Less Cher, more Iron Man: B2B Website optimisation and the Strangler Fig pattern
Most businesses rebuild their websites from the ground up every 3-4 years, but have they really gone so far away from achieving the business goals that a rebuild is needed?
Of course, sometimes there are underlying business changes, a brand re-positioning, or a complete product/service overhaul that makes the end justify the means. But too often it really is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
CRO should be the fundamental state of any B2B website. After launch, performance should be monitored — from what content is resonating, to how users convert and are nurtured.
A failure to budget and underestimate the need for CRO lies behind the failure of many B2B websites. Over a period of years, they become unfit for purpose. The content plaything for the marketer, sometimes an occasional SEO investment, but with every other part of the site falling between the organisational gaps.
When this becomes realised at a senior level, either through a failure to generate leads, or due to organisational / brand shift, the answer is to rebuild.
But it’s important to understand what impact a business is trying to achieve and the ‘why?’
It could be argued that only when two or more of the above conditions are met is a rebuild genuinely needed.
Our own agency approach to delivering any web project is to ensure that 3 streams are considered through every stage of a project, from discovery to final delivery.
Fundamentally the same three streams map to how a website is developed:
Once you look at a B2B website through this lens it becomes easier to understand what change is really needed.
Content will need a refresh, but 90% of all content can be migrated to a new site anyway. Most technology platforms now auto-update, so only in the case of complete neglect or initial poor development do they become unfit. And updating the front-end experience in no way requires an overhaul of the other parts.
The problem with trying to move quickly is you can sometimes not give the correct time to the right decisions, and base those decisions on internal consensus rather than data and user insight.
The foundations of many B2B websites are not as broken as marketers may think. A CMS is undoubtedly in place, there will be huge amounts of content there, integrations are in place…
Why start from fresh and still end up with an MVP to hit time constraints – start with your MVP and do better?
The strangler fig approach to development is based upon slowly overtaking the foundations on which a site is built until the original website is no longer there – much like the strangler fig overtakes the tree which hosts it.
A bit more fundamental than ‘progressive enhancement’, this method aims to slowly replace the old website piece by piece, using a test-and-learn approach to deliver new design and functionality in a safe and data-driven manner.
It allows us to make rapid gains on the things we know need fixing now, and work in sprints to enhance the content and user experience where the impact is most needed.
It also completely de-risks the development process:
Once you understand the approach, it becomes easier to think about your key objectives and how they could be met without a new website.
The easiest way to approach it is in terms of ‘sprints’ – identifying a single opportunity for improvement, and focusing on that alone, with a limited timeframe to deliver and a clear plan for measuring success.
Working this way becomes easier to make marginal gains almost immediately, as it’s a data-driven approach that allows you to test and learn and move forward with the data. Each sprint becomes self-justifying with proven ROI to help fund the next sprints.
For a typical B2B website, here’s how some of those sprints might take shape:
Superficially this kind of approach can be seen as a ‘facelift’, a lick of paint, and hard to sell internally. But it can be something far greater than that.
To use a not entirely great analogy… Cher may have gone through some ‘enhancements’ in the 80s and 90s, but she was still fundamentally the same Cher.
In contrast, Marvel’s Iron Man (admission – I have never watched a single Marvel film) develops a suit of armour to save himself and the world, and then continues to develop solutions and make technological advances to achieve his goals. Building upon himself and reinventing to be far, far greater than the sum of his original parts.
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(Header photo: Geran de Klerk on Unsplash)