Common Traits of Successful Web Sites
This one one of the very first newsletters
from the VectorInter.Net staff, originally written for presentation at
web site developers conference in 1992. It was amended and expanded over the
years, but remains one of the most "correct" editorial pieces we've ever
distributed. We posted it here in an early form, so you can see that the
technology has changed, dial-up modems are gone and everyone has a personal
blog, but the "basics" still apply.
In the big rush to join the rapidly expanding
Internet world, many businesses decided to build a web site "now" and handle the
details later. This has led to many ineffective web sites and in a few cases,
the demise of entire companies, at the height "success" during the "Go! Go Fast,
Go Faster" days of the late 90's. Why? Because successful web sites are not just
"built." They are planned, developed and grown. Successful web sites have a
strategy, and that "success" can be measured.
Is your company's web site successful? .... or was it built
because everyone else had one? The "Me too" syndrome is a powerful
deterrent to getting a successful web site completed. Anyone can put HTML pages
together and call it a web site. That is not an accomplishment. Can you build a
productive tool that reinforces a company image, produces measurable results and
effectively accomplishes it's objective? That is an achievement. So, if you've
ever asked the question "Is our web site successful?", and gotten answers
like "I think so..." or "It seems to do pretty well.", then in
reality, the answer is, "We don't really know."
In the last few years, we've observed others and participated
in many web site development processes. There is a common theme among web site
projects that continue to get results. No one can claim to know all the answers,
but sometimes a really good question can lead you down the right path. The
Common Traits of Successful Web Sites are.......
What does "success" mean in relation to your web site
project? A web site is successful if it meets and/or exceeds its goals and
objectives. Before you can measure success, you must first identify those goals.
That is a really broad definition, but it's the only one that works, because of the
wide diversity of uses for a web site. A web site is a multi-function tool. It can
do so many different things. You could directly sell a product (e-commerce), provide
specific product or company-wide information (service), or list your product
inventory (as a catalogue or an inventory control tool), maybe customer service
support (CRM) is your goal. The purpose of the web site will determine how its
success can be measured. Without a sense of purpose to your web site, you will fail,
because you've not pin-pointed specifically what that job was supposed to be. Once
you've determined a way to measure the results from your web site,
you'll have an answer to the question we started with. "Is our company's web site
- A way to measure "Success"
Among the web sites that are widely considered successful,
Another common element is a focus on one main task. Have you ever visited a web site
that tried to do everything? These sites almost always fail, because the job is too
broad. If you don't have a specific focus or task for your site, chances are good
that it won't produce the desired results. Focus on what you want to achieve, and
build toward that goal, using suitable graphics, colors, animation, etc. That
doesn't mean your web site can't accomplish more than one objective. It does means
you must think the process through completely. The Ford Motor Company does this. If
you go to
www.Ford.com , you will find a
web site that is focused on directing traffic to where the "surfer wants to
go. It doesn't sell cars, list job openings or help you find a dealer. The web
site's job is navigation. Each Ford brand of cars or trucks has its own web site.
When James Bond and I select the "Aston Martin" button on Ford.com, we visit a site
with a different objective. The web site at
, offers me information on those cars, some help finding a dealer near me, service
assistance and a social club for car owners. The Aston Martin web site does it's
specific job, While allowing
www.Ford.com to do its job.
To carry this one step further, the Aston Martin Owners Club is at
https://www.amoc.org . You see
the layered effect. In only three buttons, each easily found, I've arrived where I
wanted to be. Why?, because each web site was build for a specific job. That leads
me to the next common trait among successful web sites.
- Pick a single job or purpose for your web site.
There is nothing more frustrating than getting lost in a poorly
constructed web site. When the time comes to diagram the layout of your site, be
sure to keep the user experience in mind at all times. This may seem like an easily
achieved goal, but it is a common stumbling block. Your viewer will appreciate your
planning, when they can find the exact information they need in less than four mouse
- Simple, easy and logical
navigation through the web site.
When you have built your web site with a goal, a single purpose
and logical navigation, it is ready for visitors; Right? Not quite yet. You need
interesting content. If you want to be successful over the long-term, you must
provide interesting or valuable content. Plan from "Day 1" to add, update and
grow your web site to keep it "fresh" and interesting. The information, news,
games, puzzles, music, price discounts, trivia, or social interaction must be
attractively displayed and easy to find. It must also have value to the viewer too.
The ability to bring visitors back, again and again, is a key trait of successful
web sites. This is where planning can save you from wasting time and effort. Pick a
target audience. Design the content of the web site for that audience. If you know
"who" you want as visitors, it becomes easier to deliver the content they
It is also easier and more efficient to find them when it comes time to advertise
your web site.
- Provide interesting content
A web site should match the visual style expectations of the
visitor, or compliment the image of the product being sold. Don't mix the message. I
'm a big fan of Mickey Mouse®. I love the theme parks, the cable channel, the
whole kit, but do I want Mickey helping me select stocks on an investment web site?
No! It's not appropriate. I love the mouse. I own the stock too, but not on the same
web site. Successful web sites are not designed according to what you would like to
see, but should be built to appeal to the audience for your product or service. Lets
use Ford Motor Company as an example again. If you look at the individual web sites
for Aston Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar, Mercury, Mazda and Volvo, you will find each
has a different style. More importantly, each has a style that Ford hopes reflects
the demographic base of each marquee's ownership base. Ford "talks" to it's
customers with a voice that is appropriate for each group.
What kinds of people make up your target market? Could you define a profile
audience? (What is the gender, age, education, profession, income level, etc, of
your ideal customer? ) By serving your audience, you can determine what kind of
style, color, and visual cues will attract and appeal to them.
- Use a page design style,
colors and visual cues that appeal to the target audience.
The "best" web site on the Internet means nothing, if your
audience never finds it. It is a really big world-wide-web out there, and it is
getting larger every day. If you don't advertise your web site, no one will find it.
Search engines will draw some attention, but if you are looking for real results,
you will have to go and spread the word about your site. ( We discuss simple ways to
get your web site into the "search engine results" in the Do
It Yourself search engine optimization newsletter.) Advertising has
changed dramatically since the "dot-com" crash, but some traditional forms of
marketing can still be useful tools for generating interest in your web site. The
simplest idea is to put your web address on every piece of printed literature, all
of your business cards, letterhead and the advertising you are already doing.
Don't forget the door panels of the company trucks.
What about displaying your web address inside the urinal in every men's room in
town? Don't laugh, It's been done! ( To learn more ways to "promote
your web site off-line" in the VectorInter.Net newsletter
archives.) You may be able to save money on print ads by reducing
the total size of the ad and listing your web address as a source of more details.
Radio and TV, newspaper ads, billboards or hot air balloons, whatever you are doing
to promote your business, include your web site address. Think of the promotional
measures that have worked in the past, and try them again, with your new web site
the central focus of the ad campaign. Once you've gotten new visitors, keep them
coming back with E-mail marketing.
the killer marketing Application" discusses more ways to increase
repeat visitors to your web site, just one of many subjects in the
- Announce yourself to the
It is true that the creation of a successful web site demands
thought and detailed planning, but when you get it right, It is a wonderful thing.
The rewards can build and grow your whole business enterprise, to unexpected levels
of success. Look at Amazon.com and eBay. Perhaps a web site is more work that you
bargained for, but the payoff is well worth the effort....and the next time someone
wants to know if your web site is a success, you will know the answer is "Yes! and I
invented the @ symbol" in your E-mail address and "How
Web Site Hosting Works" or read about "Online
Trademarks and copyright issues".
Visit the VectorInter.Net newsletter
archives to read more about "How Things Works".