The Website Black Hole

The cosmic forces that bring all of our problems together to display them on the internet

To live is to suffer from an outdated website. I'm sorry, but that's what you get for being a member of Earth in 2023, and it's not going to get much better in 2024. Most of us want to launch a website and then reach for the stars, but the cost of maintenance can bring us down to earth. Web technology is always changing, and it's hard for businesses to keep up unless they spend as much on a website as the cost of your daily driver.

Your mileage may vary, but your site needs a tune-up, some rocket fuel, and an air freshener every so often if you're going to get liftoff. But if you're like most marketing managers, you've clocked more orbital miles than you care to track in a vehicle much older than what your business and your brand really need. In today's newsletter, I'll talk about what to do when you feel like your website is starting to break down.

When I'm approached about a website need, I like to start with a few questions to understand what's working now, what's not, and what the specifics of their needs are so we guide them toward a solution that serves them best. I often hear many of the following concerns.

  • Our content is unorganized, and it's hard for us or our customers to find important information.
  • Our website isn't clear and doesn't do a good job of telling our story.
  • We're not driving traffic; when we do, we're not converting leads the way we think we should.

The problem with all of these scenarios is that none of them are actually a website problem. I often find that websites become a black hole that sucks in every other problem that a marketing team might be dealing with, At a glance, it appears to be a website with a problem. Sometimes, the website is not the problem. It's just a magnet for marketing problems, helping to perpetuate them for eternity, at light speed on the internet.

Websites are the culmination of a brand identity, story, content organization, and the marketing efforts to fuel it. Then HTML, CSS, and Javascript help make a presentation deck that displays it to the world, but that's just the vessel.

Let's review each of these potential issues in the context of your website.

Brand Identity: We often find that websites are trailblazers for brands, but this is only the case when creating your brand identity is top of mind for you and anyone involved in creating your website. Often, websites are the first place many brand identity decisions are made or finalized regarding textures, colors, typography, and other design standards. If you don't create the identity in real life first, it won't exist on a website either.

Brand Story: I've written extensively on the topic of story, but websites are only a destination for your story. Invariably, a story is an important foundation to define the direction of your website, but it has very little to do with HTML, CSS, or Javascript. A brand story is the effective way that you write and arrange your content. You can read more about brand story here and here.

Content Organization: Finding things on your website is a challenge many organizations face, especially when there are many stakeholders and many necessary pages. This can happen over time when every new piece of content is considered a priority without a clear website content plan to keep things orderly. Often, addressing content organization strategy can eliminate the need for a new website. If it doesn't, it is the first step required to build a website anyway, so you should start here.

Marketing: Great websites die in obscurity but thrive when they are featured well and findable in search engines. The prior issues all play a role in a website's performance, but rarely is poor performance the result of a site being "old" or "broken." More often, lackluster website performance is caused by a lack of brand clarity, poor storytelling, unorganized content–or you're just not getting it in front of enough of the right people. In other words, you may need to think more about the marketing that supports your website, and the brand that lives on your website.

So before blaming your website for your problems, be open to a wholly separate issue that might call for a new website or might not.

Here are some things I hear that are most definitely a website problem.

  • The technology is difficult to use and expensive to maintain.
  • Our site is clunky and slow.
  • It's literally broken.
  • It's just time.

The best way to start solving all of these problems is to evaluate how you tell your story using your website–and then maybe consider the platform.

When your spacecraft breaks down, it's time to fix it. Or maybe replace it. Sometimes, you need a new part or a tune-up, perhaps more fuel. Maybe you just don't like what you're traveling in anymore, and it's time for a change. If budget allows, for a low down payment, we can get you into a shiny new vessel that you're proud of, but that doesn't mean you need a new set of wings more than you need a better map.

Websites are similar. And you'll be better off with yours if you understand the real problem.

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