Too many designers unwittingly sabotage their clients’ websites by focusing on the business owner’s personal preferences, instead of considering the needs and motivations of potential customers.
A successful website is actually pretty simple. Give the People What They Want. Or maybe, better to say, give the people what they need.
When you boil it down, the minimum you need to do is ensure your site quickly answers two very important questions visitors are going to be asking themselves:
Does this business provide the product or service I require? Why should I select this business to fulfill the need I have?
Of course, there will be other minor but crucial determinations beyond that in order to lead to a sale, but those are the two most important for initiating customer engagement. It’s not rocket science; let people know you can provide what they need, and give them a good reason to allow your business to be the one to do it.
So if it’s all so easy, why do many sites fail to covert traffic into customers? The answer is because many designers use a flawed planning process.
You Are NOT the Target Audience
Almost universally, website projects begin with a strategy phase. During this discovery stage, the designer quizzes a business owner in order to help understand the business and its products or services. In most cases the designer is looking for the owner to describe wanted features, color preferences or desired visitor outcomes. The designer then sets off to create a website based on that feedback.
Okay, sounds good, right? Wrong.
Why is this bad? Because it now means is that the designer is building this website for the business owner. Ask any business owner how many times they’ve used their own website to make a purchase? While their business goals need to be taken into account, the business owner is not the one who’s going to be using the site.
Imagine building a luxury cruise ship but only consulting with the captain on what features it would need. You’d probably wind up with a very state-of-the-art vessel in terms of command and control. But it’s not hard to fathom that a few important passenger-oriented features might possibly get overlooked. By focusing the business owner’s priorities at the expense of the customer’s needs, a website is likely going to miss key elements or considerations that might affect a visitor’s decision making process.
Large companies use focus groups to ensure their products and services will appeal to their target demographic. Unfortunately, that type of market research probably isn’t realistic for smaller businesses, but a businesses can still gain all kinds of ultra-valuable information from past customers.
Post-sale information gathering can be very valuable. Have the business owner contact some recent customers to not only ensure they’re satisfied. It doesn’t have to be super in-depth…five simple questions:
- What lead you to want or need the product/service I provide?
- Did you research other companies for the same product/service?
- What made you decide to purchase from us instead of the competition?
- Did anything stand out in a positive way about your start to finish experience?
- Is there anything you wish could have been better about your start to finish experience?
Not only is this good customer service, it will provide great insight into the decision making that future potential customers will face, and help identify key aspects that go into making the decision to go from visitor to customer. Positive or negative, it’s all worthwhile feedback and will go a long ways to understanding the motivations and mindset of visitors, which in turn will help you build a best website for them.