In this article, I’ll show you the first step toward building an effective website – one that gets the results you’re looking for.
If you search Google for information on how to build an effective website, you’ll find lots of articles. They talk about design, content, SEO, site speed, layout, what to do on your site, what not to do.
There’s a lot of useful advice out there. A lot of great tips. A lot of truths. But all of that may leave you with a distinct feeling of: Where do I start?
To build a website that works for your business, you need the right starting point. And you need more than just tips. You need a coherent framework to put all of the tips together in a meaningful way.
I’ll give you the starting point for that in this article. Then in future articles, I’ll begin to lay out the framework and put the pieces together.
Start at the Beginning
Start with the problem you are trying to solve.
All too often, people start in the middle.
As soon as they realize there’s a problem, they start trying to solve it. But they don’t even know fully at that point what the problem is.
I’ve worked in technical industries for over 30 years and have repeatedly seen this to be the case. Technical people are some of the most likely to jump in and try to solve a problem before they understand it.
How is that ever going to be effective? The starting point is to get crystal clear on the problem you’re trying to solve.
What’s wrong with your current website? What is keeping it from serving your business well?
More fundamentally, what problem are you encountering in your business that you’re trying to solve by building a new website?
Do you need more customers? Do you need more visitors to your website? Even though these two problems sound similar on the surface, they point toward different solutions.
Here’s a simplified example of why you need to understand the problem first.
Suppose you get plenty of visitors to your website, but too few become customers. Your sales are stagnating. You’re cutting cost left and right, but you’re having trouble becoming profitable. Things don’t look good.
There’s obviously more we could dig into, but just knowing that you get plenty of visits but too few sales says something very fundamental about where to focus first.
It indicates a need to look at conversion optimization. That is, making improvements that will lead to a higher percentage of your visitors become customers.
This can involve things like changes to text on your website, photos, features, layout, navigation or other things. So this is just a starting point, but it at least gets us pointed in the right direction.
Now, on the other hand, suppose that everything else is the same, but you just aren’t getting hardly any visits to your website.
In that case, it’s not surprising at all that you get no new customers and your sales are low. If you focus on conversion optimization, it won’t help you – there’s no one to convert. There would be almost no value in focusing on conversion optimization at this point.
Instead, you need to focus on getting people to your website. Not just anyone, but the right people – the people who are interested in what you have to offer and who can afford what you sell.
Once you’ve solved that problem, there will likely still be more to do, and you may very well find that you need conversion optimization later, but you’ll now be focusing on the right problem first. And likely, you’ll start increasing your sales and seeing a return from your investment as soon as you fix the first, most critical problem.
Focusing On the Right Problem
If you focus on the wrong problem or the wrong goals, your sales don’t improve, and the time and money you pour into web development become an expense rather than an investment.
So knowing and understanding the problem is essential before anyone can craft a solution that gets results.
Digging deeply into these sorts of things, as we do in our strategy sessions, will bring clarity to your current challenges and goals. And it will give you a starting point for the steps that follow in the design process. That’s why we start there when building websites for our clients.