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WebSense: 3 Steps to a Successful Website

There are three steps that anyone developing a website should take. Failing to follow these steps is a sure way to waste time and money and may even lead to an unsuccessful site.

These steps are:

  • Setting goals for the site. Why are you building the site? There may be many reasons. Some of the reasons may overlap each other, and some may conflict with each other. Common reasons for building a site are: gaining exposure, selling products or services, and offering customer support. List all your reasons for putting up a site, and then condense them down to a short list of site goals.
  • Determining your audience. Who do you want to attract? Your audience springs from your goals. For example, if the goal of your site is to sell products, you obviously want to determine the demographics of buyers. On the other hand, if your main goal is offering customer service, you know your audience is people that have purchased your product. When you determine your audience or audiences, don’t limit your vision by your offline experience.
  • Determining the goals of your audience. What are visitors to your site looking for? It’s usually best to get this information straight from the source. Talk to the people that use your site, or that you expect to use your site. Some of their goals may be: finding the best deal on your product or service, getting information on these products and services, and getting customer service.

Often, site owners don’t take the time to set goals and determine their audience. This results in an unfocused site that meets no one’s expectations. Users come and can’t find what they want, while the site owners don’t get a good return on their investment.

There is no way that anyone involved in a e-business web project can properly do their job without knowing the audience and goals. Setting goals and determining your audience should come before everything else. Set this information in writing!

If you have a site and haven’t done this, take the time to do this! Do it before you do anything else on your site, and before you spend any more money on it. If you use outside consultants and they aren’t asking for this information, get rid of them! They are either incompetent, or are only after your money.

Look for the “Sweet Spot”
Venn Diagram As you list your goals, and those of your audience, you’ll probably find that the two lists are very different. For example, if you had a site that sold cd’s, one of your top goals would be to sell a large volume of cd’s as profitably as possible. On the other hand, visitors to your site could have very different goals: learning about new bands, finding obscure releases, and buying cd’s at the best price.

The success of any commercial site depends on finding the area where your goals overlap with the goals and interests of your audience.

The graphic, above right, illustrates this. You and your audience will usually have a large set of differing goals. Identify and exploit the area where these sets of goals overlap. This will be the most profitable area to develop. While your audience has much wider interests, there is little value in addressing areas that don’t help you meet your goals.

Likewise, you will have goals that your audience doesn’t care about. For example, many companies put a lot of background information on their site, such as company history and the company leadership. Few surfers are likely to be looking for this information, so it is not a good area to put much time or money into.

Exploit the Areas Where Goals Overlap
Once you identify the area of common goals, use this as a guide for your site development. Funnel most of your development time and money into this area, and. make sure that your content and services address these common goals.

To fully exploit this “sweet spot” in a competitive online world, consider shifting your goals to be more in line with the interests of your audience. Find ways to meet the needs of your audience while still meeting your goals. Ideally, these two sets of goals would overlap completely. That would mean that you have figured out how to make money fulfilling all of your customers’ needs.

Unfortunately, your customers are going to want things that no one can provide profitably. The trick is knowing this, and making the area of profitable overlap as large as possible. Keep this in mind as you develop your e-business, and you’ll find ways to make money by keeping your customers happy.

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