How To Overcome Website Shame and Sunk Cost Bias

Wandering Aimfully Through Web Design

How To Overcome Website Shame and Sunk Cost Bias

If your current website isn't meeting your expectations it's time to let go of sunk cost bias and deal with your website shame.
Jason ZookJason Zook Jason ZookJason Zook

Written by

Jason Zook

Websites, like bed sheets, should be changed and cleaned way more often than they usually are. “Oh, I’ll get around to changing that next week,” or “It’s on my to-do list, it’s just a low priority item.”

Does that sound familiar to you?

Hopefully more familiar as it relates to your website than your bed sheets…

For years I’ve invested in my “online profile.” No, not my Match or Plenty Of Fish profile. I mean the thing online that most accurately sums up everything I do—my website.

When you’re just getting started with an online business you change directions faster than your website can keep up. Best-selling author James Altucher says we’re a completely new person every six months. I agree with that. Maybe it’s 10 months or 12 months for you? No matter the time-frame, we’re growing and changing faster than we realize.

You may not even know you have website shame or are experiencing sunk cost bias, I certainly didn’t.

I wasn’t ashamed of my previous website, per se, but something just felt a bit off. My website didn’t feel like it fit the latest iteration of my online profile. It also didn’t feel like it was serving my most recent business goals.


The website shame I had with JasonDoesStuff.com

As I embarked on the journey to redesign my previous virtual home (JasonDoesStuff) I came to two realizations fo why I was feeling website shame: My website had too much fluff and wayyyy too many calls-to-action.

On a previous iteration of JasonDoesStuff.com I was trying to show a prospective user all of these things… on just the homepage of my website:

That’s a total of seven calls-to-action. Not only is it too many, I’d also lost excitement for more than half of them.

I knew I wanted to redesign the homepage of my website, but I forced myself to first identify the most important calls-to-action. It’s easy to jump right into Design Land, but it’s more valuable to be clear on what you want a website visitor to do.

I boiled it down to these three things (for my homepage):

  1. Feature a recent or popular article I’d written
  2. Ask people to join my weekly newsletter (The Action Army)
  3. Showcase my most recent project

Everything else became ancillary. Everything else was a lower priority. Every other call-to-action would live on a different page of my website.

There’s a rule of threes in design; it’s a good rule to help rid yourself of website shame.

Early on in my career as a graphic designer I learned about this “Rule of 3.” Study after study showed that three pieces of information were the optimal amount for someone to understand and make a decision with.

In the case of my impending homepage redesign, my belief was that if I nailed the three* things I wanted to focus on, people would search out any remaining stuff on their own.

Practical assignment time! What are the three things you want people to focus on when they visit the homepage of your website? Force yourself to only pick three! Write them down right now and then continue reading…

*I will fully admit that I’ve gone on to have four calls-to-action on the homepage of JasonDoesStuff, but it’s only because I had a short film made about my entrepreneurial journey and it deserved to join the center stage!

Is your website meeting your expectations?

If it is, and you have zero website shame, then you can move on from this article.

However, if your website isn’t getting you more email subscribers or helping you sell your products/services, it’s time for a change.

Let’s go to Example Town and meet “Roger Bentlingsworth.”

I have a friend whose name I won’t actually reveal, but we’ll call him Roger Bentlingsworth (distant cousin of Benedict Cumberbatch… obviously).

Roger has had the same website for the past three years. His website has had a couple subtle changes (a different image on the homepage or adding new blog post links), but for the most part his website has gone unchanged. Roger on the other hand, has completely changed his focus in business. Roger and his website are way out of alignment.

I had a call with Roger and asked him what he wanted his website to be doing do for him.

His answer was, “to get more people to buy my online course.”

To which I replied, “Okay, how many courses has your website helped you sell in the past year?”

His answer: “Maybe four.”

Roger and I then looked at the homepage of his website and came to a stunning conclusion: Roger had 12 calls-to-action on the homepage of his website – 12!

Can you guess how many of those were related to selling his online course?

If you guessed ONE, you were correct. Just one. And the call-to-action was buried next to other links, images, and buttons.

So what happened next?

Roger admitted he was ashamed of how his website hadn’t changed with his business goals. He was expecting his website visitors to comb through his website and magically know that buying his course was the most important thing they could do.

Sunk cost bias, you vile creature!

We all want higher conversions. We all want our website to generate more revenue. But many of us are not willing to make the necessary (and sometimes drastic) changes. Why? Sunk cost bias. We’ve spent time and money on our website already, why should we have to change it? Sunk cost is a real a-hole.

Sunk cost can stop everything you’re doing before you even get to a place of thinking about progress!

Here’s what Roger and I decided his three new calls-to-action would be on his homepage:

  1. A large callout to learn more about his online course
  2. An email signup to get free info about his course topic
  3. A link to his most recent blog article

Roger agreed to let go of the sunk cost bias toward his existing (read: outdated) website design. And the great thing about making the decision to let go of sunk cost? He got immediate motivation to make changes!

It took only two weeks for Roger to redesign his homepage. He didn’t redesign his entire website. He didn’t comb through every page. He just put his three new calls-to-action front and center on the most important page of his website. And after publishing that redesign? Roger saw an immediate spike in email conversions (over 50%!) Exactly one month after the redesigned homepage went live he had four new sales of his online course (remember, he had only four sales in the previous YEAR).

These are the keys to making successful improvements to your website (and business!): admitting your website shame; figuring out your three important calls-to-action; and ignoring sunk cost bias.


Admitting website shame and making changes is difficult

If your website is not meeting your expectations, it needs to be changed. That doesn’t mean you have to flip it completely upside down and do something crazy, but it does mean that you need to do more than just switch up a few photos or change a color here or there.

Take a moment to write down the three most important things you want your website to be doing for you.

Is it currently doing those things? If it’s not, then you know it’s time for change. And if you’re being really honest with yourself and you have website shame, then all the more reason to embrace some big changes.

My good friend Paul Jarvis put it well: “The fewer the complications, the more likely you’ll see a better outcome.”

That simple phrase inspired me to redesign my previous website. It’s also a phrase I come back to when I need to checkin on my various businesses and the goals associated with them.

Are you ready to remove complications, make changes, and start seeing results?

How To Overcome Website Shame and Sunk Cost Bias

(Big Fat Takeaway)

Get rid of website shame by clearly defining three goals for website. Everything on your website should clearly assist in helping a user achieve those goals.

IT IT

This article written by

Jason Zook

Co-head-hancho of this Wandering Aimfully thing. I used to wear t-shirts for a living, now I just wear them because I'm not a nudist. You can usually find me baking vegan biscuits, watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, or reading Calvin & Hobbes comics. Also, I miss my GeoCities website that was dedicated to Dragon Ball Z.

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