What do you see in the gif above?
Most people would see the Milky Way, a 5-pointed star, and a maple leaf. That’s how the brain works. It find patterns in everything. Its default run-loop is as follows —
- See something unexpected
- Scan through its myriad memory cubbyholes to find the best possible match to what it is seeing
- Superimpose the new item of step 1 atop the old memory from step 2 and “if the gloves fit, it must admit”…see what I did there? Your brain was automatically finishing that quote for me even before your eye sacchade reached “acquit” .
So, all in all, the average human brain is good at finding patterns.
What does this have to do with website personality?
The same pattern matching that helped you locate a maple leaf in negative space is also working when you visit a website.
When I say “Medium”, your brain has certain expectations of Medium.com — the site will have lots of white space, huge fonts, a dickbar. You know that you are to clap when you read content that resonates with you. Heck, you even know to expect a large GREEN CIRCLE with a number when you have notifications. You expect to be left alone when you’re on Medium. Even the name — Medium — an aversion to excitement! When you are here, it’s like you’re in this cavernous library surrounded by “very serious people”.
Medium has come to mean something to you and that something — to use a familiar name — is its personality. And it was your brain which looked up everything it knew about the world and decided that the closest analogue to Medium was a library.
Can we tap into this for Growth Hacking?
I believe we can. But, for a moment, let’s step back and determine why exactly we need to think about our own little website’s personality.
Your site has a certain ethos, certain spirit. You are a growth hacker so you have talked up said site on Medium for me to discover.
Recall that I am on Medium — which to me is a cavernous library of quiet content. From there, I read your fun little article and click on the link to your site…which is different — maybe only a little — but different in unsettling ways from Medium.
What is my most likely reaction?
BACK…BACK…BACK…GET BACK…There be danger thisaway!!!
…thereby costing you a conversion.
How to avoid this?
Before I answer, go check out this test site. Don’t worry, no one is going to sell you anything. It’s a simple Github page.
If all went well, the site would have taken on Medium’s colors as shown in the Before and After gif below.
I don’t know about you but I feel the Medium-ized version of the site seems a lot more “friendly” than the original.
The above gif should make it very apparent that it makes business sense to having your site resemble in subtle ways the styling of the referring website. Not only that, it is also the kind thing to do. Why would you surprise your guest with a look and feel deeply unfamiliar to them? And these subtle modifications let you convey that you truly get what makes Medium good.
If you want to beta test this on your own website, just join our Beta testers mailing list at the above Github page.
Bear in mind that changing the font colors is just the beginning. You can also hack the styling of buttons, the font itself, font size, the background color, or line spacing to create a more welcoming atmosphere for your guest.