It shouldn’t be difficult to figure out why you’re entering into a web project, but it’s harder than it seems.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve sat down for a first meeting with a client and asked the question “What do you want this website to accomplish?” or “How do you want this project to affect your business?”. I always hope this question will spark the imagination and get the client thinking about what might be possible. I’m hoping the client will say “I don’t know if it’s possible, but…”. More often than not, however, the conversation doesn’t go that way.
If the client is an average one, I’ll get a response detailing how they want people to be able to find their address or they want customers to be able to followup after a call or conversation. If the client is really together, they may have a document detailing the goals and requirements of the site. In either case, the “goals” typically describe a website that looks nice, is easy to navigate and doesn’t confuse visitors. These are all really good things, but they’re not really goals for the website — they’re just packaging.
Goals are about results, not details and esthetics. Imagine that you’ve got a family with a spouse and a few kids running around. Money isn’t an issue and you want to design the perfect home. What are your goals? If you’re sitting down with a talented expert, you could talk about the fact that you like hardwood, white walls, and open spaces, but those aren’t really goals for the home. By jumping into aspects of the design rather than what you want the end product to accomplish, the expert has been stripped of their expertise to deliver on that higher goal. But, if you were to tell the expert that you want a home that feels modern, yet warm and inviting, with spaces where the family can come together and feel relaxed, but also works for larger groups… that’s something an expert can deliver on.
The same is true with the web. There are times when we need to back our clients up a step and remind them of their business/organizational goals and the fact that the web can help achieve these in a big way. The goal isn’t to make a website — it’s to increase leads or sell more widgets or increase engagement. The website, its tone, style and user-friendliness are just vehicles to accomplish these goals.
The following are a few suggestions to help keep goal setting for your web project heading in the right direction.
It’s really easy to list the things you want/like in a website, but it’s a little harder to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization and whether or not the web can help. Once an organization can articulate goals from a strategic level, it becomes much easier to work out the details.
There are times the aim of project is to achieve an abstract goal, but in most cases, it should be possible to articulate specific, measurable, tangible outcomes for the project. Specific goals help your designers and web strategists make better decisions along the way by providing the criteria for judging success.
Most clients don’t realize what the web is capable of. A big part of the blame for this goes to web professionals themselves. Far to many of us just take orders, jotting down notes as a client lists their requirements for the job while offerring little feedback as to what could be. As organizations articulate what they are trying to acomplish, the web designer needs to steer toward strategies that utilize all the potential of the web.
There are unbelievable tools available on the web for measuring engagement, conversion and ROI, but it takes expertise to set up a web experience with measurable goals. Although analytics has taken huge leaps in recent years to help sites to track their effectiveness, the average stakeholder at an organization still seems to be mainly concerned with measuring “hits” (or “visits” if they’re savvy). The more customers understand what’s measurable, the more we’ll see web experiences designed to deliver on the goals of organizations and users.
Having the ability to create a website and knowing how to use the web effectively are two totally different things. On the web, where potential reach is almost unlimited, the subtleties of expertise can make a huge difference on a site’s effectiveness. It’s important when choosing a web expert, that the selection understands the end goals of the client and has the ability to structure your project to achieve those goals. From there, ongoing investment needs to be made to continually measure, refine and improve, tweaking the experience to be better at doing what it was created to do.
It’s not always easy to spend the extra time to think about what you’re trying to accomplish, but in the end it will go a long way to make sure your web endeavour accomplishes what you really want it to.