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What is your website’s goal?

October 1, 2008

I’ve long thought that many people shouldn’t have a ‘website’. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be online in some way, but it does mean they should rethink the goals.

I was part of the mid to late 90’s run up to get websites. It was like a gold rush at advertising agencies as client came to them and said: “we need a website”.

Visualization of the various routes through a ...

Image via Wikipedia

And from that, we have many millions of websites from local restaurants, to international oil companies, to everything in between. And a long the way, we seem to have settled on a form and function that was really designed back in the day when the only goal was getting up there

Websites have ‘home pages’ and navigation to take one through the seemingly boundless amount of information about a company.

What must we have done before the internet to discover the wealth of information in the about us. We wouldn’t have known about them!

Anyway, back to the question: what is the goal of the website? Because back in the day, analytics or tracking was expensive and the realm of programmers. now it’s free, and as easy to use as web e-mail. So we should all be using it to track more than hits. Incidentally, at Web 2.0 Expo I learned that ‘hits’ stands for “How Idiots Track Success”.

Analytics lets us track goals through conversions. For example, the goal of the website could be to get people to click on the about page. For this website, that would be a legitimate goal that I would track (currently, the about page is the third most requested page.)

Just think how differently we would approach a page if the goal was to have people click on the “about us” page. First of all, we would make it interesting. But more importantly, we would build the site with a goal. And we could tweak it on the fly to see if certain things help achieve the goal.

The brand website is finally coming of age. I heard someone at my agency call it “traditional interactive”, meaning it’s old enough that we should be doing a better job with it. In an era of free and available analytics, the time to start is today.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2008 9:12 am

    Before I take on a new client, I hold a quick session with the company leadership and ask this question:

    “A year after the launch of your website, we are having a great celebration party with our two companies and going over all the things that made us successful and hopefully rich beyond our wildest dreams. What are the things we are sharing with everyone that we did right and that caused us to succeed? What are the things we did wrong that slowed us down?”

    Their ability to answer these questions tells me if I’m going to take them on as a client. How quickly they can come up with a list of 5 or 10 things determines how quickly the project can begin.

    Good Hunting.

  2. October 1, 2008 10:23 am

    Thanks Tim, I think that’s a great strategy — especially the party part.

    I dounbt there are too man people who think about goals with a website, they merely think we have to have one, update one, or whatever. And then when no goals are in place, we take the work because it’s easier than refusing it.

  3. October 2, 2008 4:58 pm

    This is exactly the question we’ve been asking of our site, and then continue to ask knowing the site will evolve.

    Having just gone through a site revision, and knowing we need to tweak some more – we should have asked “and then what?” a few more times to get the full picture defined.

    It’s the web, so it’s easy to iterate – but not easy to make up for lost time.

  4. October 2, 2008 6:04 pm

    @Matt It’s strange, you sit down with some leadership and ask them about what your web site goals are and they get nervous real fast because they are uncomfortable confirming that the thought of goals never occurred to them. Well, other then they need one for some reason and the very fact they create one is the goal.

    But on the other hand, you ask them to talk about how they would recognize the project team and staff for a job well done, and site some of the examples they would want to use in the future celebration event, and the forward thinking discussions become much more relaxed and exciting. Before you know it, you have a road map to where you want to be in a year.

  5. October 2, 2008 6:13 pm

    @Kevin That actually is the trap with the internet. If you don’t ask the right questions before you start a project you can fall into a false sense of security that you can make up for it in the next iteration.

    Iterations on the internet are plentiful and fast. But don’t assume that they aren’t expensive. I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t force the team to set a five year vision, as I’ve described above, you often find yourself unable to accomplish your goals because past choices limit the implementable opportunities, unless you spend a lot of time and money to correct your lack of vision.

  6. October 3, 2008 9:05 am

    Thanks for the advice Tim, for me and Kevin.

    We’re about to start a redesign of a website, and I’m pushing for us to have a goal (which is where this post came from). We sort of have something, but we’ll see how the client feels when things on the site are deliberately done to achieve the goal.

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