The Missing Ingredient that Causes Websites to Flounder

These days it seems like everyone has a website.  However, the uncomfortable truth is that in most cases, those websites aren’t earning their own keep.  They’re not adding value to the business whose name they bear because they were created with something very important missing.  That single, simple missing element is responsible for the poor performance of under-performing websites more than any other element that may also be lacking.  Without this element in place, websites are pre-destined to flounder.  When this element is in place, it is sooo much easier for the website to make a valuable contribution to your business.  What about you – does your website have this crucial piece of the puzzle in place?

Your website should add real value to your business

Your website should add real value to your business.

Clarity of Purpose

What is it that is missing from most small business websites that if it were present would enable the website to really add value to the business?  The answer is not some technical thing-a-ma-jig or some new-fangled, wiz-bang technology.  What’s missing for far too many websites is clarity of purpose.  This isn’t only an affliction among small business websites – I’ve worked with lots of bigger organizations that wrestled with the same issue.

What is the primary purpose of your website?  If the answer doesn’t roll right off your tongue, don’t worry, you’re in good company.  Lots of business owners, managers, and even website committees at larger organizations struggle to get this right.

Why is this so hard?  There are two reasons that websites are often launched without the proper clarity of purpose.  The first has to do with forgetting that the proper order in which to shoot is ready – aim – fire.  Instead when it comes time to launch a website they go with ready – fire – “what did we hit?”  That is often a very costly mistake.  It’s so much easier and cheaper to do it right the first time than it is to do it over again.

The second reason that websites are frequently launched without a clear understanding of the purpose of the website is that of data overload.  You see, with everything that is done on the Internet, the amount of data that is available is absolutely overwhelming.  It is the myriad of possibilities of what could be done, that cloud and confuse the real issue.  The right question is not, “What can be done?” but instead, “What is most important?”

Primary or Secondary Contribution

When you lay it out properly it’s super easy to get really clear about the correct purpose of your website, regardless of what industry you’re in.  The proper purpose for all websites will fall into one of two categories.  The main purpose of a website is either to serve a primary role or a secondary role as it relates to the company’s bottom line.  Essentially this means that your website’s main goal should be to either contribute directly to your company’s sales or to play a support role.  Which category your website falls into will depend on which industry you’re in.

It’s easy to see that an online store’s primary purpose is to bring in sales.  If your business is built around a service that you provide, the main goal of your website may be to attract qualified leads or prospects.  A website that brings you qualified leads is essentially making a direct contribution to your bank account.  Another situation is where your website plays a support role in your business.  In other words its main goal isn’t to bring in sales or leads, but instead to make life easier for your our your customers.  An example of this may be a website that allows your customers to download forms or documents thereby making life easier for you and your staff.

Which contribution your website makes to your bottom line is entirely your choice.  The right answer is the one that is right for you and your business.  That being said, most websites can add value for their business by bringing in leads or sales as well as playing a support role to make life easier for you and your customers.

The first step toward a website that works as hard as you do for your business, is really about getting clear on the mission, goals, and objectives for your website.  Although this sounds so simple, I’ve found in talking with hundreds of people about their website that too often this is something that actually receives little attention. That being the case, it is no surprise that so many people are unclear about what their website has done for them lately.  Being clear on the objectives for the website means clarity not only on what success looks like, but also on how progress toward this should best be measured and tracked.

  • Dave Nosti May 15, 2012, 10:25 am

    Great post. I always tell my clients that it’s all about clarity of information. The site should be uncluttered, make it possible to navigate to the useful information within two clicks, and have a clearly defined and easy-to-find call to action. I can’t stress the clarity of purpose and information enough.

    • Charles May 17, 2012, 7:56 pm

      Thanks Dave. Clarity is such an important and frequently overlooked component for making a website really work and add value to the business. It is the starting point for an effective website. Easy-to-find calls to action, intuitive navigation and site layout come much more easily when there is great clarity about the purpose of the website and how it should contribute to the business.

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