For small business and community organisations it can be all be all too easy to set up a website that ticks the box of being your website, but doesn’t connect with your customers – as in it doesn’t increase sales or champion your cause.
There’s plenty of tools for creating websites, but when people task themselves with setting up a website for their business or cause they often focus on its creation rather than its end users. And why not, that’s human nature – solve the problem. I (my business or organisation) need a website, and I (the business owner) can make a website right now with tool X.
The problem with this approach is that whilst you get a website, there has been no focus on the end user of your website. You want those people to purchase your product or services, make contact with you to arrange that, or engage with your cause.
How do we determine what the end user needs?
A good website strategy, design and end website focuses on those people (the end users) – to effectively connect with your customers or champion your cause.
1 Determine your audience
Everything needs to be done with these people in mind.
- Is it one primary audience, or segmented?
- What age are they?
- How do they access the internet?
- What do they engage with online?
For instance a website whose primary audience is youth needs to work very well on smartphones. 25% of Australian youth only access the internet via their smartphone. A mobile-first design approach would almost certainly be the best approach.
2 The style of the website needs to match with what this audience experiences elsewhere
In part this means your competition, but it means much more. The person looking for your services/goods/cause is likely to be immersed in aspects associated with it, and you’ll be measured based on their experience of that.
If your service or goods are visual, such as any fashion, architecture, art, even “designer” consumer items, then your website needs to meet that standard. If your website looks bad because of poor design, then the person can only conclude that surely your visual sense is also bad.
For instance, if you’re an architect marketing your services, the audience looking for an architect is probably also browsing real estate websites, reading home beautiful magazines, browsing interior decorating boards on Pinterest and watching home improvement shows – indeed, they’ve probably been doing this for years.
If your website doesn’t match these experiences they won’t connect with you – because you haven’t matched their conscious, or more likely unconscious, expectations. You’ve just lost a sale/recruit.
3 Task Pathways
When you focus on the end user, you focus on how they think when they are looking for your product or service.
- Is the website easy for them to use? What is their pathway through the website?
- Can they achieve their task quickly and efficiently?
- What are the obstacles to complete their task? If the obstacles are too great, they may begin but abandon their task, moving on to another website.
An example of this is purchasing an item online.
A user visiting your website is looking for the item to purchase, for you to be the one to make the sale, they need to complete all of the following steps:
- Find the item
- Determine it is the correct item (it is indeed the item they want)
- Refine their product choice (colour, size)
- Know the total price (is there a postage charge? how much?)
- Know how long it will be before it is delivered
- Put it in a shopping cart
- Pay for it (are there obstacles? are they forced to sign up first, is it one or two screens, or many, do they know where they are in this process?)
I’ve helped numerous clients with website strategy:
- determining their website audiences,
- tasks each audience segment undertakes, and
- deploying systems to allow those audience segments to complete those takss in the most efficient way