Understand your most loyal customers first. As an agency we get a fair number of RFP’s across our desks from well-meaning brand managers desiring a new web presence. The RFP’s typically request best of breed features and functions, brand essence look and feel captured, multi-channel capabilities, etc. etc. The best sites and the best projects all begin with one question, “who are you serving and what do they need?” It sounds overly simple, but if RFP’s were written with only the answer to this question there would be many more successful web development projects in the world. Unfortunately, the fact is most sites are developed from the same set of business rules and features and functions lists with little concern about who it is that is using the site and/or why they are using the site. Sure, agencies write personas and speak about users, but the reality is those are demographic, not psychographic underpinnings. Every brand truly is different and consumers come to sites with very particular needs. If we all developed sites from the very particular point of view of the user we would see a myriad of unique websites functioning optimally for their core audience. Unfortunately, pretty much all ecommerce sites are the same: Landing page > collections > detail page > checkout… It’s interesting brand managers and ecommerce managers are still paying premium prices for these development efforts because if you observe closely the backbone of the Information Architecture is all the same and only minimal differences in the brand content and look and feel distinguish one site from the next. In many terms the world of ecommerce has been commoditized, not because of a lack of ingenuity, but because of a lack of focus on the end user’s needs.