Shawn - April 27th, 2010
With your competitors just a Google away, why is it important to keep your website updated and fresh? That’s because your competitors are just a Google away…you really need to look as good as you are.
Perception is the big gun in your arsenal; much like demonstrating confidence in a public speaking scenario, you lend credibility when you look like you have it together. And since the literal facade of your business is your website, it’s critical to keep up those appearances.
First of all, visitors to your site want to see that you are remaining current with your industry and are pushing forward with new and bolder ways of meeting their needs. (Self-congratulation has its place, but it can’t compare to showing you have adapted to contemporized demands.)
Be accessible. Modern technologies allow the consumer to challenge and even shape your business and its industry. With a consistently updated blog and the more conversational style of website copywriting, you can converse directly with your audience. And seriously, you can’t really use the excuse of being bound by expense or at the mercy of those “crazy webmasters” to get your verbiage updated. An affordable Content Management System (CMS) will make updating your stuff incredibly easy regardless of your technical literacy.
And even though it’s not all about you, keeping your concepts alive and presenting a shiny and “in the moment face” is good for the soul of your business. When you hold your website to high standards, it helps to keep you wanting to build a better, stronger, faster operation. So keep moving forward and consider your website a true reflection of your commercial soul.
And besides the spiritual component of your site; you’ve spent all that time and money getting the thing developed and launched in the first place. Why fall behind and get beat out?
If you have no time or genuine interest in leveraging social media tools, businesses that are expert in that marketing technique have sprung up everywhere; get recommendations, find one you trust, and let them do it for you. Many, many businesses employ ghost Tweeters…sometimes you really can’t do it all. Sometimes it takes a village…of technophiles!
What’s your experience with updating your site? Please pass along any tips that have helped you keep it current!
Shawn - April 20th, 2010
While we’re location-less and addicted to everything wireless from Apple to Blackberry, Flash sites aren’t making a real smooth transition from the big screen to the mobile one.
No argument here on the look and feel of Flash, but the question remains: If a site is Googled on an iPad and can’t be seen, is it really there?
So what do you do? Do you wait it out with your Flash site until your graphics can be supported and seen by the mobile masses, or do you make a change?
You basically have four choices:
Create a brand new HTML site that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere
Have a mobile sidekick (sister site) built that will work in tandem with your Flash site and allow you to reach both audiences (those at home on their Dell laptops and those in Starbucks with their Smartphones)
Keep your Flash site and wait for technology to catch up with you
Our recommendation: Get the best of both by having a site designed with minimal Flash elements that don’t impact the user’s experience if they can’t view them; you’ll get the polish of some Flash animation, but won’t shut out visitors with non-Flash enabled browsers
The thing is - it took a lot longer for old VHS video technology to be eclipsed by Blu-rays and DVDs than it did for Flash to be flat-left by mobile technology; contemporary windows close fast. Decisions aren’t given the latitude of years, but nanoseconds.
You make the call: is it better to look good or be found? Is it OK to stick with your Flash Face and just too bad if you can’t please everyone?
We’d really like to know what you think…and give us a buzz if you want to discuss your website options – it’s what we do.
Shawn - April 14th, 2010
How can you have an effective website that’s entertaining and still professional? Keep it real.
We blog, we tweet; we wander wireless highways. It’s a conversational revolution and if your site’s not contributing to the dialogue, cyber-travelers will move on.
In an attempt to be slick, some websites indulge in ultra-minimalist, intentionally vague verbiage and over the top graphics that do nothing to promote their products or services.
If you go too far to that extreme you’re taking your eye off the ball. Why be the Super Bowl ad remembered for the incredible effect or the clever tag line and not the product? A complete defeat of purpose, don’t you think?
On the other hand, even if you run a buttoned-up law firm, you need to demonstrate approachability. Your website needs to be written so it will be read: short paragraphs, powerful verbs, and liberal use of sub-headers topped off with humor and a dash of humility. Less is more today, but the less has to be more.
And regardless of your website budget: make sure your branding is solidly evident, your site easy to navigate, and always remember that it is all about them and the value you bring to their lives!
While we suggest you contemporize your site by lightening it up, remain true to your personal style, and project the authentic face of the company; you’re still a business owner. You have a responsibility to be honest in your claims and clear about the products and services you offer.
Maintain your site’s date sensitive material
Keep your message clear
Make sure all your site’s links work
Spell check, grammar check, usage check everything
Don’t ramble on about you and your company’s triumphs to the exclusion of all else
…and if you’ve got all of that covered, feel free to make ‘em laugh!
Shawn - April 6th, 2010
Your website is the face of your company. It needs to reflect who you are and what you do. While it helps to brand your business, your site should also function easily and actively promote the aspects that distinguish you from everyone else.
We’re picking on CrackerBarrel.com this week to illustrate website weaknesses that you should avoid.
This is a great company and is one of our favorite restaurants, but we feel the site is pretty horrible. How do visitors react who have never been to the restaurant? I guarantee their current site is costing them some business. We’d really like to know what you guys think.
So check out the Cracker Barrel site; if you’ve ever been to one of their restaurants they have a decidedly unique appeal, but unfortunately we get no sense of that here:
Header Navigation (About Us, Menu, Online Store, etc.): Very hard to read and most of the icons don’t effectively convey what they reveal.
Logo Placement and Sizing: There is nothing about the site that makes you feel you are immersed in the Cracker Barrel experience.
Their very recognizable logo is the least outstanding figure on the site.
The links on the left column navigation bar sort of look like afterthoughts.
Instead of a Locations link, there really should be a prominent spot on the Home Page to enable a search of the location of the nearest restaurant. It should also provide the address, phone number, hours, and menu of those locations.
They’ve got these great trivia games that are integral to the Cracker Barrel model, but the games page does not endorse the restaurant at all! It features neither the logo or a great tag line or a link to daily specials or anything! If a visitor comes from a search engine directly to this page they probably won't even realize they're on a restaurant's website, let alone Cracker Barrel’s. So what good are these games if they're not advertising the company?
And for our final lambast on poor Cracker Barrel:
Their restaurants have a very nostalgic feel both inside and out. The website, although it feels extremely dated, doesn’t really convey the attitude of the restaurants.
In other words, a site’s design can still be modern (clean, bold, easy to read and navigate, and build brand awareness) while staying true to the concept. Visitors like the look of nostalgia, but they are less than patient when sites “act” old. Cracker Barrel is not visually or effectively shouting out.
Our bottom line here is that a better designed website and interface could greatly benefit them and anyone else who takes a cue about what not to do. We’d appreciate your buy-in…if you come across a site that you believe requires a cyber-assessment, please let us know in the comments. And if you disagree with any of our opinions, then we really want to know that too!