Sometimes I hear business owners say “I just need a website”. I see them hire a web designer and once they have a website, they learn that things are not as simple as they thought. They eventually learn that having a website is only the beginning of a much longer journey.
The story usually goes like this:
We need a website – They have a business or an idea for a business but feel that placing a website will automatically put them on a map. Today, you can find services out there that will get you a website up and running from one of their templates. Usually these generic websites are as useful as a generic brochure. They have basic business, product/service information and contact information, but not much besides that. They are not designed to address the real challenges your business faces.
We need visitors to my website – A few months later the website is up and running, the entrepreneurs notices a problem. The website is there, but people are not coming to visit.
We need better SEO – I need people to find my website. They do a little research and learn that Search Engine Optimization, (a.k.a. SEO), will help people them get found on popular search engines. The common advice says that: the more people find me there, the more people will come and visit my webpage.
We need buyers – People are visiting the website but they are not buying. The problem seems to have moved from being a marketing problem to being a sales problem. This is where the entrepreneur begins to learn about online sales.
We need leads – Once they learn a bit about sales they become aware that they first need to have sales leads. This bounces the problem back to marketing. Now they have to learn about lead generation.
We need better conversion rates – Once they successfully get leads coming to the website, they learn that leads need to be converted into buyers.
The deeper story: User Experience
The discovery journey of the typical online entrepreneurs keeps moving back and forth between learning about online marketing, and online sales.
It may take years before reaching a deeper realization: that to reach their marketing and sales goals they will need better user experience, more strategic information architecture, better usability, more comprehensive consideration of human factors, more detailed interaction design, etc.
Even deeper learning…the realization that user experience contributions are better when they’re integrated as part of a comprehensive solution for the challenges listed above.
Unfortunately, I think most entrepreneurs go out of business long before they realize any of this.
Beyond common wisdom
The web is full of learning resources, recommendations, processes, checklists, patterns, tools, solutions, etc. But these are generalized resources that are not designed to address the specific challenges your business faces. Sometimes the experts are wrong in their advice. Sometimes just arriving at this conclusion takes a considerable amount of time.
It’s not a matter of just understanding the pattern of problems and solutions but also of understanding which solution you need to apply first, which to apply in which context, which to apply with more force and which to pause, when to stop, when to accelerate, and which to evolve under the changing circumstances. Learning all of this takes time.
Learning with the meter running
Learning the answers to these questions takes a lot of time and you know what’s even more fun? All of these problems and their solutions keep changing at an accelerating pace thanks to changes in technology. Consumer behaviors change, markets change, users change. While you learn, the bills for business overhead will keep piling up. I call this: “Learning with the meter running”.
Stats to wake you up
89% of businesses fail in the first year. Of the 11% left, half of those fail in the second year.
When you decide to seek help look for someone who has an understanding of all of the areas I mentioned above.
Daniel Montano: User Experience and Product Manager. Designs products and services that are easier to use. Follow me on Twitter: @DanielMontano and send me an invite on Linkedin: http://lnk.ms/VLWD8 – Email: info@DanMontano.com | Best wishes in 2013.