I learned a long time ago that one of the biggest challenges for a salesperson to make a sale is to get over the customer’s objections and not add to the list of objections. Simply put, a person could walk into a store ready to buy a product cash in hand but run into obstacle after obstacle in the store to the point they walk out not purchasing anything. I have. Let’s move to the 21st century. Web sites are increasingly becoming the first and often only contact point between a business and its customers. A website can throw up roadblocks or it can smooth a path to making and retaining customers. Businesses need to understand that their websites do matter.
Let me give you an example that triggered me to write this article. I am a customer of a particular company. I was contemplating the addition of their stock to my stock portfolio. But after dealing with their website I am having second thoughts. It felt like I was dealing with a site that was half baked, didn’t have the information I was looking for, and gave me baffling messages, like I didn’t know my own birthdate when in fact they should have been saying, “You already have an account with us (dummy).” Their site looks and feels like it was developed by amateurs.
Now you have to follow my crazy reasoning. If they don’t have the technical wherewithal and desire to have a good website, then they may not have the technical skills or desire to handle my needs. I may not want to continue using them. If others feel the same a loss of many customers potential or existing could cause a downturn in their business. That would make buying their stocks a bad thing. One normally doesn’t make stock decisions based on a website, that is just stupid. There are company fundamentals, P/E ratios, charting, technicals, pivot points etc that should be considered. But in the end, something as simple as a poorly designed website could be the obstacle that turns me away from being a customer and owning stock in their company.
Now I am biased. I work on developing websites every day. I believe I know what a good site is and I certainly know what a good site is for me. It is one that functions well providing the solutions a customer needs. A good site doesn’t have to be extremely beautiful as long as it is functional. Scottrade’s website (scottrade.com) I find is ugly as sin. But I use it all the time because it does the job. Bing’s landing page (bing.com) is quite beautiful but I don’t use it. Oh, I guess the search engine is quite functional, nothing wrong there but being beautiful doesn’t make me want to use it… in some ways, makes me avoid it because it is functionally distracting. Amazon’s site (amazon.com) isn’t ugly but it certainly isn’t pretty either. But look at their sales! Their website is a well oiled machine making it easy for anyone to buy.
I have had clients that stress over how good it looks and completely ignore how well it works. They have ignored my pleas to focus first on their customer’s needs. I have seen many of the websites completely fail. I have had clients that had ugly sites but made a ton of money off of them because they put up very few roadblocks. The look of a website can and does throw up roadblocks to gaining a customer so I do recommend improving the look without destroying the functionality. But the lack of functionality will always throw up larger and harder to overcome roadblocks. A functional website can always be spiffed up a bit.
Businesses need to understand that their websites do matter. I believe that there are several common mistakes that companies make when it comes to developing a website but the biggest ones come down to money. Having a website isn’t cheap. It costs a lot to develop and maintain an aesthetically pleasing site that functions well meeting the customer’s needs. But compared to other methods of getting and retaining customers websites are extremely cost effective. Unfortunately, many companies don’t understand this, throwing too little money and very little other company resources at developing the site. The results are often a site that more or less looks good but has very little functionality. More importantly, they haven’t allocated the money and resources to maintain the site. As such, the site languishes and becomes a major roadblock. Instead of gaining and retaining customers, they push them away.
Ironically, I have seen sites that were purported to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop. The site is awesome, at least it looks that way. But when people actually start using the site, it falls flat because it doesn’t meet their needs, it only meets the specifications that the company had, make it awesome. Awesomeness seems to always translate into look great as opposed to work great.
The really weird part of all this, aesthetics are very personal. What looks pleasing to one person may look ugly to another. There have to be people at Scottrade that find their website aesthetically pleasing. When developing a website where ‘the look’ is the top priority, a lot of energy is put into that look. ‘The look’ can even prevent good functionality because that functionality can ruin ‘the look’. At the end, the website is put out, the owners of ‘the look’ are proud parents only to be told they have the ugliest stillborn in the world.
Businesses need to understand and act accordingly that their websites do matter. They need to focus on providing the solutions to their customer’s needs be it a product, information, or support. They need to worry about how the customer is going to use the website and anticipate their customer’s expectations. They need to allocate the resources needed to develop, maintain and even expand the functionality of the website and not let it languish. And yes, they need to work on making sure it all looks good too. When they have done that well they have eliminated a bunch of objections that the customer might have run into and cha-ching!