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Modern Web Site Design: Getting People to Come Back, Part IV

Are you really USING the internet for your business?

By Marc Bissonnette

This article was prompted by a client's responses to their website, after spending $30,000 on it's re-design and technology upgrades. Some of the comments and "suggestions" included:

  1. Let's take the sample downloads away from the website and make everyone request it to be mailed.
  2. Let's make people register with their name and email address in order to get the fact sheets on our products, and then put them all on a mailing list.
  3. There are some errors in the content (that we provided), let's roll back to the old site (a week after launch and with the old site containing the same errors)
  4. We can't include our product documentation online because the competition might see it.

There were more, but these are the basis for this article.

In case you are not familiar with the term, "brochure-ware website", it's a non-interactive website that just endlessly displays text and graphics, usually attempting a "hard sell".

Take a good look at your competition. No, I mean a really good look at them and their web sites. How many of them are brochure-ware? Probably not many. The reason for this is the fact that with it's exploding popularity, competition for the customer's dollar online, even if the purchase is made off line, is hot.

It's a shame that there are still people out there that just don't get it when it comes to the Internet. It's a medium that is all about speed, convenience and efficiency. If all you're doing is replicating your newspaper and magazine ads, don't even bother wasting your time, or risking your reputation with a web site.

Let's take a look at the individual comments from the client above and their associated problems:

  1. remove downloads and force requests for mailers
    • This just completely avoids the purpose of a potential client visiting your website. A client is at you site to get information, now. By forcing requests for mailers, you're slowing the information process, and thus the purchasing process, by at least three days, assuming you receive the request and act on it immediately and there are no postal delays. Your website should *never* have requests for information to be mailed, unless it's a product sample (Videos and CD's are fine to be mailed, too, but there should at least be a summary and excerpt of the materials)
  2. register email & name to get info, put on mail list
    • This not only (again) completely negates the purpose of your website (fast access to information), but forcing users on a mailing list is not only unethical (and stupid), but illegal in some states and countries. If you want the user's name and email address, fine, but make sure it's not mandatory in order to see information and let them know in no uncertain terms what you will do with the information. (Spamming, or sending unsolicited commercial email can also cost your your website and access account, too!)
  3. errors in content, let's rollback to old site
    • First of all, doing a roll-back to your old site will cause viewers to wonder if you even know what you want to do with your corporate identity. Second, if you're paying someone to create your website (or even if it's your own staff), REVIEW and APPROVE your content before it goes up! So many people claim they don't have time to do this, but it's a feeble excuse for taking a couple of hours and going over your site for proper content. Take it home, if you have to, but get the information right the first time! There are also caching issues to worry about, too. People who visited your site last week and come back this week may see corrupted or wrong images if they're loading a completely different version from cache (Especially if you've used similar file names for your graphics and documents!)
  4. Our competition might see our documentation
    • This is not only naive, but not a good reason to provide your potential clients with more information on buying your product. Though many don't like to acknowledge it, competitive intelligence by rivals is alive and healthy, using both ethical and unethical means. For something as simple as your installation manuals and help files, it's a no-brainer to get a copy of this by simply calling your sales staff or VARs and asking a copy to be sent as a pre-cursor to a purchase decision. (There's also simply going to your clients and asking to see their current product's (i.e. yours) documentation and promising to out-do it in a competitive bid. Good business practice assumes your competition knows all the simple stuff about your product anyway. In most cases, excessive secretiveness will make your company not only slow and inefficient for providing sales material, but will more than likely make you look silly.

Basically, your site should be able to provide information on your services in as fast and efficient a method as possible. Forcing clients to resort to off-internet venues to get your sales information is plain stupid, as it's the same as telling them you don't want to sell to them right now. Trust me, your competition will not make the same mistakes. Worse, they'll be selling to your clients, for the simple reason that they made the purchase decision easier.

Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

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CanadianISP - Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) list and comparison web site

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