When is a website broken and when is it the message that’s broken?

The other day I wrote a blog noting that one of the most common questions I’m asked is how much does it cost to build a website in which I tried to explain why this is also such a difficult question to answer, and why it may not be the question which organisations should be asking.

A marketing purchase decision funnel
Potential customers go through many stages before making a decision to use a service or buy a product, and being able to measure your effectiveness at each stage in reaching out to these customers will help you to serve them better.

Another concern which seems to come up quite alot is “I have a website but it is not doing me any good.” When I dig a bit further into what is meant by this it often turns out that though they have set up a website they are not seeing any increase in customers as a result.

Fixing this problem is as important as fixing a website that doesn’t load, or one that has issues with it’s appearance when it does load. If a website isn’t loading then the fact it’s broken is quite obvious, however when everything appears to be working fine technically but the site isn’t achieving what it was built to do then something else must be broken.

Here are some questions you can ask to see if you know whether your website is working for you:

  • Do you have analytics on your website to tell how many potential customers are visiting your site and do you know how to interpret the numbers you are getting?
  • Does your website have goals or objectives as to what you are trying to achieve with it? (ie is it trying to sell something, is it generating leads/contacts or are you providing an information service) and can you measure the success of these specific goals?
  • Do you understand the steps your customers go through before making a decision to use your service, and are you able to measure your impact at each of these stages?

Potential customers go through many stages before making a decision to use a service or buy a product, and by being able to measure your effectiveness at each stage in reaching out to these customers it will help you to serve them better.

There are many challenges with marketing online in ensuring you are effective at each of these stages but two of the most common issues are: high volumes of traffic but no increase in customers purchasing or contacting you, suggesting the visitors are not getting something they need; or low volumes of traffic, suggesting some extra digital marketing is required possibly from some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) improvements. Both of these can be resolved by analysing the traffic to your website to highlight where the potential issues are and often they can be improved by making some fairly simple changes. However the most important thing is to understand what your objectives of your website are so that you can make sure these are being met.

By understanding what stages your customers go through, and by understanding your goals for interacting with your customers at each of these stages, you can then put in place ways to meet both you and your customers needs. Then by measuring your success at each stage you can start to make improvements based on your findings: a recipe for continued success!

Whether you’re an expert at looking at web statistics or not, sometimes if you are running a business it  can be difficult to take a step back and look at your customers’ journey in finding you. Often it can be helpful to have some support giving a fresh perspective, particularly in identifying ways to fix any issues with a site not being as effective as it can.

Whatever your reason, if you’d like support to analyse whether your website is working for you, or to help you to meet your website’s goals better, then get in touch – I’d love to help you be as successful as you can.

Building a website: Should you be asking what it costs or what it’s worth?

One of the most common questions I’m asked when I meet potential new clients or even when I just happen to mention what I do is: How much does it cost to build a website? This is normally followed by a statement such as “I don’t need a big site such a few pages” or “I’ve been quoted £3000 for a website, it seems a lot”.

Should you be asking about cost before value
Costing up a website can be bewildering so ask for skilled help

The fact that this is such a difficult question to answer but such a simple one to ask is no doubt the cause of many a headache of web development agencies all over the country. The fundamental challenge with the question lies not just with the ‘How Long is a piece of string’ nature of the question, but around the perception that creating a web page is easy because there are so many tools out there which provide templated solutions..  (I’ve blogged on the pros and cons of this before)… and to some extent, yes, it is easier than ever to build a website but this doesn’t mean it will add value to your organisation.

The harder question is how much is a good website worth to your organisation. A well designed website won’t just drive traffic but it will turn visitors into customers and generate sales and/or revenue for your organisation. A poorly designed website may have the opposite effect. The skill is not always in the building a site but in the thinking behind it and the bringing together of many talents to grow your business online.

Bob the Builder
Whether it’s Bob the Builder or your local plumber you expect to pay for qualified skilled tradesmen, building a website is no different

If you were to ask a plumber to fix a leaky pipe or sort out your boiler you would be paying a skilled tradesman for their time at a cost which could range from £30 per hour to £60 or more per hour depending on the job being done. e.g. a job requiring a CORGI qualified plumber is likely to cost more. It is very similar in the world of building a website.

To illustrate the costs of building a site a bit better let me give some ball park figures for the staff costs for a small site with no added gadgets or e-commerce functionality:

– a web designer can cost between £200-400 per day depending on experience (and location!), this equates roughly to a rate between £25 and £50 per hour. It can take anywhere between 1 day and a week to come up with and agree concepts for a small sized site (depending on the subject matter & complexity). Averaging this out a cost could be £800 – £1000

– This then needs to be built and depending on whether you want a site you can update yourself, and the level of analytics etc you want behind it, this could be between 1-3 days or more, but let’s say it’s just a simple site and £500

– You then need text, images and the site to be tested before you can even think about going live. Say another £100-£200.

Without even thinking about the cost of pulling the above work together, or non staff overheads you’ve spent approx £1500… and this doesn’t even look at the cost of items which would really add value to your site such as

  • user journey mapping.
  • a strategy to help you maximise value from your website.
  • content written by a professional copywriter.
  • cost of graphics tailored for your website.
  • functionality to encourage users to return or transact on your site such as blogs, e-commerce functionality, or discussion boards.
  • mobile compatibility
  • ongoing measurement & analysis of visitors using the site, and recommendations as to how to get more value.

All of these things take more time than that listed above, and all of a sudden spending £3000 on a well designed, functional website which you can keep up to date yourself and which will encourage people to do business with you seems like it might be cheap!

When businesses are struggling with recession, and start up organisations are struggling to find money to get off the ground I can understand that spending any money on building a website can be difficult. However, I would argue that it doesn’t matter how much or little you spend on your website if you don’t get value out of the end result; the first step is to ask what a website can do for you and then approach an expert to find out how to make sure that is what happens.

To get advice on how your website could be adding more value contact Saja Ltd

What does ROI mean to your organisation: Innovation or Documentation?

pile of coinsIn an ideal world, the work which organisations do and the projects they undertake have some sort of Return on Investment (ROI): a cost justifiable reason for doing the work in the first place. It could be cost saving or profit increasing, and could be via actual money or via another means such as increased brand awareness, however it is still a cost justifiable reason.

In a formal project management world the Business Case which holds this Return on Investment is a fundamental part of the project kicking off. However for many organisations this just isn’t reality. Projects are often kicked off because somebody somewhere has had a ‘bright idea’ and senior people have decided that it would be a good thing to progress it. This needn’t be a bad thing as, depending on the piece of work, it could be more effort to document the ROI than it is to just do it; and there is an argument that innovation is hampered by the question “why”. Never the less, I do totally believe that if a project is to be successful, and that success is to be measured then the cost/benefit needs to have had some consideration.

The reason I’ve been mulling this over most recently is because I was lucky enough to be able to attend the brilliant Be Good Be Social event in Edinburgh. I was privileged to hear 3 inspiring examples of how the use of Social Media has been effectively harnessed for the good of charitable organisations. The most impressive thing about these examples was that with minimum cost it was possible to achieve huge benefits. The ‘Return’ ranged from increased PR/Awareness and support through to real monetary benefits through donations. The details of the case studies we looked at are on the Be Good Be Social website and a great overview of the evening has been blogged about by Be Good Be Social sounding board member Sara Thomas, so I won’t go into them here. However I can assure you that these guys are great and I love the level of innovation that is demonstrated at their events.

As someone who has done a variety of work for charities over the years, I’ve always been struck by how innovative people within this sector are. Their ideas work to get maximum Return On their Investment, be it their investment of time or money. I don’t know if it is a cultural thing within the organisations, the belief in the cause, or the situational facts (i.e. there is not much money and every penny must be accounted for!). Yet I wonder how often does anyone physically write down a business case, or document expected ROI for this work; or is it that they just wouldn’t ever go ahead and do the work without believing it will bring back value?

It would be a mass generalisation for me to say that this doesn’t happen outside of the third sector, and of course I’m sure there are cases people could cite to me where Charitable causes have been perceived to do work which was without any ROI atall, let alone any innovation. However I do wonder: for these organisations that do look for new and alternative ways to get that little bit more: what is it that drives their innovation? Is it an unspoken, intrinsic desire to maximise ROI, or is it something else more fundamental about the way they work?

Thanks to Ed Henderson (Jack’s Dad!) of Jack Draws Anything, Conrad Rossouw of Shelter Scotland and Lesley Pinder of Missing People for sharing their learnings, and showing how amazing the results of an idea can be!