The 7 Characteristics of a Differentiated Website

Apples and orangesI separate the experience of creating “a website that differentiates” from creating a website. In 2009, anyone can create a website. Surprisingly few can create a differentiated website. What are the characteristics that make a website differentiated?

Brand strategy – brand strategy or positioning are fancy terms for professional differentiation. Listen to your customers, incorporate that intelligence into your own language and practice, share the kool-aid with your organization and feel great about being able to explain what you do with confidence while riding the elevator and talking to an impatient prospect. The website will come so much easier and faster when the brand is right.

Audience focus – A website that differentiates makes brand strategy relevant to specific audiences so visitors enjoy a personal experience. Take a look at Unica and see how on the homepage, they segment their audiences and provide customized content. For our client Open Connect, we took a different approach to audience, introducing what we call “Pain-based NavigationTM.” Visitors to the website are presented five business problems Open Connect identified as leading to the majority of their business. The visitor can quickly identify their problem and follow intuitive navigational paths to yield answers or speak to a representative.

Dynamic Content – Differentiated content is key word rich, contains links to relevant content and is concise and to the point. Dynamic content can include text, images, video, audio and “non-gratuitous” Flash. If content is based in a solid brand strategy, crafting it will be a smooth process. Without that foundation, content will be the thing that slows down a website process.

Marketing – The web serves as the hub for an integrated marketing ecosystem that may include email marketing, direct marketing, webinars, events, PR and more. Landing pages on the website enable one to track responses to marketing programs and respond with the right offers.

Offers orientation – Differentiated websites encourage engagement and make it easy to contact you with ubiquitous, but not obtrusive phone numbers, contacts and forms.

Search – Having a differentiated website means a lot more people can find you. Optimizing for search makes that happen. Pay per Click (PPC) advertising can drive more traffic to your site as well. Just make sure your site’s content delivers.

Design – The current trend in business leans heavily in favor of analytics and database-driven marketing, yet we and other firms like us are often judged on the appeal of the sites we create. Never underestimate the emotional power of design to motivate behavior and attitude. Design sells. Visit Apple as a reminder.

I encourage you to share any differentiated websites you’ve found or your experiences and anecdotes on putting one together.

Photo by Pete McArthur.