Nowadays great ideas often take the form of website collaboration and applications. Such was the case for two young entrepreneurs: Joe & Brian. They had the idea to build a simple eCommerce website that they believed would be a great success. They onboarded another co-founder to build the site for them and thus they started their journey.
While selling their service they were making only $200/week for months which was barely enough to break even and did not leave them any scope for further investment into the venture. Then they had the idea to actually visit one of their potential customers and observe them using their website.
Their observations were eye opening.
They learned that people had a fairly hard time navigating the website, and consequently people in need of their services ended up not availing their service. The co-founders understood their mistakes and began rectifying various aspects of the user experience.
This was the beginning of the one of the most successful eCommerce websites – one that went on to reportedly make $900 million in 2015.
This was the story of Airbnb, a home rental service website that is currently valued at over $1.2bn.
We would all like our websites to be such success stories and to be the leaders in our respective industries. To reflect the company brand, and to serve as a value addition to our customers.
This leads me to ask the question – why do we not see more success stories for websites in Bangladesh?
“Not enough internet users” – is a very common explanation; although my favorite one is that “
ইন্টারনেট মানেই ফেইসবুক” (Facebook equals the internet). I understand the merit of those arguments and debating them will be topic of another conversation entirely. However, I would like to explore the possibility of there being a lacking in the way we approach websites and the process of developing them.
After having worked on various local and international development projects, I have had my shares of success and failures in the development process as a digital marketer in Bangladesh and the knowledge I gained while working on it is the basis of this post.
There is a fundamental lack of collaboration in the way we approach websites between stakeholders and when compared to the success stories of websites like Airbnb, we somehow manage to leave our customers out the process entirely. Consequently, when management demands an ROI from digital marketing efforts (More on it from Future Startup), there turns out to be huge gap, because what we actually focus on while developing websites have very little, if any business implications.
The Linear Fashion of Web Development
Most website projects continue in a very linear fashion, a steady back and forth of emails, file transfers, meetings and approvals followed by development and the nerve wrecking experience of delivering final output where we suddenly have to deal with unexpected feedback and feature requests. The final output is both visually appealing and functional and both teams pat themselves on the back for the job well done.
Except, a few months later, there is either a ton of feedback coming in from users or a complete lack of results from the website. There is no action, no signups, bounce rates are high and time spent on the website puts us in a situation similar to the Airbnb cofounders. There are things to be approved, changed and fixed, but very rarely do organizations invest further to make it a success.
There is a severe lack of website collaboration from stakeholders to ensure its continued success. As there is a dawning realization that a website is not just the IT department’s problem but that of marketing. It is my belief that marketers should lead the development keeping the following in mind:-
Website Collaboration: Goals
Why does this website exist and what should I be measuring to call my website a success? Simply speaking, what metric would I report to the management to mark the website as a successful project? It can be one, and it can be several, however what is essential is that all relevant stakeholders buy into the ideas.
Invest in learning the website process that is used by your development agency and make sure it incorporates room for regular feedback, approval and (if possible) prototypes. Of course, the nature of process is subject to your budget and vendor of choice, however, expectations should be proactively managed. Focus on solving small problems at a time, and try to gather as many opinions as possible to get the best output.
Of course, too many cooks spoil the broth, but, the simplest solution is to commit to lock down the best decision in a defined span of time.
As with Airbnb, the best websites are the results of constructive collaboration for websites. Engage your management, salespeople, decision makers, marketing agency and development agency to focus on learning quickly and rapid rectification.
The role your development agency plays, has a huge impact on the process because they steer the ship in terms of collecting inputs, making sense of the information and finally delivering on the output.
Ultimately, without website collaboration the final output will be the reflection of just one-dimensional thinking that will probably not deliver the best results.
I believe websites can be great tools for companies to engage their customers, suppliers and employees to solve big problems and create value. The potential of your web identity & business ideas can be unlocked with something as simple as observing potential customers using your website.
Though I shared the perspective of a digital marketing agency in Bangladesh, I would love to hear the client side woes and concerns to better establish a constructive collaboration process for doing web projects.