Web marketing matters: planning for the web

By at home

If you are going to engage in time-consuming activities or, indeed, expense to drive traffic to your website then you had better make sure that you have a damn good website to which to drive them.

There are currently, as I write this (September 2010), 122,410,433 active domain names in the world. Not all, of course have a website attached: however, it would be safe to say that website design and build has been one of the most exponentially escalating ‘outsource’ industries of the last decade and a half. In 1995 there were fewer than 1,000 web development companies in the US. By 2005 there were more than 30,000 (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_development).

Largely due to this exponential growth, a full understanding of websites, how they are built, their potential and power is still a mystery for most. And just when you think you have come to grips with some new technological breakthrough… Lo and behold: up pops another one.

Not only is it a problem for a business to understand all about the Web and their website build, but added to that stress is the question of who to trust to outsource the task to? Who knows their industry? Who is most qualified to execute the elements of the build that are required? Who can advise them what functionality is appropriate?

For the past couple of years I have been ‘grilling’ (politely researching!) businesses, web designers and developers about the whole experience of building a website: from both points of view. The grievances that both have are, to say the least, immense. Hence this vast ‘knowledge gap’ that exists and why there are so many nightmare stories about website builds. Who shall I start with?

Okay… designers: 

  • Businesses just aren’t prepared – no brief
  • They don’t know what they want
  • They can’t communicate what they want
  • They don’t understand how long things take so ‘balk’ at charges
  • They constantly change their minds – and then ‘balk’ at extra charges
  • They are advised on their design by people who don’t know about design
  • Never deliver content on time
  • No objectives

Now for the business:

  • Designers don’t understand what we want
  • We don’t get much choice
  • It was a nightmare! So many extra costs for small changes
  • They don’t really understand our business
  • Why can’t we see the design and build before we create the content?

And on it goes!

We also conducted a poll about what businesses’ experience was like when building their websites and top of the poll at a whopping 40% came in "not being able to communicate with my website builders"!

So, where shall the twain meet and how does a business get a decent website that is right for the business and really does the magnificent job a truly effective website can potentially do? It is all about understanding the options for consideration of a website; then planning and communicating the appropriate options in a considered brief that a designer can work with.

In this way the business can actually go to tender. Know exactly how much their website will cost and how long it will take. The designer will be able to quote effectively and issue a contract that they know they will be able to fulfil. Everyone is happy!

This is what SHOULD happen. The theory is simple: however the ‘practice’ is slightly harder. There are many things that a business needs to know about creating an effective website. What will work, what won’t work. However the main and most important questions that we begin with are:

  • Why do you want a website?
  • What are your online business objectives?
  • Who is your website for?
  • What do you want people to do when they get there?
  • What companies or individuals involved in a website build can do to help?

Niche: be an expert specifically in a certain area. Don’t pretend that you know about a certain aspect of a website build when you don’t.

The Web now is all about transparency. Companies and individuals alike have to be authentic and appropriate.

It is unlikely that a business will find all the necessary skills for their website build under one roof (in a Web agency). In order to maximise the effectiveness of the Web build project a business should ideally research and collate a ‘niche’ team (part of which could be an agency) that will be suitable for the project. Outsourcing to a project manager in order to run the project is also a consideration not to be overlooked. There are few who could do this task effectively as you are looking for someone who is a master at being a jack of all trades (knowing how to sort out your gifs from your javascript and when and where to use them – appropriately!): they are out there and worth their weight in gold! You need a website planner!

Keep tuned in as I will be covering the above topics in future columns. If you have any topics that you would like to know about urgently then let me know and the ones that are most requested will be prioritised.

Carol Mann’s "Web Marketing Matters" column is aimed at start-up businesses looking to establish an online marketing presence. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, a distinctive and effective web offering is crucial for any company hoping to demonstrate its value beyond face-to-face marketing.

Carol Mann has established, owned and run two successful companies (each of which is still trading profitably today) and now has a third offering website planning and strategy. Her interest in all things interactive was captured in the mid-80s when – failing to find a suitable, commercially available, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for her business – she resolved to build her own. She is a Visual Communications graduate, recipient of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s ‘eMarketing Excellence Award’.

Carol today offers consultancy and robust solutions to the digital marketplace advising businesses on their website planning, production and promotion. In a nutshell it is about achieving maximum commercial effectiveness and subsequent return from any online investment. Carol is passionate about ‘connecting’ and has also built up a wealth of experience in the social media arena which she also shares with all her clients.



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