Website as a tool

January 25, 2009
Categories: Web Design

One of the most common questions asked (or should be asked) by a web design company on the first meeting is: Why do you need a website? In most of the cases the client replies: we need a site as a marketing tool. In a way it’s the same as going and buying a drill in a hardware store (just in case, every household should have a drill, etc)
drill
Further investigating this example we come to a conclusion that by buying a drill you are actually buying holes that can be made with this drill. In order for those holes to appear you have to know how to operate the drill, outline future holes placement, have a plan how to use them. In a mean while the drill itself  (just like a website itself) is just a tool that will not work unless you use it right.

Knowing that creating a website is not usually cheap let’s see what we can do to make the tool work for us. Declaring our website a tool we need to understand what kind of holes we want to get.

Let’s assume we are a manufacturing company and we produce and sell some merchandise. The target group of the website consist of two: consumers and dealers. Both groups are crucially important for the company: if the consumers don’t want our merchandise the dealers will not order it and if the dealers won’t order the merchandise then our consumers will not be able to buy it no matter how much they want it. On our website we are going to try to satisfy both groups.
Step one is always forecasting the steps of the visitor starting form the moment we get a visitor and the steps he has to take to get to the needed information.

Let’s see another example: Macy’s. Even if you have never seen their site before would you assume they sell clothing online. Obviously they know that by not selling clothing online they will loose market share. So it’s actually worse for Macy’s not to have online store then not to have a website at all.

Alright, let’s go back to our dealers and consumers. All what the dealers want is to be able to contact you at any time: phone, email, contact form on every page or at least visible link from every page.

But is there anything else we can do for a dealer to make him pick up the phone? Let’s think what do we know about our dealers…  The first thing they want to know is their potential profit when they work with certain merchandise. If this dealer already got similar merchandise from someone else then we need to offer more competitive terms and bonuses in order to convince him to switch. So this way we need to outline this information in easy to read format: pricing, payment terms, list of bonuses and discounts, logistics, and so on…

Let’s now think about our consumers. Our task is to convince the visitor that our merchandise is better then our competitor’s. Since our merchandise is not ‘basic need/first priority’, it’s crucial to position it to every niche of the market. We are interested in competent consumers and that is why we are going to offer them an interesting dialog, overall information flow will be diplomatic and ‘on the case’.

The main point of the website for users is to create brand loyalty. This term means creating certain feelings and emotions that respond to a brand, it mans that we need to make the website personal and interactive. We need to allow users to leave comments and be heard. It’s also important to use pictures of people on the site corresponding with our target group.

If our merchandise is not sold on every corner we need to place addresses, directions and maps to the retail locations.

Implementing the e-commerce engine on the site is also crucial although it does cost money and resources it needs to be done in the similar fashion: target group, bonuses, easy to use, fast.
Let’s outline the plan (or a list of questions that needs to be answered in order for our website to make useful ‘holes’ vs. being an eye-candy)

1.    What kind of merchandise/services we are going to offer on our website?
2.    Who are the people on the other side of the screen? What is important for them and what do they like?
3.    What do we expect form the user? What kind of activity our users are most likely to engage in on the website?
4.    What kind of information and what abilities we need to offer on the website in order to convince people to spend money on our merchandise?
5.    How are we going to track the results?

The next step should be preparing the client (crating the content and illustrations), after that we need to create website prototype. After that, and YES, only after that we can start working on the website design.

By doing this web-studio and the client can refer to the main aims of the business and make implementations accordingly vs. adding random features on the site. The most important part is that the website must integrate with the client’s business model, interact with him, add and optimize business processes and not just being a visit card.

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