The first thing to consider when considering a new or updated website is the purpose of your site. Most small businesses and other organizations have a website and virtually all medium and large enterprises have a website. It is intuitive that a nice-looking website helps makes an organization look legitimate, helps them get found in search results and often is the first impression someone has with a company. These are now table stakes for conducting business. Building out a website doesn’t stop there and it’s important to consider the goals of your website from the earliest stages. As this will have important implications throughout the entire website design and development process, it is worthwhile investing time into articulating these goals. There are many goals that may be considered, but they often boil down to a few high-level categories. Not all categories are relevant to every business, and often a business will have multiple goals – the primary goal and supporting secondary goals. For high level goals consider the following:
The Branding Website
The primary goal is to get your name out there. A cornerstone of marketing is that familiarity helps form purchase decisions. Consciously or sub-consciously people are more inclined to purchase from or conduct business with businesses which are familiar. In this way, a website functions similarly to, or along side other marketing initiatives (such as print, radio or television advertising). In many cases new businesses can only afford to spend a limited amount on their marketing initiatives, making a website the first and one of the most cost-effective steps in their marketing plan.
Goals for this type of site include achieving high rankings in search results for particular keywords. Other supporting goals that are based on metrics such as time spent on a page or unique visitors can help you gauge the effectiveness of the site.
The Lead Generation Website
Most businesses want to see a large volume of traffic on their websites; it shows the business is getting attention and awareness. If you’re not selling directly through your website, consider what you want your potential customers to do once you have them as a captive audience. Often the answer to this will be for them to initiate their customer journey. This is often represented by the interest and consideration stages in the sales funnel model. A powerful call to action may be to sign up for your email newsletter (and thus allowing you to collect a list of qualified leads). A recurring stream of pre-qualified and self-selected prospective customers can be a very powerful tool for closing sales. If your business’ success depends on people coming to your business in person, such as a restaurant or hairdresser, the call to action may be to view the hours of operation and book a reservation. Each business has a unique set of needs and it’s essential to determine which actions are most valuable for your business at the beginning of a website design and development project.
A common primary conversion goal for this type of site is a number of users who sign up for a newsletter, submit a contact form or call the sales team. A supporting goal may be the number of people who start to follow you on social media.
The E-Commerce Website
Many businesses offer their products and services for sale on-line. This may be as a supplemental sales channel to a conventional storefront or may be their exclusively sales channel. There are two main drivers which set electronic commerce apart from their non-virtual counterparts.
The first advantage is the potential to reach many more clients over a larger geographic area 24/7 without needing to expand your physical footprint. A larger market represents more opportunity and more potential customers.
The second advantage with an online shop is reducing the cost associated with a physical store front. A physical store typically costs a much higher amount than running a virtual store after considering rent, insurance, staffing and products. Some products or services will not be ideal candidates for ecommerce, but many will. There can be a strong synergy of having customers visit once or infrequently at the beginning of the customer relationship, and later moving to the convenience of online purchasing once they are comfortable and confident in the business.
High level goals for this type of site include traffic and conversion rates, cart abandonments and much more. In this case the conversion rate would be percentage of visitors who end up making a purchase. Years of analysis have gone into refining e-commerce goals, best practices and reporting has become sophisticated for large ecommerce businesses. A secondary goal for this type of website may be the number of signups to a newsletter.
The Publishing Website
This is a class of websites which have had tremendous impact since the world wide web being widely adopted. They are responsible for disrupting many long-established industries such as newspapers, televised news, magazines, entertainment and more. If you have a publishing website, that means you are generating revenue from selling ad space or subscriptions to visitors. These websites rely on highly engaging content to drive large amounts of traffic, or making people feel a subscription would have value. There are several ways to monetize a website and it is important to decide which method or combination of methods will be used early in the design stages.
Remember when pursuing a publishing website that there is a seemingly limitless supply of content on the Internet. It’s important to establish yourself as a reliable creator of quality content, and one thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that you will continuously need to generate content to attract and retain visitors.
High level goals for publishing sites are total page views. Simply put, the more views a page receives, the more ad impressions and click throughs will occur. For subscription models, goals will include how many registrations have occurred and the growth or contraction of subscribers. A Secondary goal for both of these models could potentially be the number of shares that a piece of content gets on social media.
The Support Website
Post sales support can be time consuming and expensive. Having customer service departments can be expensive and in the case of smaller organizations customer support may distract people from other responsibilities. At its simplest, this can be a Frequently Asked Questions website. For a small business, answering simple calls may take away from servicing other customers, and in many cases, questions can be answered by providing support information. In larger and more complex situations, there can be large cost reductions by providing detailed support sections on a website. Product specifications or user guides may help answer questions without contacting customer service or sales. Although some people prefer to talk to someone in person, many are happy to find what they need, at any time of day and on holidays and have the reference material on-hand.
It can be difficult to determine if presenting information has achieved the desired outcome because the objective is to have customers not be required to contact you. Good proxies are number of support page views and soliciting customer feedback, asking if the content was helpful. Secondary goals may include website visitors contributing to site forums for user-generated support content.
Other Types of Websites
There are other types of websites such as those run by hobbyists or single-serving-sites that don’t fit any of the categories listed above. While interesting and sometimes popular most business-related websites will fall into one or more of the above categories. While the branding website may stand alone in its purpose, any of the other website types would, by necessity, include some elements of the branding site. Remember to think what you’re looking to accomplish and set goals with your website as the first step in your website design journey.