The Principal Skinner Guide to Web Design

If you’re designing a website for a hypnosis business, you should take inspiration from Principal Skinner. As any fan of The Simpsons can tell you, Skinner is an uptight, rules-loving bureaucrat. His career highlight was making the school so monotonous that the students blinked in unison.

You don’t want to strip all life, creativity and fun out of your website. So surely you should do the opposite of what Skinner would do, right?

Not necessarily.

When used correctly, blandness is one of the most important things your website could have.

As much as people crave novelty, they want familiarity too. Familiar things are safe, comfortable and easy. If your site is unfamiliar, awkward and unusual, there better be a good reason for it.

Imagine if every door worked in a different way. You’d never bother to go outside. Thankfully, we live in a world where there are doors you push and doors you pull. That covers anything outside a nuclear bunker.

Yes, you might have the most ornate, unique, branded, special and customised door on the planet. It still has to work like every other door, otherwise all you have a fancy way of pissing people off.

That’s how you want your website to be: a boring, familiar and comfortable experience, with a layer of uniqueness on top.

A tall order, you say?

An inherent contradiction?

Nah, it couldn’t be easier.

Firstly, you want a navigation menu. Most people look for one along the top of the page, so put it there. If not at the top, put it on the left.

Secondly, you want the menu to include an About option and a Contact option. Yes, I said ‘and’.

Don’t hide your contact details on the About page. Don’t have the Contact menu hidden in a dropdown.

If a potential client wants to contact you or learn more about you, don’t make it difficult. Start the relationship on the right foot.

Thirdly, include your full contact details on the bottom of every page. This includes your email, phone number, physical address (with a link to Google maps) and opening hours.

Fourthly, remember that some clients won’t know what to expect. They won’t know what to wear or whether they can eat before being hypnotised. Take every question you’ve ever been asked and add it to a page.

Calling it ‘FAQ’ is great. A more descriptive name, like ‘What to Expect’, is also great.

If your website is captivating, unique and engaging, then it’s even more important to get this stuff right. You want potential clients to remember the sense of hope your offer gives them, not the hassles in trying to find your email address.

The best user experiences are amazing and boring, but never frustrating.

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