Hammering out the best websites also means making the transition from Point A to Point B – the rough draft in the client’s mind to the final deliverable product. While a clear cut plan for the end result can lead to a much smoother development process, it’s completely understandable that there will be parts in your process that you may overlook, especially if you don’t come from a particularly technical background. These are some of the more common oversights that I have come across in my experience as a web developer:
How will new customers find your business / products / services?
Most common non-answer: Google.
Most wrong answer: We have a list of emails.
People always seem to be under the impression that, if you have a website, you have exposure. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is nice but most industries can’t rely on that alone as a method of bringing in more potential customers. If online marketing is the driving force behind your web development you will most likely need to spend as much on online marketing as your project costs.
How will potential customers learn what your business does?
Most common non-answer: The website.
Most wrong answer: Everyone already knows.
It would seem that businesses with a web presence tend to fall into 2 categories: simple and complicated.
- We sell dog collars
- We clean offices
- We walk dogs
- We deliver a storage container to your home, you put your stuff in it, then tell us where, when, and how to ship it, then we broker monthly storage fees and a reverse process to deliver it back to you.
Being able to explain your business effectively is never easy. If your business is simple, you have the challenge of effectively setting your business apart from competitors. It continues to surprise me how many people think “We sell great dog collars” will accomplish that effectively. It shocks me more when I realize this must be what they think someone would pay a marketing professional to produce. Resist the temptation to do all of the marketing yourself – pay the money it takes to have a marketing professional go over your missions statements with a fine tooth comb and save yourself money in the long run.
If your business is complicated, your ability to communicate it effectively becomes one of the most important steps in obtaining new customers. People have a short attention span and little patience for complicated or confusing messages, even more so online. Established businesses have the advantage of having to tackle this issue already but often overlook the need to adjust their marketing materials for the web.
How will you deliver your products / services to customers?
Most common non-answer: The website.
Most wrong answer: We process all orders by hand at the office.
It is surprising how many clients don’t consider shipping until the end of a project. Shipping costs should be part of your business model: it can be the difference between having a profitable business and a nice idea. Different shipping services obviously have different costs and what is almost always overlooked is the difference in development costs when implementing them in a web app.
This question isn’t limited to product based businesses – many clients are often unaware of technological costs / limitations / practicalities of simply making services available online. Don’t underestimate a customers reluctance to type in 50 fields of information you already have.
Who is your target market?
Most common non-answer: Everyone.
Most wrong answer: Everyone.
Even if you are selling something as universally needed as food, you are going to need to understand target markets. Different people need different things, and different web services are accessible by different people. If your target market is age 65+, their most commonly used browser is IE7; therefore, your proposed solution of a slick interactive HTML5 map of drag and drop delivery routes is tripled in price.
Where will the content for the website come from?
Most common non-answer: We’ll get that to you later.
Most wrong answer: My wife who has an english degree.
The content of a website is the whole point. People go to websites for content and not just to stare at it, much in the same way people buy cars – while some cars look nicer than others, they serve a purpose other than that. The quality of a website’s content is often considered by clients to be the least important when it is probably the most. The nature of a website’s content should ideally drive its layout and design and this is not possible if producing the content is the lowest priority.
Bonus Oversight: More content is better content.
The quality and how effectively the content communicates the desired message is the most important factor when producing content. People don’t read websites, they skim them – your message needs to be clear and concise to be effective.
These oversights, while innocent, are fundamentally integrated with the structure of your project. Any one of these is enough to derail your project and have you spending more money patching up holes than you should have spent in the first place.