How Product Managers Can Make Their Web Site Work For Their Product

Building Web Sites Is Hard, Building Web Sites That Work For Your Product Is Harder
Building Web Sites Is Hard, Building Web Sites That Work For Your Product Is Harder

Who doesn’t love the Internet? I mean you’re reading this blog posting on the Internet so YOU spend time here – doesn’t the rest of the world do the same thing? Sure there are lots of things that you can do to promote your product just by using web-based social networking tools, but what about a site for your product?

If you can get over the daydream of you becoming and overnight billionaire by inventing the next Google / Facebook / Twitter and instead focus on your product for just a moment, the possibilities seem endless. But where to start?

The Wrong Way To Build A Product Web Site

I’m going to bet that your firm already has a web site that talks about your product in some shape or form. I’m also going to hazard a guess that you’re not terribly happy with the way that it looks or works (or doesn’t) today.

According to Marc Levitt from the MSLK graphic design firm, the WRONG way to go about correcting this problem is to just charge on in and decide that by adding Flash / Air / XML to your site everything will be better.

In fact, Marc says that the #1 mistake that most firms make is to start a product’s web site design / redesign without having a clear plan of what they want to accomplish.

It’s All About The Plan, Man

You better than anyone else should know that you should never start ANY project without having at least some sort of plan. When it comes to promoting your product on a web site there are all sorts of key issues that you need to answer in your plan such as how to easily navigate the site, what kind of content you want to include, and how you want to go about marketing your product.

When planing out how your web site is going to look / work, you’ll want to create what is called a “wireframe“. This is basically a text version of your web site, sorta like a blueprint of a building, that lays out how your product’s web site will work BEFORE you invest in building the real deal. Needless to say, this is the correct time to make changes to the design – it will be much more expensive to change things later on.

Forget The Technology, Focus On The Message

Have you ever seen one of those Pixar movies? What’s interesting is that they are not the only company making great looking animated movies. However, they are the best at doing it. The reason for this is because even though they use fantastic technology to create their movies they have never forgotten the key to a great movie – it’s all about the story.

When it comes to your product’s web site, it’s all about the story – not the technology. Just because your competition has created a spectacular “splash page” that has everyone talking about how cool it is, don’t allow yourself to become distracted. Marc reminds us that a site that is easy to navigate and that has been designed well always wins over a site with the latest in cool technology.

Next Steps

Marc has more suggestions for us; however, you’ve got plenty to work with for now. The #1 place to start is to create a good plan that will deliver to you a web site that actually works for your product. It may be very hard to resist wanting to load your new web site with every new technology out there just to give it a great “look”, but resist you must. Ease of navigation and good content will win the race every time.

Questions For You

Do you think that your product’s web site is working for you today? Why or why not? If you could change one thing on your product’s web page, what would it be? Last time you updated your product’s web site, did you create a plan before the project was started? How did it all turn out? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The promise of the Internet in it’s early days was that it was “always on“. This meant that as you worked on other things (and slept), your product’s web site was always out there selling, selling, selling your product to whomever happened to be looking at it. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

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