A Website Built by Customers, Not Programmers

Jack Dean
by Jack Dean 29 Jan, 2015

There is a growing movement in the entrepreneurial world to bring the customer closer to the process of creating the solution. That makes sense right? After all, the customer is the one who will be spending time and money on the product, may as well let him or her have significant input. In the past, people who thought they were really smart basically banged their heads against the wall to create a business plan. Then went out and raised a few million bucks to build their vision and try to sell it, all without talking to any customers.

Now, however, the first thing entrepreneurs are doing is talking to customers and learning about their problems. This guides the entrepreneur in figuring out what solution to build in the first place. Think of trying to push a product onto a customer group that isn't asking for it versus letting the customer beg for the product.

What does this mean for website owners?

Regardless of the size or scale of a website, most companies depend heavily on a Web presence and website quality, specifically. Website visitors will have an impression of the business immediately and it is extremely important to know what impression that is. One way to get a 'great' website is to spend a ton of money on a professional design team, but remember the entrepreneurial example: those "really smart people" don't necessarily know what they're doing. Take it from the startups, the customer may not always be right but it is extremely important to know what they are thinking.

Instead of spending thousands on a "great" design, let customers voice what they think of your site or what should be improved. Let's take a quick example of why this is important:

Widgets Inc. hires a design/branding team to create a new design of their website with a fancy new logo. Widgets Inc. loves the logo, the experts love the logo and everyone is happy! Well, they forgot about the only opinion that really matters: the customers'. What if the customers see that logo and they hate it? What if it reminds them of some other brand? What if they see the logo and exit the website right away?

To be clear, professional design or branding teams are very smart and do great work. However, this is often the first step a company takes when updating a website, and that may not be the best strategy. Instead, get website feedback from visitors now, then go to a designer with specific information from customers and ideas or strategies of what the site should look like. This will help the designers know what to build and save time/money getting it done quicker. Not to mention, the website visitors will love it.

What to do now?

Get some feedback from customers or visitors. Try emailing current customers and ask for their feedback, add tools/widgets to your site that collect website feedback (although usually in the form of surveys) or try to watch people use the site. A coffee shop owner might ask patrons in the store to use the company's website while taking notes watching them. First hand feedback/information of actual usage is the highest quality feedback. There are also companies that will do user testing for businesses. 

Try to avoid surveys, the most useful website feedback information comes from open-ended experiences and responses. Surveys are absolutely the easiest way to collect feedback, but they are not always useful. How is someone going to describe how a law firm site gives off the impression of being a scam by responding to a "scale of 1-10" question?

What else?

When asking for feedback, don't ask visitors questions like "would you rather have this button blue or green?" because they do not know the answer. Even if they give an answer, it shouldn't be taken too seriously and can probably be ignored completely. Instead, ask visitors open ended questions for the best website feedback, here are some good examples:

- What is your first impression of the website?

- What is the first thing you want to do?

- What is your least favorite part about it? (yes, ask for negative feedback it is more valuable)

Of course the questions should be customized to the specific site, but the best reviews and best feedback will come from open ended and general questions.

To conclude, any company that depends at all on its website should get feedback from visitors and customers. This will be a great way to bring in more business, customers or partners. 

About the Author:

Jack Dean is an entrepreneur, growth hacker and founder of WebReviewNinja.