I've engaged extensively, on the ground, with numerous corporations through too small businesses, brainstorming about their websites and general online presence. I think we've lost our way in the jargon and hype of the web. CMO's and CTO's and CEO's all want to do some social networking marketing campaign...how many times have I heard folks say, "Can you get us into Facebook?" - then I look at their company website that is 5 years old and still only, and exclusively, accessible via Internet Explorer.
Too many of us try to sprint before we've even crawled - so, here's a public cry and plea for all of us to get back to basics ;-)
Here's an offline example;
Met with a bank the other day - they spend more than R2 million just doing aesthetic due diligence and design for a new bank branch..and...that's before breaking ground to lay the foundations of the building!
The branch was being scoped to service approximately 100 customers per day, up to 1000 at peak...per day. The human capital involved in this initial process was approximately 27 people (interior designers, blah blah)...and that's just the start!
I could go on and on...but I'm sure you're starting to understand my point by now.
Note: One of the many people responsible for branding was very very proud of this diligent and costly investment because the bank wanted to ensure their reputation and key brand messages were being projected via this BAM...for a maximum of approx 30,000 individual visitors a month...this was CRITICAL!
So...with all these relevant folks crammed into a beautiful auditorium...projector beaming my laptop screen brightly behind me...I praised them for their wonderful efforts and care that they put into their branch. The next step was going to be fun - contrasting their online real estate with their BAM...
(Btw: Most of the folks in the room wanted to talk about a mobile digital campaign and how we could help them "get into" Facebook)
I had a 7.2mbps 3G connection going (never actually have truly connected at that speed...but doesn't it feel good to see that dark blue glow on your 3G dongle?!!)...launched Firefox and entered their domain name...whilst we waited for their home page to launch...I did the usual presenter tap dancing ;-)
The resultant; their root website page completely rendered after about ONE MINUTE...some of the pages I linked to would not launch certain elements in Firefox, so we switched to IE...deep linked category pages loaded slower than the homepage...information was completely outdated and there were pages that still had the branding/logo they discontinued 2 years ago...nevermind a couple products displayed that is no longer offered.
The branding folks sat smug throughout this until I compared their bank branch facilitating 30,000 clients a month...and the Google Analytics screen displaying that they had over 260,000 unique vistors attempting to access their website in the last month.
We had a George Bush moment; Shock and Awe...
So, let's get back to doing first things first... (Btw: I believe that there is a MASSIVE opportunity for companies that will simply focus on website optimization - this is the biggest hurdle in regards to overall online readiness in South Africa -
Here's brief synopsis of basic and elementary laws to ensure you have landing pages that convert and we all enjoy visiting your sites - back to basics folks;
Google pioneered this better than anyone else and it is amazing how many of their competitors just don't get it. Besides their competition not getting it, you can definitely pick up on this...make you web pages simple and "clean"!
It is amazing how many corporations try to squeeze as many applets, animations, scrollers, etc. possible above and below the fold. Please remove it all and only present information as per the category or product. WE DO NOT WANT TO SEE ANYTHING ELSE!
How many blue chip companies actually use their own websites? Well, if they did...there is absolutely no way they would accept the retardation of the landing page load times...much less the consumer.
*Present information relevant to the search I did on a third party search engine or the one you have on your website
*Present information relevant to the link description I clicked on - know and understand where I'm coming from
*Present information relevant on the deep linked landing page and don't show me anything else
*Present ads and calls to action relevant to the subject matter, content category, product, etc. - there are just too many ads regarding tummy fat and great abs, flicking away merrily, when I'm reading about pregnancy tests - geez!
*Remember me and what I did the last time I was here/there!
*Show me *everything* relevant to what I'm looking for
*Here's an example that I mentioned in a previous post - Amazon's Kindle product page
*The ability to launch new web content within minutes - opportunity loss especially when campaigning against breaking news infliction points
*Enhancing/replacing your CMS system and authorization procedures to ensure it doesn't take a month to make a change on the site cause the content management system is so complex/proprietary and/or Joe Blogs went on leave...
*This is about technology, people and process all being aligned and streamlined
6. Properly configured tracking and reporting tools
*Use Google Analytics - it's free!
*Configure it properly and apply best practises
*Sitemaps and Sitelinks properly configured and submitted?
7. Crystal clear and measurable call to action(s) - (commerce enabled and tightly coupled to 6.)
I'll talk about this point in more detail later ;-)