Having worked through hundreds of website projects over the years, I’ve seen my share of great ones, and I have experienced some challenging ventures. Here are five common myths that can doom even the best web projects – and advice on how to avoid each.
It just has to be pretty.
Aesthetics is often the No. 1 reason organizations decide to redo their website. Although the needs of “We want a more professional look,” “This section needs to have that feature added” or “We need an easier way to manage the content” are legitimate, none of them are going to lead to a successful website if you do not have clear, measurable goals.
Advice: Start with a clear set of prioritized goals. These goals should either directly impact the bottom line or provide an intermediate step toward doing so. Additionally, your goal should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive.
My audience is everyone.
Trying to talk to everyone leads to talking to no one. This might sound like Marketing 101 – define your target audience – but many websites are launched without a specific audience in mind. Companies take the generic route and attempt to appeal to all potential audiences – and inevitably miss the opportunity to speak directly to the one that can improve their bottom line.
Defining your target audience is critical to a successful website project. Make sure that you’re not only determining who your primary customers are but what you want them to do on their website.
Advice: Be honest. First, take a hard look at your target audience. At the end of the day, if you had only a single opportunity to make a first impression, which one would you chose to move the needle in your organization? Without a clear definition of who the website is for, it becomes impossible to provide relevant information.
Second, determine which action you want your audience to take when visiting your website. Keeping in mind the goals established for your site, you must look at measurable actions that support these goals. These conversion points might be buying a product, registering for an event or requesting more information. Regardless of which applies and where, by establishing a simple conversion process for your audience, you can separate the general visitors from true prospects.
Anyone can write. Right?
Sometimes the most important things become the last things we address. In the world of website design and development, that thing is content. Think about it: Why did you really visit the last website you visited? Was it a nice design or stellar code? No disrespect to the talented professionals who fill those vital roles, but if we answer this question honestly, we quickly come to the conclusion that content is the most vital part of any website.
Unfortunately, from my perspective, content is often the last thing to be considered and is generally the most undervalued component of every website project. Time after time, content is pushed to the end of the project with little regard to the role it plays in not only driving users to a site but in bringing users back. Why? Because website content is just copywriting and everyone can write. Right?
Advice: Give content its due. Create a content strategy at the beginning or invest in one with your trusted web partner. Content strategy should start by understanding the key features, benefits, target audience, key competitors, pricing and differentiation of your business. It should finish as a structured set of documents that summarizes and simplifies your unique selling proposition – the value that you're offering your customers and prospects. This strategy will not only become the baseline upon which all your site content is written, but also it should become the foundation upon which your entire site is built.
Analytics is only for the number crunchers.
One of the greatest benefits of the digital age is our ability to track almost everything done online. It is hard for businesses to deny the value this data provides in day-to-day decision-making.
I am amazed at the number of companies that engage our team for the first time that are working on their second, third, and sometimes fourth website projects and have yet to start tracking the performance of it. Surprisingly, the lack of analytics tracking is common. According to w3Tech’s recent technology survey, 37 percent of websites are not running any analytics tools.
Advice: If you do not have a form of analytics tracking running on your website, get one going today. The most popular platform, Google Analytics, is free and takes less than 15 minutes to get up and running. Analytics are not just for the data nerds – they offer clear insights as to what is happening on your website. These insights will help you make educated decisions for your business while avoiding the frustration of hoping something will happen and wondering why it is not.
We launched... Now I can rest.
The biggest mistake I see clients make when embarking on a website project is not setting clear expectations for what comes post-launch. Considering that quality website projects can take three, six or even 12 months to progress from concept to fruition, it is easy to see where this happens – but in reality, launching a website should be treated as the beginning of a strategic online marketing effort from start to finish.
Advice: Treat your new website as a fluid marketing tool. Set benchmarks to review the metrics you established and adjust where needed to reach your goals. Consider a governance for how your ongoing content needs will be handled. Without some sort of structural guidance, companies lose focus of their primary audience and what they want from that audience. Finally, review online marketing tactics that help drive quality traffic to your site. Prioritize them and start with the one that will directly impact your bottom line.
Websites today take a considerable investment in both time and resources to ensure success. It doesn’t matter if your project is on an enterprise level or just five simple pages – time is money.
When you approach your next website project, dedicating the time to document your goals, identify your primary audience, invest in content strategy, establish tracking metrics and identify post-launch strategy at the beginning will ensure that your investment does not turn into next year’s expense.