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Why most websites fail and what to do about it

Patrick Nelson
Why most websites fail and what to do about it

What's the first thing you do once you've decided that you need a new website? Or that you need to start "using social media"? Or you want "SEO" or email marketing or have decided that what your business really needs now is a mobile app?

If you're like millions of people across the world, you will go online and Google 'web designer' (or 'social media company', 'email marketing company', etc.) and start searching for someone to help you. Sadly, as great as Google is, it cannot magically sort the best companies to help you and present them to you at the top of their results pages.

Most businesses will select from the companies they're presented with on the first page of results, usually after 'localising' the results by incorporating 'nottingham' (or whichever their closest city is) into their search. After all, they say to themselves, "these companies must be good - they're at the top of Google!"

There is, of course, some truth to that. These companies are good. They're good at getting to the top of Google. And, when it comes to search engine marketing, that is certainly an accolade worth paying attention to. But that does not automatically mean that they are the best company to take care of all your web presence needs. 

Managing a complete web presence requires many skills; graphic design, web development, copywriting, usability, photography or illustration, social media, search engine marketing, email marketing and content marketing are just a few of the more common ones. Throughout the rest of this article, we'll refer to the people with these skills collectively as 'creatives'.

The 3 areas where 90% of website projects fail

Survey any handful of businesses of any size and ask them these three questions about their last website project:

  1. Was it completed on time?
  2. Did the amount you spend come within your original budget?
  3. Was the final result exactly what you wanted?
     

Nearly all, if not all of the companies you ask will reply with a resounding 'No!' to one, and probably more than one, of these questions.

Similarly, ask most businesses if their web presence (website, social media activity, advertising and search engine listings) produce a tangible, realistic, worthwhile return on investment and you will, again, be greeted by a long series of "no's" punctuated far too infrequently with the odd "yes".

Working with Internet technologies since the mid-1990's, I have had many years of experience of managing successful web projects, working for companies that have included Coutts Bank, Toyota, BP, Azlan and many more. During that time, I have met thousands of businesspeople who are frequently surprised, frustrated and angered by web projects that have gone wrong. Equally, I have met with many businesses who, 6 or more months after buying into one kind of online marketing program or another, are disappointed, dejected and remorseful. They didn't get the results they thought they would and, instead, have been left wondering how they're ever going to recoup all the money they spent.

There's more to life than money...

One of the cruelest side-effects of the Internet phenomenon, is the sheer number of businesses who believe that because they offer money for web services, they will see web designers, social media consultants, online marketers and the like come running to take on their projects and online marketing activity.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Take web design, for example. There are now many hundreds of thousands of web designers out there. The same is also true for all other creatives: search engine marketers, social media consultants and even mobile app developers. There are simply too many of them for most clients to know who to trust. To make things even more difficult, the technical knowledge required to fully understand what is needed, what is being done and how to go about it does not exist within most businesses. 

Back to our web designers. Almost without exception, all these creatives want profitable projects and clients who pay well. Not because they're greedy but because they're just like everyone else - with bills and staff to pay.

The fact is that most good creatives will not take on just any old project to work on. And, because they deal with many clients during their career, they are very good at sizing clients up. In fact, they are often better at sizing clients up than clients are at sizing them up! This is because most clients will only ever work with one or two creatives in their life. 

Great suppliers want great clients

The bottom line is that clients who are inexperienced in website development, website design and online marketing will always end up paying more. They are ignored by the best creatives who know from experience that certain types of clients are difficult to satisfy. The warning signs that most good creatives look for include:

  • the client doesn’t understand exactly what they need or what they want built,
  • they have unrealistic time expectations,
  • they have inadequate budgets or unrealistic cost expectations,
  • they haven't defined their requirements adequately, or
  • they lack technical knowledge and understanding

If a creative believes that a client exhibits too many of these (and other) warning signs, they will often choose to ignore the project or the request for a quote. Or if they do take on the project, they raise their prices to cover the extra work they believe they're taking on to "hand-hold" the client throughout their time together.

Some clients decide that they want “the perfect company who will take care of everything”. They know that they lack technical knowledge and yet they also know just how important the web is to their business. But looking for the perfect company is unrealistic. There isn't a single company out there whose team is the very best at all the creative disciplines needed: web design, development, copywriting, marketing, usability, online psychology, online advertising, social media, search engine marketing, email marketing and content marketing.

Expecting just one company to produce the very best results in every aspect of every kind of web project is like building a new house and expecting your architect to be able to lay bricks, or your plasterer to be able to handle all the electrical wiring.

The impact of this, of course, is that the client ends up with an inferior website that is poorly designed, hard to navigate, impossible to find in the search engines or just completely ineffective at convincing visitors to become prospects, or prospects to become customers. Or they end up with an expensive but ineffectual online marketing program that fails to deliver any kind of impact on the bottom line.

How successful web projects happen

Successful websites and online marketing campaigns are the result of highly collaborative processes in which both the buyer and the seller(s) are able to work together to make the projects successful. They achieve the success they do because both the creatives involved and the client are able to converse on a level:

  • The creative needs to be able to understand exactly what is wanted and needed: what are the objectives and goals?
  • The client must be able to understand exactly what is being offered, built and done
  • Both sides need to be able to realistically assess and agree the budgets and the time needed
     

But how do you achieve this?

Larger enterprises and brands achieve this by having an internal dedicated team or by hiring teams of contractors and freelancers on a project-by-project basis.

If they have an internal team, these people are creatives in their own right and they liaise with external creatives; techie to techie.

However, they also liaise with internal teams and divisions: marketing, PR, management, HR, operations or whoever else is involved in or owns the project. Because this team works full-time in the organisation, they already understand the business. They know its goals and they are familiar with the project objectives. Coupled with the ability to understand, manage and monitor the external creatives they work with, they are able to translate those goals and objectives into briefs, technical specifications and project plans that the creatives can understand, allowing them to just get on with the work in hand, focused on producing the results that the enterprise needs.

But what do smaller businesses do?

In our experience, it's the small businesses that struggle the most.

By definition, smaller businesses don't have this kind of technical capability in-house. Worse still, micro businesses in particular often find it extremely difficult to explain to creatives what their business is and what they need. It's difficult to articulate what's unique about their business; what it does and what their goals and objectives are. 

What makes it harder still is that most small business people don't even know what's possible or how much it costs.

Furthermore, if the creative has little or no experience of the type of business or lacks skills in the key area affected by the project or campaign (sales, marketing, operations, HR, etc.), then they can either offer no input or offer misguided input.

What's the answer? The Webmaster solution

We can offer your business a dedicated Webmaster who will work closely with you and your business. They become part of your team, working on your behalf to ensure your website, online marketing and entire web presence produces the results you need. They can take as much or as little responsibility as you want them to, and can even look after the "web-side" of things for your business, leaving you to focus on other areas of your business.

Best of all, your Webmaster can actually save you money. Their primary goal is to become self-financing as fast as possible.

To help, they can work on your first project; a new website, an online marketing campaign, etc., on a commission-only basis.

Find out how you can hire a Webmaster today. Call us on 0115 896 2529 for an informal chat.