By Carolyn Edlund
What’s obvious to you might be totally confusing your audience
Anyone who’s read the excellent and insightful book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath, has heard about the dreaded “Curse of Knowledge” that can stop your communication in it’s tracks – and when you are trying to communicate with potential collectors and customers, that’s not a good thing.
The Curse is based on the fact that you know everything about your business. Of course you do – you created it.
You have more knowledge about what you know than anyone else. And, because you can’t “unlearn” what you know, you make assumptions. Confused yet?
I’ve been noticing the Curse of Knowledge a lot lately, particularly with regard to artists’ websites. Here are some examples:
1. A photographer who specializes in black and white portraits has an extensive portfolio of work on his website. He knows that, because he put it there. But most of his work is only accessible through one obscure link which isn’t obvious to site visitors. He doesn’t realize that most people never see much of his work.
2. A gallery owner has a website with very detailed information about their history. In fact, they have practically written a book on their About page, with very long single-space paragraphs. The gallery owner knows that this story is really interesting, because it is familiar and is important to her. She does not realize that it’s boring, intimidating and off-putting to anyone who ends up on that page.
3. A greeting card entrepreneur designed a new website for her large collection. She proudly showed it to me. I asked, “Where does it say that you make greeting cards?” Uh-oh. She forgot. Another victim of the Curse.
4. Have you ever visited a website, where the artist talks about themself, but never gives their name? You have no idea who they are (and most likely they aren’t doing much business.) They don’t even realize this. They’re cursed.
5. I created a webpage for a workshop one time and forgot to put the price. Why? I already knew how much it was. But I couldn’t un-know the price and look at the page as a newcomer would. I didn’t even notice until it was pointed out to me. Curses!!
The best treatment for the Curse of Knowledge is to have someone visit your website for the first time and give you their honest reaction. In fact, if you can get a complete stranger to do this, all the better.
- Do you clearly understand what this website is about?
- Do you feel that you know about, and like, the artist as a person?
- Would you trust the artist?
- If you liked the artwork, would you feel comfortable making a purchase after viewing this website?
- What questions do you have that were unanswered?
- What is most clear, and most unclear, about the artist and their work?
- Was the contact information easily available to you?
- Would you recommend that others visit this website?
Fresh eyes on your art website and the frank impressions of your visitors may shock you. You might just find that people don’t perceive your site, your art, or your information the way that you intended. A website rewrite or a call to your webmaster might be your next smart business move.