Building effective small business websites using the Top Tasks approach

An effective website can be an asset to any business, but many small business websites end up hard to use disasters that never fulfill their potential.

Many business owners see their website as a cost and a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

An effective website brings a steady stream of business to its owners, increases profile, and in the case of online shops, serves customers quickly and efficiently.

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Often companies commission websites without knowing what they are buying, and instead focus on purely the visual design. This approach always ends in failure.

For a website to be effective, we must first understand what it’s for, and to be able to define success.

Often businesses decide to replace their website by simply transferring their old content into new website software. This is a huge missed opportunity.

A website is a business tool like any other, and it should have goals and objectives, for example to generate a certain number or value of leads, or to sell x value of stock.

Once you have SMART goals for your website, you can go about achieving them.

How will your business website be used?

Your website is not really about your business, it’s about your customers. To make your website effective you must look at it from your customers’ point of view.

You need to understand their needs and their problems and serve them efficiently.

And today your customers will want to be able to interact with your website on their phones, tablets or desktop computers.

All this means your website must be leaner and more focused than ever before.

Enter Top Tasks Management for websites

Top Tasks Management is a method of website organisation used on large websites with many thousands of pages.

Devised by Gerry McGovern, a worldwide authority on customer satisfaction on the web,  the approach has been used to untangle some of the biggest and most challenging websites for the NHS, universities, charities, government and the IT sector.

These websites are task-centric, in that users visit them with a task in mind, whether that is to find a particular phone number, diagnose medical symptoms or apply for a university place.

Top Tasks Management allows tasks to be identified and measured, and allows websites to be geared to the most important tasks.

And over many years the same result consistently appears – that 5% of your website delivers at least 25% of its value – in other words, your website can be prioritised for what people most want to do.

Gerry McGovern and his partners at Customer Carewords apply this to enormous, high profile websites and through data gathering and analysis are able to dramatically improve results – and therefore customer satisfaction – at the first attempt.

And these principles can be applied to small business websites with similar results, especially websites bloated with useless or out of date content.

Wait! Less content on my website?

That’s right. Your website is most likely full of content that nobody needs or looks at, but its presence is harming the usefulness of the rest of your website.

Everything you add to a website complicates it further, every extra choice increases the danger of analysis paralysis and disappointed customers. If things get too complicated, people give up (though some will always muddle through).

The need to serve users on small screens like phones and pads is growing, and to make things work for them, your website needs to be simple – easy to use and clear in its structure.

You don’t need a massive budget to use Top Tasks management on your website.

It’s highly effective when applied to website of a few pages to a few hundred, as a way of identifying what needs to be on your website and what needs to go.

This means measuring every piece of content against two criteria:

  1. Does it help a customer in carrying out a task
  2. Does it support a key business objective (careful here)

This helps you shift to a new mindset:

Everything on your website must earn its place.

You can do a rudimentary analysis based on your website statistics, but most of the time, thinking about the needs of your customers – putting yourself in their shoes – will set you in the right direction.

Identifying Top Tasks for a small business website

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For many small business websites, those with less than five or ten static pages, the Top Tasks are pretty similar.

Your users arrive at your site with a task in mind, a problem to solve, and they are they because they expect you to be able to solve it.

They are thinking:

  • Can this business solve my problem?
  • Are they any good?
  • Can I trust them?
  • How do I contact them?

The ‘problem’, obviously, depends on what you do.

Many business websites are put together using no more than guesswork, with decisions made on subjective criteria, and fail as a result.

But applying this methodology allows you to remove much of the guesswork from deciding what should be on your website, and how it should be presented and prioritised.

At Moghill we’ve used the Top Tasks Management for creating and rebuilding business websites for the past four years, with often amazing results.

Photo by Sarah G…

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