© John P. Starling, First North American Rights, Baltimore, MD 21211
Design, content and programming are the cornerstones of your brand, your message and your business processes. But lately, there are two main reasons that organizations are choosing to redesign their Web sites: content and programming. Noticeably absent from that short list of reasons to redesign a Web site is design itself.
Unless your organization is brand new, chances are your marketing team has established your look and you are committed to it. That look should change little from version to version of your site in order to maintain the consistency of the brand you are trying to build.
But every one and a half to three years, companies and nonprofits alike go through the process of redesigning their Web sites. Why? To update their message and improve the site’s functionality.
We have found over the past several years, and more frequently within the past year, that although design companies are usually the first stop for clients looking to “redesign” their Web sites, the real catalysts for the redesign are either the written content or the programming. Clients come to us with the following complaints regarding their content: “Our content is weak.” “It doesn’t describe what we do.” “Our services have changed.” “We don’t even do that any more.” Or, on the programming side, clients say: “Our site can’t do what we need it to.” “It doesn’t have the functionality that our competitor’s site has, and we’re at a competitive disadvantage because of it.” “It isn’t tied to our business.” “It doesn’t actually do anything.”
Don’t get me wrong. Design matters. I am presupposing that your organization has a Web site that catches the eye and holds the attention of the very specific audience for which the site was specifically designed. The interface makes sense and the navigation is intuitive – open, but almost subliminally steering users through the key areas of the site with which you need them to interact. Your site has (or should have) a call to action, which exists within the content, and must have the “back-end” functionality or programming to allow users to make possible any action they want to take: searching for product availability, placing orders, tracking development, managing financials, tracking performance, etc.
As you are reading this, the Web and the technology that moves it are changing. Experts estimate that 70% of the technology that we will use in our lifetimes has not even been invented yet. What does that mean for organizations that are consciously trying use the Web as a platform for their message, a cornerstone for their identity, and an integrated system of tools to re-engineer their business processes to make them more efficient, more effective and, ultimately, more profitable? Does it mean they have to lead their industry in all three of these categories in order to level the playing field against larger competition, stay competitive relative to their peers and profitable in a bad economy? Or do they have to design, market and program themselves into a tizzy in order to maintain the market leader position they built before the word Internet was even in the lexicon? The answer is no. But you do need to give careful consideration to the ongoing state of your design, content and programming issues, make an honest assessment of these issues, and have a plan for improving them on an ongoing basis. This is because – as you know by now – your Web site is never “done.”
No matter how your organization grows and changes, and no matter what transformations technology may bring, consider the following three principles as a baseline for the ongoing vitality of your Web presence:
- Design – Have a well designed, aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly Web site. It does not have to be the slickest or the flashiest, but it should be easy to navigate and rewarding visually – it should look like it was done by professionals who know as much about their business as you do about yours.This site is the destination at which your audiences will arrive after hearing about you, reading your collaterals, seeing your ad, etc. The visual component of your brand must be strong and consistent across your entire media family, and the parent of that family is your Web site. The mantra? A strong, professional, consistent aesthetic balancing form and function.
We’re seeing the very beginning of convergent media now. Soon, your Web site will be your channel. Start thinking of your “user hits” as your viewers and your Web site as your channel.
- Content – Make sure that your site, and specifically your written content, is part of your business cycle. From the printing of business cards to advertising costs, from networking events to the purchasing of key words on search engines, you spend valuable time and money to get people to your Web site. When they arrive, they need to know who you are, what you do, why your organization is different from others in your field and what you want them (the audience) to do.They should come there to learn, to watch, to participate, to buy, to join … and when they do, they are interacting with your brand and they should hear your clear, consistent and convincing message. They should respond to your call to action.
- Programming – Integrate your business processes with available Web technologies. You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge of technology, or even the leading edge, but you certainly don’t want to be the last organization in your industry or market to employ business process reengineering tools. If so, those tools have been giving your competition an edge for months or even years. There is a lot of solid, proven technology available to middle-market companies and even small businesses that are willing to embrace reality. The reality is that good technology equals efficiency, and that improves the bottom line.
The development and installation of customer relationship management and project management software, Intranets and Web applications are bringing a serious return on investment. Again, you don’t have to fund the companies that are inventing these technologies out of their basements – these are applications that are solving everyday business problems, every day. Content, design and programming are equally important. Design catches the eye, content gives decision makers enough information to take the next step, and programming improves business processes. When they are working together seamlessly, the return on investment can be dramatic.
Interest in his services should be directed to Cheryl Johnson of The NERDS Group at 301-622-7995 or Cheryl@nerds.net.