What Our Founding Fathers Taught Us About Modern Websites

From: sc94.ameslab.gov

Websites, banner ads, landing pages … some of the “new” and exciting marketing and advertising methods for our wired world. Although different in medium, most of these methods require the same basic marketing theories that have been around for decades in radio and print and centuries for persuasive rhetoric.

As a huge American history buff, I’ve found that many of the United States’ founding fathers had keen insight into persuasive speech and letter-writing. After all, they did motivate most of colonial America to defeat a great nation for their own freedom and independence.

These understandings of persuasion apply to our new marketing mediums of websites, email marketing, tweets, etc. If the theories of our founding fathers helped overcome a kingdom, imagine what they can do for your website!

Let’s hear what they had to say:

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” – Thomas Jefferson

What is good ole TJ telling you? BE CONCISE. Why? Brevity works! It arouses curiosity. It makes your company seem interesting instead of ordinary and boring.

Plus, most visitors do not have the time to sift through the paragraphs beyond paragraphs of text and other content that you have on your webpages. Keep content simple.

In fact, brevity has been considered “the soul of conversion” by website expert Bryan Eisenberg. Conversion means getting users to complete a certain action on your site: completing a contact form, liking your Facebook page, signing up for weekly emails. Eisenberg and his team of conversion experts have found that concise messages work best for motivating people to take these actions.

How do they know this? By testing.

They took overly cluttered webpages, condensed them into sharp, concise information, and the new version received more conversions and more actions from site visitors.

You probably haven’t even thought about testing your homepage or landing pages. Even if you think you have a perfect website, something can be improved, changed or condensed to increase those conversions.

In Common Sense (1776) Thomas Paine warned us of becoming cocky:

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”

For a long time, we had designed the homepage of www.triplecrowncorp.com to look as so:


We did not think anything was wrong. Over a year later we decided to revisit the homepage to see what we could do to increase conversions: more pages per visit, more contact form completions, and more searches using the property search.

We redesigned the homepage. We got rid of a lot of clutter and kept things simple to look as so:


We tested the two pages using the Google Website Optimizer. Here were our results:

Goal Conversion Rate:

Original: 41.41%               Variation: 62.02%

Bounce Rate:

Original: 46.92%              Variation: 25.67%

A 20% decrease in bounce rate and a 20% increase in conversions!

Okay, so we know we need to be concise and test our content. What else can we do to improve our sites?

John Adams has some ideas.

During the Boston Massacre trial (December 4, 1770) Adams said:

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Facts – proof – are necessary. If you are to present your case (your company’s expertise and excellence) to a jury, (your target audience) how do you expect to do so with no facts and no proof to your claims?

Too often you’ll find these terms and statements on sites:

  • Industry leader
  • Top quality products
  • Industry experts
  • Secure checkout
  • Best customer service

Where’s the proof to back up these claims?

Include testimonials to prove your customer service. Display awards that testify to your expertise and quality products. This type of social proof is key for gaining trust with your site visitors. Empty words won’t do you any good.

So what did our founding fathers teach us about modern websites?

Be concise.
Test your content.
Support your claims.

Looking for more website tips? These previous posts prove to be most useful:

  • Chuck Tanner

    Excellent post…I’m a history buff as well trying to learn more about website design. You explained it in terms that I could understand.