After dispensing some quick-fire ideas this week to a company seeking to improve its website, I've been thinking more deeply about the underlying purpose of virtually every business site.
It's very easy to become obsessed with search engine optimisation (SEO), one's relative position on Google, and the statistics on unique visitors etc. These are all important in good site management, but they detract from the real purpose of a website. In my book, websites exist to add value to the customer experience and, in turn, to the corporate bottom line.
Navigation, design and content are provided to give the customer easy access to information that facilitates intelligent purchasing decisions. The site and its constituents are updated frequently to stimulate interest and encourage return visits. This is one side of the communication loop: it should prompt the visitor to respond through one of the customer-facing departments – preferably sales.
So to get the best return on an investment in developing and maintaining a corporate website – i.e. a substantial increase in sales – we need to cater for the specific needs of the visitor. We need to showcase what we offer, but couched in terms that translate to customer benefits. We need to show that our solutions meet or exceed customers' expectations. And we need to keep the whole thing spring-fresh so that when a customer returns there is more value to be derived from discovering new information.
I don't believe there is such a thing as a 'perfect' website, but if we are looking for value we'll get a lot closer to perfection if we strive to offer as much value as possible.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.