Building a bridge to nowhere

If you don’t have a website strategy in place, then there is a good chance you are building a bridge to nowhere like this one in my wife’s hometown of Ketchikan, Alaska. And you would be hard pressed to build to a place more nowhere than a nowhere in ALASKA.

Organizational leaders are good at building bridges to nowhere with their websites. Well, maybe not completely nowhere, but that somewhere is often tied to their own design whim or pop up idea rather than a strategic business objective. I’ve built quite a few of these type bridges to nowhere on websites because a business owner came up with a “great idea” they just had to implement, only to ask me to tear it down the next month and build a new bridge to nowhere (which often looked a lot like the first bridge).

Bridges to nowhere built by both owners and decision makers within an organization frequently start with the phrase “I saw this really cool website and…” or “I was on the competition’s website and they were…”, which is another way of saying, “Hold my beer, we’re about to spend a boatload of money on something we don’t need”. These bridges to nowhere can be built out of vanity or envy, but they usually lead to frustrations and failed expectations for you, your organization, and the people using your website.

Good organizations have a marketing director with enough authority to deflect this sort of silly bridge to nowhere building, but startups, solo-entrepreneurs, consultants, and small companies rarely do. As such, these groups become vulnerable to and adept at building bridges to nowhere with their websites. They frequently suffer from the “if you build it, they will come” solution-looking-for-a-problem bridge building mentality.

In the mid 2000’s when companies had recovered from the dot.com bubble burst and started spending money again on websites, I had a difficult time providing references to new clients because my existing clients were going out of business almost as fast as I could complete their website.

As a freshman web designer, I didn’t mind building bridges to nowhere. I was paid quite handsomely (CEO’s always fund their personal projects nicely). Fast forward twenty years and more than a few gray hairs later, I would rather save decision makers money, time, and pain upfront by helping them develop focused website strategies that minimize the risk of creating a bridge to nowhere in the first place.

If your organization does not have a written website strategy (a plan in the head does not count!), then your website project will more than likely be bridge to nowhere. It may make you feel good because your site does the same shiny, blinky, spinning thing your competitor’s website does, but it will not move the needle of your business goals.

At the very least as a decision maker in your organization, start your website project planning with something this simple: Add your website and other digital properties connected to your business. If you want to go deeper, use the spreadsheet to map out each page of your existing website, then add future planned website changes and additions to the list.

Then take a step back and look at this sheet holistically. Where are these changes taking your organization right now and in 3-5 years? Are these changes transformation or optimization related?

I promise the mere act of filling out this spreadsheet at even a 30,000′ level will open your mind and lower your risk of building a bridge to nowhere.

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