Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't Let FAQ Writers Design Your Web Site

I love calling a company when I'm on its web site and telling whoever I get on the phone that I can't figure out how to find what I need on it. Then comes the polite little chuckle of agreement and an explanation of how to go five layers deep to still not find what I asked for.

Is that how you want your employees to think of your web site - as an embarrassing little joke?

Ever waited on line at a retail store and watched how slowly the line moved. Think of your web site like that. If people have to click more than two times or wait more than a few seconds for something to load they're done and gone. Bye, bye.

I conduct research for a living - then write about and market what I learn. And I can tell you most web sites suck. Far too many are on par with the owners' manuals of technology products - they were designed by people who don't need to read the manual or use the FAQs or find something on your web site. And we wonder why our bounce rates are so high.

Now we know more about site design and have more cool bells and whistles. But how do you get your web site to brand you - to help others find you - to create satisfied happy customers?

Seth Godin, who is one of the smartest marketers out there, put out a list of questions on his blog that you should ask and answer before redesigning your site. I've deleted and added a few and organized them differently - but here's his list. Hope it helps.

What is the goal of the site?

Are we trying to close sales?

Are we telling a story?

Are we driving people to take an action – what is it?

Are we earning permission to follow up?

Are we hoping that people will watch or learn?

How can we best manage this project?

Who are we trying to please?

Do we have to please the boss?

Is impressing a certain kind of person important? Which kind?

How many people do you need – what will they do?

Who needs to update this site? How often?

How often can we afford to overhaul this site?

How do we connect with our target audiences?

Who are we trying to reach? Is it everyone? Our customers? A certain kind of prospect?

What are the sites that this group has demonstrated they enjoy interacting with?

How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long?

How do we spread the word about our site?

Do we need people to spread the word using various social media tools?

What are the best ways to continue connection with our audiences?

Do we want people to call us?

How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long?

How can we make it easier for people to find what they need on our site?

Do you track the information that people go to your web site to find?

Do you analyze the questions that people ask when they call in and are trying to find info on your site? What do they tell you?

Have you asked your web site visitors how easy it is to find information they need or make a transaction?

Have you brought them in, sat them in front of you and watched the process by which they search your site?

Do they get what they need in a couple of clicks? Do they get frustrated? Have you looked for ways to address this?

Do we make it easy for customers to contact us and get answers?

Do real people answer customer questions that come in through your web site?

Do you add questions that come in from site visitors to your list of FAQs on a regular basis?

Do you send canned answers to all of your customers who write to you?

Do you revisit these answers on a regular basis and see if they address what people are asking?

Do you track what people who go to your forums for answers to questions they cannot get on your web site ask?

Is there a way customers can follow up with a real person if they need to?

How do we maximize our web site for SEO?

Are there ongoing news and updates that need to be presented to people?

Is the site part of a larger suite of places online where people can find out about us, or is this our one sign post?

Is that information high in bandwidth or just little bits of data?

Does showing up in the search engines matter? If so, for what terms? At what cost?

Will we be willing to compromise any of the things above in order to achieve this goal?

Will the site need to be universally accessible? Do issues of disability or language or browser come into it?

What's the best way to keep our budget in line?

How do we best prioritize our options?

How much money do we have to spend? How much time?

What's our time line?


  1. hope to learn more about marketing from reading your blog:)

  2. Thank you - I hope you'll keep reading along - it's nice to have a place to help people and vent a bit.