Building Web Sites for Profit and Fun – Relying on Research

Researching to the internet savvy is like water to fish: we swim through and live in it. You can’t survive on the internet very long without learning the art of researching. And if you can’t figure that out, no article, course, or lecture will help. My purpose here is not to instruct on HOW to research, we know that well enough, but rather to RELY on the research obtained. In the world of web development, too often, egos become involved and overpower reason and research. A site that the target audience dislikes is worse than no site at all, despite what the designer feels about it. And so we look into the finer points of relying on our sought-out research.

Become an mini-expert in the subject matter

In order to build an effective site, you have to know who you are building for. I recently was building a site for a pastor out of Arizona and he wanted a sunset background and some other things that would have given him a very dark site. Since his primary goal was to solicit his marriage services, I told him that would be a horrible idea. His target market would hate it and look elsewhere without even reading what he had to say.

Another reason you have to become a mini-expert is SEO and keywords. Quite often, what you would search to find them isn’t even close to what people who are in the industry would search. You need both classes of keywords to be effective. When we started our VPS adwords campaign, I originally put keywords that I, as a tech guy, would use to find VPS services. They included “vps host”, “cheap vps host”, etc. After running the ads for a while, the most searched and clicked on keyword turned out to be “virtual dedicated server”, something I wouldn’t ever have thought to search for. Why? Because the business owners who are researching and shopping think of it as a virtual dedicated server, not a “cheap vps”.

Never ignore market research

Early in my redesign of the High Speed Web main site, I was instructed by my boss “I dislike faces and people on websites, don’t put people on ours” so I didn’t. The first design was good, it looked clean and crisp, it looked professional. When I started marketing it, our bounce rate was quite high meaning people came to the site, took one look at it and left. So I did my research then. Everything I read said “people identify with people and faces, use them”. So I did. Our response rate went up dramatically. I then politely told my boss where to shove his ego, the site was for the customers. And they wanted faces and people. Luckily for me, he laughed, shook his head, and said “give them what they want”. That is the key to web design. Give the target audience what they want. If they eat it up, you can shake your head and watch the money roll in.

Throw your babies away

I first heard this whispered by Alan Cooper in an interview he was giving to Microsoft employees. There are times in this industry where you work long and hard on a project only to find out that it is fundamentally flawed, usually because you didn’t have all the info you needed up front, but sometimes cause ego crept in early on. Either way, trying to fix it usually makes it a bigger mess. Be prepared to throw your babies away. Start over. Get it done right. Give the masses what they want, and they will give you what you want. It’s called business, and it works.

Really it comes down to having integrity, to following the facts, wherever they may lead. If you do that, you can’t go wrong and you will eventually get it right and the research done will be well worth it.

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