I went to the store the other day because we were completely out of hand soap.
Had you read this sentence even four months ago, you’d have put aside my article thinking it was going to be another one of those ‘musings on my day’ by some girl on the internet. Today, you feel a little bad for me that we don’t have hand soap, and are interested to see if I found any at the store or if I was now using my shampoo to stay safe!
The thing is, we aren’t really going to talk about Corona, or social distancing, or how long you should wash your hands for, or toilet paper! We are going to talk about how this beautiful website you are reading this article on, is going to help you, your business, and your brand. The only point of that first sentence was to get your attention. Otherwise known as the hook. The colours of your website, your logo, even the font you use, can often be the hook you need to get people’s attention. The products you sell, your mission statement, the services you offer, need to engage your audience, tell a story. Otherwise known as positioning, or ‘narrative positioning’ in discourse analysis. If you know discourse analysis you know Mona Baker and her book, Translation and Conflict.
“Selective appropriation of textual material [...] realized in patterns of omission and addition designed to suppress, accentuate or elaborate particular aspects of a narrative [...].” (Baker, 2009)
Every article you read, every piece of news you receive, every text you receive and everything you send has a ‘narrative position’. The narrative position is, in simple words, the point of view it wants to communicate. It is the whole aim of starting that piece of communication and if there isn’t a narrative position why is the communication initiated in the first place? News channels these days only show you what they want you to see. Amazon Best Seller is at the top of your search list because Amazon wants you to buy what they want to sell. Now you will say that this is bad because they are deceiving the customer or the masses. But let’s take a moment to question this. Is it really that bad?
We list our top accomplishments on our resume. We talk about how our weaknesses are actually our strength in interviews. We add photos of only our good side on Tinder or Bumble. What are we really doing here? Showing what we want the other person to see and hiding (in a way) what we want to hide. News channels, online articles, dating websites are all modern means of communication. Having a narrative position has never before been this important.
Today, we communicate via screens. We send texts instead of calling. We video call instead of knocking on someone’s door. We ask a screen where the food court is in the mall instead of asking a person. In a manner of speaking, the screen has replaced the face. And for businesses, big or small, their website is their face on a screen.
Now if my website is my face then the design, user interface and the resulting user experience are my emotions. We react off the smile or frown on a person’s face, before we react to the words they are using. A clean, beautiful, easy to navigate website brings a smile on my face. Whereas a messy, dull, difficult-to-find-the-button website only brings me frustration. I binge watch on Netflix way more than on Amazon Prime. Ever wondered why? Netflix’s autoplay, Skip Intro, 10 second forward or back, auto-download contribute heavily to the experience Netflix delivers. It takes me forever, to even find what I am looking for, on Prime Video.
Netflix might have comparatively mediocre content but the website more than makes up for that in terms of the experience they deliver. That is Netflix’s narrative position since streaming is their bread and butter. I always shop first on Amazon before even looking at any other website. Because Amazon provides the right shopping experience. Whether I am looking for detailed or quick, expensive or economic, pretty or basic. They’ve got it all and you want what they are selling. That, is their narrative position.
- Dhruti Joshi
Dhruti specializes in language technology, Translation Studies, and Communication. She currently works in the voice AI industry at SoundHound Canada Inc and is based in Toronto. The views expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to BrewingStack, the author's employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.