Having helped hundreds of clients over our careers, we have been able to refine and identify the essential steps to creating a good website. There is a mistaken view and practice that it’s better to have something up, than nothing. This is one of the main reasons 99.9% of the websites out there look bad, and fail to get the results they should. While we agree if you don’t exist online, you are setting yourself up for failure and annihilation by your competition. In this day and age simply having a website is not enough.
So is there a magic bullet? Yes, and no. There are no short cuts to creating effective pieces of marketing, but doing your digital due diligence will get you a hell of a lot farther, and empower you to take the first step to creating an effective presence online.
If you think about it this all makes perfect sense. How can you or anyone create a good website without a strategy and knowing exactly what you need to go up on the website? Will you just throw a template up there and hope it will meet your needs as you figure them out? As much as we wish this worked, there is a reason we shy away from templates in all but the most basic situations. As flexible as they seem, templates are bloated websites built with no purpose and as a result with surprisingly inflexible code beyond what they are planned to be – which is something for everyone i.e. nothing. Worse, if you get a template you need to know everything it can do, because you will likely find you are limited by its capabilities when you need it most. That is another good reason we focus on custom coded websites, to provide the maximum flexibility, growth, and adaptability over time with minimal code. But that is a topic for another post.
So back to figuring out your digital due diligence. These questions are design to get you to think about what the real goal of your website is. People often throw everything up on a website and create overwhelming experiences and often confuse their end users. I am sure if you close your eyes and think back you have been on a handful of these in the last few days.
One of the many problems with creating these, as one of our favorite customers calls them, “cluster fucks” of unplanned data and media is bad usability. In other words you the user are forced to work to figure out what is on the site and where you are going. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With a clear understand of your users and goals you can create a great user experience via your website. Keep in mind that your users are just like you, everyone has data overload, and not enough time on their hands. So the best thing you can do is to create a clear, memorable, immersive, and easy to use website.
We have found time and time again it helps not to think of your website as limitless, but rather to think of your website as a billboard – one that you can explore indefinitely. So first things first, you goal should be to create a great first impression, and then you lead your users to do something. Done right, the website will be a powerful tool for clarifying and empowering all of your marketing ventures. Always keeping in mind that the goal is to keep it simple and clean so that you can help your users/ visitors do the specific actions you need them to do. Beyond being a good practice in marketing, this clarity demonstrates competence in your area and begins to build trust before you even try to make your sale. And with a properly designed and planned website, simple does not mean limited. All subsequent and deeper information can be available, without having to overwhelm anyone.
So with that in mind, here are some questions to get you started.
1) What is the primary goal of the website? Is it to educate? Be a resource? Or to raise awareness to convince people to donate? You can have several goals, and if you do, list them in order of importance.
2) Who are your users? Who is your main/ primary user, and what do you want them to do on your website. Who is the second, and so on.
3) Do you have a sitemap or list of the pages you want as of right now for the website and generally what the page will be comprised of? Please note or mention any advanced functions like portals, commerce, social networking/ forums etc. It can be rough, but it will evolve through this process.
With this starting point you can now clearly identify your audience and the goals of your website. We hope this helps you, like it has helped our clients in the past. And as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to reach us below.