Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: There's No Easy Formula for Success

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: There's No Easy Formula for Success

Article excerpt

Since the first commercial website was launched in 1993 - by Digital Equipment Corporation, trivia fans - hardy coders and intrepid designers have striven for a better world. One in which we can find what we want, websites work and pages load properly.

Of course, it hasn't worked out like that. We all know from personal experience that the web has a long way to go before it reaches perfection. To gasps and a collective sigh of relief from the online industry, then, we can reveal that the formula for the perfect website has been revealed by a hosting company called Rackspace, which commissioned some people with high foreheads and white coats to come up with the answer.

If, like me, you're a sucker for an algebraic equation, here it is: Pwebsite = {((14.14* EaseNav) + (13.56*Speed) + (13.11*CleanDes) + (10.89*Func) + (10.89*Up)) - ((12.63*Pops) + (10.32*Ads) +(5.21* MultiM))} / 6.26.

The formula takes several variables into account, including ease of navigation, speed of loading, clean design, the presence and type of advertising, uptime (the percentage of time a site is live) and functionality. It uses them to calculate a coefficient for the perfect website - Pwebsite. Factors such as speed and uptime are quantifiable, and a consumer survey is used to score performance of the other criteria.

We shouldn't take this too seriously - it has been done, after all, principally to generate PR - but it does reveal a common flaw in thinking about websites, and one that runs through much of the work done by many researchers in this area.

Most websites are businesses. Business is about the profitable satisfaction of customers and, like most attempts at research in this area, this one fails to show any interest in profit.

This is an extension of the 'if we build it, they will come' theory: make it attractive, functional, quick and, bingo, we've got a great website - a perfect one, according to the research. But none of this matters if visitors to our website don't buy, register or do what we want them to do. And for a business to stay a business, that is what matters.

So, to make a business successful online, we have to understand what consumers want. Often, we have to understand what they don't even know that they want. But we also have to understand how to make them want more, be prepared to pay more, to return, and to recommend us to their friends. We need to appreciate how the margins work across the products featured on the site and what this means for how we display products, how delivery costs influence conversion, and how descriptions impact on the volume of returns. …

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