Suppose I offered to create a television ad for your company with the following arrangement:
“All you need to do is provide us with some basic information about your company (name, address, phone number, etc.), and using the `fill-in-the-blanks’ system that we’ve created, we can have your ad completed and up and running on the airwaves in half an hour!
“Not only that, but thanks to our focus and familiarity with your particular industry, and the level of automation that we’ve developed, we can do it for one third the cost of what you would normally expect to pay.”
Would you take me up on my offer?
Or, would you object on the basis of not seeing much value in running a TV ad that was nearly identical to all the other companies in your industry (i.e. your competitors!)?
My guess is that you would object.
And yet, this is essentially the proposition that was put before an audience of insurance professionals at an industry conference I attended earlier this summer. The session speaker, a developer of small company web sites, was selling his service on the basis of how “quick and easy” it was to get a site up and running. Using a series of templates that he had created specifically for the insurance business, the sites were, “perfectly designed with your specific needs in mind.”
The Appeal satisfied the audience’s urgent desire to, “Get something up on the web,” without considering the limited value of creating a something that looked like everybody else’s something.”
The senselessness of investing in a television ad, a brochure, a logo or any other customer facing device in the physical world that looks just like everybody else’s is clear to see. In this electronic example however, with the “gotta get on the web yesterday” blinders that all of us wear sometimes; it was actually the main selling point!
BOTTOMLINE: Fill-in-the-blank web sites are rarely capable of meeting your business objectives. And although I always advise against breaking with site design convention for its own sake (web surfers have come to expect some standard navigational elements),I can’t overemphasize the importance of first determining the purpose of your web site (i.e. What do you want it to do for you?), and then creating a structure that uniquely satisfies these particular business objectives.
Without investing the necessary planning effort up front, you run the risk of simply filling in the colors in somebody else’s paint by numbers vision!