What is an effective website?

Developing the capability to create and maintain an effective online presence is a key part of digital marketing. As digital media has evolved, there are an increasing number of online brand presence from company websites accessed over desktop computers to mobile sites and apps accessed via tablets and mobile phones to social presence on the major social networks like Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and Twitter.

‘Effective means that presence must deliver relevance and satisfactory online customer experience for its audience. At the same time, ‘effective’ means the presence must support and add value to the brand to deliver results for the company. Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is increasingly being used by companies to improve the commercial contribution of online presence to a business.

Creating an effective online experience is a challenge since there are many practical issue to consider. Chernatony (2001) suggests that delivering the online experience promised by a brand requires delivering rational values, emotional values and promised experience (based on rational and emotional values).

Rational values

  • Easy of use. Usability, accessibility and standards.
  • Relevance. Content and search, customisation.
  • Performance. Speed and availability.

Emotional values

  • Design. Visual design, style and tone.
  • Reassurance. Trust and credibility.

More recently, Christodoulides et al. (2006) have tested the importance of a range of indications of online brand equity for online retail and service companies. This analysis was performed across these five dimensions of brand equity assessed by asking questions below – they provide an excellent framework which can be applied to assess and benchmark the quality of brand experience for different types of websites:

Emotional connection

  • I feel related to the type of people who are Xs customers.
  • I feel as though X actually cares about me.
  • I feel as through X really understands me.

Online experience

  • Xs website provides easy-to-follow search paths.
  • I never feel lost when navigating through Xs website.
  • I was able to obtain the information I wanted without any delay.

Responsive service nature

  • X is willing and ready to respond to customer needs.
  • Xs website gives visitors the opportunity to ‘talk back’ to X.


  • I trust X to keep my personal information safe.
  • I feel safe in my transactions with X.


  • I got what I ordered from Xs website.
  • The product was delivered by the time promised by X.

Other factors that are relevant for transactional e-retail site are price and promotions which form web merchandising.

Promised experience

  • Product. Price / promotion, range.
  • Interactivity. Customer journey fit, flow and data entry.
  • Service. Fulfilment, support.

These factors are all associated with using the website, but the online customer experience extends beyond this, so effective designs are based on integrating the entire customer journey for different audiences and different scenarios to achieve the best result. So design of online presence need to look at a bigger picture.

  • Easy of locating the site through search engines
  • Service provided by partners online on other websites
  • Quality of outbound communications such as e-newsletters
  • Quality of processing inbound email communications from customers
  • Integration with offline communications and touch points like store and phone as part of multichannel marketing

Adapted from

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.

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