Just one designers ramblings about things that inspire me, observations, and advice about marketing.

Archive for January, 2011

How do you know if you need a new website?

I hear this question a lot. And my reply is usually to ask a lot more questions.

One of the most important questions I ask is – What is your current website doing for you?

There are plenty of others too, such as: What do you do? Who are your customers? What kind of relationship do you have with them? What do you need your website to do?

But ultimately first establishing whether the current website is working, at all on any level, gives me a great deal of insight as to what I can do to help.

The average business person isn’t necessarily all techie-fied and up to speed on what is possible. All they know, is that they have a website and they are pretty sure that it should be doing more for them, then just sitting there gathering virtual dust.

But they aren’t really sure whether their customers care, visit, or want a better online experience. And if they think they should improve their online presence, they don’t know where to start, or what’s even possible.

So I thought that I would give a a starter list of things that you can think about if you also wonder whether you are ready for a new website.

First, start thinking like your customer.

Customers want to see that a company takes themselves seriously. That they understand the importance of their brand and image enough to make an investment in a major piece of marketing – such as a website. That they care enough about their customer relationships to build a website that evokes confidence, is kept updated, and gives their customers a pleasant experience. A website is often a first impression – and first impressions matter. A lot.

Visit your own site, try to look at it from the perspective of your audience. Try to be objective. If you need to, ask some friends or colleagues to look at the site with you. Forget how much you paid, how long ago you launched it, how terrible your experience with your developer was. Just pretend that you are visiting it for the first time with the eyes of your intended audience. Are they young, are they retired, are they artists, are they business people, are they soccer moms? – You know who your ideal customer is – pretend that you are them.

What do you see?

OVERALL DESIGN ( how your site looks, colors, design, readability, the overall visual impression):

  • What is your immediate impression?
  • Does it look professional?
  • Does it look like the company / person who owns it cares about how they present themselves?
  • Does it “match” your other corporate marketing materials?  – **** a website is not a single entity – it should be a part of a whole marketing plan ( more on this in the next post) ****
  • Does it accurately reflect you and / or your business?
  • Does it give the right impression about your professionalism and your image?
  • Is it garish, or pleasant?
  • Is it bland or exciting?
  • Does it look dated or current?
  • Does what you see, match what  you want your customers to see when they visit?

THE CONTENT ( the text and information that make up the pages of your website):

  • Is it organized or haphazardly thrown together?
  • Is the content easy to read and friendly? Is it wordy and stiff?
  • Is it easy on the eyes?
  • Can you easily get the “jist” without reading every word?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Are there typos?
  • Is it kept current?
  • Is it accurate?

THE NAVIGATION ( the buttons that let you move around within your website):

  • Can you find everything easily or is it a challenge to figure out how to move around the site?
  • Do the Button Labels (links) make sense or are they cryptic?
  • Do you have to use your “back” button to get back to where you came from?
  • Can you get from the homepage to every other page on your website easily?

CONTACT INFORMATION (the information your customers need in order to contact you.):

  • Is your contact information up front, and easy to find?
  • Is it hidden within a ‘contact us’ page?
  • is it outdated or inaccurate?
  • do you have any way to track who found you via your website?

CURRENT TECHNOLOGIES ( Social Media, Standards Compliant Code, and other functionality that can improve your customers experience) :

  • Are you using IM, Twitter, Facebook – are links to your accounts found easily on your website
  • Do you know how your website looks in other web browsers?
  • Do you know what the most popular web browsers are for your target demographic?
  • Do you know how your website looks say, on a Mac? on an iPad on a Blackberry?
  • Do you have any kind of statistics on how many site visitors you get and where they come from?
  • Can you update your site yourself or does it stay outdated because you can’t find the time or you can’t get a response from your original developer?

Yes I know. Its a lot to think about. And this is only the start.

But the basics outlined above could get anyone started on the path to decision making. And a professional consultant such as myself can help make answering these questions and finding solutions to solve the problems that you find, a lot easier.

Any one of the bullet points above aren’t going to make or break the success of your website – but a couple of them together and you could be looking at a website that is better off – offline – then up there giving a terrible impression to your customers.

So if you have a website, and its just sitting there,  or worse giving a bad impression – change it.

Make it work for you.

Don’t lose opportunities or turn away potential customers.

Invest in your website, and you will in effect, invest in your business.


A day of new beginnings?

The very first work day of the new year is one that usually brings with it excitement and energy. Hanging up the new calendar and the turning over of the new year somehow allows us to beleive that we can kick start a new plans, break old habits and make new promises.

Why is it that a man made concoction such as a calendar can mean so much to so many people. Aren’t we really tracking the natural movement of the sun and the earth and the moon with the glossy gridded paper that hangs on our walls, or glows at us on our personal devices?

Didn’t we invent the calendar so that we would know when to reap and when to sow? Isn’t what that drove us to create the calendar in the first place?

I sometimes think that as a people we are too connected to the paper calendar, and too disconnected from the earth and her seasons, that we miss the rich information that is so easily gleaned without a grid or a guide.

No matter what my calendar says, I tend to “feel” the seasons by the light outside my window and the angles of the sun. And I am sensitive to the sounds of nature around me, that alert me to whats coming.

I write this while I sit in my office surrounded by technology and calendars and instant access to weather reports and the latest radar storm tracking. But when it comes right down to it, most of the basics can be found right outside my window, day or night, any season. And when I stop long enough and pay attention and learn the signs, I feel more balanced and prepared for what lies ahead.

No matter what the calendar tells me. I don’t need the weather man to know what’s coming when I see gray clouds roll in and flutters of birds flock to my feeders, I know – without radar – that sure as sure, a storm is rolling in.

When the turkeys band up and strut through the yard, fall has absolutely fallen.

When we are lulled to sleep by the hoot of the great horned owl winter is truly upon us.

We are entering into a transition from winter to spring when the red fox will start to call, with its frightening and alien yelp.

Sparkly branches

And the smell of the thawing earth is my sign that I need to start thinking about seeds, and plans for planting, and mud season.

I think every day that we get on this giant blue orb should be another reason to think about a new start, a new day, a new opportunity. Its a shame that people grasp so tightly onto one day of the year when each and every one of them provides an opportunity to start so many things.

Happy New Year, Day, Experience, Challenge, Observation.

And may each day of 2011, bring more.

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