I’ve been building websites professionally for well over ten years now. I’m privileged to work with a wide array of wonderful clients and really enjoy the work I do with them.
When it comes to early meetings with new clients a question I always ask is ‘In what ways do you feel your current website is failing?’ It's not a negative question - if their current website was performing perfectly, they probably wouldn't be getting in touch!
The answers people give are generally pretty similar. ‘We want a more modern look’ or ‘we want to look better than our competitor’ are favourites. Sometimes it’s something more functional like ‘we want to generate more leads’ or ‘we want to update the website more easily’. All of these are worthy objectives and, of course, we can work towards those with a redesign and / or rebuild. However, there’s a fundamental flaw in these objectives…
99% of the time the website owner is not the user of a website. The real users are customers (potential and existing), researchers, press, potential suppliers, bots (including Google Search) and other groups of people. If the main concern when building a new website is how it looks or if it provides a specific function for its owner, this does nothing to improve the experience of the user and, therefore, the user’s impression of the website owner. In turn, it probably won’t increase sales or even generate more traffic to the website long-term.
It was listening to the Boagworld podcast some years ago that I first realised the duplicity and fundamental error with most FAQ pages. The essence of the discussion on the podcast was that most FAQs aren't full of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ at all but are filled with ‘Questions We’d Frequently Like to Answer’. In other words, they are not questions that customers actually have, they are questions the website owner wants to answer.
Sometimes the FAQ is really (and more worryingly) comprised of ‘questions our support team can’t be bothered to keep answering’ in which case it's probably the owner’s product that’s at fault, not the customer…
This fundamental misunderstanding of what a webpage should deliver is prevalent across the web. Websites are full of glossy pictures, bold statements and quirky, quippy ‘millennial marketing’ messages. All style, little substance and of little, if any, help to visitors seeking information.
Take a look at what the ‘big boys’ do. Look at Amazon, Facebook, eBay, the BBC, PayPal etc. and you’ll see layouts and designs that are attractive yet completely focused on the visitor’s task. They are focused with laser-like precision on helping their users do what they came to the site to do. And that’s why users keep going back to them time after time, getting more and more faithful in the service they provide and becoming more loyal to them.
If this is all sounding (embarrassingly) familiar don't worry. It's a mistake even big companies make. But realising the mistake and looking at your website from a visitor’s point of view will put you at a huge advantage.
Talking to your clients and asking why they come to your website is a great place to start. Also, looking at your Google Analytics will highlight the search terms people used to get to your website pages. In reality those search terms are really questions that your website needs to answer quickly and efficiently when the users arrive.
If you get really stuck or want to know more, just ask. I’m always happy to talk and help you move forward.