Website Key Success Factors

If you are considering implementing a new website or making substantial revisions to an existing site, here are 4 key success factors in order of  scheduling and then importance:

  1. Clarify the Website’s Mission and Strategy
  2. Decide on a Web Presence and Implementation Plan
  3. Choose a Hosting Service and a Programming ToolKit
  4. Manage the Web Change and its Expectations

Lets examine each success factor in turn and see how they fit together in  Web Implementations.

1-Clarify the Website’s Mission and Strategy

Sion Garret and Steven Snell have two excellent essays on key success factors for websites. Their analyses underline the critical factors of Mission and Strategy that  set the stage for doing a great website. The Mission statement summarizes the purpose for the website :

  1. what specific clients/audience is intended to be reached by the website;
  2. what information about the organization is to be communicated to the target audience;
  3. what products and services are to be offered to the target audience;
  4. what ongoing membership or support is to be offered to the audience on an ongoing basis by the organization through the website.

Steven calls for Clarity and Purpose in a Website Mission statement. These choices help to spell out a Strategy => how the organizations Brand and Marketing will be delivered not just to clients but the broader public – employees, suppliers, stakeholders. A strategy for delivery should evolve with three increasingly broader purposes and goals:
– informative delivers clears insights on the organization’s mission, history, and current actvities
– persuasive clarifies what the organization can do for prospective customers – clear delineation of products, services and warranties
– marketing sets out the rewards and costs, the bargain bartering in the marketplace.
So a  website is not a static billboard but rather  the best place to visit for immediate organizational interaction.

So what is happening in small and medium-size organizational websites?

In a survey of 500 small business websites in the Toronto area,  three major factors stood out. First, nearly 40% of the websites were at the first stage – primarily informative with some small persuasion and marketing efforts.  But  of more concern were 2 trends among the organizations. First, only 1/3 of the CSI websites had clear and unambiguous statements of the organization mission and purpose. This info  should be readily apparent from the Home page and onward. Second, and more telling, 61% of CSI Website are semi-active – 3 or more months since the last info update. Hardly a sign of active messaging to clients through the website.   Yet CSI the Organization and its 500+ members’  various websites  garner  solid Website.Grader ratings:
On average they have a 71+ Website Grader ratings. So the issue is not web technical excellence but rather the strategy for Web Presence.  So the question becomes what Web Presence  and Strategy is appropriate  for an organization. More on this subject in the next topic.

2-Decide on a Web Presence and Implementation Plan

Depending on your organization Mission and Strategy, your Web Presence may not need a  classic website.  Particularly relevant are informative Web Presence where communicating with your clients and stakeholder is of paramount importance. So you may want to use social media  for your Web Presence since social media have 3 inherent advantages:

  1. Social Media may be where most of your clients and stakeholder are at;
  2. Social Media gives you diverse access to kindred communities. Think Twitter or Instagram compadres, Linkedin business associates, Google Plus Collectives,Tumblr and Pinterest fellow artists, YouTube  story tellers, etc.
  3. Many Social media allow creating free pages with a customized presence. This allows getting  practical experience managing content and media.

Yes, but like Facebook , almost all social media are gathering information on your data, events and followers then selling that  info to 3rd parties who they do minimal screening of [hey it could be competitors or the KGB].  So even in the case of social media, be careful. Yes they can be free , provide solid DIY web knowledge, and  garner  solid SEO and promotional experience. But for the ultimate in custom design and messaging  think of building your own website.

One of the real advantages of building your own website is that you can have much more DIY control of your Web Presence. This control extends  beyond the creation or refinement of the Website but also to ongoing operations as well. This can be a decisive plus when your Web Strategy involves a Persuasive or Marketing presence and much wider range of tools and methods “to make it so”. So aWeb  Implementation Plan will be essential:

  1. How much time and cost will be devoted to creation/refinement  and operation of the website;
  2. For creative DIY work who will be key parties making the contributions;
  3. For operational work who will provide  product and  service support;
  4. For ongoing web site support who will be doing SEO, promotional, and new content work;

For Persuasive and Marketing Web Presence, a website should become a key operational tool, an integral part of “doing business”. So the Organization’s Executive team must be alert to managing this change.  In our experience with Web Development, 3 most important misalignments  in an Implementation Plan are:

  1. Expectations of what the Web can immediately do for an organization’s mission, messaging and success;
  2. Underestimation of how much DIY time is needed during website creation/refinement;
  3. Poor commitment to  SEO, content update  and product support plus other operational tasks.

A vital part of keeping expectations within reasonable bounds is to have installed as part of a website  useful and easy to use statistical tracking and reporting.

The good news is that for CMS systems like WordPress, there are great tools waiting to be installed  and at no or low cost plus great ease of use. So this leads to the next topic that should be part of any Web Implementation Plan.

3-Choose a Web Hosting Service and Programming ToolKit

For the past ten years, the tools and services offered on the Web have been progressing at a blistering pace. AWS and other cloud services were just appearing 10 years ago. Ditto for  SaaS-Software as a Service with vendors like Salesforce.com and Zoho providing application services like CRM and Financial Support  suites which could be run  anywhere using a browser. So not just head office but branch offices could be easily and efficiently linked together over the Web. Many shops found it cheaper to rent processing power and web connections from a hosting service rather than building and operating Web connections in-house.

For small businesses web hosting has been a must have way to create a broader business market presence. The table below highlights the very low cost of entry hosting services can afford organizations, especially small businesses:

 Hosting Type Annual Cost  Monthly Visits  Security  Speed Support  Operations Vendors
Shared Server  $70-120  20K to 70K SSL,SW SW,SSD,CDN Email/Chat,/24hour Backup/1Migrate  A2InMSG
VPS  $340-540 100K to 240K SSL,SW SW,SSD,MoreHW Email/24/7/365 Backup/1Migrate/Root A2, DO, Rack
Dedicated Host  $3200-4200  300K to 1000K SSL,SSH,FW SSD,CDN,MoreHW Email/chat/10min Backup, migrate, update  SG, Rack, Lweb
Hybrid Cloud  $600-3500  50K to 400K SSL,SW, FW SSD,CDN.Scale phone, chat,24/7 Backup, migrate, update DO, KIWP
Enterprise Cloud  $1000-50,000++  100K to 1000K++ SSL,SSH,FW SSD,CDN,Scale phone,chat,email,24/7  Backup, update, redeploy AWS, AZ, Go

Likewise there has been  a rapid advance in web online programming tools. Thus CMS tools like Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress have broken out of the blogging niche and offer full fledged business systems able to to deliver eCommerce, Business Scheduling and Rentals, Travel and Event Planning etc. Just as Web Hosting provides low cost DIY-Do It Yourself access to the Web, new Website Builder tools like  SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix  were the first to offer easy to use,  frontend webpage design. The CMS sytems. especially WordPress, and javaScript frameworks  have quickly followed suit and now lead the ease of design parade. The key ingredient has been the fact that PageBuilders when linked closely with multipurpose themes are so much easier to use  both at Website creation time and for  daily operations.

This  is a typical DIY Website Builder – Thrive Architect for WordPress being used with the Total multipurpose theme:
What WebSite Builders  do to speed up web design and coding are 5 things:

  1. All tools offer drag and drop, true WYSIWYG frontend design of mobile responsive web pages [quite a mouthful, see here for more details];
  2. All tools deliver complete multi-page website templates that developers/users can customize to meet their specific design needs. Yes, it is a get started quickly option that can be quite helpful in some circumstances;
  3. Most tools also deliver single complete page layouts or  sections of a page either pre-built or developer/user designed for reuse;
  4. All tools provide  2 dozen  or  more UI components that can be dragged and dropped, moved, duplicated or deleted from a a web page accelerating its design and layout;
  5. All tools provide for each UI component a wide range of CSS styling options which allow for unique formatting of sections on a web page.

The revolution as PageBuilders become broader WebSite Builder is ongoing and revolutionary for website design – see here for the latest installment on that ongoing progress.

So here is the Web’s Magic Formula.  Web Hosting provides ever  lower cost access to the Web. At the same time Web Programming Tools provide low cost  DIY-DO-IT-YOURSELF capabilities for designing, creating and maintaining your winning Web Presence. Users have more options on how to build and operate their websites either DIY or in concert with web developers. Now balance these benefits off with 3 counter trends.

First, the Web has become a much riskier place to do business due to the rise of cyber thieves. Clearly criminal hacking has become a  highly profitable business. Read this sobering 2018 Cyber Security Report from Symantec. Protecting your own and customers security has become both a much higher priority in the past 3 years plus  more expensive and challenging.

Second, the rate of change in Web development is inexorably accelerating . For example, web developers are stressed by the relentless need to keep up with all the changes  as seen in this article. But this has practical implications – systems have to be updated more often to keep up with both security enhancements and performance improvements. More broadly one has to keep an open eye out for revolutionary changes in how business is done on the Web.

The third problem is the increasing public malaise with web technology tracked by Pew Research.  20 years ago the Web was regarded very positively. But with the rise of  harvesting and selling of personal data by Facebook, Google, Twitter and other Web “service” providers along with job  losses or displacement brought about by Web based automation, there is less confidence and trust that web technology is doing the public good. So  moving to or enhancing  your Web Presence  with a well chosen website certainly brings  both a splendid opportunity to deliver an organization’s mission and strategy more effectively but also a challenge in the current climate.  But balance those positive expectations with the need to  deliver customer value   while balancing website security, transaction integrity and public goodwill. Sounds like an exercise in managing expectations.

4-Manage the Web Change and Expectations

Managing change is the central problem of  business in an era of rapid social and economic transformations. So how are the Web’s Great Expectations to be controlled?  It frequently is a 4 part process:

  1. Set attainable yet high return goals
  2. Have contingency plans  by deciding  Must Have 1st Functionality and Must Be Delivered By Dates
  3. Have critical path steps identified and planned for
  4. Monitor and check  these assumptions/critical path elements  and other key performance measure as early as possible by testing key results delivered
  5. Be prepared to trigger Plan B reached in steps 2 and 3 above

Does this sound like Agile Methodology? One of the key web development mantras that has taken hold over the past 10 years is to test early and often. One of the attractions of  of UI-based, frontend design is that users get not only very quick feedback on how well  Web Page Design goals are working, but they have recourse to immediate DIY alternative layouts and design. Many Web Design  Tools like PageBuilder, CSS Style Editors, Slider and Gallery Layout tools and DataTable Envorons provide very quick feedback and then revision/alternative delivery options fitting well into Agile Methods.

Summary

Don’t put your Website  and Web Presence into Limbo. Make your website count beyond being  a static billboard like it can be for 60% 0f small business websites. But this means defining the mission and purpose of your Web Presence and then turning that into an active implementation plan, because now more than ever, the Web is part of your business.

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