The Real Purpose of a Website

Websites are like a “shop window” for your business and so it is really important that you care enough to create a great website.

But what is a great website? Because probably you have a website already or you’re thinking in building one it is important to consider: what defines a website to be a great website?

I don’t want to sugar coat it: A great website is one that converts.

What does it mean to convert? Converts what?

If your website is an e-commerce shop then conversion means selling. If your website isn’t a store then conversion normally means capturing data information about potential prospects (minimum an e-mail address).

A website will also help with your branding – positioning the brand, recruiting key talent and establishing authority and credibility in the market. But if the website is just there for the branding then I don’t think it’s a good bet. If you’re thinking of your website like a business card or a brochure we all know where those all go in the end – into the bin.

We must remember we’re living in a crowded consumer market and it’s simply not enough to present your brand to the world – every business needs to step up if they want to win.

Google, for example, has made a ton of research into how consumers buy online, in a study called Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and there is a lot to be learned from it.

Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

Marketers have used for a long time this 3 step mental model for how people buy products:

1) There is a stimulus – when the client sees an ad or a friend with the product;

2) Shelf – when the client goes to the store and buys the product – this is called the “First Moment of Truth”.

3) Experience – when the client takes the product home and experiences it. They can have a good experience or a bad experience and then they share it with others – this is the “Second Moment of Truth”.

Conventional thinking was that if businesses spend enough time on each of these steps then they would succeed. But that is simply not true anymore.

When Google conducted a research with 5 thousand shoppers across 12 different product categories: groceries, cars, financial services, etc their key question was what influences people to go from undecided (unsure to buy) to decided (completing a purchase)?

Google knew that when buying online people do a lot of research before buying. But just how do they go about doing that research and how many sources they include? Google found that on average the American consumer was looking at 10.4 sources in 2011, up from 5.3 in 2010 - before completing a purchase.

These sources include searching online, talking with friends & family, seeing ads, etc with varying degrees of influence.

When Google started lining up the responses of their research a fourth step appeared in the marketing mental model – the Zero Moment of Truth. This is when consumers do their research, get smart about product alternatives, read reviews, look for coupons and comparisons – all before going “to the shelf”, i.e. doing the purchase.

Have you kept up? Or are you still using the old marketing mental model? There is a new mental model now. And businesses that now focus on this new step gain a very competitive advantage in todays marketplace.

Is your website helping the business? Or just sitting there doing nothing?

I don’t have a clear number of websites I’ve seen so far in my life but it is surely up there in the thousands. I’m also sure you’ve seen thousands of websites yourself – so of the top of your head what are some great websites you like and some that really suck?

If you thought of Apple or any of Google’s websites I wouldn’t be too much surprised.. After all those are very powerful brands with a lot of investment being made into them.. What I wouldn’t be able to guess is what websites you think really suck. And that’s because there are just – too many of them. 

Some adjectives people use to classify websites they consider great are for example: clean, modern, fast, simple, intuitive.. And on the negative: confusing, bulky, slow, old fashioned, cheap, poorly built, out-of-date and ugly.

For me the positive ones are just signs that it is converting. The negative ones mean people are finding roadblocks and not completing the conversion.

When it comes to metrics we are normally evaluating 3 key things:

1) Number of Visitors – is the site being visited? By how many people across the span of a day, a week, a month? And where are they coming from? What sources and locations?

2) Session time – are visitors staying on the site? For how long?

3) Data Capture – are you effectively collecting data about potential prospects?

Other things to evaluate include:

Is your own contact information easily accessible?

Can the visitor accomplish most things on the website under 3 clicks?

Does the website loads fast?

And if we’re talking about an e-commerce website what is the revenue it generates?

If you already have a website look at these areas to evaluate if the website is really helping the business. If you’re planning on a new website consider these areas and how you will otimize for them.

Conclusion

Like I said before a great website is one that converts, but in today’s reality this doesn’t necessarily mean a purchase or a client contact. It most likely will mean you helped the consumer become smarter about their own research.

Websites must perform a basic function - connect what the visitor is looking for to what the business offers but through an education process rather than a selling approach. It means educating customers on why your business is the best choice - if it’s really the best choice- or pass the client along to whoever will serve them best.

If the website achieves this well, i.e. there is a “match”, then you can say the website is helping the business. For the prospect this will mean he will be happy and will consider “he found what he was looking for”. This doesn’t mean the client is going to purchase from you or send a contact request just yet.. But it will be a definite step in the right direction.

Think about the company as your best product

If you’re working for a company you may find part of it is broken.

It may be something with an existing process, it may be a new process that is lacking, it may be an existent policy (e.g. you’re not allowed to work from home) or a policy that is lacking or that you don’t agree with.

It’s easy to say “Get out there and fix it.” but it’s easier said than done.

I wasn’t really thinking about this at all until @s3rgiosan pointed out that we should have a team handbook at WidgiLabs. At first I couldn’t really grasp why we would need such a thing. I mean I was inspired by Valve’s employee handbook for example.. but I didn’t really see the point in doing something like that for our team.

I decided anyway to give it a try and forked Humanmade’s handbook and started making changes to it and documenting everything around how I see our team working. I must say that after a while it really started to grow on me. And I started to like writing it.  It was like doing a brain dump of a bunch of ideas on improving our way of doing things that I had lying around in my mind and that I never put in pencil before. Better than that it was also a way to document how we are organized and refer to when needed.

I also wanted to make it simple for our team to be involved in improving our company and since we do code reviews using pull requests I thought using the same process to track/propose changes to our company’s handbook would make sense. This allows:

1) everyone to track changes to the company (systems, guidelines, processes, procedures, ..);

2) everyone can contribute with improvements to how the company works and is set up;

Now, what I found, is that not everyone will naturally start contributing and improving the handbook (which in turn can improve the company). They might feel it’s the CEO/Management/etc responsibility rather than theirs. Especially if there isn’t a plan of how much time they should spend on it. Or they may simply want to stay out of it. And that’s ok. Not everyone likes to think about such things. Not everyone needs to be involved in everything. What’s important is that the handbook stays a work-in-progress, evolving as the company evolves and new stuff is added when necessary, and defunct stuff cleaned.

I was also listening to DHH interview with Tim Ferris this week and came across the idea “think about the company as your best product“. I think that’s exactly what I’m trying to do here. It is definitely an inspiring thought to me and I find it liberating that anyone can be involved in creating/shaping a great company.

Life Design

they don't teach it in school
but it is the most important skill in life:
deliberate design of a life that is fun, rewarding, rich, heathly and worth living.
CANI – constant and never ending improvement
#neversettle #stayinghungry #lifestyledesign

WP Growth Council

As you’ve likely seen Matt Mullenweg has announced the creation of a new WordPress Growth Council, a group of people and organizations that will focus on accelerating WordPress’ growth in the next months. To apply you have to fill a survey and answer a number of questions. I want to share some of my answers here:

What do you think is responsible for WordPress’ success so far?

Beautiful software does things you don’t expect and reduce the effort for the task   in mind. I think WordPress is in this category. 
Also its open-source model and its architecture based on core+plugins+themes and the capacity to  update, etc. It makes an excellent base to develop websites, online stores and web-based applications.

What could accelerate WordPress’ growth in the next 18 months?

A strong focus in the following key areas:

1) Productivity: there is a ton of data we as a community need to gather, analyze and use to improve the way people interact with WordPress. 

2) Neutralization: as a community we need to look at what / how competitors are doing things, draw conclusions about what they are doing well and..  you guess it: copy them. 

3) Differentiation: invest in the development of new features, products and services for new customer segments that are currently being neglected with WordPress. 

4) Education/Training/Certification/Masterclasses: More focus on professional training events and developer/user education;

5) Events that foster the development of  new WordPress based products and services;

What do you think is the best response to the $300M+/yr Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, et al are spending in advertising?

As important as advertising is.. a lot of businesses struggle and fail, not because they aren’t adding new users, but because they are lousy at keeping the ones they’ve got. We have to look at ourselves and see where we are loosing users rather than just deseperately try to reach new ones. Most people use things based on referrals.

While coming out of a WordCamp with thousands of WordPress geeks it’s easy to forget most people don’t know about WordPress and for the ones that do there is a huge percentage that can’t tell the difference between .com vs .org or the 3 main benefits of going with a self-hosted WordPress.

Why Attend WordCamps

While I’m at Vienna for WordCamp Europe I decided to share a few thoughts around what we are all here to do as a way to remind myself and others why we attend WordCamps. Here it goes, in no particular order:

Keep up with emerging trends — Attending conferences is a great way to get practical tips, keep up with emerging trends, and to meet other people doing amazing things.

Networking — You’ll probably find not just WordPress lovers but also Web geeks passionate about everything surrounding the Web. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and perhaps even, who knows, find that co-founder/business partner you’re looking for. It’s ok to skip a few sessions and just hang out at the Happiness bar or in the halls.

Learn — Be introduced to various new concepts and techniques. Various techniques for leveraging even more of WordPress are presented. How to secure WordPress, how to scale, optimize, improve, contribute, etc are covered in the different tracks.

Get Excited — Working on the Web presents many challenges and is becoming increasing more complex and more exciting. Mobile phones and retina displays are among the many things that are giving website owners more concerns they need to address, and discussion is hot right now about what are the best tools and techniques to be used.

Get better and better with WordPress — By end of the WordCamp you’ll probably feel your WordPress knowledge has increased a great deal.

How about you? Why do you attend WordCamps?