It is clear that in today’s crowded online space, a functional and well designed website can be a great tool for helping businesses gain a competitive advantage. I would be willing to bet that there are very few people, if any, who would disagree with this claim. For many businessess, the company website is the first point of communication between the business and their potential customers. Creating a good first impression with your website is remarkably beneficial for increasing brand awareness, developing relationships with consumers, and converting consumers to your brand and products. Ultimately, these benefits will reveal themselves as growth in your company’s user base and repeat visitors. Companies that understand the relationship between the digitial and physical, and successfully traverse the divide, typically outperform those that do not.
“A good first impression can work wonders.” – J.K. Rowling
The Search Begins
I am always amazed when I come across a company’s website and it appears to have last been updated years ago. In order to best illustrate this point, I would like to use a recent experience I had with one of the larger Internet companies. Lets call this company “Company X,” as I would prefer not to completely throw them under the bus.
As an avid Denver Broncos fan, this season has been a roller coaster of ride that is full of twists and turns. For those who are unfamiliar, Peyton Manning was the starting quarterback at the beginning of the season. In November, an aging Manning was sidelined with a foot injury and backup Brock Osweiler was called into action. The young quarterback showed moments of brilliance, but he was still prone to making mistakes as he adjusted to his new role. In the second half of the final regular season game, Manning returned to the field.
With so much drama at the quarterback position, my mind immediately began racing with questions. Who will start next year? Will Osweiler look to play elsewhere? Will the Broncos sign a quarterback that is a free agent after this season? This continued for some time. Now, you may be asking how football is relevant to the experience, and I assure you, it will shortly become evident.
In an attempt to relieve the anxiety I was feeling due the uncertainty at the quarterback position, I took to the Internet in hopes of finding the answers I needed. I was able to find much of the information I was looking for relatively quickly and my mind began to feel at peace. However, I was still curious as to who would be available at the quarterback position for 2016-2017 season should Osweiler make an exit.
A quick Google search for “2016 nfl free agents” revealed an overwhelming amount of results. I began to browse over the search results and I saw a link to Company X’s sports page. Given the reputation of Company X, I figured it would be a great source for reliable information presented in a way that is easy to digest. I could not have been more wrong. I received a terrible first impression from their website. In fact, I was so disappointed with Company X that I decided to take a screenshot of their website and use it as an educational tool.
Company X’s Website
Before I delve too much into the problems with Company X’s website, I feel I should give credit where credit is due. Company X has done a good job generating a list of players, organized by position, which will become free agents after this season. However, when compared to their competitor’s website, it would be unfair to claim Company X has provided any greater value to the user.
Company X has left out many important pieces of information about the players. You have to leave Company X’s webpage to find any discernable information or player statistics. A simple solution would have been to link player names to a statistics sheet, much like their competitor did.
The competitor’s webpage includes an interactive drop down menu that makes the site easier to navigate whereas Company X does not. While there are many tools aside from a simple drop down menu that allow for easier site navigation, this comparison provides one key takeaway. Company X failed to consider the user in their design and development and thus their creation fails to serve the needs of their audience.
Company X’s website provides little real value to the consumer. That alone is enough to drive many consumers to other companies that provide greater information in an easier to digest format. This translates into decreased revenues and market share for Company X.
The webpage of Company X is almost entirely white space aside from the seemingly endless list of player names and the paid advertisements on the right. It appears that no thought went into the design or appearance of the page. Even though their competitor’s page uses only two more colors, the result is undeniably more effective in solving the users’ pain points and clearly communicating information. Ultimately, the lack of direction in Company X’s webpage results in a product that is difficult on the eyes and even more difficult to navigate.
So… What’s the big deal?
This specific example is focused entirely on two companies and their webpages, but there are several major concepts that can be taken away from this comparison. These concepts can be used in any business ecosystem where there are at least two competing forces (i.e. other companies) and they are further outlined below.
Don’t let your first impression be your last.
As I stated earlier in this article, first impressions count. I can’t begin to think of a scenario in which one is given a second chance to make a first impression. My first impression of Company X based off their website was not great. They failed to meet both my needs and my expectations. Would I purchase their services in the future, recommend their products to a friend, or return to their website? Not likely.
When given an opportunity, make it count.
During my initial search for a company that could deliver the product I needed, in this case information, I was overwhelmed by an astounding amount of results. The first company page I visited was that of Company X. As soon as I made the decision to view their page, they were presented with an opportunity. They very well could have converted me into a lifetime user. Had they provided me an exceptional product and user experience, this article would have never been written. However, they failed to do so. It is essential that a company’s website serves as a mechanism for building and expanding its customer base, instead of a barrier that constricts customer acquisition.
Don’t create a website simply for the sake of creating a website.
In my opinion, Company X seems to have had little motivation for creating their sports website aside from directing consumers to their other products. They didn’t design their website around the user, and it shows in the output. If a company isn’t truly passionate about the product they are creating and they don’t understand thier users, the product will likely result in failure. The movie Field of Dreams makes the bold claim, “If you build it, they will come.” However, this is far from the truth in an environment where there are seemingly infinite substitutes. Instead, the saying should read, “If you build it for your users, they will come.”
Most of us have heard the old proverb, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” In theory, this is a great motto to live by. In practice, this motto becomes much more difficult to implement as it is challenging to discern between conscious and subconscious judgment. Furthermore, it is a natural human tendency to assess a situation by observing stimuli and attempting to make sense of these inputs, especially in the context of the Internet and websites. The output of this assessment is a conclusion, or judgment, about the site one is viewing. For example, a consumer may look at Company X’s website and make the following deductions:
- “This website seems unprofessional. I wonder if the company is really as ‘expert’ as they claim on this subject.”
- “This website looks to be pretty low-budget. I’d like to do business with companies that are willing to put in the time and effort.”
- “The information is hard to read and this website is difficult to navigate. I bet I can find a better source relatively easy.”
If viewers of your website are making these conclusions, there is clearly a mismatch between your websites offerings and the needs of your audience. When this is the case, a company must reevaluate its website and seek to remedy the outcomes of consumers’ assessments. With this in mind, I leave you with the words of Italian designer Massimo Vignelli. Consider his words in the context of your own website. Have you done it right? If it is not done right, what can be done to fix it?
“If you do it right, it will last forever.” – Massimo Vignelli
What do you think?
Have questions, comments, or other thoughts? Please find me @ty_r11 on Twitter.