If you’ve had a business website for some time, you will no doubt have received feedback on it. And like many who have taken it before you, some of this feedback will be good, some bad and some downright ugly.
Sometimes you will be left perplexed that two relatively knowledgeable people can have a diametrically opposed opinion on your website.
Take one of my recent website clients for example.
Not having the budget for a completely customised website design, they instead agreed on a very modern, professional and appealing website template which we suggested and then altered easily to add the client’s content and corporate ID.
Because the new ‘responsive’ (fully compatible with smartphones and tablets, etc) website structure differed so markedly from their previous eight-year-old website, we had to re-interpret much of the content to make it work within the new layout.
Following this process, we were quite pleased with the result and looked forward to presenting it to the client.
Unfortunately, the feedback we got was less than complimentary.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve had as unflattering a response as I’ve ever received in my 20 years of working in the web industry.
The reception we had to have
Content wasn’t presented the way they wanted, the stock images we chose stunk, the sliding images weren’t the ones they wanted and they couldn’t stand the way we refurbished their somewhat outdated logo.
Naturally I was at a loss as to how we got it so wrong. It was their corporate ID, text and images and chosen design template we were working with after all.
After several attempts at modifying the website to try meeting their requirements and getting nowhere, I thought I’d get another opinion on the new website as compared to the incumbent one.
A 42nd opinion
In fact, I thought I’d get another 42 opinions by running both designs by my favourite business group on Facebook.
But not even I could have been prepared for their response.
Respondents voted in favour of the new design 42 to nil. Yes, not one business operator surveyed preferred the incumbent site the client was clinging so tightly to.
Of course their first reaction was that I’d somehow swayed the opinion of the audience. But after showing them the wording of the survey it was clear that I hadn’t.
So why didn’t the client agree?
Clearly their perspective on the website differed from this group of business operators.
Where you’re coming from
Fundamentally of course, it was representative of their business while the perspectives of the voters was that of their potential market or audience.
So despite what their audience thought (rightly or wrongly), they weren’t comfortable about the way the new website represented their business to their market.
But these two perspectives aren’t the only ones that can make opinions differ.
As the following diagram illustrates, a ‘technical’ professional will be more concerned with matters of functionality, performance, features, integration of these features and so on.
Someone of a more creative bent will have a greater appreciation of the presentation and/or communication components while a marketer will want to ensure the visitor is ‘engaged’ as possible to increase the likelihood of a sale or a relationship for a future sale.
A recipe for online success
Whilst the emphasis on these four components – functionality, presentation, communication and engagement – will differ from industry to industry and in turn from business to business, what’s important is that they all work together to deliver your desired marketing and/or business objectives.
In an ideal world, businesses would have had fully fleshed out business plans and subsequent marketing plans in place prior to even writing a brief for their website.
However, the reality for smaller businesses is that these will be limited to some general directions and ideas on differentiation from competitors.
One of the more common reasons I receive for arranging a website is not strategic advantage or a channel to market but because their competitor is more prominent on Google than they are.
Not that that’s a bad reason to get a website, it’s just a bit reactive and often more ‘knee-jerk’ than larger organisations tend to be.
As for my disgruntled website client, I think it’s a limited understanding of professional presentation that is driving their dissatisfaction, perhaps being more familiar with a print environment than the online world.
And why one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.