What’s Your Website’s Job?

business card

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?

2 thoughts on “What’s Your Website’s Job?

  1. On a golden summer's afternoon in Chicago, a good friend and I discussed this problem:

    Is your website a receptionist, a salesperson, or a marketing campaign?

    The websites as receptionist parallel your discussion of website as business card. It's a simple statement: This is what I do, call me.

    The websites as salesperson are meant to sell something, today if not tomorrow. There are shopping carts (made well and made poorly). And woe to the website that links away from a buy page or makes the buy decisions complex.

    The final website is the marketing campaign. People aren't going to purchase a visit to a Chicago night club. Neither will they sign the dotted line for a new pension plan depositing $200,000 on the spur of the moment. These websites need to close for a customer's email and/or phone number. And measure their effectiveness on their ability to close.

    Thanks Rebecca, I'm reading your blog articles and enjoying them, time permitting.

  2. I like your poetic turn of phrase, Richard. Your analysis is just right.

    I'm also glad that you're enjoying my blog.

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