Formulating a Web Site StrategyBy Richard Igoe
Fred R. David, a business strategy author, defines strategy as "the art and science of formulating, implementing, and evaluating cross functional decisions that enable an organisation to achieve its objective", Strategic Management, Prentice-Hall (1985).
My definition of Web site strategy is "the process by which to optimise your website to take advantage of the opportunities in the external environment, whilst addressing the threats that are likely to impact on it".
Formulating a web site strategy is very important to the success of your website. By laying out your strategy at the start, even before choosing a domain name, can save months, even years of redesign and wasted promotion efforts.
Even if your site is already established, there are a number of basics that need to be questioned to ensure you are heading in the right direction. The answers to these questions will form the basis for your web design strategy.
- Firstly, what is the purpose of your site? Is it a marketing tool, a shopping cart to enable online sales, or both? What are your objectives?
- Secondly, what are your strengths and weaknesses? if you were in your visitor's "shoes", would you buy from the site and what would make you return?
- Thirdly, how is your income going to be generated? Will it be from advertising, from site membership fees, from affiliate programs, or from selling your own product? What are your capabilities and how will you use them to maintain a competitive advantage over your rivals?
The answers to the above will determine your content strategy and this in turn will have implications for all other aspects of your web site design.
1) THE PURPOSE OF YOUR SITE
Most websites serve one main purpose - they are either informational or they are e-commerce sites.
Informational sites usually make their income from membership fees, advertising, commissions, or selling at the back end.
E-commerce sites usually make their income by selling a product or service.
It is often difficult to combine both into the same website because an informational site needs to provide unbiased information about the topic of the website, while an e-commerce site needs to generate sales and use direct marketing tactics.
The main objective of informational sites therefore needs to be to maximize your site membership, or your subscriber list. Site usage could be regarded as the internet's equivalent of intangible assets.
The more information the site gathers about its subscribers, the more valuable the list is because it allows marketing to be targeted at specific groups of people, defined by where they live, how much they earn, whether they are male or female, etc? However it is also VERY important that any subscriber list is entirely opt-in because they want information from you.
Your objectives must therefore be: 1) Clear focused and specific 2) Measurable 3) Feasible and suitable for the industry you are focusing on.
2) IN YOUR VISITOR'S SHOES
Always put yourself in your website visitor's "shoes". If you were the website visitor, what would keep you on the site. What makes your site sticky?
By doing this you can easily identify your strengths and weaknesses!
The more focused your site is, the more likely you are to satisfy your visitors requirements, and the more likely they are to return and use your site in future.
The layout and navigation of your web pages are going to affect the usability of your site. It is very important to get these right and to know which web technologies to use. Your website layout and navigation can make or break your site.
Even more important is your Content strategy because you need to provide content that is likely to be targeted at your visitors. Are you providing the content your visitors are looking for?
3) HOW YOUR INCOME IS GENERATED
Informational sites usually generate their revenue from membership fees, advertising, commissions from affiliate programs and making sales to their members or subscribers using off-the-web marketing, for example through a newsletter or direct mail. Selling is the secondary objective.
The main objective of an e-commerce site is to promote an effective marketing message and to make the buying process as easy as possible. Creating a marketing base is the secondary objective. They usually have two types of customers, transactional and relational.
The purchase decisions of transactional customers are influenced by short-term reasons such as price, convenience, and/or availability.
Relational customers have built up a relationship with the business usually through previous contact. Their purchase decisions are based more on the customer relationship that has been built up, quality of support, and knowledge of the product or service or brand.
You need to identify where your market is and what your capabilities are. You need to identify what gives you a competitive advantage over your rivals.
Once you have done that you will be able to generate qualified traffic, turn the traffic into qualified leads, and turn the leads into customers.
Your web site strategy is therefore critical to the success of your site. It must be focused, to ensure your site is visible and attracts qualified leads, and your web pages must be usable to ensure you can convert your traffic.
You can find out more about how to design a successful website at http://www.thewebseye.com/website-strategy.htm