Welcome to the last of the 4-part series that focuses on the dimensions of a successful website. Congratulations, you’ve made it through all four parts and can pat yourself on the back because clearly you’re dedicated to ensuring the success of your website! Last in this series, but not least, I’ll be addressing functionality.
Before I get into the topic I’d like to re-iterate what I consider to be a successful website.
For those of you who have read parts 1 thru 3 inclusively, please feel free to skip this.
To me, a successful site is one that accomplishes all of the following goals consistently on an ongoing basis.
- Revenue generated by the website (directly or indirectly) exceeds the expenses of operating the website.
- Positive cashflow (revenue minus expense) is growing year over year at least 15% (please note: this doesn’t sound like a lot but due to the power of compounding, your profits will triple over 9 years at this rate)
- Your customer base is consistently growing and you have a way to communicate with and solicit repeat business
* Please note: I do realize that not all websites are in existence to earn additional revenues and some websites may be created solely for the purpose of reducing expenses (e.g. online technical support, online help, etc.). The criteria of this type of website is essentially the same, however, its goals are reached by reducing expenses as opposed to increasing revenues.
Once any of these goals are no longer being successfully accomplished, it’s time for a refresh; your website has either aged too much and is no longer current or competitive with other companies in your industry. Remember, just because your site is doing fantastic for you today, it can all change overnight when one of your competitors takes charge of their Internet presence and revamps it entirely!
Before getting into discussing the importance of content, I’ll re-iterate the four main dimensions that I have addressed during my four-part series. They are all vital so be sure to read each one and extend each aspect the attention that they deserve, don’t leave areas of your website presence weak, the goal is to build a formidable sales channel for your business:
Graphical elements that make up the design of the website, reflecting the image of your business to your leads and clients.
Determines how information is organized so that leads and clients can find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently.
Enables your leads and clients to perform a task on your Internet presence (e.g. send an email, request a quotation or callback, etc.)
Now, it’s time to talk about functionality. What is it? Website functionalities are the features that enable website visitors to accomplish tasks that will increase their likeliness of fulfilling one or more of the goals that you have outlined for your website.
I’ve chosen to talk about functionality last within this series because it’s the aspect that most business owners are confident is vital to their online success, yet, never seem to find the time to accomplish. Even business owners who understand the importance of and therefore make the time to focus on brainstorming and accomplishing vital functionality within their website tend to overcomplicate or improperly prioritize the functions within.
So then, how do you determine what functionalities are vital to your website presence? If you recall in the previous article, I discussed identifying the three main goals of your website. You’re going to need those three same priorities for this exercise as well. Now write them down. For this example, I’ll stick with the example I used in the first part of this series, a martial arts academy.
What would be the three main goals of any academy?
- Sign up more members
- Retain existing members
- Maintain (and enhance) the world-class image that we’ve created as the best academy in the region, and among the best in the country.
Notice how none of them relate to “revenue”? It’s far too generic of a goal and if you’ve got that written down, place your pen to the left of it and drag it slowly along the paper to the right of it. Write a new goal, one that doesn’t focus on revenue, but rather focuses on improving your business. If you provide value to your customers, revenue will come. Having revenue as a primary goal always clouds your true priorities.
Perfect, now with those goals, write down all the benefits that your visitors can fulfill for each of your goals. Also, identify all of the risks (or potential barriers) that you’re up against. For this example I’ll outline the first goal identified above: Sign up more members
1. Benefits (Goals fulfilled)
1.1. Get into shape
1.2. Look good
1.3. Increase confidence
2. Risks (Potential barriers)
2.1. Takes too much time to train
2.2. Costs too much money to sign up
2.3. Too intimidating to join
2.4. Not motivated enough to sign up (insert excuse here – time, energy, etc.)
Finally, consider what functionalities you can build into your website that will help to re-enforce the benefits and minimize the risks outlined above. Ask each question one by one:
- What does my website need in order to show members the benefits of [insert goal here]?
- What does my website need in order to address the potential barrier of a member being/feeling [insert risk here]?
Here’s a quick list I put together by asking a few of those questions in a couple of minutes of work:
- Before/after photos of other members (1.1, 1.2, 2.2, 2.4)
- Testimonials from existing members (1.1, 1.2, 2.2, 2.4)
- Compare benefits versus other academies (or gyms, etc.) (1.1, 1.2, 2.4)
- Describe programs, identify inexperienced students are welcome (1.3, 2.3)
- Showcase student of the month (1.3, 2.4)
- Highlight student promotions (1.1, 1.2, 1.3)
- Show team and professor photos; highlighting experience and accomplishments (2.2)
Two points that are difficult to address are time and money, because they tie into virtually everything, but believe me, Individuals will make the time, and find the money if their requirements or goals are fulfilled by the products and services that you offer.
This is an extremely simplified exercise that I went through in a short time but if you want the most out of it you need to invest the time to perform all of these steps. Start today and create a scheduled task to perform this exercise once per quarter. Each time you perform it, you’ll find it easier than the last and it’ll not only help you to achieve your long term goals, it’ll help you to formalize and adapt them on an ongoing basis. I’m sure at this point that you realize, this article covers a lot more than just your website, it encompasses everything about your business. Now you will be ready to accept what I’m going to say, because you realize it’s true, your website is your business and today is the day that you’ll remember forever because your business has already started the most dramatic transformation that it’s ever experienced. Go get ’em tiger!
CEO, N-VisionIT Interactive