In a recent conversation with a friend (a very intelligent friend, I might add – just in case he reads this), I learned that even the smartest people have been tricked by DIY website companies and sites like GoDaddy who advertise that websites are simple and cheap to build and host.
The conversation started like this: “Hey Amy, you’re in the industry… do you know someone who could throw together a site for me…cheap?” He then proceeded to talk about a site being used overseas that is “almost exactly” what he is looking to do, and he asked what it would take to “just replicate it.”
The site was an E-commerce site with a robust taxonomy of products (upwards of 50,000 SKUs.) Now, I’m not very comfortable talking about website development (I am fluent in marketing, not code), but I knew enough to tell him that if he wanted a functional site (let alone a successful one), he needed to think through these 4 things to help him understand what he was truly getting into with a site build.
First I asked him if he had a business plan, and a well-defined value proposition.
Your site should align with your business goals, and the core of your web content should be derived from your business’s communication plan. Just like any intelligent business approach, be sure your value prop is differentiated from your competition, and think about your brand – always. Your brand should be the thread that binds all content, art and marketing. This might seem obvious, but take a look around. Even a lot of big brand websites fail to clearly define their value prop. Keep it simple: inform your visitors about your offerings, engage them with good, branded content, and provide a clear call to action.
SEO, Social & Marketing
Next I told him to think about how he will get people to the site and how he will engage and retain users.
It’s important to know your target market and plan out your social and paid media strategies ahead of time, so you are building a consistent message that aligns with your market and, as mentioned above, your brand. If you already know the lifetime value of a customer, great! Use that data to determine the best (and lowest) cost per acquisition. Build your strategies around these numbers. The last thing you want to do is start a paid media campaign (PPC, PLA or Display) without knowing your success metrics.
UX (User Experience)
The next step to building a successful site is to step into the shoes of your audience.
My friend’s site would target a niche market that he feels he knows well. A well-defined target is great, but understanding and predicting their needs when they visit your site is crucial. Make a list of everything your audience will ask when they arrive, from “Am I at the right place?” to “How do I purchase a product and checkout?” These questions need to be answered with a simple user-focused web flow and design. According to the Nielson Norman Group, users will only spend 10-20 seconds on a page unless there is a clear value proposition.
Finally I told my friend that he has to understand analytics even before he builds the site and starts collecting his own data.
By this I mean do research and find out if there are any known industry averages? What can be expected when it comes to bounce rates, time on site, and shopping cart abandonment averages for “like” or competing sites? These numbers can help forecast engagement and sales on a site. And you want to project ROI before you build a site, right? How else would you know if it’s worth the investment?
For my friend, many of these things were already being assessed, because he was knee-deep in the process of building his business plan. And, because it will be an online business only, many of these things needed to be defined for the plan itself.
Most owners know, it is smart to revisit your business model and value proposition(s) on a regular basis. If you are considering building or redesigning a site, this would be the perfect time to do that. Consider using a tool like https://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/.
As he works through his business model, and the approach to building the site, my friend has learned that “just replicating” a site isn’t going to work for his business. He also now knows that developing a complex site, like the one he wants to build, will require a discovery process to build a speculation document, that defines the site development and the time it will take to build it.
This may sound like a scary endeavor, but with a partner like WiredViews, the process can be easy. That’s because WiredViews is comprised of experts who focus on your ROI from design to conversion. Call us to learn more.