If Web 1.0 was about creating destinations, and Web 2.0 is about the user experience, Web 3.0 will be about content, anywhere. As marketers, we have to be where customers want us, deliver information that's relevant, and provide an easy, seamless experience through mulitple channels. That's the path to higher sales.
1, 2, 3, Website!
Your website can do a ton of heavy lifting for your company while providing an effortless user experience for your customers.
Step 1: Start with the customer
Your website is not about what you want to say. It's about what your customers need to know. If you start by thinking about who they are, what they want, and what stands between you and their decision to buy, your site will accomplish more than you ever imagined.
Step 2: Design websites from the content out
The old way to build websites was to start with a conceptual framework, choose some bells and whistles (Flash! A spinning logo!), then add words and pictures. By the time a site got to production, it was a bit like filling pages in a scrapbook.
A smarter way to build websites is to decide what content your users need, and present it in a way that supports your brand and is appropriate and convenient for your target market. You still get bells and whistles, but they work much harder at communicating your message. This approach nets a website that's easier to create, more useful to your visitors, accessible to users with assistive and mobile devices, and more effective at achieving your goals.
Step 3: Build for growth and change
You can't predict the future. But you can build sites that are ready for it. Mobile users? Check. Integration with your secure intranet? Check. Doubling in size, adding a shopping cart, porting over to a kiosk, changing a layout? Check, check, check, and check.
The Semantic Web, and other terms you can forget as soon as you're finished reading this
The Semantic Web describes structuring web sites, and writing web code, in a way that helps machines make "sense" of your content. When your site is written for the semantic web,
- Search engines know that a headline is more important than a bullet point, and that a product's main sales page is more important than its technical manual. That's good for SEO.
- Assistive devices know the difference between your main content, a sidebar, and a menu. They can tell a blind visitor that a picture is "Our CEO, James T. Kirk", and not "jtkjpg185x210". That's good for accessibility.
- Modern browsers can do things that your visitors will appreciate, like adding contact information to an address book or an event date to a calendar. That makes you look good.
- You get the very nice added bonus of making your site much less expensive to update or change. That's good for the part of you that writes checks.
Achieving the Semantic Web
A Semantic Website is built with ordinary HTML, just like a Totally Random Website. The difference is that the development team of a semantic website has to commit to the process in advance, stick with it, and collaborate tightly all the way through launch. You need copywriters, designers, and creative directors who understand how websites are built, and programmers who understand the project's marketing goals.
That's why we work as a team throughout the entire development process. Our programmers are involved from the very beginning. Our creatives stay involved until the very end. The semantic web is built into our process, and into our DNA.
You may now forget everything you just read
The semantic web is not at all important to your experience as a C3 Advertising client. You don't have to know anything about it. You won't be asked to make decisions about it. But with it, your website will work much, much harder, and be fundamentally useful for much, much longer. That's why we'll build it that way.
Case Study: River's Edge Landscapes Redesign
The client wanted to showcase their award-winning landscape designs with a home page slide show. But Apple mobile devices and other mobile platforms suffer from Flash Blindness.
Use other technologies to achieve multi-platform slideshow nirvana. Bonus: The slide show is easier and cheaper to update, and it's easier for search engines to find.
River's Edge Landscapes sells services that make your home beautiful to look at. Yet only about 10% of the site had pictures.
Create multiple planes of color from standard photos, close-up details, and beautiful vistas, and use them on every page. All are photos of the company's work.
There's a lot to say, but users don't like scrolling endlessly to hunt for products and services. The text and background colors were low-contrast, making it hard to read. Menus and contact info were in thin serif type, making the letters appear broken against the black background.
Smartphone-friendly, interactive tabbed panels keep important information front and center, and break up long copy into smaller chunks. Fonts still look elegant and upscale, but are much easier to read.
River's Edge Landscapes' work is incredibly beautiful. But their large portflio was...not.
Reorganize the portfolio into intriguing and easy-to-manage sections. Make the gateway page as inviting as the pictures. Rewrite the captions to include keyword search terms in a way that's natural and compelling. Above all, make it easy, easy, easy on the user.
What do I do first?
Relax. Take a deep breath.
You probably launch a website once every few years. We launch a site, or a major site overhaul, about once every three months.
That experience means that we've got the process down to an efficient and straightforward science. We know where the pitfalls are, and how to guide you safely around them.
The first step is only a meeting, and you can handle that. We'll try hard to make the rest almost that easy.
Can't we just replace our old, dated website with a blog and a Facebook page?
There are a few situations in which this would be just fine. If you're a solo consultant or freelancer, for example, or offer just one or two products or services, a blog with some static pages added to it, and a Facebook* page, might do the trick—especially if they're professionally designed to work with your brand and unique selling proposition (USP).
Any other business or organization would find a good website well worth the investment.
Can you give us any other tips that will help us achieve success on our website?
Yes—have a small approval committee. Three people or less if you can manage it. You'll start to have serious problems at five. Any number over that, and you can add two months per person to your development schedule. And we are so not kidding.
*Although Facebook is a useful tool, due to copyright issues, you have to be very careful of what you put on your Facebook page. Read more on the C3 Blog.