Many moons ago, when I walked the stage at my college graduation, I accepted my marketing degree and immediately envisioned myself as Helen Hunt’s character in What Women Want. I mean, I had a marketing degree. That should be qualification enough, right? Well, life…and I suppose reality, had other plans.
After an embarrassing number of job interview rejections, I found myself desperate to find any work that would help me pay my way out of being a boomerang child. The work I found was in a cosmetics retail store. Makeup art has always been a passion, but my younger self’s dreams were for just that – makeup art, not cosmetics sales. However, I was now in a position for nothing more than to be humbled by the financial need and optimistic about the experience.
I eventually found my groove selling powder foundation and lip pencils – all the while trying to save women from the horrible makeup ruts they had fallen into – and in the process, I discovered a new interest I hadn’t given much thought before. On one of our slow days (and after I felt safe in assuming I wouldn’t be fired), I took the liberty to re-do the window display. What was there had always bothered me because the scale of the products in relation to the size of the window was too vast. It was easy for passersby to do just that – pass by without so much as a second glance as to what was inside.
And, there it was – window display design. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I couldn’t believe there were people out there getting paid to have so much fun showing off someone else’s products.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t end up in the business of window display design. My lovely bosses at Stone Ward advertising decided I was a risk worth taking. And the rest…has sort of come full circle.
As a profession, the goal of a window display designer is to stop passersby and pull them into the store. A tremendous amount of creativity is applied to the use of products so that they’re not just sitting in a window, they’re telling a visual story about a brand. And some of the greatest window displays have even become events and traditions. Take, for instance, holiday displays on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
People will crowd together in freezing temperatures to peek over a barricade at what Macy’s or Saks has imagined for their annual Christmas display. For those of us not fortunate enough to live in the area, events are telecast so we can watch others admiring these displays. It’s pretty funny, when you think about it. But, they are beautiful nonetheless and they do add to the creative story of each brand.
Other brands have become synonymous with their window displays. Anthropologie is a prime example. If you search “anthro windows,” you might be shocked to see the number of Pinterest boards devoted to this special art of communication or the number of consumer images, tagged #anthrowindows, floating around Instagram. In an interview with Racked, Anthropologie’s corporate creative director, Missy Peltz, explained “We want to immerse the customer in a complete experience by appealing to all of her senses.” And, if you’ve ever found yourself in an affluent shopping center, you likely identified the Anthropologie store from the window display, before even seeing any brand signage.
“So, how does this relate to website content?” you may be asking. And I have a point, I promise. You see, what happens when a website is built or redesigned is that a lot of strategic and creative thought goes into what appears at launch. What doesn’t always happen is ongoing maintenance of that content. Your beautifully-designed and well-crafted digital “storefront” gets dusty. More items get added to the window – but not in a mindful way – and before you know it, you’ve got a storage facility instead of an experience that draws in passersby.
Oftentimes, it’s only when someone new comes on the scene that they dare lift the gate of the storage facility and ask questions like “Why, again, did we need this?” and “Does anyone even use this anymore?” Which is often the reason that a site redesign is so feared. When a website is left mostly untouched for any length of time, the process of auditing the content inventory, item-by-item, can be tedious. But, it can’t be overstated the importance of this step. The real challenge is preventing the need for this step, as a mass overhaul, every few years.
Let’s talk about where to begin, if you’re inspired to give your website content the once-over. As a digital content strategy manager for Stone Ward, I champion the widely-used “OUCH” auditing model. This process involves reviewing each item of content and indexing it against the following categories:
- Have to Write
The resulting list provides a roadmap for ongoing site maintenance and prioritizes the workload so that it’s easier to manage and complete. It also strategically guides user experience and design decisions so that the site is not only visually appealing, but hard-working, as well.
Your brand’s story is far too important to write once and walk away, especially considering the growing number of users whose first experience with your brand is through your website. By continuously cross-checking your content inventory against the OUCH auditing model, you can ensure that you’re portraying your brand experience as a storefront and not a storage facility.
Have you recently gone through a website redesign? Did you use the OUCH auditing model? Leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear about your experience.