Two of the things that most clients know the least about is the process and the costs involved with building a proper web site. The key word here is proper, because the Internet is flooded with people and companies who “make it easy to build your own web site”. Likewise a lot of companies have someone in the IT department who will tell you that building a site is a piece of cake and so they let him do it.
At the Ink Tank®, we have been collectively involved with the design, writing and implementation of hundreds of sites and can tell you three things about this process.
1. Most people start their web site project in the wrong place, i.e., a web site company.
2. Many people start their website at the wrong point in the communications process, i.e., before anything else. They hire a web company, PR or design firm to develop content and a site that may have their logo, but allows their brand to slip away undetected.
3. A surprising number of people start their website with no specific purpose in mind, i.e., no strategy. They just know they need one.
4. An inordinate number of people think they can write their own content. Most of them should not.
5. Anybody who does 1 and/or or 2 , 3 or 4 invariably ends up with a site that probably does not function correctly, is in constant need of repair or upgrading, confuses their visitors or does not communicate their message effectively.
At the end of the day, the costs involved with building, repairing, renovating, restructuring and often totally re-doing ineffective sites can add up out to be more than cost of doing it right in the first place.
Not A One Person Operation
The only place to start building a proper web site is by developing a web site strategy. Because a web site is really an online marketing program and you wouldn’t start one of those without a well thought-through strategy.
Next, an experienced creative team should plan, design, map the navigation and create the content for the site. Make sure they really understand brand, and that you do too, because content is both strategy and brand driven. In tandem with this, a decision needs to be made as to which platform would best suit the site and give the functionality it needs to be effective over time. And in today’s world the whole concept of mobile and tablet applications need to be factored in. Because, like it or not, this is where the market is headed.
Once this is all decided, the web developer is brought in. Our developers work on the basis of their ability to respect the design, content and navigation of the sites we want them to program. They are technical pros and effective developers, undiluted by design or strategic pretensions. They are not creative people, but have a great deal of respect for the fact that when strategic and creative people are writing and designing the site, their job is to focus on implementation and SEO.
Now You’ve Got A Site That Works and You Can Be Proud Of
We have oversimplified the process here. It generally goes through more stages than this, but you get the basic idea. If you go direct to a web site company, you are leaving out three very important, make-or-break parts of the process. So you might end up with a site that functions well, but is lacking in brand integrity, design quality and content persuasiveness, all of which are key elements you need in order to get people to respond to your site in the first place.
Something To Think About.
There are a number of studies that have been done in both the UK, here in Canada and in the US that point out that consumers in both B to B and B to C areas are judging businesses and actually making purchase decisions based on the quality of the company’s web site.
This is a scary thought when all you have to do is pick a search area and look at the sites you find there. A lot of otherwise sophisticated businesses are cookie cutter ‘template’ sites or really awful looking homemade sites. Relatively few are what you would call first class on every level. And be careful: even if they look good, are they doing their job?
But this is not just our opinion. It’s our experience. Of the hundreds of sites we have worked on, a good 40 to 50% of them involved restructuring sites that under-performed because the client misunderstood or didn’t go through the process just outlined.
If you’re starting a web project, thinking about revamping your existing site, or looking at your brand with a view to a more effective website, we should talk.