- Design - the visual presentation of your site – literally, what it looks like
- Content - what it says, how it says it and how up-to-date it is
- Marketing - how you get people to visit the site and how their activity gets measured
- Technology - what makes your website work behind the scenes
If you're planning a new website, the importance of balance is clear when you realise that your website must address all four elements to be successful overall.
Focusing entirely on one aspect to the detriment of the others does not provide you with a successful website.
In fact, it's the weakest element that's most important as it's this that ultimately determines the strength of your site.
The consequence of "imbalance"
Let's assume that your site is poorly designed but strong in the other three areas. Now consider the thought process of a new visitor to your site: when he first arrives, the design makes a poor first impression. The visitor thinks "Urgh! What's this?". Your one chance to make a good first impression is wasted.
After this, you're going to struggle to salvage the situation. Even if the technology that makes your site work is free of errors, the marketing is successful because you're top of Google and the content is beautifully written, your visitor will not think "This website looks terrible… but I notice they've spelt everything correctly so I'll give them a second chance!"
That is not a typical thought process
More likely, the visitor will leave and end up on your competitor's site because he decided that your badly-designed site must be the front of a badly-run business. In reality, this may be completely unfair. But it's not the reality that matters, it's your visitor's perception of reality that counts.
You can swap one weak element for another and the outcome is the same: a beautifully designed site with up-to-date content but riddled with error messages will quickly deter visitors; similarly, a beautiful site that works flawlessly but has "latest news" from 2008 will send visitors running in just the same way.
Strengthen your weakness
Remember, it's the weakest of the four elements that determines the strength of your website overall and you cannot compensate for weakness in one area by being particularly good in the other three.
If you're planning investment in your website this year, work out which of the four is your weakest element and concentrate on that first. The result will be that your website improves overall and your well-directed investment reaps rewards.