Five key elements that you need to keep top of mind when looking to build a successful website are Idea, Ease of Use, Value Addition, the Details and the Team. Everything else is dressing. If you’ve focused on the key elements when building – or re-building, refreshing or looking for a solution – most everything else falls into place.
1. A core idea
A website is a creative project – and it needs a central, pivotal idea – a purpose. No matter how well it is designed, how well the information flows, if there’s no central idea, you haven’t got much to build on. Like Shakespeare’s plays, there has to be a central theme, a good creative proposition. Then it’s easy to flow the rest, to build the parts, the dialogue, the engagement, the stickiness. Decide early on what you are setting out to do – what is the purpose… And, ideally, the purpose is well defined and then implemented via a good idea. The Louis Vuitton site is built around – appropriately – journeys. And it unfolds so beautifully. Old Spice use the tongue-in-cheek Old Spice Man as a storytelling theme and have been doing it well. When commissioning a web project, ask “what’s my core central idea and how are we telling that story?” – and you can ask this question regardless if you are building a site for kids, for transaction, for a bank or for adidas.
2. Ease of Use
Usability is a buzzword that’s been around, but frankly and simply put, this is all about ease of use. How well is your site sign-posted? Is content easy to find? Is information available without digging through seven layers? Are all the relevant bits in the right places? Have you asked the developers to check for intuitiveness – meaning, for the most part – is the journey not down the road less traveled. If it is, they will leave. A good website makes it easy – but exciting, and yes, there is a happy medium. Both outgoing information (what your website says) and incoming messages (what your target audience says or does in response) should be easy – and (not boring, but) predictable. When you arrive at an airport, you don’t want to have to guess where the taxis are.
3. Value Addition
People don’t come to your website becuase they have time to kill. And if they are, you better have some really cool games on! Seriously, ensure that you are adding genuine value to the user experience, no matter what. Are you providing useful, relevant information that they’re looking for, or is it a lot of chest beating in an ‘About Us’ section that’s only relevant to you and your CEO? Does the end-user buying your product really want details on when and how your mission statement was written? Come on! Give them value on every page. Provide details when you feel they’re looking for it, and keep it simple when simple will do. Content, specially copy. is best written by web writing specialists who can look at the project from a user perspective – not from the company’s. And whether it’s images, videos, games, coupons, whatever – it should all add some intrinsic value to the visitor’s experience – and that way they’ll remember your site and come back. And, so remember to refresh the value.
Detail is key. Have you provided everything that’s needed to complete and enrich the user experience? Have you provided all the information? And that information is up to date? And the links all work, the copy is fluid (and spelled correctly), the visuals are optimized, the forms easy to fill and return, the price points are correct, the social links all lead to the right destinations – God’s in the details. Get the development team to pre-flight check everything, and have a new set of eyes look through it all before you launch a site or add new content. The best way is to prepare a check list of everything that goes on your site – down to the last level of links, the tiny Like Us icons, the Home buttons – everything – and make sure they all work and they all are aligned, in the right place, the right colors etc etc etc. Restaurants have soft launches, websites have beta. This is so that the wrinkles can be ironed out.
5. The team
Once you set out to build a website, identify a core team. We’re not talking about the agency or the company or the department that’s building the site. But the core team. They are the ones who will drive the project, manage the milestones, reign in the costs, ensure that everything that was promised gets delivered – and on time. Usually it’s no more than two to three people. Seriously, after that you’re crowdsourcing, and websites usually are difficult to manege when you’ve got a stadium working on it. Insist on a lead team that manages the product. All you need is a comfort level, a sense of trust with this core team. After that, it’s their headache to get the best designers to design, and the best code-warriors to do the back-end. Your project may be huge and may need a team of forty programmers – but you still need just two, max three people driving it. Fall guys. Which is why, often, smaller agencies who manage out sourcing well often deliver to tight schedules and high quality demands better. The fall guys are for real, and they have a lot riding on it. Find a good core team, and you’ve got success – you’ve offloaded your headache.
First published in the Innovations_Digital blog