I’ve learnt from the best.