How To Decide What To Change On Your Site: Focus On Your Customers

We all have that thing we really want to change on our website. You know what thing I’m talking about–it is that one problem area of your website that you notice every single time you look at your company’s website. It isn’t even that big of a problem. Nobody else even knows it is there.

Except you. It bugs you every single time you look at your site. You might even be tempted to ask a designer or developer to help you correct that issue. But…should you?

What are you supposed to do about that little thing on your website that bugs you? Is it worth spending money correcting it? How do you know? You need to ask yourself one question:

How does this thing affect my customers?

If that problem area does bug your customers, and you can prove that it bugs them with actual data, then–and only then–should you worry about fixing that issue. At that point, the design or development time required are likely worth the investment to correct.

Chances are, though, that the people visiting your website don’t even notice that thing that bugs you so much about your design At most, people spend 15 seconds actively reviewing a page of your site. Because this is your website, you almost certainly spend way more than 15 seconds.

In short, you should only spend your time and money fixing the things on your website that affect your customers. Don’t waste your money on fixing the things that only bug you. After all, I’m pretty sure you have plenty of bigger problems to worry about.

Own Your Domain

Last week I spoke to a company that had lost access to their website. Understandably, this company wanted to know how to recover from this loss. As I began looking into it, it turns out the loss was due to somebody else owning this company’s domain name.

For the first several years of owning that domain name, the person who owned that domain name simply pointed that domain to the company’s website. Life was great. Unfortunately for the company, the person who owned the domain decided to use the domain in another way and pointed the domain away from the company. This shut down the company’s website. Ouch. How was this company going to recover?

The details of why or how the situation came to be really don’t matter. What does matter is ensuring that companies don’t get into this situation where another person owns their company’s domain name. Given the volume of companies I see suffering from this problem (at least three or four per month), there is obviously more work that needs to be done to help companies avoid this problem.

It is actually quite easy to avoid this problem. It is one simple rule that must be followed regarding any domain purchased:

Own Your Domain Name!

Your domain name IS your company’s primary online asset. For example, everything I do online refers back to the domain names matthewedgar.net, qwconsulting.com, or springtrax.com. Those three domains (and a handful of others) are the primary assets representing the work I do. My company, as with many companies, could not function properly without those domain names. If those domain names suddenly pointed to some other website, I’d be in trouble. As a result, I own those all three of those domain names.

In other words, because I own those three domains, I’m in control of what happens to those domains. If somebody else owns the domains, then they are in control. Why would you put your most important online asset in somebody else’s hands? You, or your company, must own your domain names.

In most cases, that “somebody else” is a designer or developer. Often, that someone else who owns the domain had no malicious intentions. Instead, the designer or developer was just trying to be helpful by registering the domain on the client’s behalf. The problem is if at some point in the future the designer/developer who owns the domain and the client decide to part ways, amicably or otherwise, the company’s domain name is now in jeopardy.

So, please, please, please, stop putting your primary online asset in jeopardy. If you are a designer or developer, don’t ever purchase a domain on a client’s behalf. If you are the owner of a company, do not let somebody else purchase a domain on your behalf.

For your company, please make sure you or your company owns and controls your domain name. If you don’t, make gaining control of that domain a top priority moving into 2015 to avoid any and all future issues.

Why Aren’t Sites Usable?

There are lots of reasons websites fail to be usable. From design challenges to code failures, and more. Often times, the lack of usability is due to not understanding who the visitors to the website are, and how those visitors become customers.

Of course, even for people who do understand their customers and try to build a site for those customers, there are times when sites just aren’t usable. Why?

Here are three reasons I’ve seen for why websites aren’t usable…and they have nothing to do with the website itself:

  1. Vision. In some cases, the company doesn’t have a clear vision for their site (or their business). So, the company tries to offer every possible feature or every possible product they could ever hope to sell while failing to realize that by offering everything, you offer nothing.
  2. Politics. Unfortunately, “simple” changes becomes a drawn out political battle. Perhaps testing shows that altering the image on the home page to feature a different product would result in more sales. Easy, right? Change the image. Unfortunately, different teams within that organization might not be okay promoting a different product and “losing” the real estate. Organizational politics derail those “easy” changes, resulting in a less usable site.
  3. Budget. In still other cases, it simply comes down to budget issues. Some times the usability changes require so much work that there isn’t the cash available to make the change, even if the investment will lead to big returns. In most cases, small changes can be made to get some returns, and help fund a larger investment in the more critical changes. Unfortunately, though, some times you do have to invest in bigger changes to create a usable site–like a redesign or an overhaul of your shopping cart.