Everyone is on the internet these days, which makes an organization’s website crucial.
And it’s so important to know what makes a website great, so you can connect with your audience.
After reading this article, you will have an understanding of the purpose of a website, as well as the knowledge to decide what kind of website is right for your organization. Knowing this will save you thousands of dollars and countless headaches.
Let’s start with the foundation:
What’s the purpose of a website?
The 3-fold Purpose of a Website
Like so many other things, there are three parts that make up the purpose of any website.
First, your website affects people’s perception of you. It changes the way they perceive your brand, for better or worse.
Your website can make the difference between someone buying from you or the next guy with the same offering.
Second, your website communicates information. It answers questions. This can be done very conveniently through a website.
Third, your website serves people. Is it making their life easier or is it slow and cumbersome to navigate? That’s how we determine good service or bad service.
Note: Waiting for seconds on the internet is like waiting for minutes on hold on a phone call.
So anyway, these the 3-fold purpose of a website sets the stage for the different tiers of websites.
Before we go on, let’s look into the different types of websites or website tiers. There are lots of different kinds of websites out in the wild, but they each fit into one of these three tiers.
The three website tiers are the following:
- Tier 1: DIY Site
- Tier 2: Templated Site
- Tier 3: “Story” Site
Each of these tiers have pluses and minuses, but they are all just different ways of communicating who you are and what you do to your target audience. This is essentially your story.
What is storytelling?
Interpreting and conveying the narrative of your organization to your audience.
All three of these website tiers tell a story, but the third tier, the “Story” Site does the best job at telling your organization’s story to your target audience while nailing the 3-fold purpose of a website.
Here’s the point:
A website can just be a check in the box or your story online.
A website needs to be checked off a business owner’s list, but roughly 50% of businesses don’t have a website.
For a business to survive, it’s life and death in the early stages. Sometimes you just need a quick solution to move fast and make it to the next level where you can upgrade.
Most business owners are grinding to survive. They’re struggling to make it.
And not that they’re doing anything wrong. These warrior entrepreneurs are the backbone of the American economy. They’re a part of a long lineage of American innovation.
When money is tight, and you need a website, what can you do?
Tier 1: DIY Site
This is a site you build yourself.
It’s the low-end option. Here’s a list of common symptoms of this level:
- Requires time to design and build
- It looks like it was built fast
- Stuff is broken (it doesn’t work on certain devices or browsers)
- Images and text don’t make sense
- Poor user experience
- It’s cheap (you get what you pay for)
- This site is like an old car, it may break down at any time.
- This site is like a modern commuter car, it will get you from point A to point B.
- Like fast food, it’s quick, easy and inexpensive, but it doesn’t give you the nutrients you need.
…but it’s also better than having nothing in most cases.
Just having something on the internet could help you close a deal.
Sketchy sites drive most people away, but there are some people who have no eye for design, and just the fact that you have a site makes them feel safe …even if they don’t visit your site.
Some people feel unsafe on an ugly site, but a lot of these people feel more unsafe if a business doesn’t even have a site.
For whatever reason, somehow websites and professionalism are associated.
A small business is EXPECTED to have a website.
And a big brand is expected to have an amazing website.
What’s one of the ways a new business stands out from competitors?
Having a website.
Not a good one, just having one. 😁
But what if a business has an ugly, slapped-together site and they want to upgrade? What are their options?
There’s really only two more website tiers, the PRETTY, TEMPLATED site, and the STORY SITESTORYSITE.
Let’s talk about the next level:
Tier 2: Pretty, Templated Site
This site comes out of the box and it’s a check on the list.
It’s a beautiful version of the previous level.
Tier 2 includes the following:
- Design forethought
- It doesn’t tell your story
- It works
- Looks good
- Reasonable Cost (you get what you pay for)
A lot of websites fit in this broad level.
They look pretty good, give you some information, and that’s it. They don’t really pull at your heartstrings or help you see the true value of an organization.
Here’s the kicker:
A template site actually adds confusion to the customer experience!
A templated site is a site built off of a template, or premade website. It’s like buying items off the shelf at the grocery store.
Lots of other people buy that same website template and pop in their content.
What’s the problem?
Tier 2s work most of the time and can be a good fit for most businesses, but the business probably won’t be happy with it over time.
It’s not because other businesses are using the same template… but because that template just doesn’t really fit the business.
Tier 2s don’t communicate the value the organization offers, and therefore won’t serve people well. Or at least, not as well as it could.
…but it looks pretty, and that’s all a website is for, right?
And while clean aesthetics are important, that’s a small part of good communication and service through a website.
…There’s actually a third level, which is the pinnacle of what a website can be.
Tier 3: Story Site
This is your story, conveyed digitally. It’s not just a website or a check in the box.
This is an experience.
People gravitate towards this like a moth to a flame.
Because it’s like going to Disney World.
Here’s how to identify a Tier 3:
- Tells the business’ story
- Communicates value
- Expensive (again, you get what you pay for)
So, who cares about a story?
EVERYBODY, actually. We’re built to communicate with stories.
Tier 3s require an in-depth discovery process between the designer and the business. Both sides have to bleed, sweat and cry together to grind out this site.
It requires more than just money.
Stories don’t just write themselves and neither does the content for the site.
Summing it Up
Content and design make a good website great.
The content and design should serve the customer well, communicate the important information, and show the value of the organization by telling the story.
Some sites have great visuals that reflect their brand, but their written content isn’t quite there. Others nail the messaging but miss the mark with design.
The important thing is that you don’t give up taking your website to the next level.
Depending on where you’re at on your journey, choose what website is the best fit.
Here are some example scenarios where different website options fit best:
Example 1: An entrepreneur is starting out, people ask what’s the link to your website? The business owner sheepishly tells them, “I don’t have one.” They’re also struggling because money is tight.
- The first tier or second tier make sense here.
Example 2: A small business has been successful for 10 years. They have a Tier 1 site and they want to upgrade.
- The second tier or third tier may fit this scenario. It depends on where the business is at on their journey regarding knowing who they are. There are plenty of businesses that are successful but don’t have a clear story. Those businesses need their story extracted before it can be told.
Example 3: A medium sized business has been around for decades. They have a Tier 2 site and they are interested in improving it.
- There’s really only one direction to go in from here, and it’s up. But of course, a Story site requires the business to be invested with more than just money. They have to sweat, bleed and cry in the process of creating a story that people will latch onto.
Here’s how to get started:
At Fire and Hammer, we build Tier 2 and 3 websites. If you’re looking for the first tier just to get started on your journey, there’s plenty of places to get it from, like Godaddy. Not to speak badly about GoDaddy, just saying you can get it there which is a great option depending on the scenario.
Our second tier option is there for those on a budget, but want to get past the first tier. This option makes sense for some, but they usually aren’t happy with this site long term. It’s only a stepping stone.
Our third tier option isn’t even about cost any more, it’s about telling your story, which can change the world. This site is long-lasting and impactful.
“This might not be right for you.”