Whose website is it, anyway?

As a website owner you take a sense of pride in your website. You want it to be distinctive, reflect your own style, and generally be something you are proud of. But remember,  it’s not really your website!

Well, you own it, of course, but in most cases you will have built it for your intended audience, whether they are customers, or just a demographic that you want to deliver a message to. The chances are you will spend very little time visiting your own website.

So, for your website to be effective, you need to build the website that your target audience wants, not the one that you want.

Does that mean you have to have an online store if you know your target audience wants to buy online? Well, no. 

Above all you should have a strategy or vision for how your website is going to help you achieve what you want to do. If that strategy calls for a website to give you an online presence, but your business isn’t ready to service an online store, that is okay. But remember, your audience will only visit  your website if it is useful to them. If it doesn’t provide anything that is going to help them they will have no reason to visit (or return) to your site.

So how do you build a site that is useful to your target audience? There are books written about that, but it comes down to one key thing:

Know what tasks your audience want to carry out when they come to your site, and make sure they are able to do them. Easily. That is, to the extent that it fits in with your overall web strategy. 

If your site is going to mainly be a brochure-ware site that tells your audience where you are, what you can do for them, when you are open and how to contact you then make that information prominent on your site. Don’t bury it away behind “About us” and “Contact us” pages while having a home page that presents them with visual flummery, but no content.

If the main purpose of your site is to act as an online store then make that the most prominent feature on the site. Don’t hide it behind a “Your shopping cart” link. Make it easy to use and informative, so that your potential customers don’t experience any doubt about the process of buying from you online.

If you build the site that your audience wants, not the one you want, you will be rewarded with an effective website.

Published: Tuesday, 16 October 2012