Lost in Translation?
Immersion technique #1: Get three to five people together and watch them navigate your site. Don’t help. Instead, take copious notes and have them explain in exact terms just where they get tripped up. “Put this information together into a cohesive list for yourself [that includes] exactly what you think needs to be done, and exactly what you discovered from watching potential visitors [surf] your site,” Williams said.
Untangle the Web
For distributors, Web sites are mainly used as lead-generation tools—ways to put the company in front of potential end-buyers in the hopes they will like, and subsequently choose, their services. As with all marketing collateral, every choice is important. “We can’t help it—we judge the quality of the product based on the quality of the Web site,” revealed Williams.
But planning in a vacuum can lead to what Ian Lurie, president of Seattle-based Internet marketing agency Portent Interactive, calls ego-driven design. “Too often, businesses insist on a feature because they think it is important,” he noted. “But it’s only important to them.” Often, the person in charge of the site is simply too close to the business and knows too much about its services to be able to see things from a customer’s perspective, added Finck.
Reaching out to a third-party designer can help circumvent these issues, even if he just provides a framework of solutions. To remain budget-conscious throughout the process, Finck suggested prioritizing a list of problems with the site and doing the redesign in stages (even if over the course of a few years) in order to have enough capital to completely solve a few problems, rather than stretching the cash and only marginally addressing all of them.
Although, Williams said, “Anyone can create a simple site with individual pages and links and make it look perfectly great,” bear in mind that, as features get more complicated—e.g., adding registration pages, calendars that need to be updated, etc.—site maintenance will become an increasingly full-time job.