15 Features Your Site Doesn’t Need

Ian Lurie Aug 28 2008

The worst mistake in internet marketing? Making things too complicated. It pumps up costs, slows site launches and keeps you offline when you could be online, selling stuff.

Who makes that mistake? You do. When you insist that that one feature is so important you can’t live without it, you’re killing yourself. If you can get 90% of the function with 10% of the effort, shouldn’t you?
So, here’s a list of features I think your site can probably do without, at least for now:

  1. Integration with your inventory management system. If you’re already selling lots online, great! Spend the fifty grand it’ll take to synchronize your store with your inventory system. Otherwise, forget it. Put it on hold.
  2. A fancy content management system (CMS). A full-featured, enterprise CMS is a great tool when you need it. But do you really need it? If you have a staff of two, you don’t. Use WordPress or Movable Type, instead.
  3. Community content. Yah, community content is trendy as heck. But you don’t need to build your own bloody city. Before you spend the time and shell out the cash to add community content, ask yourself: Do you need to build the community yourself? Couldn’t you use Facebook? Or MySpace? Or something else? Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to.
  4. A talking, walking spokesperson. I’m sorry, but no one needs a little video person that walks onscreen and starts babbling about how wonderful this product is. I go online to get away from that. So save the cash. Don’t add a virtual spokesperson. Plus, they’re creepy as hell.
  5. Video. I love online video. It’s super-valuable to the right business. Is that your business? If you can’t get your message across without motion or a ‘face to face’ human element, use video. Otherwise, save the money and time.
  6. Credit card processing. If you’re selling online you’ll need to process credit cards. But setting up a merchant account with your bank will make you wonder if you’re in a Kafka novel. Instead, use a service like PayPal. Later, when you’re selling in volumes where a .5% reduction in costs is important, you can set up the merchant account. Or, even better, get a lackey to do it for you.
  7. A custom store. Yes, you want your store to look just so. If you can save thousands of dollars and weeks of work, though, why not compromise just a little and use a prebuilt store like Prostores or Volusion? Be smart. Get selling.
  8. A custom lead management system. You want a CRM system that lets you manage 3,000 leads a month. Problem is, you don’t have any leads yet. Try Salesforce or HighRise. You can hook ’em right up to the contact form on your web site and get 90% of what you want at 5% the cost in dollars and sanity.
  9. Web 2.0 features. Whatever the hell those are. If you really need a feature, trust me, you won’t need to pigeonhole it with some trendy phrase. You’ll know you need one-page checkout, or smart form validation, or a puffy logo that looks like it’ll purr when you pet it.
  10. Multiple languages. Think about your audience first. Do you have a sizable group of folks who don’t speak English in that audience? If yes, spend the money to translate. If not, stop right there.
  11. Your own server. Yeah. No. Start off in a shared, ‘virtual’ hosting environment.
  12. A live webcam. Thank heavens, these seem to be going away. I don’t really want to see what you’re doing at your desk 24/7.
  13. A ‘wish list’. It’s nice to save your favorite products in a little folder all your own. But is that why you buy? I don’t think so. Add the wish list later.
  14. A ‘virtual office’. You don’t need to make your web site look like a real office. I’m on the internet because I don’t want to go to your office! Give me a site that loads fast and gives me the shortest possible route between my question and your answer.
  15. A ‘virtual mall’. See the previous item, and don’t make me slap you.

When you’re deciding on features for your site, analyze the costs and benefits carefully. Consider whether you want a feature because you think it’s important, or because it’ll really help your audience.

tags : conversation marketing

11 Comments

  1. Joe

    Joe

    WONDERFUL!!
    How many times I have worked with a client where I needed a printout of this post? Too many. It’s always the same – “I noticed on (multimillion dollar site).com that they use (ridiculous feature) – can we get that without changing the quote? I think we really need it.”
    As another Arkansas native said, “I feel your pain.”

  2. Alex

    Alex

    Some good walk-before-you-run advice there.
    Another thing I suggest to clients (once a site’s content is determined) is choosing an “enough to launch” subset of that content. If you get your biggest selling products, most important documents etc out there sooner you can add the rest later. Post-launch additions have the added bonus of giving you something to talk about in your “news” page…
    It helps to prevent unnecessarily long delays to launch, or the dreaded “coming soon” page.
    One day I may even succeed in convincing a marketeer that it would be better to get their act together a week or two sooner. A site could then be ready, quietly launched and tested *before* the day they want to start making a noise about it!

  3. MikeTek

    MikeTek

    All valid points.
    How about those annoying, robotic “virtual people” that you give a string of text that they “read aloud” without a shred of humanity? Talk about creepy and unnecessary. Whoever developed those should be run through with a rusty spear.

  4. Mike

    Mike

    Awesome list!
    Any tips/thoughts on how to setup a phone system or service? Small businesses are sometimes part-time endeavors. Are there any good answering services out there that can get you going (professionally) for cheap?
    Thanks!

  5. Very refreshing post. It’s things like these 15 items that stymie projects. The cost of perfection is too high, sometimes we just need to settle the features that will get us by. great post.

  6. He-he. Great words of wisdom.
    Hey, who are YOU to inject reality and common sense to the internet, eh?
    Many of these things you list are exactly the things that makes my landing page time on a website measured in nanoseconds.
    Good work.
    George

  7. Jon Massey

    Jon Massey

    Some valid points but I’d disagree with #1 – I implemented this for my employer and it most certainly did not cost 50 grand! Integrating OSCommerce with our MS SQL Server-based inventory/CRM/accounting system was surprisingly easy, took about 20h of coding time, so certainly not 50k (although I wish I got paid that for 20h work!)

  8. Ian

    Ian

    @Jon sounds like you had a good pair of systems to work with. It CAN be very easy, but in my experience it rarely is. The mere fact you could complete it in 20 hours makes me ask: Are you for hire? :)

  9. Alan

    Alan

    Good post. Especially true is the video of a spokesman (or the mechanical speaking vector-drawn face).
    It’s good someone brought this up.

  10. Evan

    Evan

    I hate to disagree with someone whom I’ve learned so much from, but your thoughts on PayPal are simply wrongheaded. If you’re doing the kind of volume that makes receiving payments over the internet worthwhile (you’ve generated over $1,000 in revenue), PayPal will freeze your account at the drop of a hat. They don’t just freeze the money being disputed, they freeze the whole account, and you’re probably never getting it back.
    PayPal killed my first internet business, and I’ll never have dealings with them again. There’s a reason sites like screw-paypal.com and paypalsucks.com are out there and as active as they are.

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