Ever since I started making websites, almost 10 years ago, I’ve been bothered by something about our industry. It’s the way that we talk about making websites. A customer comes to us and says “I need a website”. Often our response is, “What do you want it to look like?” or “How many pages do you want it to have?” or “What do you want it to be about?”
In part, I think that we are responding to the way in which customers present their need. They say “I need a website.” We run with it.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that the part a website plays in a business strategy can vary depending on the provider. For example, if you go to an SEO expert, the website can almost be an afterthought; something you need as a base of operations. It’s not terribly crucial what it looks like. “Just throw together a WordPress site. It has all the good SEO plugins.” I’ve been hired to make those sites.
The part a website plays in business strategy can vary depending on the provider.
If you talk to a graphic designer, then the conversation is all about the minutia of the look and feel. This is absolutely important. But questions of searchability and promotion are typically left outside the scope.
If you talk to an expert in eCommerce, the discussion will predictably focus on how to manage products.
You get my point.
This is an industry with many important areas of specialization, and a customer’s concept of what needs to be done online depends a great deal on which provider she first connects with. It is something like that old metaphor of the the blind guys and the elephant. One grabbed the tail and declared an elephant was like a snake. Another touched the side of the elephant and thought it was more like a wall. And so on.
What we need is people who know the entire elephant.
As a result of this legitimate complexity, I have increasingly felt like just offering to make someone a website is a bit of a cop out. The deeper question needs to come to the surface, and that question is this: “What do you want to accomplish?” or “What is your end goal?” If you say you want a website, but your end goal is actually that you want to write articles which are widely read, then we need to start the conversation with a discussion of your promotion strategy, and be upfront that promotion is probably the biggest challenge. Many a beautiful website has never been visited.
We need to not merely make a website, but to help the client create a strategy for success online. The website is a crucial nexus for that strategy, but there is always more to it than that.
That is why I’m focusing Intuito Websites more on strategy. Customers might come to me looking for “a website”, or “web design.” But my goal is to be their guide to the entire journey of online engagement. To be in a real sense a business partner and advocate for their online outreach.