We have all done it or know someone who has a business and at one point uttered those dangerous words I need a website.
Only a very few lucky survivors can tell you about the magical, pain free experience they encountered after spouting such carnage-creating words as I need a website.
The reason this is so dangerous is not because of the desire to have such a beautifully responsive, customer-loving, pleasant-to-experience, bug-free, traffic-magnetizing sales machine but more the thought process that ensues after saying it.
For most unsuspecting entrepreneurs, the realisation that they need a website is adopted at an early stage in the business cycle, shortly after the eureka moment of uncovering a solution to a problem and confirming proof of concept to the marketplace. It’s about this time when the words have their true meaning hidden.
I need a website…
What people should really say is I need a project manager, a digital strategist, a brand specialist, a graphic designer, a programmer, a full marketing agency, a therapist and ideally a personal assistant, but they wrap it up into a cute and cuddly phrase that masks the lurking dangers which can strike should any of the aforementioned be ignored.
The truth is that when most business owners or entrepreneurs think about building a website, they don’t consider all the moving parts that are required to make it successful. With systems like WordPress and marketplaces like Themeforest, it’s very easy for someone with little or no knowledge to put something that resembles a functioning website online. It’s a little bit like going to the local butcher and asking him to operate on you just because he knows how to use a knife.
The reason most websites fail is simply because they don’t have a solid strategy at the start. It does not need to be complex but it should answer a few fundamental questions.
1. Who is your target market?
You need to know this first because without customers, you don’t have a business. And without a business, there is no need to invest money in a website.
2. What problem are you going to solve for your target market?
Now that you know WHO, it’s time to understand WHY. You can answer this question by knowing your products and services. When you understand them in detail, it makes advertising them on your website much easier.
3. What is the purpose of the website?
Maybe you think it’s just to inform people about what you can offer but I would urge you to consider that a website, built well, is online 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It makes sense to allow it to automate a considerable amount of the heavy lifting so you can focus on more important tasks. Educating visitors is just one aspect.
Consider also if your website should pre-qualify visitors, allow them to schedule appointments, sign visitors up to your database so you can contact them, sell a product or service or access locked digital content. There are so many options available and understanding your purpose will allow you to reverse engineer the process and avoid many of those hidden costs that developers call scope creep.
Of course there are many other things that you can consider from branding, the voice of your content, typography, colour psychology, tracking analytics and much more.
The idea is not to become overwhelmed, but to consider that the next time you say I need a website, you fully understand what it entails.
I cover all this and more in my simple to read and understand book: Plan Your Website.