So many times I meet customers who come with great enthusiasm to discuss the neat ideas they have to create a one-of-a-kind web site. I also get the pleasure to work with various other clients, who don’t necessarily have the greatest ideas, but have a collection of favorite features which are inspired from other sites. Rarely, do I have somebody start a conversation with the reason of their need for a web presence. These business owners usually decide to start a web site project because of reasons that do not justify the effort and resources that will go into a web development project. The reason they are starting a web development project may be because their competitors already have web sites or they may be thinking that in this day and age it is a weakness not to have one. Or they may have some other invalid reason. The point is that these people start off on the wrong foot when planning their web sites.
You cannot just put together a menu here and a photo gallery there to build your site. It doesn’t matter what you would like to see on your web site and how your competitor’s site is built. You have to determine your purpose before getting into the details of what functionality and content your site will contain. Your site should have a clear goal to achieve. Do you want to promote your business, sell your products or communicate with your partners? Once you know why you are building your site, your chances of ending up with a successful and profitable web presence increase significantly.
Obviously, businesses have different needs, so their web site goals will vary. When I thought about these needs or web site goals I was able to come up with the following;
- Promoting products or services
- Selling products or services
- Streamlining transactions with vendors, suppliers or partners
- Providing customer support
- Communicating and exchanging information with employees or partners
- Providing general information to the public
- Promoting products or services
I would like to know if you can think of other items that can be added to this list.
Your web site goal should be something that will benefit your business. It should solve a problem, satisfy a need or increase your profits. Expanding to international markets, adding an online store as a sales channel, creating a customer site to reduce customer service costs are good reasons. The purpose of your web site should make business sense.
Having a purpose will give you a focus when determining the design aspects and the functionality of your web site. For example, if you want to expand to international markets, it will make sense to have your content available in languages spoken in the countries you are targeting. If your purpose is to sell online, you obviously will need shopping cart and payment processing capabilities. Being goal oriented will help you get a better understanding of which components your web site will require and which resources you have to invest in your web presence. This gives you the opportunity to be prepared for what your site will demand both in terms of money and man power on its way to success.
After you analyze all the details of what you want to accomplish, you may find your goal not to be feasible. At this point one of your options is to direct all your efforts to gathering the resources needed to build the site you need. In this case, you will have to use your creativity and business skills for securing the funds and man power necessary. Don’t forget that your web site is an investment, same as any equipment or machinery utilized to produce products or services. If you believe the web site investment you target will generate a significant return for your business, going after resources I believe would be the best direction to turn.
One other alternative is to review your goal and see if it can be refined and changed into more manageable web site goals. If you have started with a broad purpose, you can consider breaking it into more specific targets and build your web presence in phases. You can get better results by swallowing smaller chunks and also can benefit from the experience you gain in each step.
Always start a web project by knowing why you are building a site. Ask yourself, “Why do I need a website?” If you can determine why you need a web site, you can end up with a web presence that really can help your business’ bottom line.