Last year at our Digital Marketing Conference, I delivered a presentation on where and why we see websites failing to deliver the results both customers and companies expect. I had fun delivering the session and all of the feedback was super positive (thank you attendees!) Except for one comment. That attendee wrote something like, “If you don’t know these basic concepts, you shouldn’t have a website.”
I wasn’t upset when I saw this comment because I understand the sentiment. Sometimes even I want to scream when I find myself still advising organizations not to do things like have music or video autoplay when you get to their site (if you are doing that, please stop. PLEASE.) With all of the advancements we’ve made in CX, martech and digital marketing, websites should be better then they are. But the reality is, they aren’t. (They are so pervasively bad that it actually took me longer to go through and decide which bad examples I was going to use than it did to create the actual presentation itself).
However, there is hope on my website gloom-and-doom horizon. Marketers realize their websites are bad, and they’re taking steps to improve them. They often open our conversations with, “We are ready for you to tell us our baby is ugly,” or “You won’t offend us, we need to improve.” And they mean it. They admit their websites are basically megaphones for their companies, don’t take user needs or goals into consideration and their features and content are based upon opinion or copying competitor sites.
If you want to know why your website needs to be customer centric, please read this research note (Gartner subscription required). If you want to understand what’s wrong with making decisions based upon opinion versus customer insight and data, please read this blog post and this blog post. If you want to know what’s wrong with making your website a copy of someone else’s, read on my friend.
Knowing what your competitors do and have on their website is important. Copying what they do and have is foolhardy. Benchmarking is informative, it is not a strategy. Unless you have some inside information, you are not privy to:
- what drove the choices they made (maybe the CEO’s friend who aspires to be a graphic designer created the site for them)
- what, if any, insights informed the decisions that were made and how valid those insights were (maybe they have purple icons on their site for no other reason than the lead designer likes the color purple)
- if those insights are applicable to your customers and prospects (there is a reason your customers choose you and those reasons may be different from those people who use your competitors).
Happily, there is some wiggle room in the last bullet. You can use ideas from other sites and test to see how your customers respond to those designs, features and interactions (Gartner subscription required). But don’t limit your sources of inspiration to just those sites in your vertical. Remember, your customers are using other companies’ websites and may not be using those of your competitors.
By the way, this concept of not just copying other companies applies to more than just websites. It also applies to product and CX roadmaps as well. They’re your products, your customers’ experiences and it’s your website. Make it your own, a website that offers relevant experiences, content and interactions for your customers. Copy that?