By Michelle Kissinger
Culture, Customers, Cost and Complexity
Website design and development are highly technical
fields. But even the most seasoned professionals can
sometimes completely miss the mark, creating sites
that fail to fulfill their value-generating promise. And,
more often than not, this failure is caused by a lack of
low-tech strategic thinking and analysis.
In a rush to launch sites, we can forget to examine four foundational topics:
culture, customers, cost, and complexity. When poorly managed, any
one of these can become the root cause of Web failure.
In this two-part series, we will examine the 4 C’s of Web failure and
how to avoid them to improve your chances of seeing a positive return
on your Web development investments.
Defining the culture of a website’s visitors is nothing
more than old-fashioned audience analysis — something
that should be done for every project, meeting, call, or engagement.
To effectively communicate in any situation, we need to understand
our audience in terms of their preferences for subject, language, tone
and — in the case of websites — visual presentation. Understanding
these preferences will help us identify content and design options that
will resonate with our site visitors. Skipping this step will likely result
in choices that could repel the very people you are trying to attract to
It is tempting to think that we know our customers
by simply noting some generalities
about the culture of our target audience. But understanding cultural
distinctives does not adequately define our customers. The customers
you must reach with your website are defined within your strategic
framework. Review your market, competitive, and positioning
analysis. Revisit the four P’s of your marketing strategy; product,
price, place (or distribution), and promotion. Your commercial
website is destined to fail if your design and development planning
is not tied directly to your marketing strategy.
The global visibility of every website adds a new twist to
traditional pricing strategy. Assuming you have a clearly
defined pricing strategy and structure, you now have to carefully consider
how to handle pricing online.
Again, go back to your strategy and align these decisions with
your positioning and marketing tactics. If you don’t, you can
undermine your own strategic goals by handling pricing incorrectly
on your website.
Your products and service offerings may
be stupefyingly complex but their presentation
on your website must be simple. They need to be elegant,
clean, and intuitive. Anticipate expectations, needs, questions, and
possible points of confusion in order to craft an interactive space
that presents your information in a user-friendly manner — effort
and frustration results in site abandonment and opportunities for
While simplifying the user experience, keep in mind that every
design choice should reinforce and build your brand. Otherwise,
brand equity will erode with poorly coordinated online and offline
The second installment of this article will discuss the advantages
and disadvantages of including pricing on a website in order to
make reasoned choises.
About the Author: Michelle Kissinger is marketing manager of EnerSys, one of the world’s
largest industrial battery manufacturers. She is a freelance writer and
received her Master in Business Administration from Alvernia University
in Reading, Penn.