Is your website a tool?
What is the number one goal of a website? I would argue that if you think of a website like a product, the answer is simple: drive people back to it.
Websites that are successful at driving people back to themselves are tools. In the case of a content rich site, it might simply be a tool for learning about the world. Or it might be a tool for keeping track of your world, in the case of Twitter, Facebook, and the blogs people read.
Think about websites that have a lot of traffic. Some of them are content sites that have built in RSS feeds that let people use another tool to access the content.
With me so far? Then lets makes websites better. Marketers doing websites for their clients should ask two simple questions.
1. “How will we drive people to this site.”
The answer could be search optimization. Or other marketing efforts like ads. What matters is that one doesn’t make a website and then not tell anyone about it. So tell people about it. Which leads to the second question:
2. How will the site drive people back.
This is where thinking about a site as a product is important. Marketers use communications to drive trial, but the product drives retrial. If the product (or service) delivers on the promise, then people will use the product or service again. Same goes with a website. Give people a reason to come back, and they will.
This is how both questions are connected. The website should deliver on the promise made in the marketing efforts. If it does, people will come back.
In my opinion, don’t waste energies (and money) on a website if you can’t answer those two questions. There are a bunch of other places to get a brand in front of people. For instance, if a site was going to have a company history section, scrap it and put it up on Wikipedia. If there is a ‘what’s new’ section, scrap it and start a blog.
Unless one can clearly answer both questions asked above, there are better ways to communicate online. The era of “have to have a website” is eroding with every new tool