Website design is one of the most important digital marketing initiatives to your marketing strategy. Too often, do companies ignore website design and development best practices only to allocate the majority of their budget to creating more visibility for their brand or driving traffic to their website.
This blog post outlines a little bit of the history of web design and development, its importance in relationship to other digital marketing initiatives and the opportunities a properly utilized website can create.
History of Digital Marketing & Website Development
Email marketing dates back to 1971 as the first digital marketing initiative of the digital era. Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) & web portals utilized dial-up technology and were next in line as digital marketing outlets before the World Wide Web was launched in 1991. This is the same year that the first website was launched.
From that point in time, website design and development quickly became the most popular digital marketing initiative when it came to digital marketing which was then known as “web marketing”. Businesses and individuals loved that they had a new place to send customers that would market their businesses interactively and creatively. The only problem was dissemination and the expense for developing websites.
That left the door open for multimedia CDs to enter the digital marketing space around the same time. Multimedia CDs did not last very long in the marketing space, because they were finite in form and even more expensive than websites to develop, produce in mass quantity and disseminate.
Ironically, I began my career in digital marketing as a web designer. I landed my first career position while I attended college by creating a multimedia CD with my print portfolio on it and submitted it to the leading web development company in my hometown and they hired me.
I soon discovered that many aspects to developing multimedia CDs were similar to that of web design and development. My experience with multimedia CDs and computer programming from the computer science courses I had completed in college helped me to grow in my role quickly. I quickly became that company’s lead web designer in 6 months and never touched another multimedia CD again. Why would I?
As I continued in my career website design and development continued to soar in the digital marketing space because websites offer the following advantages:
- Audiences do not have to wait for content to arrive in the mail or in-person.
- Audiences do not have to subscribe and wait to receive the content in pieces through an inbox.
- Audiences do not always have to sign up for an account and provide personal information in order to view the content.
- Audiences can anonymously access the content from any computer attached to the internet at any time from anywhere in the world.
- Audiences make the choice to view the content on a website vs. an advertisement such as a television commercial.
- HTML (the original language used to create websites) is a relatively easy markup language to learn, so competition in the web design and development industry increased as the cost to produce websites became more affordable.
- Websites often have a longer shelf life as they allow for updates and revisions without having to scrap the entire initial investment.
These points are not as true for any other marketing tool available to date. While websites initially functioned (and still do) as more of an interactive brochure that informed others about a business, what actually changed the digital landscape the most was the question, “What is your website address?” Enter Google.
That’s right. Google began as and has always been a tool for people to find websites that belonged to entities they are already aware of. Over time, Google replaced the Yellow Pages and became a resource for many things.
Internetlivestats.com states that, “Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.”
Google Bet On Websites & Won.
When you consider how enormous Google’s Gmail program is, it says a lot that “The bulk of Google’s $110.8 billion revenue in 2017 came from its proprietary advertising service, Google AdWords.” Sure Google eventually capitalized off of Gmail user data, but that initiative was secondary at best to their search engine. It says a lot about the importance of websites that this internet giant not only believed there was a brighter future in a website indexing tool, they were right.
Google saw the writing on the wall. Today, websites are the most common asset used to conduct research about a particular product or company. Today, people use websites to sign sign up to receive specials. Today, people read and subscribe to blog updates that often link back to a website. Today, Social media still doesn’t offer as much information as websites do. No advertisement does. Now that Google has become Google, you could never capitalize on the enormous search market that they have has created… without a website.
Having a Website Is Not Enough.
We covered the importance of having a website, but there is much more to a successful website than simply having one. It amazes me to see the amount of opportunity missed on so many websites. I have built over 100 web sites by now. Throughout that time, it has pained me to watch companies whose websites I did not manage neglect them after investing thousands of dollars into them. If that is the brand they are looking for, then that is their choice. But they can always do better. We all can. The responsibility is partially up to their provider.
There are so many things to consider when it comes to maximizing the value of a website. Everything from a sense of aesthetics, typography, hierarchy of information, usability, website flow, messaging, load speed, search engine optimization, functionality, choice of technology, the list goes on. A website provider should establish a thorough, long-term plan for a website that considers all of these things, but that also requires the company to take their website investment seriously enough to continue to invest in it.
I like to tell my clients that a website is much like an online office. When someone walks into a place of business, they hopefully are not bombarded by sales personnel who are throwing material at them. They are hopefully greeted by a friendly receptionist that can connect them with whatever or whoever they are looking for. This would be the equivalent of a website’s homepage.
If the individual were to walk around the office and talk to different departments, ask for different materials, meet the staff, read the core business values mounted on the wall, it would be much like a website visitor navigating your entire website. The reality is, is that the latter is more likely to happen.
If the website visitor wants more content, they will read your blog or sign up to receive a newsletter or specials via email, driving them back to your website. You can also funnel users to your website through social media posts and ads, search engine rankings and ads, print advertisements and more. A website can provide you with an enormous amount of information about your potential and existing customers. It can close the deal. A website essentially can serve as the center of your marketing efforts. It can also save your customers and employees time and money.
Your website should accomplish all of these things and more if it is developed right. Visitors will likely notice what your website doesn’t offer, but they definitely will notice what it does offer. The care you show for your website reflects the care you might give for your business or your customers. These are the reasons your website is so important to your digital marketing efforts and your business.