May 25, 2018

The Real Reasons Your Website Stinks.

Does your website know how to do its job?
By Richard Byrd

It’s one of the most common complaints we hear from potential clients. “Our website sucks.” Very often it’s true, but in most cases, it’s for completely different reasons than they think. Their salespeople are convinced it doesn’t generate enough leads because it isn’t as cool as their competitors’ websites. The CEO doesn’t like the home page design. The marketing people hate working in its clunky CMS. The IT people think it needs more technical bells and whistles.

These are all legitimate issues to be sure, but typically, the real problems run a bit deeper. At Pennebaker, we see websites as business tools, and if your company’s site isn’t functioning like one, then your website does indeed suck. Fear not. Even an ugly, clunky, low-tech website can still be a good business tool (although we like to fix those issues, too.) Here are some of the underlying causes of a website that isn’t living up to its most basic responsibility.

Failure to establish business goals and KPIs

Just like you and your colleagues, a website should have a clear job to do, and it should be good at it. Unlike you, it’s never off the clock. After your salesforce goes to sleep or takes a vacation, your website is still hard at work—or it should be. But it needs to be working on the right things.

Are you looking to get leads? Do you want your customers to be more engaged? Do you want prospects to get a favorable opinion of your company when they check out your site? Do customers need to find technical details about your offerings? Do you need investors to understand the potential of your organization? Do you want possible recruits to think your company would be a great place to work?

Then set your site up to deliver on those goals and objectives, and measure your progress periodically.

Inside-out thinking

Many times, our clients want to start their redesign by looking at the top navigation bar and then, inevitably, they try to structure their content according to their organigram. “Jane, you’re the head of this division, you provide that content. Bill, you go get the content for your division,” and so the content battles begin. While asking subject matter experts to own their content is important, if that content isn’t structured so that your customers can easily find it and navigate through it, then it won’t be all that useful. And the battle is lost.

Think about the last time you went to the website of a potential vendor. You went there with a clear goal in mind: to find the information you needed to make a business decision. Did you find it easily, or was it a struggle? Lots of our clients have big catalogs of offerings, and the same customer might buy products from many different business lines. If products are structured strictly by business line, customers have to work harder to find related offerings. One thing is for sure, website users don’t want to work harder. When they don’t find what they are looking for, they assume you don’t sell it.

User experience is not about your org chart and silos. It’s about giving your users easy access to whatever they came to find.

Weak content

Even the most beautiful, technologically advanced website is never going to perform as a business tool if it has inappropriate content. Again, remember a recent visit to a potential vendor’s website. Was their home page a self-congratulatory fluff fest? Did you even read more than a few words of it? If you are like most people, you skimmed the page for navigational items, reading a few words here and there looking for the content that brought you there in the first place.

Keep this in mind. Your customers want to know you can solve their problems. They don’t care that you are “the world leader in such and such,” or that you say you are “customer focused.” They didn’t come to the site to learn your corporate values. They want to know if you have the products and expertise to solve their problems. The only way to prove that is with the right content.

Different users define “good content” differently

You may have several prospects from the same company visiting your site, each with completely different expectations. The procurement professional may be there simply looking for quotes. Engineers, for technical specs. Managers, for proof they can trust your company with a large project. Segmenting your target audience into personas and taking a deep dive into what they are looking for and what will influence their buying decisions is critical. Doing so can save you lots of time and frustration down the road in terms of poor traffic and lack of conversions.

Extra-curricular help for the suckiest offenders

If, after reading this, you think, “that’s all fine and good, but my website still sucks,” give us a call for more tips and advice. Or, if your website is truly sucky, consider having us host a User Experience Workshop where we explore smart ways to tackle all of the issues mentioned above right there with you. Sometimes having an outsider’s perspective is all it takes to overcome the obstacles that are making your website, you know, not so great.

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