Websites Aren’t A Machine

Websites aren’t a machine, yet so many of the people I talk to want to treat their websites that way. The thinking is that once you get a website up and running, all you have to do is get traffic to it and you can make money. Sure, initially, you might need to optimize or tweak a few things here and there to get the website working just right. But at a certain point, you can stop making changes to the website. It can remain static because this machine perfectly converts traffic into money. Now your focus becomes putting more traffic into the machine to get more money out.

Sounds good. Except, reality gets in the way (as it so often does). Things go along okay for a while with your machine-like website, but then the results plateau. A little while later, the results dip. You put in more and more traffic, investing hundreds or thousands of ads and marketing. Then after a while no matter how much traffic you put into the machine, you aren’t getting any more money out. The machine is broken! Or, just maybe, the website wasn’t a machine in the first place.

Instead of thinking of websites in such a mechanical, traffic in/money out way it is better to see websites as what they really are: a gathering place for people. People come to your website to learn something, find something, buy something, and otherwise seek out solutions to the problems they are facing in life.

Viewing your website as a place for humans to gather changes how you want to approach about your website. It isn’t about building a perfect traffic-to-money-conversion machine. It isn’t about “putting traffic in” and “getting money out” at all. Instead, your job is to make your website a great place for humans to gather. Look at other places human gather, like a store. Yes, companies build stores to help facilitate sales of their merchandise. But stores aren’t a static machine that turns people into revenue. Companies don’t build a store and then just assume it will work without constant and frequent change.

Stores are always making changes to make their store a better place for humans. New products or new displays of old products can help people find what they really want to find. Better customer service can go a long way to improving if people like gathering in this store or not. New technology can help make things better for the people who come into this store (directly or indirectly). Remodels, big or small, can create a better layout that is easier to move through. This isn’t just stores. Offices, movie theaters, airports, hotels, parks, schools, and anywhere else humans gather you see constant and frequent change to make that place work better for the humans who go there. Places that don’t make enough changes (or make bad changes) don’t stick around all that long.

Websites are just another place humans go. Yes, it is online but that doesn’t really make much a difference. We need to always focus on making our websites a better place for the people who visit them. Improving a website for people means new content, updates to old content, new features and changes to old features, design tweaks, and new designs to keep up with the times, better navigation that is easier to use, and more. Improving a website requires constant optimization.

This is why thinking of a website as a machine we can set and forget, letting it somehow magically turn traffic into cash, is so problematic. This mindset makes you downplay the value in constantly optimizing your website to make it perform better.

If you are looking for ways to optimize your website, making it work better for the humans who visit, you may want to check out my book, Elements of a Successful Website.