According to the Search Engine Journal, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. And naturally, having a website is the first step to being found.
But competition is a click away.
Business owners know that owning a domain and adding some content and HTML to a page is not enough. There are many attributes that you need to consider to create a strong web presence.
A website needs to look good – at the end of the day it is a reflection of your business. It needs to present clear information in an accessible way, making sure a first-time visitor is engaged and convinced about your offer, in just a few seconds. And that’s just the beginning: navigation, speed, mobile responsiveness, photography, content, SEO, the list goes on.
Aside from all these important attributes, there is something that many businesses forget – a website is a living entity. Opposite to other mediums, as a digital asset, a website is designed to grow and support the business. Of course, this can only happen when it is built with a solid foundation and with the right tools.
While a visual redesign of your website might seem like the next logical move, sometimes it is worth checking its functionality first. And even though each website journey is unique and varies from business to business, there are four stages that help determine where you can go next and how to go beyond a simple informational website.
Having a simple brochure format website is the first stage for most businesses. Even though it might represent the simplest and least expensive entrance into the digital world, it is a crucial phase. How you approach this stage will determine how difficult or how seamless the journey will be. Like a house, having a good foundation and framework is vital. Ensuring that it is designed for growth, will help you customise or even scale your original building. This will also facilitate the transition through different stages of digital maturity.
At Forte, we use the same approach in terms of the technology stack, visual design, user experience and methodology, regardless of the project size. We don’t use a “cheaper” framework or skip through project phases for smaller builds. We build everything in-house and with the same tools and quality features. We do the right thing, to make sure we can help customers throughout their growth journey.
The second stage is interaction, and it is centred around information flow. This stage is designed to help visitors get information without the need of human interaction (however in some instances human help is required). Examples of these range from basic contact and lead generation forms to more sophisticated quoting or booking systems.
We have helped businesses develop smart functions on existing websites, integrate third party systems and automate processes to improve efficiencies. Some of these include:
• Lead generation forms for Fresh Kitchens and Bathrooms with automated SMS and email delivery
• Real time map updates for Econnect Solar to show a map of all solar installations within Australia
• Solar savings calculator for Econnect Solar.
• Quoting system for a Pet Transport Agency
• Integration with Moveware for GNR Removals
• Integration with Job Adder for CBC Staff Selection
The next website stage is transaction. As you would expect, these websites go beyond an exchange of information and enable the possibility of purchasing and paying for products or services online.
The first type of website that comes to mind within this stage is an eCommerce site. And although this is the most common, it is not reduced to this alone.
Having an invoice payment system, event booking management tool, eBook purchase or a voucher generation platform are also examples of transactional websites. Some of these might require a smaller, simpler effort than building a full online store. To sell products online, beyond the technical components that need to be developed, you must also think of product attributes, photography, shipping, etc. Therefore, selling a digital asset or simply paying for an invoice online, could be the first step into this phase.
We have helped clients that are in different stages within their digital journey. Some of them from the ground up, while others have reached us to help them to add features to facilitate their operations. Some of these include:
– A full eCommerce shop for Cashie Clothing
– A voucher system for White Lotus Spa
– A donation platform for Cape York Partnership
– A fundraising / online shop for Our Sisters
– An online booking system for Getaway Trekking
The last step is transformation, which, when in practice, becomes a continuous and cyclical stage.
Initiatives at this level use different technology tools to expand the capabilities of a business. Apart from using a website to sell, interact with or reach potential customers, the website becomes a living platform that is used to collect customer information, shape new services and make business decisions based on the acquired data. It also connects other participants of the supply chain including suppliers and third-party entities.
This level of automation is not common, and it is not necessarily an end goal. Some components can be adopted and integrated into a website to bring transformation to a business.
We are currently working with an Australian non-for-profit organisation to support educators deliver an authentic First Nations education. Through the development of an educational platform, they are seeking to connect schools, students and aboriginal communities, with the materials they are creating. This educational portal is a good example of a transformational platform as it offers valuable content created by artists that work directly with aboriginal communities. The platform receives payment through a subscription service while proceeds are returned to communities to support ongoing cultural programs. All activity within the platform is recorded and used to generate more content and shape its future.
If you haven’t touched your website in a while, ask yourself if your website is still alive. While it might seem like it is not, we can always help you take a closer look and determine the next step. It doesn’t matter if we need to retouch a few things or start again, or where you are on this journey, we can help you reach the next website milestone.