Web Site Building…A New Business Model

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Web site success requires optimization of two major disciplines: web design and content. It’s the content that attracts prospective customers and achieves targeted business goals. The site’s design provides a user friendly and appealing environment in which to present content. Web design is to site content what packaging is to product.

A company shopping for a web site (new or a redesign) finds itself in a marketplace today where the site development work is performed by a design firm, and the content is provided by a separate marketing/PR firm. The current business model is two discrete disciplines.

Anyone who has shopped for or engaged a web design firm can attest to how distinctly different the web design process is. For example, the web-development firm will require the client to complete a lengthy and complex “survey.” Here are a few sample open-ended essay questions posed by web designers:

1. What does the target audience think and feel about the company and the current website?

2. What do we want them to think and feel?

3. Profile the target audience. Provide enough detail to enhance everyone’s understanding of who the audience is. Include some user demographic information. Who is the target? What do these people care about? And what do they do online on a daily basis?

4. Who is your target audience? Choose a typical user and profile in detail. Include occupation, age range, gender, online frequency, online activities, and any other relevant information. Profile more than one if applicable.

These questions came from some 30 that were culled from a web designer’s eight-page “survey!” While perhaps reasonable in B2C, the probative vale of such inquiries is suspect in B2B..Searching online, I couldn’t find a professional web design site that didn’t have comparable surveys.

That’s just the beginning of the process. Once the survey is submitted, there comes an ongoing series of “interviews” with the client company. “How many roll-out menus do you want on the home page?” “What color do you want on the banner?” The client obviously has to make some decisions, but why do web designers assume that their clients are fully versed in web design and development know-how?

The design process moves forward without much of a concern about the site content. Only when the design and development program is completed does the web designer request the content it needs to post on various pages. That can get ugly: “Whatdya mean there’s no press/media page!”

The site designer has created the “packaging” without inputs from the content provider. It’s the tail wagging the dog. Instead, the process should be that the content provider (marketing/PR firm) submits the content, and works with the web design team to arrive at a visually-appealing and user-friendly package for the content. That eliminates the client’s tedious survey exercise, because the content provider already knows the answers to relevant issues such as the target audience profile. The outcome is a web site that is content-driven and content optimized.

If you are web site shopping, look for a content-provider firm that has in-house web design capabilities. That’s the new business model.

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