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Issue Date: October 2004

Six steps to website success

October 2004
Steve Liversedge

Attending two major Internet conferences in the USA in the past four months gave me the opportunity to discuss website success and failure with many leading US players, as well as gain insight as to how they are developing effective website strategies. Below is the insight gained.

Attending two major Internet conferences in the USA in the past four months gave me the opportunity to discuss website success and failure with many leading US players, as well as gain insight as to how they are developing effective website strategies. Below is the insight gained.
The fundamental difference between South African companies and the US market is that since the 2001 Internet crash, local companies have basically stood still in advancing their website as an effective business tool, whereas in the US, their persistence has lead to a better understanding of what works and what does not. So much so that, like a well thought out and executed business plan, website success is almost guaranteed.
Yes, mistakes are still being made and success is influenced by skill levels, budget restraints, etc, however the general understanding of the fundamentals influencing website success, whether it is a news, lead generation, customer support or e-commerce site, has lead to a significant confidence shift in what can be achieved via the Internet.
The bottom line is: success does not happen on its own and needs to be constantly worked at. No different from achieving offline sales. So, quite simply, companies need to plan and implement a strategy that will see the factors influencing success being achieved.
So what are the primary factors influencing success? In general, there are six phases that need to be planned and well implemented.
1. Target audience understanding
This is a key factor, as it provides the basis for how the other factors will be approached. It involves planning who you want to engage online, how you will engage them, understanding visitor mindset and taking into consideration the relevance/value of content for new, returning and loyal (customers) visitors.
The message at the conferences was clear - people engage a website for four basic reasons, learning (new visitors gathering information), shopping (returning visitors evaluating options following research), buying (conversion of a visitor to do something) and retention (relationship-based information sharing).
2. Defining expectations and fulfilling a need online
This is the process of matching what you want different visitors (new, returning and loyal visitors) to do on the site; based on an understanding of the visitor's need and how you will fulfill this need.
3. Defining the site conversion processes
Practically no one in South Africa is at the point of planning effective site conversion processes. Site conversion is not only about a visitor making contact with you or buying a product. Site conversion involves applying your mind to the fact that there are micro conversions that need to take place before the final conversion will happen, combined with an understanding as to which visitor group (new, returning etc) are most likely to complete a conversion. This is the foundation for measuring success.
4. Design and development
This involves the planning of the navigational structure, the click through paths you would like the different visitors to take (conversion path), content supporting the need and conversion process, as well as other issues.
5. Traffic generation
With a website now geared to effectively engaging the target audience, a clearly defined conversion process and a website structure optimised to driving visitors to conversion, the next key factor is driving the preferred audience to the site. I say preferred because many people simply look at the number of visitors to a site as a measurement.
Conference Take Away - If you engage the preferred audience at the right time, you will have a better chance of succeeding! It is all about increasing the number of website visitors from the preferred target audience. You need to manage the process of driving preferred visitors.
6. Website performance
No matter how well a website looks or is planned for, it can always be improved upon, whether it is content, navigational structure, amount of clicks to achieve conversion, poor performing pages that have high abandonment rates, badly positioned links, no call to action on a web page, etc.
The only way you can improve on anything is to measure it effectively. Website analytics is advancing at a rapid rate. Knowing what to measure and how to use the data to improve becomes critical in achieving maximum return on investment.
What you will notice from the above is that there is now a framework for planning and measuring success on an ongoing basis. In future articles, I will dig deeper into the planning process for each of the above factors. Each factor is in reality more complex than my brief description with there being various issues to consider. If not considered, they could be the stumbling block to achieving success.
For more information contact CubicIce, Steve Liversedge, 011 705 2545, fax: 011 705 2448.


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Supplied ByÿCubicICE
Telÿ+27 11 705 2545
Faxÿ

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