Can business websites be fun?
If you’re grumbling to yourself that fun has no place in business website design, first consider a fascinating study Buffer conducted on how different audiences react to viral images. The researchers discovered a strong correlation between the number of views and positive emotions, such as joy and interest—both elements of good, old-fashioned fun.
Statistics aside, it’s a simple matter of positive reinforcement. Visitors are more likely to return to sites they enjoy. And because fun is a human trait, it also gives depth and personality to your brand. Your customers may be delighted to see that your business has a well-developed sense of play.
Fun may not be appropriate for every kind of business—law firms and medical clinics come to mind. It all has to do with understanding your audience and their expectations of your business. But for many others, a little playfulness can hook visitors, develop your brand, and spread the word about your business.
Fun and functionality
Striking the right balance between fun and functionality is critical to success when building a business website. It’s important not to appear childish or unprofessional, and you don’t want to compromise your site’s usability under any circumstances. A charming graphic or interactive feature on your website is wasted if it impedes visitors from making a purchase or understanding what you do. Converting a visitor to a customer is the ultimate goal of your website, after all, so buying a product should always be straightforward.
If you have any doubts about whether an idea for a fun web element might be annoying or obtrusive to visitors, do some research on design tips to help you succeed, or get a second opinion and gut-check it with colleagues or friends.
How to design a fun business website
Fun means different things to different people. Fun can mean mirth, whimsy, or playfulness; but fun can also be humorous and sometimes mischievous.
The great news is that it doesn’t take an expansive budget, a Google programmer, or even pug kisses to imbue a website with a sense of fun. Consider the following budget-friendly and approachable ideas to build fun into your site:
1. Tell a tale
We all love a good story, especially a funny one, and your business likely has one of its own to tell. Incorporate storytelling into your company’s website by sharing your company’s tale in a personal, funny, and engaging way on your About Us page. Travel blogger and Jimdo user Just One Way Ticket uses creative storytelling in a fun and light way to add personality to a page where people aren’t accustomed to seeing it.
Storytelling works for more than your company bio, too. Half the fun of buying products from J. Crew is reading the story of how and where their products were made, and the history of different patterns and fabrics. Reading their stories makes you feel like you’re buying more than a pair of sunglasses or a shirt—you’re buying into an iconic fashion heritage. You’re stepping off the page and into the story.
If you haven’t written a story since English 101, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Keep it conversational. Unless you’re William Faulkner, you don’t tell stories with complex sentences and esoteric vocabulary. Try reading your story aloud to make sure it sounds natural.
- Make ‘em laugh. The best stories incorporate humor.
- Stick to the facts. Tall tales are great when your grandpa tells them, but they could undermine your company’s credibility.
2. Play with words
Use a friendly, informal yet professional tone with your web copy to create a fun and relaxed experience for your visitors. Don’t be shy about using an unexpected word choice to catch people’s attention. Navigation bars, which are often stale as last week’s bread, are a good place to start.
Let’s look at Minga Berlin, an online sock store that does a good job of balancing fun and function on its navigation bar.
The tabs labeled “Men” and “Women” are standard enough, but the company employs the playful word “Playground” for kids’ socks. Notice that while it’s having a little fun with word choice, the navigation is still perfectly understandable.
Other web copy ripe for reinvention is on Contact Us pages and order confirmation pages. In fact, why not rethink all the nooks and crannies of your website and how you can lace them with fun words and phrases?
3. Employ a mascot
In Japan where I live, quirky little mascots are everywhere. You see them on the trains and in shopping malls, at national attractions and 7-Elevens. People are crazy about them. They’re adorable, amusing, and most importantly, they stick in people’s memories.
When you add a mascot to your website, it can give your visitors something to remember and also act as a fun mouthpiece for your business. How cute are the talking nuts at Nuts.com?
As this site illustrates, a good mascot doesn’t have to be a fancy animated gecko or a talking Chihuahua. A simple, cute graphic will do the job.
4. Fun with fonts
Incorporate playful fonts into your website for a splash of fun, and make use of two or three contrasting fonts to create depth and interest. Handwriting fonts in particular lend a whimsical and hand-crafted look. Craft cocktail website Glass Backwards mixes numerous fonts for a fun and textured look. It even reverses a few characters in keeping with the site’s name.
Just remember the fun and functionality rule when playing around with fonts: if it’s too difficult to read at a glance, then it’s too much fun.
5. Surprises are fun—and viral
As anyone who’s thrown a surprise party knows, surprises can be a lot of fun. But then, as anyone who’s thrown a surprise party probably also knows, not everyone loves a surprise.
Or do they?
Some marketing experts say that surprise is the single most powerful marketing tool. Scientists, it seems, believe our brains may be wired to crave the unexpected. This could all help to explain why flash mobs and pop-up shops have become so popular.
Practically speaking, how do you incorporate the element of surprise into your site? Here are two ideas:
- Use surprise colors. Some products seem shackled to a certain color theme or mood—think of coffee and brown, neutral tones. Stand the expectation on its head with bold, bright colors for a delightful surprise.
- Give an unexpected freebie. Ever notice how the random acts of kindness seem like the best? You love and remember them because you’re surprised by them. They seem to fall out of the sky. Try posting a video of a company rep surprising people on the street with free products, or present customers with an unexpected free coupon after checking out.
All in all, having fun with your website is good for business, as long as you don’t get carried away. Your customers will appreciate the added enjoyment and personality, and they’re more likely to share your content with others. Even if there’s no pug slobber involved.
What are some of the most fun business websites you’ve encountered, and what made them fun?
Allison is an American blogger with a Pinterest obsession currently living in Japan. She has a monster appetite for travel, music, Detroit coney dogs, and random acts of derring-do. Oh, and pasta. She can eat her weight in pasta.