A new website can cost big bucks, so how can I make sure I will get a return from my investment?
We know from research that it is very easy to spend a lot of money and not see any tangible business gain from a website upgrade. In our experience, the evaluation of websites is often limited. There is often too much blind faith and too little appraisal of how it integrates with the marketing strategy and whether the spend is justified by the return.
The pace of change in the on-line world moves so fast. The emergence of Web 2.0 (ie real time sharing of information) means that there are now many different ways of communicating with your customers and stakeholders. This is changing the way audiences use the web as the focus switches more towards content sharing and networking and away from the simple brochure site of the previous decade.
Finding out what your websites' visitors really want from your website can save you time and money. The pay-back of research is that your new website will work harder and deliver better quality business prospects and job applicants to you. It will also give you a clear brief to guide your web content and design team.
Here are the main reasons why you should take a step back and undertake some website research before signing off a web re-design project:
- It enables you to segment your target audiences' needs, so that you can make it easy for them to quickly access the content and features that they are most interested in. One solution is to divide your website into sections which clearly provide the links that each audience group will be interested in. For example, a public company might have a section for, customers, investors, suppliers, potential recruits and an area for corporate sustainability with all the main links provided
- It means you can assess which areas of your current website are popular with your key audiences so that you can build on these strengths. The best solution may not be to start from scratch as you might discard content or functionality that makes your site work. It might turn out that your site is easy to navigate and you can get to the content easily
- It allows your audiences to tell you what content they want and how they want it. For example, is their demand for downloading a marketing paper via a podcast to listen to on the go, or is a pdf still the preferred choice. You can then put your resources behind the areas that will deliver you the biggest payback
- It gives you an action list of points to cover. This list allows you to check back as you go through the process of developing the new site as it is easy to lose sight of the important strategic issues as you get immersed in the detail.
The Leading Edge Approach
We will work with you in a partnership to make sure all the key action points are covered off and that you have all the information you need to make best possible decisions. Our standard approach involves:
- Desk research - Assessing your company’s website against your competitors’ using a set of carefully selected criteria
- Field research – We will talk to a number of your key audiences to explore their current perceptions of your website and determine their future expectations.
We will then report all the findings back to your team making a number of recommendations to ensure you get the most from your investment and offer advice on how to approach the important tactical decisions once you start work on developing the new site.
What our of our clients has said when using us for website evaluation:
- "An excellent piece of research that will add value to our new website. The analysis and report were excellent."
From our comprehensive desk research we can suggest a few sites that really stand out and that are making use of the Web 2.0 technology in a simple, yet effective way. The focus is on 'people' and 'interactivity' and it is this draws you back to their site. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Rok Group – The best of the regional players. Interactive & fun
- Mace Group – Consultancy and construction firm – Clean professional and very informative
- Carillion Plc - Support services and construction company – Focuses on relationships and depth of content
- BBC News – Unrivalled content and usability make it one of the best sites today
- Tesco – So much content delivered in a user friendly way
- BMW – A great example of using technology to deliver excellent customer service on-line.
Website re-vamp for a manufacturer
A major UK construction company realised that its website had fallen behind the standards set by their competitors. They needed to re-launch a new website to differentiate their offering from the competition and to market their strengths to visitors more effectively. To ensure a return on a potentially large investment they decided to ask Leading Edge to undertake some independent market research.
The objectives of the research involved:
- Testing the attitudes, experiences and expectations of the current website with a number of their key audiences
- Testing the responses from key audiences to future ideas for the company's website
- Taking a benchmark the competitors' offerings and other ‘world class' websites
- BBC News – Content and usability make it one of the best sites today
- Providing recommendations to the senior management and web design team on the development of the new website.
Leading Edge started by assessing competitors' websites against the company's current site by using a comprehensive range of performance criteria, such as ease of navigation. We also looked for inspiration on other construction and well known B2B and B2C websites that had won awards and wide recognition for being 'world class'.
Our desk research revealed that the company was lagging behind the competition in a number of important areas. However, the study also revealed a number of 'best practice' ideas being used on other sites that were of interest. In particular, we looked at the methods used to promote the brand through the use of Web 2.0 technology, effective graduate recruitment areas and customer extranet mini-sites.
We then used the results of the desk research to develop a bespoke questionnaire. This had to be tailored for each of the company's key audiences, as their needs vary in terms of what they expect from a website. We kept a core set of questions running throughout to ensure we could compare all the results.
The research clearly demonstrated that the current website was considered to be simple and easy to navigate, but that it lacked sufficient depth of content, interactivity and up-to-dateness to keep visitors coming back.
We also discovered that, although many customers are not visiting websites on a regular basis, the overall level of web usage does appear to be growing year-on-year. However, when customers do visit a website they are increasingly viewing it as a pre-qualification tool for assessing a company’s capabilities.
The findings allowed us to provide a check list of the most important areas that each of the key audience expects to see on a website. We presented our results back to the client and discussed our recommendations on the next steps for developing the content and design of the new website. We also put forward suggestions on how the company could ensure that all the audiences' needs that we established during the web research are covered off in the re-design.
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