Its about my thoughts feelings on just about everything, from Advertising to Zoology ..ok haven't gotten that far yet

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trying to decide on a new look for

Over the years I have been promising myself I am going to finally do something about the site. It is driving me crazy, its crap! Half the features are not in place, taken down the guestbook, forum the online web mail ENOUGH IS ENOUGH I CRY....

Well actually no, the procrastination monster has gotten me again, well its that or I just can't make up my mind, not too sure >:¬} So I will leave it up to my loyal reader (usually me but hey I am not but anything if not vain.. no I am modest.. bugger don't know.

So what is it to be:
  1. Clean and simple to maintain with no self serving ego or
  2. Ego ... this has been waiting for 7 years
Speaking of ego
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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Websites and what are they for?

Over the years that I have been both a user and as someone making their living from the Internet, I have in seen many great, fabulous and innovative changes but in many ways the basic principle have remained the same.

It has never ceased to amaze me that there are so many websites out there that have spent a huge amount of time an money making themselves look cutting edge, beautiful, got the latest go faster stripe, but they have forgotten the fundamentals, the whole reason for their site in the first place. For people to come, purchase, read, inform, communicate or entertain themselves.

Content is king! Without good content people will not stay, without good content they will not buy, or interact positively with your site.

Ok, you have got some great content, so what is next, then its the structure of the site that is and has and should always be of equal importance. There is zero point investing time and money writing, gathering content, if your visitors can't find or read your site. The simplest and most effective sites on the internet are the ones that are not over designed, do not have the go faster flash stripes. The site owners believe that getting around the site, getting to the information and the call to action is the most important part of the whole site. Once the solid structure is in place then it is an easy thing to give the site a new "lick of paint" at a later stage.

But there has been so many site owners that have been bowled over on how they site looks by the designers, they have forgotten that once it gets into the big bad internet world that what they site looks like at presentation will NOT look like this in the real world. There are so many variables to consider in developing a site from a design point of view but there is still one simple basic principle (actually two): Form & Function!

Form & Function
This is where Form is How the site looks and Function, how the visitor gets around the site. With too much design in the Form, to many gadgets, flash, applets, Web 2.0 etc this limits the ability at present for the search engines and the visitors to find and view/interact with your site. The very FIRST thing any site owner or potential site owner should consider when they are developing their site is who are the target market for their site. It is amazing the amount of times that this has been forgotten. They hand this over to their technical or marketing department or to the kid in the back office who is "good with computers". No offense to any of these, I am considered by some to be a Techie (but probably not by my own techies in Future Business) I also studied Marketing, and most of my friends call me when they have computer problems (Hi Jim). But I also have 11 years of web 1.0 years (some of web 2.0) experience. I know that every one comes to the table with an agenda. The techie (depending on which flavour, Unix, Microsoft, Mac etc) will have their own point of view (left up to most unix heads we would still be surfing the net by command line only... plain txt for non techies hmm (actually not a bad idea sometimes get away from mouse strain thats for sure)), the marketing guys, well its Design design design in most cases. There is a huge .com graveyard full of Marketing led sites that died because no one could use the site, either getting around or did not have the right plugins or heaven forbid "I spend a fortune on these pictures so I want them BIG". Looking at your target market will tell you how to design your site. I have seen sites aimed at the blind riddled with flash. I am sorry but the blind can't read your site, but the can listen to it. Flash though is impossible for the text to speech plug ins to inturpet, so are image site maps without txt guidelines.

I am not railing against all the fancy flashy gadgets, there is a place for these, sites aimed at showing off high tech, design, gaming etc. These sites will be visited by many who will have the computers spec'd up to utilise these elements (but just remember that the search engines will not be able to spider them effectively.

Now that you have discovered the Form of your site, next is the Function. How are your visitors going to get around your site, for that matter and in some ways of equal importance is how are the search engines going to get around your site. If you remember to make your site Function as simple and as structured as possible then your site visitor will never get lost, and will be able to get to the information that they are looking for in as little as three to four clicks. The harder you make it for them to get to the information, then the faster is the likelihood that they will go elsewhere. Forget about trying to bombard them with all the other products and services that you sell. If the visitor wants to know they will look. They just want to get to the one they are looking for. Make it simple for them. Once they have found it then you can show them related products/services but do it only then. The major advantage of making the Function (navigation structure) of your site simple is it also lets the Search engine spiders or bots trawl through your site and its content with ease. They will then follow all your lovely links to your wonderful target structured content back to their respective warrens and make this information easily available to future prospective clients through the search engine results.

There are plenty of other elements to Search Engine Marketing and optimisation (Optimization for the US readers) but getting the fundamentals right makes the job of and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) expert that much bit easier. If you are lucky you may not even have to worry too much about this element of promoting your site.

Back to Content now. You have decided that you want the latest news on your site, and everyone is talking about Blogs as brilliant for visitors, hell through in a forum, chat room and a bulletin board as well on the site, might as well go the whole way right? WRONG!

If you go to the site and see the latest news was written in 2005 this doesn't paint a good picture to the visitor, the very same thing goes for the blog. I have seen so many sites with Blogs in them and the boss thought it was a brilliant idea and posted up loads of comments for the first week or so, then it drifted to every other week, then once a month and so on. Chat rooms, well they have been empty, forums with one or two posts, or even worse customers coming in asking questions and going unanswered, then the come back frustrated and post something nasty (seen this many times). If you are going to get involved with some of these elements of a site to build your online community then make sure some one within your organisation is responsible for its upkeep. Otherwise do not start them. If you really want a forum on your site ask first your clients and visitors would they use it, and remember that atleast 80% of the positive responses will come down to less then 20% of them actually doing so.

Once the Function of your site is decided, you may discover that you will have to tweak your form, but if you follow the check list below in that order then you should not have to worry to much as a lot of the information will become obvious.

Final site check list:
  3. FORM
  5. Then check back to your FORM
I hope that this helps you and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to email me or leave a comment.

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