Don’t Be the Next Southwest: Upgrade Your Website

Don’t Be the Next Southwest: Upgrade Your Website

By Jennifer RignaniJan 12 /2023

There are many attributions for the origin of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Be it a bureaucrat in the Carter administration or your grandpa, the phrase has been applied to everything from a systematic way of doing things to a refrigerator. As long as something is humming along, doing its basic job, leave it alone. Unfortunately this could not be a more foolhardy suggestion when it comes to technology. 

As much as everyone embraces and relies upon technology, company stakeholders tend to recoil at the time and expense it often takes to upgrade a tech stack. When ignored, a public tech fail can a become business school case study. 

There is no doubt that the fun, low-cost Southwest Airlines has been studied for turning their industry on its head in a sector steeped in sameness. Now, the company will be examined for one of the most epic technological failures of the century. 

Wanna get away?

Sure, their logo and attitude resonated. The pricing was affordable, the routes embraced by customers. But behind the ubiquitous blue, red and yellow branding was an enterprise-wide technology system slowly collapsing by omission. This revealed itself on the busiest travel weekend of the year coinciding with a massive winter storm and bomb cyclone, making the airline a textbook example of why you should never ignore signs of aging technology. The Wall Street Journal podcast covered the disaster in depth, citing that it was so severe, the federal Department of Transportation is investigating. 

While Southwest’s shortcomings went far beyond its website, and your company may not be as large or complex as Southwest, your customers are just as important. And the key tool to connect customers to your product or service? Technology. More to the point, your website. Your site is your front door, your digital storefront, your inventory display, your point of sale, your credibility. If customers are a company's lifeblood, web operations and web design are at the heart of any brand’s growth. 

Planning and launching a new website should carry as much weight as implementing an ERP system or preparing for a merger. Websites have evolved into complex, multi-functional tools as essential to your business’ success as anything else you invest in. 

In this first of two blogs covering what to consider when investing in a new website, we touch on a few essential items for your ‘to-do' list. 

Initial Considerations When Investing in a New Website

The list of considerations any team needs to incorporate into planning your new site is often lengthy. Your agency partner should guide you through what can be a complex process. The sooner you start thinking about the following, the fewer roadblocks you’ll encounter before the highly anticipated ‘go live’ date. 

Website User Experience (UX)

Because this may be the first time your customers engage with your organization, It's important that you consider your website user experience as the starting point in the sales process. Make sure it is relatable to future customers' specific needs and provide them with a clear understanding of why they should choose you over a competitor. 

At the heart of positive user experience lies empathy. Your prospective customer discovered you because she needs you. You don’t want to let a prospect down, right? As HubSpot says, "In practice, UX strategy combines your business mission with your IT capabilities and your top user needs to help ensure you’re addressing the right concerns at the right time with the right resources." 

Digital marketing leaders looking to develop effective B2B websites face challenges in aligning UX to customer journey needs and driving business results. The key is to make it simple and consolidated to eliminate any friction. And, because customer preferences are always changing, and technology evolving, UX is not a one and done act. 

It's important to think of UX as a marathon and not a sprint. 

Understanding your audience helps put customer needs front and center. This aligns your business goals, sales goals, marketing initiatives and website user experience. Your design and technology team must consider all the ways customers interact with the website as they move toward their mapping and design.

Before a single font is chosen or logo designed, you must follow the path a visitor takes through your website from when they first enter the site up until the moment they leave it. 

Early UX pioneer Jesse James Garrett writes in Fast Company, “UX processes in many organizations these days amount to little more than ‘UX Theatre’ (an idea developed by Tanya Snook in 2018), creating the appearance of due diligence and a patina of legitimacy that’s just enough to look like a robust design process to uninformed business leaders…” 

UX design differs from web design in that questions of technology are set aside to focus exclusively on user needs. Technology becomes a tool to help users accomplish their goals.

In other words, ensure your partner in designing UX is truly serving your customers. You must prioritize the user in everything you do. 

Artificial Intelligence

AI has revolutionized website functionality. Experienced marketers know the impact AI has had and is having on everything from UX to customer service. 

According to one Gartner report, “In digital business, AI generates insights that lead directly to business execution. A strategic AI application can produce granular insights into what customers, markets or other entities are likely to do in specific future situations and what the enterprise can do to influence them.”

Thinking through how to maximize its role within your website is key. Examples of effective AI tools include:

  • Chatbots that address customer problems faster and provide more efficient answers
  • Intelligent assistants that deconstruct critical information from large free-text datasets to improve scheduling
  • Recommendation engines that provide automated suggestions based on user behavior

AI creates opportunity for both companies and customers and should be thought of as a necessary component of your new website. 

Content Strategy

Do not write a word for your website until you have a solid content strategy. Eighty-nine percent of business buyers say they are more likely to buy if companies demonstrate an understanding of their goals, according to Salesforce’s fifth edition of the State of the Connected Customer

Salesforce also found that 88% of customers believe trust becomes more important in times of change. Content marketing is the most authentic way to connect with buyers about their goals and pain points, build trust and engender loyal relationships. Most importantly for your business, informational content feeds sales enablement by providing answers to frequently asked questions, educates your sales team as to where their prospects are in their journey and provides analytics to boost sales and marketing intelligence.

Your website is the conduit for your customers to connect with messaging that resonates on both logical and emotional levels. Content infused with an up-to-date SEO strategy allows searchers to find your brand at any step of the sales journey.

Whether you write content in-house or with agency professionals, select topics that highlight your brand’s expertise, establishing you as the authority in the space. 

Price

While researching website design and operations agencies, you may feel a little like Goldilocks. Some firms are simply too expensive and some too cheap (you get what you pay for) and ultimately you hope to find one that feels just right. 

But as with researching any business purchase, price is an important factor: knowing what to expect is critical to get buy-in from your executive team. But some investments are difficult to quantify with an exact dollar amount. More importantly, in the business world, cost is not always directly related to value. Think of some high-earning executive salaries or the inflated costs of luxury cars. Are they worth it? Maybe, maybe not. 

When you prepare to make the case for a new website, you should have a clear-eyed understanding of what is involved in the endeavor, and not just the price tag. As business needs become more complex, website design and operations are advancing to meet the demand for more customizable features and broader integrations. 

To execute a successful website design, a company must have a strong vision of new system requirements to create alignment throughout the organization. Choosing the right agency and assigning an internal point of contact and project champion increases the likelihood of project success. They are willing to be the early adopters and eventual subject matter experts for the company.

Web Operations (WebOps) 

In a Hanover Research survey of more than 400 Marketing and IT leaders, a company website was viewed as the most valuable digital asset. But between the two groups, there is often confusion as to who owns the site. Add to this the sales team, who must rely upon it for instant information, transactions and research, and agreeing to move forward with investing in a new site can turn into inertia. 

This is where taking a web operations approach benefits everybody. As we shared in 6 Ways WebOps Optimizes Your Team and Your Website, “The hallmark of WebOps is that it brings a disciplined, agile-like approach with a cross-functional team of marketers, designers and developers. They operate from a goal-focused and data-driven approach, eliminating the common challenges of fragmented or siloed web development, interaction and maintenance”

There are no two ways around it: you have to factor WebOps into planning and execution if your website is to be successful. Because it encompasses web application and CMS development or integration, WebOps drives efficiency and growth for your business. Web applications must integrate seamlessly, create an optimized buyer journey and experience and deliver consistent, superior performance. WebOps is key for turning prospects into customers.

Always be Planning

These are just a few factors to consider once you realize it's time for a new website. HubSpot developed a list of 80 things to do before, during and after a website launch. Your team has to be in for the long haul, and you deserve an experienced partner to guide you through the effort.

Your business may not be transporting people across the country or dealing with jet-lagged babies, but when a potential customer discovers your company, you want to be sure they can navigate your website like the most experienced pilot and get to where they want to go.  

Why Kuno?

Our experts are trained and specialized in areas like brand experience, UX, content strategy and search engine optimization to help your organization accomplish broader business goals through your website. Kuno Creative can support you every step of the way to make the most of your marketing investment.

Ready to connect? Schedule a consultation where we can discuss your website needs.

Website Design

Jennifer Rignani
The Author

Jennifer Rignani

Jennifer applies her roots in journalism to tell engagement-rich stories about client products and services. In her role at Kuno she writes content for a range of clients and channels. Before Kuno, Jennifer worked in marketing and PR for 25 years as a nonprofit executive, corporate marketing director and freelance content strategist.
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