The 4C's of Web Failure

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 your website.


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 your competitors.

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 marketing communications.

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.