An important, and often underutilized, part of the marketing mix is owned media, the cornerstone of which is usually the website. More often than not, unfortunately, the website is strategically mishandled, leading to functional disconnect. This often happens simply because the person charged with leading the project does not have a background or expertise in website development.
Many organizations create or redesign websites for the wrong reasons. Avoid the following common mistakes to ensure your website is doing what it’s supposed to do and performing the way it should be.
Here are three important questions that should be answered before building a website. Thinking these through could be the difference between a website that effectively captures leads and a website that isn't organized properly.
Are you prioritizing aesthetics?
A website’s “look and feel” is only as good as the design logic behind it. It doesn’t matter if the website is eye-catching, brimming with all the bells and whistles available to a designer; if it’s not serving a strategic function, the website has failed.
Almost all websites fall into two buckets: websites that provide information, and websites that sell products and services, or e-commerce sites. Understanding a website’s purpose determines its core function, which informs everything, including content, design and build.
What's your “why?”
A website is often redesigned simply because it hasn’t been updated recently, prompting an organization to seek a brand “refresh,” which, as established above, is a surefire way to create an ineffective website. Other times, a website is created out of necessity – a new product is being launched, a startup is going to market, etc. – but insufficient thought is invested into the creation or redesign of that website.
Establishing the “why” is paramount, and it involves answering a battery of questions. Who is this website for (the audience)? What actions should they perform? Become a member? Download software? What are the brand messaging points that need to be communicated to website visitors?
Answering these questions will help build an information structure, and each content piece that is added to the website should uphold that structure. At this point, testing can be done to determine whether or not the information structure, and the content that feeds it, supports the “why.”
It’s only at this point that design should enter into the discussion.
Are you approaching content, design and build separately?
If you’re guilty of the first two, you’re guilty of the third. In other words, if you’ve prioritized aesthetics, and you haven’t established the “why,” then you’re treating content, design and build as separate entities, which creates structural imbalance.
There are also time and resource implications for the website you want to build. You can write whatever story you want for your website, with few limitations. You can also design virtually anything you want. But there is a hard limit to developing the build of a website. It takes roughly three times as much time to develop the build as it is to create the design of a website. Therefore, creating intricate designs and complex narratives with no regard for the practical limitations of developing the build is a spectacular waste of resources.
Unfortunately, many take a backwards approach, dreaming up designs based on aesthetic sensibilities and gut feelings, only to discover that backfilling with copy is messy and developing the build after the fact creates a development quagmire that forces businesses to make a tough choice: settle for a compromised website, or start over.
Being holistic is always the right starting point.
The tenets of building an effective, captivating website serve as a microcosm of the principles we apply at Mission Control Marketing, that is, taking a holistic approach. In marketing, as with the creation of a website, a holistic approach will guard against the inevitable disconnect that arises when pieces of the same puzzle operate independently of each other. Channel-agnostic marketing always trumps channel-specific marketing, and creating a website strategically trumps creating a design that’s just nice to look at.