If you're starting a new business or need to refresh your old website, you may not need a website designer (yet). Instead, work with people who can help define and create the content that builds your story — seek out the master storytellers.
From start-up websites to large business websites, all usually represent a significant commitment to time, money and effort; yet from the get-go, many sites appear to have focused resources on the design of the website rather than the function of delivering an engaging story of a company, product or service.
It's an issue that's been bothering me for some while, and I believe that this ‘horse-before-cart’ approach may result from *project-thinking applied to the decision to build a website and that this, in effect, may be costing companies dearly; specifically start-up businesses.
You Don't Want A Website: You Want Customer Engagement
The odds are that what you're looking for is a solution that allows you to engage with as many people as possible (creating awareness) who might be interested in your particular products or services (your story) and, yes, an online presence, be it a website or a social media platform is usually a necessity.
“However, it is the ‘story’ used to market your goods and services, and build your business identity, that is the one real necessity — websites are primarily the vehicle (a container) that delivers the story, (i.e. your content) and not the actual goal.”
* Project Thinking vs “ Product Thinking”
Deadlines are essential. The process of project-thinking (i.e. * project management) outlines in detail the estimated time and cost of a process needed to deliver several milestones in achieving a specific goal (e.g. a website). Success is measured by how closely the project sticks to the plan, budget and deadline — it's necessary, and it all seems perfectly reasonable.
However, pause for a moment, and consider the hundreds of thousands of websites that may indeed have met their budget and deadline, yet ultimately have failed to engage with their potential client base and have therefore delivered no real value to either the owner of the site or their customers. So, what went wrong?
“It could be the difference between aiming a project at the goal of building a website, as opposed to thinking about the new site as a product — ‘ product-thinking’.”
There's a difference between goal orientated project-thinking, and value-based customer focused “product-thinking.”
Project-thinking says “We Need A Website.” This decision usually triggers a search for web-design services and examples. If your budget is robust, it's a route that can lead you to some genuinely talented designers.
Budget restrictions may take you down the “affordable web design” rabbit-hole; commoditised services that will build you a website container for minimal cost and leave the content requirement with you.
There is a market for both, and each offers particular benefits, yet both are by default focused on selling you a website. Even if you are sure that you need a website, it is correct to say that kicking off your web-development project with a “ product-thinking” content mindset will deliver a better result, and may even save you a tonne of money in the long run!
“ Product-Thinking:” What Do Your Customers Value?
“Product-thinking,” asks a different question: “What do my customers need and how can I deliver this on a website?” In considering this, it's precisely the same approach that you will have taken, as a company, to identify the products and services that your customers need when establishing your core product offering or service profile.
As you've now done the work to identify your customer's needs, for a website, the objective then is to develop and deliver engaging content that tells the story about how and why you sell what you sell — it's time for differentiation.
This approach is purely about exploring the creation of content that encourages and supports a potential customer’s decision to purchase those goods and services from you rather than your competition. It is all about asking yourself “what do my customers need, and need to see and, furthermore, what do they value;” it is never about just designing and building that empty container called a website.
Ten Websites For The Price Of One: Maximizing Your Budget
The objective behind “product-thinking” is to explore and discover exactly what it is that you need to deliver within your website and what will have the most significant impact on your business objectives. This mindset changes everything, and this process of “product-thinking” will also determine what the design of a website needs to deliver.
“It may even prove beneficial to launch ten truly low-cost sites using good web-builder platforms such as Square Space, Wix and Shopify and test out your ideas and markets before investing in a professional website built using the content that you've tried and tested, that's gained attention and delivered results.”
In this first stage, whether for an inexpensive trial site or a professional site, it is about focusing your attention on good-quality storytelling and creating marketing material to connect with and inspire other people (your customers), i.e. making a connection and building trust so that they can take the next step to a purchase from your company.
It's about mitigating budgetary limitations or maximising the opportunities within your budget and testing the efficacy of your material across all the marketing channels at your disposal.
“Adopting a ‘product-thinking’ mindset means that you'll always focus on solving the right problems — and in itself; that is a worthwhile exercise!”