March 4, 2003 Volume 2 Issue 36
A bit of Web history ... that is still valid
History, by definition, seems ancient. Old. Out of date.
Teenagers wonder why they have to learn all that stuff. The twenty & thirty-somethings are always reaching for "new". With "nothing new under the sun", I always wonder what in the world "new" is.
Even some of us "ole-timers" question the value of applying today what worked yesterday. Still, when I stumbled upon Jakob Nielsen's web articles from 1996-99, I found a volume of data still applicable in 2003. Yep, most of Nielsen's points from the '90's still work today.
Nielsen uses the "Top Ten" mistake list format. I won't. First, my recommendations will be positive. What to do, vs. what not to do.
And second, I'm going to hop on this bus and see where it takes us. A trip from wherever we are to wherever we end. I know as I begin there will be more than 10 ideas.
The first grouping is philosophy. The second "how to ...". We begin with the thinking, the planning ...
Your Web Philosophy
Know why you have, or need, a web site
There was a time - until about 1999-2000 - when I said not everyone needed a web site. And I truly believed that was so.
Not everyone used television. Or radio. Or the newspapers or magazines. Or is listed in the Yellow Pages. So, why would every business need a web site?
Today every business - if you are serious business - needs a web site. There is no longer a debate. If you don't have a listing on the World Wide Web, who are you? You are nobody. You are nothing. You are small. Weak. Insignificant. And certainly way back in the 20th Century!
Still, why do you need a web site? A better question might be, "how are you going to use your web site? What purpose will your web site serve?"
Plans come before construction. Get answers before building. Think ahead.
Understand the impact the web can have on your business
Your web pages need to be feed by marketing & sales ... and run by technology. Please do not let your techy folks, or any outside design group, dictate what your site looks like. Or what purpose it has.
See the first point in this list. And then know your marketplace will go to your site to learn about you. To be updated. To "think" about doing business with you - or not. It is "expected" what you share and what you "show & tell" will be meaningful, helpful, on target for your audience.
The impact of the WWW can be almost as powerful as a face-to-face one-on-one sales call. Know that.
Treat the WWW as an important medium - not as a secondary "item"
When you buy into my first two points of this collection, this one becomes obvious.
In the beginning you could get away with throwing up copies of your latest brochures, an annual report, a graph or chart, a few pictures, and be done with it. That approach is now D E A D. If your site is today what it was before, it is out of place in this world. And you'll be pushed down by your competition, your prospects, maybe even your clients - because you are not using the web effectively for their benefit.
Make your web site a key element in your marketing and sales.
Link to opportunities
To quote Jakob Nielsen; "The Web is a linking medium." So, do it!
There are two types of links; Yours. Others. I recommend you include both options in just about everything you do.
Certainly you want to list links to key specific pages of your web site. When you're a bank talking to consumers about checking & saving - offer a link to those specific pages within your site. When you're a pharmaceutical manufacturer of oncology products - send the medical profession audience to those exact pages.
And, don't be afraid to send your reader elsewhere. To another site. When it makes sense to do so, they'll thank you. This is a good time to let you know the foundation for this article came from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/. Here's the "hot" link;Alertbox: Jakob Nielsen.
Tell your marketplace who you are
In direct mail I always recommend full ID on every element.
Meaning your company name & logo, full mailing address, phone, fax, E-mail, web site +++ on every piece. As you never know who is going to look at what, when, or first. Ditto your web site.
Make certain your audience can find you. Knows how to find you their way. If they want to call, your phone number is obvious. If they prefer E-mail, an option is available.
The second part of "who" is a section within your web pages that gives bios of your players. You are proud of your people or you wouldn't have them as part of your team. So, let the marketplace know something about them.
Include a little personality about each. Make them "real". Alive. It will make your site more interesting. And, since people buy from people, your marketplace may become interested in you, too.
Keep the old, new
A strength of the WWW is it costs so little for storage. It's easy to keep what was old, new. By keeping it on your site - updated every so often.
"Old" material can frequently be very good knowledge. For a new reader - and for a return visitor ... who forgot what you shared the first time.
It's a rare time I toss anything from my several thousand web pages. It happens - not often. Archives increase the usefulness of your site. Look at what you offer as an ongoing encyclopedia of what you bring to your audience.
Up to date is the thing to do
There's hardly anything worse than searching for a topic, a subject, a specific site. Finding the listing ... "clicking" ... and getting the "this page does not exist any more" message. Not good news - for you. For your prospect.
The next bad thing is being within a site and being unable to get to pages you want to visit. The links are down, the navigation bar is wrong - something isn't working. When I come I'm looking for something. When you make it difficult, I may think everything about you is difficult.
Third, having wrong contact data on your web pages. Wrong anything ... from phone number to mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org ... whatever it is, if it is wrong, your visitor splits.
Keeping your site up to date in every way IS the thing to do.
Editorial is "in"
The opposite being your site is not an advertisement.
Well, of course it IS an advertisement. Yet, it must not look like one.
Your web pages work best when they tell a story. Give a message. Share ideas. Sure, you can feature your features & benefits. And you can present a soft sell message.
Still, in these times, sites seem to work best when they present in a PR style vs. a sales promotion or direct marketing hard sell ask for the order push-push-push approach.
This does not mean - especially if you are a mail-order organization - you toss your catalog concepts. You do not. Instead, you keep them all - and share in an invitation, rather than dictatorial way.
And now a few thoughts on making your site work.
Navigation is mandatory
Part one this one-two punch is navigation.
Please do not "assume" anyone knows as much about your site as you do. No one does - nor will anyone any time soon. What you can "assume" as that every first time visitor will need help. And most of those returning will benefit from a tad of guidance and direction, too.
So, have a thorough navigation bar. On every page. Using descriptive words for the contents behind the "click". Text that means something in your business.
Navigation to a web site is as important as a table of contents to a book. Some few might get along without it - no one wants that option.
Search is mandatory
If navigation is first to make your site easy to use, search is second.
Over the last several months I've been working with a couple of companies - rebuilding their web pages. In each we added an internal search engine. In each instance the leader questioned "why". And did so strongly. Feeling his marketplace is smart, and would find their way around. In each case I played "dumb". Asked a few questions about titles and wording and industry lingo. Went looking for specific subjects - and could not find what I knew was there.
Maybe we've gotten lazy. Maybe. Or, just maybe there are so many options. It doesn't really matter - when you get to menus with a dozen options or 50 pages ... whichever comes first ... include a search engine.
Over the edge technology is out
You might think with all the speedy connection options today, leading edge technology would be in. It is not.
Just because we can do it doesn't mean we should be doing it. Only if your audience is 100% nerds will it matter. Or, maybe, if your offering is internet products exclusively to upper-enders. For the rest of the marketplace - meaning millions upon millions (me included!), we like it to work well ... first!
Sure, we want the latest, fastest and most fancy options. Yet, like just about everything else - we don't want it until it works. And then only if it's cheap!
Flash is a good example. Today it works. When launched it was "nice" ... and unreliable. Slow. Cumbersome. Not what the day to day web surfer needs. Today it does more things - and does them well.
Keep technology out of your web site until you - and your marketplace - are truly ready.
Link orphan pages
Your advertising may send a visitor directly to a page inside your site. A link from a supplier, a customer, an industry source may send a prospect deep into your site. A search engine may land you a surfer on a page other than your home page.
This is not all bad ...if you have a clear and clean navigation bar. Including your home page listing. And, when you have complete identity on every page. When someone wonders in from outside - if they don't know where they are - make it is easy for them to learn. Immediately.
Orphan pages have no home. Give them one.
North/South & East/West
As the Internet has grown year by year, as technology and PC's have improved, screens are now bigger and chips are certainly faster. And the marketplace has learned to scroll.
Up and down. North and south. NOT east and west.
Most of the world reads left to right (as you are doing with this page), or right to left. Fewer and fewer read top to bottom ... more and more books, magazines and newspapers in Japan and China now read east/west. Not north/south.
When one reads across the page, vs. down, you don't want to scroll across.
It doesn't work for our eyes. Or our hands. So - don't design whatever you create to read east/west. Period. Just don't do it.
Downloads ... maybe
Fast is fast. Yet, never fast enough.
In the air and over the ground we continue to want to go faster. And faster. Human beings and things mechanical.
Downloads take time. Frequently far too much time. Many are not as fast as your marketplace would like. So, when your site has so much content that minutes are needed to bring up support pages, you will loose contact with the customer. They are likely to move on.
The same principle applies to moving between pages within your site. I'm a mail-order internet shopper. When it takes longer than turning pages in a paper catalog - I'm anxious. Keep your support and downloads small enough to load quickly. You'll make for a happy visitor.
Movement ... slightly
Hey, I like special affects, too. Just like the movies.
Yet, that is not why I visit your web site. Scrolling text I do not like. I've learned to ignore it on CNN and the financial television channels. I can ignore it with you, too. The difference being I may ignore everything you offer!
"Dancing Bears" and smiling happy jacks, animations of any sort, are interesting. For less than 5 seconds. So, use them as a neon sign ... to get attention. And then turn the darn thing to O F F !!
Do it the way the big boys do it
Most of us are not "big boys". Something close to 97% of all companies have less than 20 employees. Yet, we can learn from what the big boys do. And apply the basics to what we do.
Look at what your competition is doing. Look at what the most surfed sites do. Look at your industry association member sites. Look at your clients sites. Learn what is happening by surfing the web, as you would spin through a book - deciding if you'd like to read it. Or not.
Let's end with Jakob's Law of the Web User Experience; Remember, most web users spend most of their time on other sites ... that's where they form their expectations for how the web works. Don't disappoint them.
March - the month of spring. And flowers and bright colors. With winter almost gone - there is almost a "dance" in the air.
Anonymous too has a positive point of view;
"The journey is the reward."
"Quotes with Direction" has been a part of my web site collection from day one. If you like quotes visit the archives ... www.rayjutkins.com/quotes/. There's a new batch up every 4 weeks.
A FREE Audio Tape for YOU!
Because Ray Speaks ... it is expected he'll have audio and video tapes.
Why? To share with speakers bureaus, meeting planners and others interested in what he may have to say. So "yes", there is an audio tape. And he'll be happy to send you a copy. FREE. No strings attached.
The tape is a selection from several speaking gigs. A few case histories, some "how to..." ideas. And such. About an hour's worth of chatter ... some of it actually very entertaining!
If you'd like you very own copy, send an E-mail to ...
Your tape will be on the way to you within the day.
Oh, when you have a need for a speaker, and feel a demo video tape could be valuable to you, just ask for a copy. Not much use for video these days - with the Web - still, we'll be happy to forward one to you.
"Stamp Out" Alzheimer's
The last years of my dad's life included Alzheimer's. So, when long time DMer, speaker & biz friend John Jay Daly asked me to include this news - I quickly said "yes".
The US Postal Service is being asked to create a 'semi-postal' stamp to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association. To fight the disease that affects 4 million Americans. A petition of 50,000 signatures is needed to make an impact.
Will you please help? Visit the donated web site & sign the
From The Baker's Dozen Collection
13 Platinum Ideas
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.