A Website is a Tool, Not a Wall Hanging


Online Marketing

I see a lot of individuals responsible for an organization’s website approach it as though they were preparing a work of art.

They focus on wanting to look “nice.” “Oh, hey, I like that,” they say, admiring the color scheme. “Can we get something like this on our site?” When they pick a web professional, they frequently go by the way other websites they designed look. The utility of a site to their business takes a far-back second position.

Much of the website design and development sector which targets the small and medium sized business market encourages this. They will post numerous examples of their work, which all focuses on how the site looks: The fonts, the choice of color scheme. Graphic accents. The works. They are going after that “ooh aaah” about the look of the site.

The site owners rarely ask the most important question to these web professionals:

Was it effective in getting you the outcome you are looking for?

The Dogs Have to Like It

My favorite passage from Trout and Reiss’s classic book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind describes a dog food company that gathered its salespeople from all across the nation to showcase their new slick marketing campaign for their dog food, complete with fancy package graphics, in-store displays and ad campaigns.

One salesman finally stood up and said, “There’s just one problem. The dogs hate it,” and sat down.

I think something like that is going on when the owner or key executive of a business gets deeply involved process of either building or revamping a website for the business. They are trying to do some whizz-bang graphics, and not paying attention to what the site’s users actually want when they go to the site. Nor are they thinking about what they want that visitor to do.

Everything on a website has to be instrumental, not decorative. If the instrument doesn’t work, then no amount of fluff on the outside is going to help. If you are in business then you want the best user experience on your site, to get a visitor to your site turn into a customer. It is a tool, not a decorative wall hanging.

What You Know About User Experience?

A mobile user experience consultant Jonathan Stark states in all his proposals, that the client has no say in the design of its website.

His contracts state:

Since the focus of this option is not related to visual design, we will not have design reviews. There will be gains in usability as a side effect of the primary goal but the visual design will be functional and utilitarian at best. I will carry forward the general branding and feel of the desktop page.

This drives home an important point: What does that key executive of a retailer, wholesaler, or manufacturer of certain goods know about how websites convert visitors into customers?

As jarring as that might seem to a business owner, Jonathan’s way of looking at it is the correct way of looking at it. He’s the expert on how to engage and convert users. What experience do you, as an executive of an auto parts dealer, have with this kind of stuff? Let the expert do his or her work.

“The surest way for an executive to kill himself is to refuse to learn how, and when, and to whom to delegate work,” said James Cash Penney, founder of the J.C. Penney retail chain.

Delegate It

Do yourself a favor, and delegate your website’s design to a user experience expert. They get it, they know you have a brand. They know that that has to come through. They know that the websites has to match up with your other marketing touch points. You’ll get more of the stuff you want that way.


Have a question about web sites that you'd like to have answered? Contact me. I read every email and would be happy to answer it!

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