Recently, on my Facebook page, I posted an article that advised businesses to reevaluate their e-commerce efforts. The article also recommended avoiding the “do it yourself” approach to website design. While I agree with some of the advice in the column, I’m not sure that its necessary to avoid the DIY approach—especially if you’re tech savvy.
Regardless, the article listed several key steps to successful website development setting goals, site planning, and design . . . all steps frequently overlooked by zealous business owners anxious to “get online.” I’ll add another key function, quality control. Today I’ll discuss setting goals. In subsequent posts, I’ll address each of the remaining items in more detail.
It is important that your website reinforce and facilitate your business goals, even more so if your website is a significant (or your only) revenue-channel. And, even if your site is primarily informational in nature, it is important that it is easy to navigate and user-friendly. There are a number of “systems” that you can follow to develop your goals, such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited) or HARD (Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult)—both recently discussed on an AMA blog.
Regardless of the method used, setting goals can be a daunting task, and one that usually leads to two outcomes (1) a blank page or (2) a page with too many items listed. Not setting goals, or setting too few can result in an underutilized site (leaving opportunity on the table) or worse, an misaligned site that works against and not for your business. Setting too many goals typically results in the “Greek Diner” approach. And while I love the variety in the 12 page menus at the diners (who doesn’t want a Reuben sandwich with a side of Spanakotipia followed by apple pie ala-mode?), there is noting more frustrating than a poorly designed website containing garish colors, amateurish copy and graphics, too many click-throughs to key functions, broken links, and my personal favorite, the trail to nowhere.
So how many goals should you set? It depends, unfortunately, there is no easy answer. But if your just starting out, I would stick with three to five. At a minimum, make sure that each of your goals is clearly defined, measurable, and supports your businesses vision.
When setting your goals, it is important to divorce yourself from any preconceived notions of what your website will “look” like or what it “should” be. Don’t think of your website as an extension of your marketing materials or you’ll tend to think too narrowly. The result will be that you’ll subconsciously equate your goals to those that you’d have with your paper marketing efforts . . . because both traditional print and online marketing are primarily graphic and copy driven, there’s a natural tendency to equate the two. It’s also important to keep in mind that your website is much more than just a marketing or sales tool.
Consider both short-term goals (e.g. establish a web presence, use the website to expand into foreign markets, establish an online repository of information on a narrow topic, etc.) and long-term goals (e.g. facilitate 50%+ of sales via the web portal, establish a full-service elite care center for your best customers, create an online community around a narrow topic, etc.). Keep revising the drafts of your goals until you have clear succinct goal statements.
Think about how you’re going to measure the progress that you make towards these goals. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the metrics you’ll use to measure your goal, your need to go back and revise your goal until you can articulate how you’ll measure it (don’t worry about how you’ll capture or process the data now, we’ll worry about that in planning and design).
Now that you’ve got a set of clearly defined goals, its time to move onto the planning stage. Check in next Monday for part two in the series: M&M Monday: Build a Better Website-Planning.