Inbound Marketing Strategy

What a Con Man Can Teach You About Web Design

Brad Smith
December 6, 2011

A con artist is someone who defrauds and exploits others by gaining their confidence.

They pick a target “mark”, slowly gain their trust, and then use that trust to get what they want.

One of the most infamous con artists was Frank Abagnale, author of Catch Me If You Can. (And the main character behind the movie of the same name.)

During his peak, he posed as a pilot, medical doctor, attorney, and college professor. He also forged $2.5 million dollars in checks.

He evaded police for years, before finally being caught and serving time in prisons across the world.

In order to help the FBI, Frank was let out early and is now one of the most influential consultants on protecting yourself from fraud.

But there’s one piece of advice that was crucial to his success.

It’s More Than Meets the Eye

Forging checks is difficult. You have to create high quality masterpieces that are free of flaws. And you need to be able to pass all sorts of rigorous tests to go undetected by banks and authorities.

But that’s not all.

The transaction also verified a suspicion I had long entertained: it’s not how good a check looks, but how good the person behind the check looks that influences tellers and cashiers.

I was always accepted at par value. I wore the uniform of a Pan Am pilot, therefore I must be a Pan Am pilot.

What made Frank infamous (and undetectable) for so long wasn’t just his ability to forge checks.

It was his ability to gain the complete confidence and trust of his marks.

He looked and acted the part. And he had the substance to back it up.

First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

Content marketing by itself won’t get you very far. It’s just one small piece of the puzzle.

In real life, people will judge you by how you’re presenting yourself. That means how you look, and how you act.

If they don’t trust your presentation, then they’ll never trust your pitch.

The same is true for web design.

If your website looks dated, cluttered, and unprofessional, people will never buy from you.

Here are some tips on how to craft a killer online image.

Designed Around Your Goals

What are your website’s goals?

To generate leads, make sales, or provide advertising revenue?

Pick one, and design everything around that one goal.

Picking one thing helps you focus and avoid distraction. You’re too busy. You can’t satisfy every single demand or idea. So instead, focus everything on one major goal.

Then, observe your users and see how you can make it better.

Modern and Professional

Custom websites used to cost thousands of dollars and take months to develop.

Not anymore.

With free, open source software like WordPress, talented designers from 99Designs, or pre-made custom themes from ThemeForest, there is no excuse to have an outdated (and under-performing) website.

You need a flexible, powerful and dynamic website that can support your goals.

And you have to be able to change things on the fly, split-test page elements, and find out what converts the best.

Clean and Clear

A website shouldn’t be jammed with as much stuff as possible.

Just because you can add more, doesn’t mean you should.

Almost every website can use more whitespace. It’s commonly associated with luxury, elegance and sophistication.

But more importantly, it has two practical advantages:

1. It focuses on your actual content, while removing distractions.

2. Makes it easier to scan quickly, and improve comprehension.

So get rid of the clutter in your sidebar and footer. Don’t distract your readers.

Instead, what is the “next action” you want them to take? Emphasis those steps, and remove everything else.

Fast, Reliable and Performs

Steve Jobs famously stated;

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Web design isn’t just about how your website looks. It’s about the entire online customer experience.

Is it easy for users to navigate and find what they want? Or do users bounce because they’re frustrated and simply don’t care enough to wait around and hunt?

Besides improving SEO, site speed and website performance issues will severely detract from the customer experience.

The Bottom Line

Good content is important.

It turns a stranger into an interested, potential customer.

But if people think your site looks old, cluttered, and amateur, then no one will care about what you have to say.

1. Either they won’t read it.

Or

2. They won’t trust it.

And if you can’t establish a foundation of trust, then you’ll never make money.

Because people don’t buy immediately. They won’t just hand over their credit card information to you.

Pick your targets carefully, polish your presentation, and develop trust first.

Just like a con man. Except in a legal, ethical way. 🙂