Monday, July 9, 2012

The Almighty and Ubiquitous Website

I've been asked to review a few websites lately and it got me thinking about the complexity and ubiquity of the website in this modern age.   Ubiquitous means pervasive or ever-present. The B2B website is ubiquitous.  In this modern world, every business must have a website if they expect to be found by their target market or prospective customer base. Typically, the task of building and maintaining a web site falls to us, the Modern Marketers. There are some companies who present themselves and their associated value proposition well and then there are many companies whose digital presentation is quite poor.

I suggest that a business website must do 3 things well to consider it successful:

  1.  The navigation must be intuitive and easy to use.  Usability is a key success factor of any website

  1. The site must be findable by the desired target market.  When I say findable, I mean it must show up on the first page of the organic search results.  One could make it findable with ppc campaigns, but I believe the effectiveness of ppc is waning.

  1. The website must be sticky.  By sticky, I mean people want to bookmark the site or certain pages so they can come back when they want or need to.

Everything else is secondary.

This brings us to the subjectivity of web site analysis. Most of us use our own personal criteria to determine if a web site is good or bad.  I believe that if the above 3 criteria are achieved, most people would subjectively feel that the website is a good one.  We know if it's easy for us, personally, to figure out how to find the information we want to find and we know if the layout is pleasant to our eyes or abrasive or something in between.  It's not easy.

And what about the content? What makes for good content? Again, whether content is good or bad is a personal decision. One person's good content is another persons waste of time. Is it possible that good content from the perspective of the business is the same as good content from the perspective of the customer?  I'd say, ideally, the answer is 'yes' but in practice the two are usually not aligned.  Many companies "wee wee" all over themselves on their website and in their literature.  We are this… We are all that… We have this new …  We're a leader in …  We do this… We do that…   You get the picture.  A successful website is built with the visitor in mind, not the firm.  You may be in for a shock, better sit down; your website visitors, trade show booth visitors, form filler outers, callers, customers, prospects, leads, et al DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU OR YOUR COMPANY!  They only care about what's in it for them and how your offering may help them get what they want to get.  And, by the way, if you think about it, 'them' is actually all of us.

And then there are the stakeholders within the company; customers, employees, prospective customers, sales, marketing, business unit, service, operations, HR. The web site is important to all of these stakeholders for one reason or another and there are probably as many opinions as there are stakeholders. Is it possible to keep everyone happy? Probably not. So we do the best we can by hiring consultants, collaborating in cross-functional cross-cultural teams, focus groups, research, surveys, etc.  Again, it's not easy.

If you're ready to craft a new site, it's important to have a plan with realistic, specific objectives. You'll have to make some hard decisions and say 'no' to some of your important stakeholders and that's ok. Good business is about making trade-offs.

For, there is no more powerful and important piece of the marketing mix in this modern age as the almighty website.