The Three Pillars of Site Creation
When building a web site, owners often fail to pay sufficient attention to one or more of the three main principles for web site success. These are:
Part of the issue is that web creators seldom have skills in all three, diverse, areas. Subsequently, playing to their specific strengths can often lead to neglecting one of the pillars.
Hiring in help, whilst often expensive, is money well spent. However, it is not necessary to hire a web designer, content author, and web marketer in cases where the target organisation can co-source with existing talent at their disposal. Where issues start is in assuming that being able to create the web site code is sufficient to maintain a worthwhile web presence.
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The first pillar, Design, is a combination of navigation, artwork and use of colours. Web designers often spend time creating several variations in an attempt to project the correct corporate image, whilst also making movement around the site intuitive.
If any existing artwork is available, this gives a good starting point, as does any existing real word presence such as logos. Care must be taken when choosing the final design, as it may be based on an existing template which has been used before by the design company. This may be cheaper, but it can give the web site a 'canned', mass-produced feel.
Where this can be avoided is in the use of original photography and artwork which will set the site apart from the competition. Since innovation is best avoided in areas of navigation and layout, as they are based on tried and tested models, only the artwork, logos and colour scheme will cause the site to stand out.
Of course, the Content will also make a difference. Here, there is a fine balance to address – Search Engine friendliness, versus real content and information, or Visitor friendliness. The site must be visible to search engines, and returned in searches, but the content must be real, and not just keyword-fodder.
There also needs to be a certain amount of sales content, which should ideally masquerade as content. The camouflage may vary in sophistication, and it is important to remain honest. The site is there to make money, or promote the target organisation, after all.
Having said that, content can also be used to increase stickiness. This means that visitors either want to come back, or spend time on the site, because it has something which attracts them. This can be information or service oriented, and is usually offered in the hope that the visitor will, one day, provide revenue to the site.
Finally, Marketing has to be considered as part of the site creation strategy from the very first template. After all, there needs to be a plan to promote the site, otherwise visitors will not even find it amongst all the competition.
In line with this, the site owner will also want to promote stickiness by constantly communicating with customers. This is distinct from reaching out to new customers, which must be approached in a careful manner.
Generally, using a newsletter to stay in touch with existing customers is acceptable, and this will need to be designed in line with the site template. In addition, communications material to a wider audience through electronic press releases, advertising and so on must also be created.
The marketing plan is tied in with the look and feel of the site, the content or services that it promotes and the general editorial tone on the site. In short, it is the most often overlooked, but most important pillar upon which success is finely balanced.
Without paying due attention to the three main areas of site creation – Design, Content and Marketing – any attempt at web success will be less successful. This is not restricted to sites aimed at generating income in their own right; informational sites need to follow these rules too, since it is an interface to the customer.
By respecting these principles the web site becomes a respected extension of the business, rather than a cheap advertising or revenue generation avenue. It may well earn its keep, but the general approach should be to respect visitors, rather than treating them like cattle.
Further reading on Website Design and Website Marketing
The ABC's of website design and website marketing