Web sites can be the perfect gateway into your organization for customers if you take the time to do it right. But if you don’t plan it out, you can find you’ve made a big mistake, says Alan P. “AJ” Jacubenta.
For example, he recalls a former customer who wanted to use the Web to sell Swiss leather dog collars. The cost to develop the site would have been about $5,000, and the customer planned to sell the collars for about $10 apiece.
“They just wanted to sit back and collect the money and ship the dog collars out,” says Jacubenta, founder and president of Mango Bay Internet. “At some point, I did say, ‘You do realize what the return on your investment is going to be? You’re going to have to sell a lot of dog collars at $10 a piece to see a return on this.’ It kind of hit them. It’s the same thing as far as a business plan you would have with a normal brick-and-mortar business.”
Jacubenta has designed more than 600 Web sites for businesses and other organizations since he started his company in 1997 and says the best thing you can do to ensure the success of your Web site is to figure out before you start what you want it to be.
“Well-defined project goals are absolutely key to developing clarity and the message that your site is attempting to convey,” Jacubenta says. “How do you know if it’s an effective site if you didn’t clearly plan for it?”
Find a firm that will spend the time and effort upfront with you to establish what it is you want to do, what your goals are and how the goals are going to be measured.
When you are considering a Web developer, look for someone who values your input and who wants to work with you to create a site that’s right for you.
“This is a process,” Jacubenta says. “It’s not something that’s banged out and mass produced. This is something that people invest a lot of time and effort in.”
With countless Web sites online to look to for ideas, the Internet is a good place to start brainstorming to figure out what you like and what you don’t like.
When Jacubenta consults on site development, he will ask people to jot down what they consider the most important aspects of their Web site. By talking to members of your management team about what matters to them, you should be able to boil it down and reach a consensus for your organization.
You also need to consider how much you want to spend to develop the site.
“You can literally do it yourself for free, or you can pay upward of six to seven figures for a Web site,” Jacubenta says.
And make sure you know what you’re getting for your money, as the level of service provided by professionals can vary greatly.
“Select a firm that is going to clearly define the goals as well as tell you exactly what it is you are going to get for your money,” Jacubenta says.
A good firm will give you honest advice and take an interest in your business. Sometimes that information will be what you want to hear, and sometimes it won’t. But you should know what’s happening each step of the way.
“Accountability is a must,” Jacubenta says. “We have a real place where people can actually bang on our door. They know where we’re located. If they have a problem, they know where to find us.”
Don’t go overboard
It would be impossible to list all the flashy things you can do with your Web site. But if those things don’t benefit your business and help you meet your goals, Alan P. “AJ” Jacubenta wonders what the point is.
“If the technology can be used for a specific purpose and it communicates a message to the target audience, then we will do it,” says Jacubenta, founder and president of Mango Bay Internet.
There are times, however, when bells and whistles simply blur the message you are trying to deliver.
“Are you going to bombard someone with a nice Flash movie at the beginning, or are you going to try to educate them about your product in another way?” Jacubenta says. “The latest thing now I’ve seen is a company that comes out and has someone walk across your screen and talk about their products. I question the value of that.”
Jacubenta says today’s Internet users need information quickly and has little patience for unnecessary special effects.
“Give it to me now, give it to me quick, and let me make my own decision,” Jacubenta says. “It’s all about trying to give them a moderately balanced Web site that accomplishes your goals.”
HOW TO REACH: Mango Bay Internet, (216) 335-9255 or www.mangobay.com