How to Build Better Websites
The initial planning phase of a new website is often full of ideas bolder than a bowl of five-alarm chili. The goal is to change the world and grind the competition under your spurred boot heel. However, the end product doesn't always deliver on the initial promise. This is much like the legendary ten gallon hat, which doesn't exactly live up to its namesake (no offense, Texans). So, why do websites fall short and what can we do to help ensure those big ideas see the light of day?
Who invited the Frog?
Organizations often start web projects with a focus on their online competition. This can lead to the rampant use of the phrase leapfrogging the competition during kick-off meetings. Translated: Replicate your competitors features and then one-up them with some super-sized features of your own. A noble goal, but focusing on the competition is often the wrong way to approach innovating for your own customers. Plus, given the real-world constraints of time and budget, you're most likely to land squarely in the middle of mediocre and have a site that mimics your peers.
Is Bigger Better?
The key to a bolder website starts by removing everything thats getting in the way of your site being truly effective for your audience. Easier said than done, I know. Having just moved, I can attest to the fact there is nothing harder than figuring out what gets packed and what ends up in the trash. Or to steal a quote from that most quotable Texan Dan Rather: Its about as hard to call as a deaf hog up a sassafras tree. We couldn't agree more.
The Feature List Diet
The planning process of a website is a magical time. Ideas are a dime a dozen and feature lists expand faster than a jackalope on the open prairie. The first step is freeing yourself from the idea that you have to do it all. Just because you wrote down dozens of features doesn't mean you've entered into a binding contract to corral them all. So what happens if you dont trim that list? You will likely spread your limited time and money out across them all and end up with a site that is average at best. Instead you could choose to do few things exceptionally, a handful of things average and not do the other features at all (there will always be a next phase). The point here is that going deeper rather than wider can help you differentiate your website and dominate your competition online.
Refresh dont redesign
Repeat after me: I may not need to redesign my entire website. In all my years in web development, I know how much clients (and agencies) look forward to rebuilding a new site from the ground up. But consider a more strategic approach by conductin continuous improvements. Give the site a refresh and spend your resources on deep-diving into specific sections. Good examples of this could be:
- The college that develops an immersive and interactive online admissions strategy instead of redesigning its vast website.
- The software company that develops a persuasive microsite to drive lead generation for a key product instead of putting in a new content management system.
- The non-profit that develops a social media strategy instead of a new online brand.
There isn't a one size fits all strategy, but you can often make a greater impact on your site and bottom line by creating deeper experiences that provide real competitive differentiation.