The promise of a Web business is that it will provide a cheaper way of distributing information. Why, then, do countless Web operations fail to become profitable even though they’re successfully marketed? The reason is that many companies fail to properly project and analyze the costs and benefits of the undertaking.
An important analysis to conduct is the cost per page view. Money is the more obvious gauge in analyzing this, but know which numbers to use. The first step is to look at the dollars spent launching the site. Then figure in the time spent on content production and maintenance, plus the organizational focus needed to keep everything moving.
Become a clock watcher. What is the time required to post a page of content? Are you publishing information from other materials or creating original content? Is each page coded by hand or served from a database? How many people will see it, and how many pages is your site able to serve in a day? Add the ongoing cost of running the hardware and software necessary to host and display each page. And don’t forget to count the bandwidth required to serve the page. Multimedia bells and whistles will boost your bandwidth overhead while making it harder for users to get to your content.
Next you need to figure the time it takes to deploy new features. Merely keeping the content current can absorb all your resources, leaving no time to create new features. Even worse, the implementation time can take months because of complicated, brittle architecture that sabotages any competitive edge the features might provide. Each of these time factors figures into the cost of each page view.
The most subtle expense is organizational focus. Many Web sites operate in a haze of system malfunctions. The result is constant downtime, leading to considerable time and energy spent on fixes. Besides distracting the best minds in the organization, this type of instability casts a shadow of doubt over the entire operation.
Some of the most widely promoted software and hardware solutions are the leading causes of many serving problems. Witness the recent, stunning multiday crash of toysrus.com. It simply wasn’t prepared to scale up for the droves of users trying to access the site after a big marketing promotion. Can you spell disaster?
The well-designed site runs economically and adds to the bottom line, while poor system deployment means hardware and software costs increase at a greater rate than traffic. What’s more, site developers may attempt to fix a poorly chosen software implementation by throwing more and more expensive hardware at the problem. This approach is a financial and performance nightmare that can spiral out of control.
The message to take away is that it’s important to work closely with your development team and examine costs at the outset. Developers often want easy solutions, and that’s a mistake in the long term. It’s critical to stress that the financial success of your site will depend on technology that is easily deployed and scalable. Ensure that your developers don’t simply follow orders from your marketing or design team if those directives prevent the site from operating efficiently. It’s your tech team’s job to bring technical expertise to the project.
There are profitable sites on the Web because the managers of those sites have a handle on the cost of each page impression. Whether in terms of dollars spent on serving those pages or the human resources and time involved to create and maintain them, Web page efficiency has a fundamental impact on any Web operation.
Great marketing increases traffic to a site, which should increase profitability – as long as the right analysis and development have taken place first. The more focused everyone in your entire operation is on these hidden costs, the more likely you are to realize the great advantages the Web has to offer.