You’re not asking the right questions: Why most website redesigns don’t work
An Ace o’ Spades reader forwarded me an article in the Globe & Mail today, titled ‘Website looking dated? Time for a redesign’. It’s pretty light on substance, and full of the usual kinds of half-baked advice you expect from content consultancies. It talks about how if your site is looking dated you need to “refresh” it, and how important it is to find a designer whose style you like, and who has a good process.
Those things are important, of course, but they’re hardly the most critical questions to be asking if you’re thinking about redesigning your site. And that’s because the unfortunate truth is that the best person to design your website is (probably) not a web designer.
What questions should you be asking? Let me give you the most important two…
“What is the objective of our website?”
In my experience, most small businesses just don’t think about this question. Apparently, otherwise-savvy entrepreneurs and CEOs go gaga when it comes to any kind of marketing. Having a website is a form of marketing; but you also see this a lot with more traditional forms, like advertising. Companies dump millions of dollars into advertising without asking what its objective is. Often they falsely think that the objective is to “increase brand awareness” or some similar rubbish. Of course, the objective of advertising is to make sales. Advertising that doesn’t pay for itself is simply a waste of money. Yet how many companies are tracking their return on investment? Not many.
The same is true with websites. Businesses seem to have the mindset that a website is just a necessary business expense. The idea of being able to test its ROI doesn’t even occur to them. I think this is often a result of three things. Firstly, group mentality. “Everyone has a site, so we must too. Gotta keep up with the Joneses.” Secondly, simple ignorance. “We don’t really understand the web, but it’s obviously important. So we should have a website.” And thirdly bad advice. Most web strategy consultants are charlatans who know virtually nothing about sound business or marketing principles.
So let me clarify for you: unless you’re particularly unusual, your website has one primary objective: to generate leads. It probably has a secondary objective too: to generate sales.
You might think it would be the other way around—after all, aren’t sales more important than leads? Well, no, they aren’t. For companies with proper lead-nurturing practices, up to 80% of their revenue comes after the fifth contact with a prospect. And 98% of it comes from repeat visitors. So to focus on selling first-time visitors is therefore to focus on making just one fiftieth of your potential profits.
“How are we going to achieve that objective?”
If every page of your site hasn’t been carefully planned to fall into a logical sequence that will guide your prospects to where you want them to go, then you might as well not have a website. Most business sites consist of at least a homepage, an about page, a contact page, and a services or product page. And most business sites do completely the wrong thing on each of these pages.
- On the homepage, they present a confusing array of options and information, with no strongly dominant calls to action. Images that convey no value hijack prospects’ attention. Twitter feeds clutter the available space. Brochure-style copy packed with more adjectives than Emo poetry extols vague, almost meaningless features of the business. Overstuffed navigation bars with creatively-named links offer no safe harbors.
- On the about page, long-winded biographies of the company bore readers to tears, or gabbling marketese catchphrases with no concrete connection whatsoever to their needs make their eyes glaze over.
- On the contact page, a non-clickable email address with no apparent connection to an actual person is offered. Like this: firstname.lastname@example.org. Nary a form to be seen, and certainly nothing to get the prospect interested in taking the initiative. Or there is a form, but it looks as fun to fill in as a credit card application.
- And on the services page, readers are confused by technical jargon, dazzled by lists of features devoid of obvious benefits, and generally left wanting to know how they feature into any of this.
And the whole time, no effort is made to reach out to prospects, to offer them anything useful, to keep in touch in case they aren’t quite ready to buy yet, or need more information.
Now, do you think that giving a site like this a new coat of paint is going to improve matters? If not, you might be interested to know that I offer a lot of free training on how to answer the right questions, and turn more visitors into customers. It all starts with 5 sales-spiking website tweaks…
D Bnonn Tennant
‘The Information Highwayman’