At this time of year, I do a lot of website analysis. Looking at people’s current sites lets me see how well the site is built, what problems it has with usability, and where it obviously needs changes in design or content.
What I can’t always tell from looking is this: what’s the website’s job?
Once you answer that question, you can answer what is to me the most important question, which is simply “How well does this website do its job?”
One business owner told me that her website was “a very big, very expensive business card.” This was a disparaging remark, but for some businesses, that’s exactly what the website is for. I’m asking around for a CPA and I get a name, so I look for the website to get contact information and a bit of an introduction. That website doesn’t sell anything, but it’s a major source of business — a super-effective business card, if you will.
If your website is your business card, then it needs a well-branded design and a clear, concise message. Here’s a good example:
The unhappy business owner I mentioned above didn’t want her site to be a business card, because it was an e-commerce site. Its job was to sell stuff. An e-commerce site needs compelling sales copy, appealing photos, and a user-friendly checkout system.
Some websites are intended to present their owner’s credentials. A site like this needs plenty of information, presented in a scannable form.
The point is, these plans aren’t interchangeable. A business card doesn’t — and shouldn’t — give a complete picture of your skills and experience. A site detailing your credentials doesn’t sell products. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all website, because different businesses have different jobs they need their sites to perform.
What’s your website’s job? And how is it doing?