Who’s at Fault for Website Problems?
Now, don’t get it in your head that website problems are the fault of the development agency or the programmer. No, the majority of problems can be reduced to a single problem: communication.
I find that the relationship between a company and its website developers becomes tenuous very quickly, and after being in the industry since the near beginning, I think I understand why.
Clients, or the “website buyers,” need a website. The problem is that they don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for it. Beyond something that “looks nice” or goals that focus on the visual, there is usually very little understanding of what creates a successful presence for a company online. Therefore, the developers do what they think is best. They fill in the gaps with what they know, and if the client doesn’t ask for it, it doesn’t get done. Programmers need specific instructions, and clients usually aren’t in the position to understand, much less provide those instructions.
Two companies are trying to collaborate to produce something, but they are speaking two different languages. The scope of the project grows, the development company puts in more and more hours than budgeted, and the clients grow more and more dissatisfied because they want something but cannot communicate what exactly they want.
When the e-commerce website is delivered, the development company tends to see it as “done” and moves on to the next project. Meanwhile, the customer already has a list of things they want to change. Many e-commerce website developers and development companies see websites as a project that has a completion date. To companies that use their e-commerce website to conduct business, the website is never done. So, not only is the language different between these companies, but the expectations and goals are completely different as well.
Bringing It All Together with Analytics
I cannot understand why there are so many businesses that do not use analytics. Analytics is the key to most of what you need to know in order to make intelligent decisions about your e-commerce website in terms of marketing, search engine optimization, social media, and pay-per-click advertising. Even design changes can be improved and measured by simply using your analytics.
Without analytics, you cannot put dollar signs in front of improvements. You can’t know for sure whether that new design works better or worse. You won’t be able to tell whether that new copywriter is connecting to the audience. All of these questions that are vital to determining profitability are founded in the proper applications of analytics.
When you bring it all together, here’s what I have found:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO yields a drastic improvement based on the desired metrics. For websites measuring pure visitor numbers, the number can be exceedingly high in bringing “eyeballs” to the site. For ecommerce and lead-generation sites, I have witnessed increases in conversion rates between 200 percent and 400 percent, because not only does SEO increase the number of visitors, but it also increases the quality of visitors, resulting in better visitors who need what you may have. The big difference in numbers depends basically on how old the e-commerce website is, on whether SEO has ever been performed, and on your desired metrics (visitors, contacts, conversions, and so on)-there are a large number of dependent factors.
Design Improvements (Usability)
Once you get people to the website, the next goal is to get them to do what you want them to do. Unfortunately, there are usually design obstacles, content issues, or unclear steps in the process. The process of improving the visitor’s path through the e-commerce website is called usability.
Usability transforms a website from the corporate vision of what it should be to the user’s vision of what they need. By changing the information, graphics, and organization of an e-commerce website to meet the needs of the user, the ability of the e-commerce website to gain new customers and retain old ones will increase dramatically. Jacob Neilson, a usability guru, estimated that the average website can experience an 83 percent to 135 percent improvement in metrics, though he has seen improvements far beyond that.
Analytics tells you what happened and why. A survey of Forrester Research’s Web Analytics Peer Research Panel showed the companies that hired a full-time analyst experienced a 900 percent to 1200 percent return on their investment. From my experience, that can happen well within the first year of an analyst working on an e-commerce website, because they find many of the largest issues first.
Without analytics, you cannot put dollar signs in front of improvements. You can’t know for sure whether that new design works better or worse. Essentially, of all the tools in your online-marketing kit, analytics is the toolbox. Without the toolbox, you cannot carry all the tools you need, and you can’t justify adding more. It’s a poor analogy, but I hope you get my meaning.