The benefits of a website are what drive your business goals.
"We need a website for our business, because our organization needs an online presence."
That's not a web strategy, it's a tautology, or saying the same thing in different ways. It's not advancing your business plans, it's doing something, just to do it. You don't need a website, you need the BENEFITS of a website. Increased leads, increased sales, wider reach; THESE are the things you need. We see too many prospective clients get caught up in the details of their new website, without considering what the site is supposed to be doing for them.
Pantheon’s Dwayne McDaniel gives a great talk about giving the client what they want, even when they’re not really sure what it is. It’s our job as web designers to help them articulate what their business goals are for the website. We understand the technical side of the web, and how it can drive business goals. We have to be interpreters, listening to what the client is trying to accomplish and translating it into web design and development that accomplishes those goals.
"We are not designing a chair, we are designing a human suspension system." - Kandace Brigleb at WooConference 2017
Quality, professional websites provide very real benefits to your business. But you need to pull relevant and concrete benefits from the website. In initial discovery meetings, it's important to nail down what specific benefits you're looking to get. What need does this new site need to fulfill for you? Do you need an increase in sales? Is lead generation the focus? This applies to non-profits and organizations as well! Converting potential funders or donors? Are you growing an email list to amplify your voice? We ask a lot of questions in discovery, but that's because we want to help you define what concrete and measurable goals are. If you, as the client, walk into that meeting with a clear idea of what benefits you're looking to get from the site, success is not far away. If you walk in with a head full of features and no goals, it's going to be a long discovery meeting.
What's the difference? Think of it as cause and effect. Features cause benefits. If the good thing you're looking at is caused by something else, it's a benefit.
- Web Accessibility is a feature. It's proper markup of the website’s code that makes the site behave in a way that is predictable for people using assistive technology. (You can read about accessibility here, as well)
- Increased audience share is a benefit of accessibility.
- Increased exposure to your brand is a benefit of accessibility
- Search Engine Optimized content is a feature. It’s a bundle of tactics that make your website show up higher in search results when people search for a particular keyword or keyword phrase.
- Increased organic search traffic to your site is a benefit of SEO content.
- Increased lead generation is a benefit of SEO content.
- UX-focused design (User eXperience) is a feature. It's keeping the ease of use, the pleasure of usage and the usefulness of your site to the visitor at the forefront of your decision making when building a site.
- Increased visitor loyalty is a benefit of UX-focused design.
- Improved conversion rates are a benefit of UX-focused design.
So you've decided on the benefits you're looking to get out of your site and set goals to define them. How do you know if you’re hitting those goals? Set KPIs, of course! Key Performance Indicators. These are concrete, measurable things you can use to track progress towards your goals.
Social media referral traffic, email signups, abandoned cart conversions are all great KPIs. If it’s a real goal, a true benefit, it needs to be something measurable. And with a bit of work, you can find a way to measure nearly anything. You take the benefit that you've identified and set a quantifiable metric based on data. It should be countable so that you can measure progress and see trends.
Nobody wants a website, they want to hit a KPI.
KPIs are mile markers on your journey towards your website's business goal. Regularly check your website's KPIs and see if you're advancing towards your goal. If you are, then your website is delivering the benefits that you defined. That's great! Look for ways to support or amplify your efforts. If not, dig into your KPI and think about which specific, actionable things you could be doing to turn that trend around. By identifying and tracking your KPIs, you have a specific area of your strategy to focus your attention, instead of "The website's not performing".
Get more for your business out of your website.