The Two Pillars of a Successful Website

12-15-2004 by Nick Usborne

For a web site to get close to fulfilling its potential, you need absolute clarity on two points.


1) Achieve Clarity On What Your Site’s Core Purpose Is.

Is to provide information? Is it to complete direct sales? Is it to drive prospects to pick up the phone and call you? Is it to start a free trial? To register?

The more companies I work with, especially larger ones, the more apparent it becomes to me that very few sites have absolute clarity of purpose.

All too often, too many different stakeholders impose a variety of different ‘purposes’. The result? A site that is not clearly focused. A site that appears disorganized and complicated to its visitors. A site that wanders, meanders and ultimately fails – because none of the writers or designers really know what they should be doing.

When and if you do achieve clarity as to the purpose of your site, everything becomes easier.

You can look at every page, every heading, every line of content, every link and image...and ask yourself this simple question: Is this content working hard enough to achieve our purpose?

If it isn’t, change it, or dump it. It’s as simple as that.

You may be thinking, “Nick you are so naïve. Our business is complex. We have more than one purpose.”

That may be. If you are selling high-end hospital equipment, for instance, your site may serve both to drive new sales and also to support existing customers.

That’s OK. But make it clear. Make it clear on your home page. Make it obvious to visitors that there are two distinct areas of the site – one for people who already have some of your equipment, and one for those who don’t.

Then apply the same discipline to every page in each area. Does the page drive your purpose?

2) Understand What Your Visitors Are Hoping To Find.

I’m written about this before. But without this second pillar in place, your site won’t work as hard as it should.

Put simply, you need to understand the expectations of your visitors. Understand why they are coming to your site, what they are hoping to find.

When someone arrives at your site, whatever the landing page, they have a ‘pain’ or problem they want solving.

If your site is doing its job, it will take that visitor only a couple of moments before they think, “Yes, I can find what I need right here.”

When that happens, they become filled with confidence.

It’s then your job to help that person achieve their task as quickly and as simply as possible.

Both Pillars Working Together.

When your own purpose is clear, and when you meet the expectations of your visitors, everything becomes golden. You both get what you want.

How do you get to this ‘golden’ place?

Just step back from your site for a while and do some thinking. Get clarity on the purpose of your site. And go back over your site’s history to figure out what it was people were hoping for when they arrived.

For sure, not everyone came to your site for exactly the same reason – but maybe 80% came for one of three reasons.

This isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s about getting as close as you can.


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