By Jerry Bader (c)2006
How good is your website? Does it do its job? Is it effective?
These are all good questions that every business owner and marketing manager needs to ask him or herself. The website has become an essential tool for business. We all know we have to have a website, but are we using this venue to its greatest advantage?
Most people responsible for their company's websites have stats packages and counters to tell them how many hits, how many unique visitors, where they are coming from, what their IP addresses are, what browser they're using, and of course the all important monitor resolution. So what! Who cares? The real question is do we have an effective website?
Now if you have a transactional website, commonly referred to as an e-commerce site, you know the number of sales you are generating from your site, which is important, but do you really know how effective your site is? How many orders are you losing because of bad layout, awkward design, confusing navigation, and poor copy? How many potential clients have you chased away because you haven't put a phone number on your site and an accessible real-person that can answer questions?
A website is your business' public face. Big businesses can look like mom and pop operations and mom and pop operations can look like General Motors. The design of your website should not be taken lightly, its budget should not be an afterthought, and the designer you hire should be someone who understands more than code. Your Web-designer should be a multimedia-marketing advisor, someone who can counsel you how best to deliver your marketing message, and someone who can go beyond technical issues.
You can spend a lot of money and have someone analyze your site for you, but are you really going to believe him, are you really going to act on their recommendations? You can't sell somebody something they really don't want - that may sound obvious, but believe me, sales people do it everyday. If you don't think you need a new website, you aren't going to spend the money to have one built. So the best way to tell if you need one is to analyze the one you already have, yourself.
Below is a set questions you can ask yourself. If you answer them honestly, you'll know whether you need a new site or not. After you've gone through the process, ask some colleagues to do the same. See if your answers compare.
1. Does Your Website Have A Purpose?
Every website should have a clearly defined purpose. Having a website just because everyone else has one is not an acceptable strategy. What is your website's purpose?
a. Transactional sales-oriented site
b. Customer service support site
c. How to instructional site
d. Product or service demonstration site
e. Lead generation site
f. Marketing, branding, positioning site
g. Promotional campaign site
h. Viral or buzz creation site
2. Is Your Website Focused?
Too many businesses both large and small use their website as an information junkyard, a dumping ground for everything you do, everything you've done, and everything you ever thought of doing. This won't work. Customers are like children; they want clarity, direction, and unequivocal answers. Your website should be focused on a singular function. URLs are cheap, there is no reason you can't have different websites for every major thing you do, or every marketing campaign you initiate. How focused is your website?
3. How Functional Is Your Website?
Everybody knows that websites should be easy to use, that you shouldn't have to drill-down too deep to find what you're looking for, and of course everything should work. Your website is a communication tool. If your website doesn't work properly, the only thing you're communicating is incompetence. How functional is your website?
4. Does Your Website's Construction Balance Competing Concerns?
Websites by their very nature are a compromise of competing issues. Aesthetics, multimedia, frame construction, HTML,
Flash, client-side, server-side, data bases, SEO tactics, information architecture, marketing communication, transaction
efficiency all compete for precedence in the design of a site. Are you sacrificing clarity, focus, and communication for SEO tricks and unattainable traffic numbers? Did you start with an IT solution like a database and build your site around a poorly conceived information delivery system. Does your website's design reflect your sites' defined business purpose
or is it a result of secondary technical concerns?
5. Does your website honestly reflect your business personality?
Does your website represent and promote your marketing objectives? Okay, this is a trick question for many small
owner-managed businesses. Marketing is not sales. Marketing is about communicating who you are, what you do, and why you do it better than the other guy. Marketing is about image building, branding, and positioning, in other words, enhancing your business personality. Does your website honestly reflect your business personality?
6. Is your Web-presentation integrated into your overall marketing plan?
Too many websites bear no relation to the rest of their business' marketing initiatives. Everything your company does
should reflect an over-riding ethos, point-of-view, and personality. If your marketing collaterals don't match your
website presentation, you are confusing your audience. Is your Web-presentation integrated into your overall marketing plan?
7. Is content king on your website?
I once had a fairly large manufacturing client ask me to build a website based on a business card and ten 8x10 glossies of discontinued merchandise. This fellow was so paranoid that his competitors would see what he was doing that he hid his products from his customers. This business is now bankrupt. We've all heard the saying 'content is king'. Is content king on your website? Does your website adequately display and explain what you do, what products you sell, and what services you provide? Are there examples of your work? Are there testimonials from your customers? Have you provided information on how to order, how to use, and how to resolve problems? Is content really king on your website?
8. Is your website an experience?
You watch television, you listen to the radio, you read a magazine, but you experience a website. Unlike other marketing
vehicles, websites provide you the opportunity to deliver your marketing message with the full complement of multimedia tools. Websites can stimulate all the senses, sight, sound, and interactive touch in order to communicate and connect with your audience. Websites are not brochures. Visitors shouldn't just see your website, they should experience it. Is your website an experience?
9. Does your website have a distinctive look?
The notion of the flaming animated logo has become a cliché for bad design and style over substance, but that does not mean your website should be aesthetically boring and visually dreary. Your site should display clarity of vision; it should provide functional page layout; its use of colors, type, and static and kinetic visuals should be distinctive and purposeful. Your website should provide a defining "Look" that enhances your business personality. Does your website display a distinctive look that represents your business personality?
10. Do you list appropriate contact information on your website?
I remember going to a meeting with a client who was in the construction business. The Vice President of the company was hopping mad. He demanded his email address be taken off the site immediately. He wasn't going to waste any more time dealing with client emails and inquiries. Websites are all about connecting you to your clients, not hiding from them. If you think you can put your website on autopilot and that a FAQ and Q&A are going to cut-it, you better think again. Does your website have adequate contact information? Do you list appropriate email addresses and phone numbers for the people responsible for various aspects of your business?
There you have it. Ten questions that when answered honestly will tell you whether or not you have a website that works and whether or not you need to rebuild.