Website success has as much to do with figuring out who is NOT your customer, and the information you will NOT provide, as anything else.Some customers are not worth the effort. They say that the customer is king, but on the Web the customer is dictator. The customer is impatient and demanding, with their finger always on the Back button.
If there is one central flaw in web teams it is their lack of ability (or willingness) to make difficult decisions. Deciding to put more content on a website is an easy decision. Adding more links, expanding classifications and adding more features are easy decisions.
Easy decisions involve deciding that there's an incredibly wide range of customers. That's easy. And it's a cop out. Why?
Because when everybody is the customer, then nobody is. And when every piece of content is useful then nothing is. And when everything is put up on a website, the website is out of control, unmanaged, and sliding down the slippery slope of uselessness.
Who are you not going to serve? For those customers that you do want to serve, what are the things you're not going to give them? In what areas are you going to make things difficult for them? You can't make everything easy. Making one thing easier invariably makes another thing more complicated. What are you going to leave complicated?
Web teams often become obsessed by the trivial and exceptional. There are really crucial (and boring) things the website should do but these get ignored. And the focus is put on the esoteric; the minor task.
The world of the Web is a small screen and an impatient eye. Nobody has time.
In the last issue, I wrote about how Ryanair went from a tiny regional airline to one of the largest low cost airlines in the world. It did this by relentlessly focusing on price. And it works.
Ryanair shows you no mercy if you're late. That's terrible for you. But is it so terrible for the 200 people on the plane who were on time? If Ryanair waited for you, they'd make you very happy. But there'd be 200 people who'd be somewhat unhappy.
Everything we do or don't do on our websites has a price. If we try to solve one issue then in all sorts of (often subtle) ways we will negatively impact other problems. If we try to serve one type of customer, then we affect the speed and simplicity with which another type of customer can serve themselves.
Some customers are simply not worth the effort. Other customers only become worth the effort when we serve a narrow range of their needs. The Web is not a nirvana.
Practically every response I received about the Ryanair piece I did last issue was negative. Yet Ryanair flew 12.5 million passengers in the last quarter, and has $3 billion in cash reserves.
The Web is an endless space accessed through a small window. Success is down to focus. Who really is your customer? And what do they really need to do? Everything else just gets in the way.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.