The website is where a brand lives. It’s the place it brings its fans to, to buy its products and services of course but also to engage, to get information and to encourage them to spread the word through their own social circles. A site is a nexus where all marketing information about a brand now points.
As such, it’s got a huge job to do and a brand about to launch a website really needs to be sure it is doing that job before the site goes live. The number of considerations to make is vast. Splitting them up into categories can help to make them more manageable.
A basic split might be to look at practical things (what the site does) and conceptual things (how well it fits the brand image). Within these broad areas, there are plenty of subdivisions to check out: but we’ll begin by saying that if a site doesn’t do what the brand wants it to do; or feel how the brand wishes it to feel, then it isn’t ready to go live.
On a very basic level, “doing what the brand wants it to do” is likely to mean: does a site sell the brand’s products and services in a way that makes it easy for consumers to buy them? This is the essential watermark for all ecommerce sites of any description – if a site fails to make this grade, it isn’t working as the online nexus of the brand in question.
Simple product lists should equate to simple sites. From a consumer point of view, complex product lists should really equate to simple sites as well. So let’s add another element to our checklist. If a site doesn’t sell all the products and services supplied by a brand in a simple and easy to use fashion, it’s not ready to go out yet.
Imagine a company that sells package holidays. They can be taken in various places, and each place may offer variants on accommodation; on entertainment and activities; and on food. That’s a lot of different combinations. But the customer has to be able to a) find them all easily and b) intuitively work out how to build the package he or she really wants. Too much time spent head scratching, and he or she is going off to another site.
Now let’s look at whether a site gives a real flavour of the brand that owns it. Branding is more important than ever, in a world where consumers expect a business or its products to have presence across a wide variety of on- and off-line locations. So the site, which is the crucible for all brand activity, has to be branded with great strength.
Some companies don’t yet have brands. Their new site design really needs to be the place where their brand develops. So a key checkpoint for new business with a new site is this: whether the site develops a tangible sense of the personality of the company and tap into its target market properly.