Smart phone apps. Embedded videos. Blogs. Flash intro pages. There’s always a latest, greatest, must-have feature for your website. With so many brilliant and creative minds developing new technologies, the choices seem limitless. Sometimes, it feels like all your competitors have adopted these features, too, and you’re stuck behind.
It’s not that these new developments aren’t good. In fact, developing new technologies is what helps keep businesses competitive, and it also keeps the internet an exciting frontier. Without continued innovation, our internet might not look much different than it did fifteen years ago: little more than word processing documents posted in electronic format.
Where I raise my concern, however, is when I encounter business owners who have to have blogs, videos, and interactive Flash movies just because it seems like everyone else does. It’s like an online version of keeping up with the Joneses.
What’s your motivation?
It’s worth knowing why—and agreeing with the reason—before implementing any change. Change for change’s sake can be disastrous. In terms of your website, change for change’s sake can end up as a waste of resources, or worse, alienating your customers.
Let’s say you, as an interior designer, decide that your site needs an interactive Flash presentation, something that will be near the top of the page and feature a way for users to click on different areas, such as parts of a room, to make certain actions happen, like little popup explanations for decorating ideas. It sounds great, and it can be a positive change for your website, but what is the reason to make this change?
A website change, like this example, can be costly for the small business owner. Some are small, but others can quickly add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. Hopefully, an investment of that cost will pay off in the future. To help minimize your risk, know what you’re getting into and why. Talk to customers. Check out the competition. See what trusted business advisers say. Solid research can help point you in the right direction.
It should always be about the customer
I know I’ve said it many times before, but it can’t be emphasized enough: your website should always be about the customer. Without having paying customers, a business ceases to exist. Any website improvement should be made with the customer in mind—as a way to attract more customers, to better serve current customers, or both. In talking with customers or seeing what your competitors do, you might get a better sense of this. Though a great Flash feature may look cutting edge, if it results in no new business, was it worth the investment?
Overall, you need to consider if making a change to your website has a high probability of a worthwhile return on your investment or if it’s throwing money out the window. Keeping up with the Joneses won’t necessarily meet your customers’ needs.