As digital products have grown in popularity, websites have experienced something of an identity crisis. The kind of products that we usually call ‘applications’ usually have a clearly defined purpose: they do one job really well, which is understood by users and product teams alike. Websites, on the other hand, often lack a clear and compelling purpose. They contain heaps of content, often structured to satisfy the company’s organisational structure rather than the needs of the user. Even when a website does launch with a clear strategic objective, this can be watered down over time as additional features are added to the site without consideration of their wider impact.
Smashing the 'shop window'
And this isn’t just a historic thing. Even now we see briefs and tender opportunities that refer to the required website as a ’shop window’ or a ‘calling card’, which is a strange way of thinking about such a powerful business tool. This kind of language is a good indicator that the company hasn’t thought much about how its website fits into its wider business and marketing strategy, and the role they expect it to play.
As we kick off 2024, our resolution is to push our clients and prospects to really think about what their website is actually for: its core purpose, its raison d'etre. If that question can’t easily be answered, then the chances of delivering a website that’s seen as a long-term success is slim. Identifying what a successful outcome looks like is essential to our delivery process: those key objectives become our ‘North Star’, informing our user experience work and helping to steer the hundreds of tiny design and development decisions that we make throughout a typical project.
Clarity brings results
Even simple websites need a clear purpose, and the good news is that having real clarity doesn’t have to mean spending weeks in strategy workshops. For those companies that think about their website as a ’shop window’, perhaps the key metric to track is the volume of enquiries made through the website. Simple as that! Just tracking form completion and phone number / email link clicks will give us some meaningful data on how the website is performing as a sales tool, and is 100% better than having no clear purpose. The key thing for our team is understanding this objective before we begin our user experience and interface design work, so that we can create a user journey that’s laser-focused on driving online enquiries.
More complex websites may have lots of different performance indicators based on key conversion points across the site. For example, the KPIs for an e-commerce website will usually be centred on the product pages and checkout funnel, whereas membership organisations will want to track membership sign-ups and engagement stats for existing members (amongst other things).
Make it better, rinse and repeat
Once these key data points are being tracked and measured, we can then analyse the data and see where the site’s performance can be improved. A process of continual analysis and improvement helps our clients to maximise the return on their website investment, ensuring that the site succeeds in doing the job it was designed to do.
The big take-away here is to carefully consider the website’s KPIs before launching into the UX and design phase. The high-level process for ensuring your website delivers for your organisation looks like this:
1. Agree specific, measurable objectives.
2. Design an experience focused on those objectives.
3. Track and measure those objectives.
4. Analyse data and optimise conversions.
5. Continually repeat 3 and 4.
Ensure these steps are taken as you move through your next digital project, and watch your chance of success multiply!