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Web

How often are you frustrated by websites that have so many pages, it is impossible to actually find anything?

Unfortunately, this is all to common of a complaint.  Websites are often used as corporate dumping grounds for every bit of information from every new initiative, often spanning backwards into the decades.  And every time the website is redeveloped, the old content continues to be dressed in shiny new clothes; rarely is any time spent cleaning the closet of older, no longer relevant content.

Why is this?  Here are five reasons:
  • Internal political pressure to keep “pet” content online.
  • Laziness or lack of skills: building an effective information architecture is exceptionally difficult.  (It’s both easier and cheaper to skip this activity.)
  • A philosophy that the website must be the historical public archive of all of the organization’s activities.
  • A philosophy of service: someone, somewhere may be interested in the content.
  • A philosophy of transparency: we have nothing to hide, so we want to provide public access to everything.

It is this last item, transparency, that is often the most challenging.  When a site has too many pages, and they are poorly organized, it is just about impossible for users to find what they are looking for. Search results are clogged with irrelevant and out-of-date items.  And specific pages are so far down the navigational hierarchy that users will give up looking after 2-3 clicks.  Without accessibility, there is no transparency.

This isn’t to say that website content should be minimized, but rather that the site’s information architecture should be sophisticated enough to quickly provide access to all of the appropriate content, and that the site’s search engine needs to be sophisticated enough to use the last modified date as one of the ranking signals. Still, the heavy lifting of trimming no-longer-relevant content shouldn’t be ignored.

This week’s action plan:  Look at your website’s usage statistics.  What percentage of users abandon their interactions after one or two clicks?  If the number is surprisingly high, it may be time to do something about it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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There is an old “joke” in the web development world that is both funny and sad:  What is the difference between a $20,000 website, a $200,000 website, and a $2 million one?  Answer:  The gullibility of the client.

In 24 years of building websites, we have yet to meet a gullible client, which is why this joke is so offensive.  And if we did, we expect that they would “smell a fish” if they were presented with a nonsense proposal.

Yet surely there are differences between the cheapest websites, and the most expensive?  Should you look at your website as a commodity, or as your most important strategic asset?

The cheapest sites are templated sites from consumer or small-business web hosting providers. These are offered “free” to serve as a barrier to cancelling the hosting contract; no one but the smallest solopreneurs use this option.

Next up are sites built on proprietary content management systems: rarely is there custom design here either. Special functionality (email lists, blogs, calendars, e-commerce) are usually sold as upgrade modules.  The downsides of this approach include little design flexibility, the inability to add special functionality beyond the modules that are available, and vendor lock-in.  Security is also a risk point.  While this approach was popular 15+ years ago, most organizations don’t see it as a viable approach today.

At the “bottom” of the business-class website barrel are basic brochure sites:  This usually means 5-10 pages, a blog, custom design work, basic site analytics and a site that is built on an open-source social platform such as WordPress or Drupal.  Beyond this, it is simply a question of adding options – here is a partial list:

  1. Add responsive (eg mobile friendly) design
  2. Add compliance with accessibility  legislation (eg WCAG 2.0 Level A or AA)
  3. Add strategy
  4. Add content creation (writing, or editing, or both)
  5. Add usability testing
  6. Add built-in SEO
  7. Add basic functionality (lead gen forms, calculators, etc)
  8. Add a separate development server
  9. Add connections with Social Media
  10. Add security and firewall
  11. Add stress-testing
  12. Add e-commerce
  13. Add multilingual support
  14. Add more advanced site analytics
  15. Add a persona-based strategy
  16. Add a staging site
  17. Add separate database and content servers
  18. Add members-only area and user management
  19. Add distributed content management and roles
  20. Add micro-sites and landing page management
  21. Add geolocation services
  22. Add a content delivery network
  23. Add training
  24. Add workflow and content approvals
  25. Add integration with Marketing Automation and/or CRM systems
  26. Add integration with ERP and/or financial systems
  27. Add advanced tracking and monitoring
  28. Add personalization, contextual content delivery
  29. Add advanced usability testing
  30. Add integrated analytics
  31. Add page-based optimization
  32. Add advanced SEO
  33. Add mobile app integration
  34. Add omni-channel support
  35. Add locally-hosted versions of the site in different continents
  36. Add advanced security and user authentication
  37. Add integration with an Extranet and Intranet
  38. Add monitoring and technical optimization
  39. Add consulting on governance

Beyond the specific features of the site, another driver of cost is the content: who writes it, who edits it, and who approves it.  Connected with this is the total page count of the site: more pages mean more templates, more content loading time, more site testing and more graphics that need to be created, optimized, and loaded.   Finally, the largest sites may be part of an organization’s digital transformation strategy.  In these cases, the website is really the vector to drive process change, both internally and externally.  All of this takes time and incurs cost.

Generally speaking, as more is expected of the website, the “optimal” platform changes to an industrial-strength – and significantly more costly – platform such as Adobe Experience Manager or Sitecore Experience Manager.

Yes, the simplest websites are fast becoming commodities; but user expectations, competitive pressures, and legislative requirements are also forcing many organizations to re-look at whether their current site is pulling its weight.

This week’s action plan: Except for the largest organizations, a $2 million website makes no sense.  But a $20,000 website will also omit many key capabilities, dead-end others, and likely expose the organization to undue risk.  This week, compare your website with your competitors:  have they made a different investment decision than you did?  And what has been the result?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site

www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and design
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

 

 

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Brand Building: Strong On the Inside

by Randall Craig February 5, 2016

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by Randall Craig December 18, 2015

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by Randall Craig November 27, 2015

At one time, a marketer needed only consider a few communications channels: Print, TV, Packaging, and the speaking points within a salesperson’s sales pitch. Today, all bets are off:  Traditional channels still exist, but have been eclipsed by the website, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and 100s of other Social Media sites.  These newer […]

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by Randall Craig September 4, 2015

With so much discussion about work-life balance, privacy, confidentiality, and government snooping, is it any wonder that some people have decided to move off the grid, and become web-invisible?  Or for others to more closely monitor their web profiles, and either partially or completely remove themselves?  Finally, there are others who choose to remove themselves […]

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by Randall Craig August 7, 2015

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Three approaches to mobile responsive design

by Randall Craig June 12, 2015

If you use the web on a mobile device, do you ever get frustrated by a site that forces you to pinch-and-zoom to read the content?  Or a mobile website that seems to hide what you think is key information – like the street address and phone number? If your organization is considering a new […]

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Spam Rescue and Type I Errors

by Randall Craig March 6, 2015

Consider this scenario: you get a phone call from a key client or a distraught family member: “didn’t you get my email?”  They are clearly upset that you “ignored” them: they see evidence that they are not your priority. You are not unresponsive.  You don’t care.   Or maybe, your spam filter was doing just a […]

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Domain names – how many is too many?

by Randall Craig February 13, 2015

In the olden days, domain names were easy.  Take your brand, add dot com (as in www.RandallCraig.com) and you’re done.  Those of us who didn’t want to fight the squatters also registered the dot net and dot org versions:  www.RandallCraig.net, www.RandallCraig.org.  And of course, you might want to register your brand under a national domain:  […]

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Mobile site or Mobile App?

by Randall Craig November 28, 2014

At a certain point, every organization will ask the question about whether or not they need an App.  Putting aside whether there is a bona fide reason for investing in an app or not, there is a second related question that always gets asked: if we have a mobile (eg responsive) website, do we actually […]

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Increasing Newsletter Registrations

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Are you really satisfied with the response rate of your newsletter registration form on your website?  Do you think that, just maybe, your list could be bigger? Instead of thinking of the sign-up form as a sign-up form, think of it as a transaction.  The user – a prospective client – is paying for your […]

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Exceeding Expectations

by Randall Craig July 18, 2014
Thumbnail image for Exceeding Expectations

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Does it (Google) Translate?

by Randall Craig July 11, 2014

If you are reading this, the chances are very high that you understand English. But what if you didn’t? What if your target audience didn’t? Or what if your target audience did understand, but felt more comfortable in their own mother tongue? The obvious solution: translate your content. The not-so-obvious question is how. There are […]

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20 Year Internet Anniversary

by Randall Craig May 23, 2014

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Avoiding costly web development corner cutting (Part II: 15 ways developers cut corners)

by Randall Craig March 28, 2014

Have you ever received proposals from several vendors for the same web project, only to see a significant difference in their fees?  While a tightly specified RFP is supposed to guard against this, when it happens, there should be no real surprise. Here’s why:  Every respondent will go (or should go through) a detailed costing […]

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by Randall Craig March 21, 2014

Have you ever purchased a new house, only to later discover that the contractor cut some corners?  And that buck or two savings for the contractor now translates into thousands of dollars of extra cost for you?  Unfortunately, many website developers have taken a page from the building trade, and are cutting corners as well.  […]

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Learning Strategy from McDonalds… and Five Guys

by Randall Craig February 21, 2014

There is an important lesson to be learned from fast food menus, and particularly, the vastly different strategies of McDonald’s and Five Guys. For those who aren’t familiar with the McDonald’s menu, there is something for everyone: burgers, fish, chicken (in a bun or nugget-style), salads, fries, gourmet coffee and desert.  If you arrive for […]

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by Randall Craig November 17, 2013

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas – and what happens on the web, stays there forever.  Yet even when files are deleted from the server (which they often are not) the content is always available, if only you know where to look. Before answering the questions of how and where, consider the question why: […]

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Ten Tests: Can Your Website Live Through One More Year?

by Randall Craig August 23, 2013

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