Inspired by Krista's post on Mercedes Benz's USA website I started thinking about what makes a site better than the next. I mentally tried to make an extensive list of items, but failed miserably. The truth is I really don't think that there are all that many things you should think about when designing your site's architecture. What strikes first is that so many people simply ignore such a short list. What hit me after that is how many people ignore this short list. And then it stroke me again.
Following is a description of the list's items and descriptions.
Get me there. Pronto.
A straight line is the shortest distance between two points. In your web you should have as many straight lines as you can. People want to get to their point of interest quickly. To achieve this not only you need to have a lot of links handy at every page but you need to order them in a clear and understandable way, and shouldn't cause any clutter. In the good old days of web 1.0 3 or 4 clicks were acceptable; nowadays I fear that 2 is the limit for most cases. (there are exceptions, of course, some processes, like shopping carts or finding drivers can take longer in terms of clicks and people are used to that).
Keep it understandable.
Although it might get a little bit into the graphic design part of it (it's inherent to a good architecture) which I intend to cover on a later post it is an important point to underline. Keep design simple understandable and expectable up to a certain extent. An example: Say you have roll-out menus. We've all seen them in the past as drop downs or coming from the left side bars (rolling from left to right). Now we also have some coming form bottom up (haven't seen any in web, but the windows start button rolls in that direction, although I find it annoying). So, in your design you go ahead and put up roll outs that work from right to left... it simply wont work (well, it probably will in Israel, for example, since they write in that direction), people are not used to do things that seem "unnatural", out of place or too unexpected.
You must know where you stand.
Keep visible and URL clues (if possible) of where people are standing inside the hierarchy of the site. It is imperative to know with just a glance how "deep" or "specific" the page you are looking at is. Thus you can easily go to any other "level" you want.
Search is your best friend.
A comprehensive internal search engine is imperative. As sites keep growing in sections and content a search engine is usually a very powerful tool to easily get to the intended places. Ideally you should also be able to "customize" some search terms. Think of it as some sort of internal ad words. Of course you need to be extra careful when setting it up and using it, since you sure don't want to abuse this and ruin the real use of an internal search.
Logical consistency in design architecture is a must. Few things are more annoying than the feeling that everything is out of place after a few pages. This should apply to all areas, from URLs to graphic design.
Only 5 highlights. That's the list I think you must keep in mind when designing the architecture for a website. 5 things many (many!!) sites refuse to acknowledge.
Lately I've been devoting myself to some of my "old" pastimes. One of them is music. After all I have a major in musical composition. It's quite nice to be back fiddling my bass and guitar for a change.
On the other hand Luciana and I want to travel some more, so weekends are usually an escape for us. Latest Destination was Rosario, some 360km north of Buenos Aires. The excuse? Going to a Cielo Razzo concert.
I'll post some Photos once Silvio gets them!
The book of good partner care reads: thou shall not have competitive direct prices or thou'll cannibalize your partner.
How true is this? The shallow reading is that is as true as it gets. After all it sounds logical, if you compete directly with your partners, and beat their prices, people will buy directly instead of looking for them.
But we have learnt that things aren't always what they seem. And there's more than meets the eye. Enough for quotations.
Today we know web is first and foremost communication. Its a permanent and always available advert and information site about what you do, sell, provide and what-not. As part of that scheme of things people will go and visit sites (corporate sites, that is) looking for information. And the most important piece of data you can deliver to users is a price.
People think with their pockets. The first thing you look for when shopping is the (always hidden) price tag. If you consider the price is fare for what you are holding in your hands you'll probably go forward and buy it.
Now, what happens when the price is to high? you feel discouraged, go across the street and buy the equivalent from the competition.
The same stands true for web. Or even more so in web, where you have instant access to competition's sites, and don't even have to walk there.
On the other hand if a price seems fair one of two things might happen:
a. People buy that immediately.
b. People try to get an even better price.
(of course I've neglected mentioning c -> people who wont buy, them bastards!)
The worst thing you can do from a web marketing standpoint is to have high prices on display. It'll do nothing but hurt your business back and forth, from potential direct buyers to potential buyers who would of otherwise went to a partner to buy.
The digital camera anecdote.
I was asked to buy a digital camera for a relative of mine. So I went to various "official" web sites looking for specs and prices. Sony had some nice specs and not-so-bad prices. Panasonic had no prices at all, so I couldn't care less about them. After deciding on a model I searched sony's list of partners and bought from them a shiny new camera.
Having owned a panasonic before I was fond of the brand. But since I had little time to get the specs and prices I decided to ignore them.
- Make no updates
- Take no decisions
- Don't listen to your audience
- Wait for others to do your job
- Deprecate any emerging technologies
My Brother, Alex, found a very interesting link today and he decided to share.
In 1938 my grandfather bought a brand new BMW 328, which he brought to Argentina (I think there is a picture of my grandma sitting in the far too loaded BMW some place at my mom's). The model is has become one of the most wanted items for collectors, and too far beyond my reach.
There are endless stories around the 328, like the time when a cop pulled my grandpa off the road for speeding, gazed at the speedometer-less cabin said "sorry Mr. I must of been confused this car can only hit 60 km" I guess no-one ever clarified he was looking at the "60" in the tachometer.
I was told the car was even Driven by Manuel Fangio, five time Formula one World Champion, amongst other very relevant motor sport figures. (The car allegedly one quite a few legal races and quite some more illegal ones!)
Now it looks like that same car made it to the UK during the 1980's. Here's what my brother found.
I couldn't but help feel a little bit sad about a part of my family's history so far away and out of reach. We still keep the anecdotes, though.
I changed a couple of colours and the main image. The photo was taken by me a couple of days ago after a huge storm.
Also added CreativeCommons Licence... a Must...
During the following weeks I'll keep making changes and additions.
I'm anything but a Marketing expert, and I'm pretty much aware that I lack tons of knowledge and data to make any breakthroughs on the matter. On the other hand I've been around the web long enough in order to know a thing or two about it. So I though I'd try to order some ideas into a blog entry. Original, ain't I?
So, what are the fundamentals for good web marketing? I think there is no rule of thumb, some secret recipe you can apply in order to be successful; but there are some basics you must cover in order to achieve success. Then there are the "add-ons", special things you can do, which differentiate you from other sites and campaigns. But let's start from the baics.
1. A good campaign needs a good site, the "do-oh" rule.
Nice, you finally have the budget to advertise and chub your URL down every web-surfer's throat. So you're done; you open accounts at yahoo, google, and every other advertising site. You drop banners everywhere, your pop-ups even appear on TV when people do sapping over the XXX channels. Great, now everyone is going to your site.
The visitors curve goes up, up and away. Away? This darn thing costed millions. Dude, let me tell ya' you've just wasted some perfectly good money.
What went wrong. Basically: your site sucks. And that is the worst publicity you can have. Nowadays a company's website is regarded as a reflection of the company itself. The perception of your website can be broken into two main items, both of which have to be perfect:
- Look and Feel. Simply put, how does it look? Does it look consistent? is there anything out of place, or even worst, broken? Is it attractive, ordered, easy to navigate and read?
- Functionality. Are servers stable? are there broken links or dead ends? Are things easy to find? is the internal search any good? Is it fast? Is it effective? Does it work the way it's supposed to, making customer's life easy? Does it cover all scenarios? (like support, shopping, info, docs, and the like).
If you fail on any of these (or both) not only will you loose the money you spent on advertising your site, but you'll indirectly loose a lot more money in negative experience and word of mouth (the usual "I went to N's website, it actually sucks, I couldn't do what I wanted / never found what I was looking for / never worked")
To sum it up, your first major investment should be in the site itself. Make it nice, simple and easy to use. I can't underline enough that a web page is a company's most visible face.
While I was writing this, David Churbuck made us remember why this is the "do-oh" rule.
2. There are multiple roads to the same place.
There's no rule-of-thumb for efficient campaigning. No secret recipes, no magical mystery tours to web marketing effectiveness. You can try the most common things and be successful or fail or you can go the hard, out-of-the-box way and be successful or fail.
What you need to have is a clear vision about what the aims of web marketing (and content) are. "I just want to sell" is not a good objective, trust me on this one, everyone "just wants to sell" (either in advertising or consumer products). That's the base of web marketing, so you need another "twist" besides that. For example your aim might be to communicate you deliver the best product.
Bearing in mind your audience is also imperative. The type and channels of your marketing campaigns will be greatly determined by the recipients of such campaigns. Say you are a sports shoes manufacturer, you might target a very "niche" audience of people devoted to sports or you might want your products to be hype and aim for a broader audience.
Keep in mind who you want to reach before you start figuring out the how.
3. Web in not a galaxy that far away.
Most things you've learnt from "traditional" marketing can be easily applied and thought for web marketing. As a matter of fact you can regard web marketing as just another communication and sales channel. It has some great advantages over "traditional" media. Its infinitely more measurable and immediate. Word of mouth can be bigger than advertising, and it's usually cheaper than any other stuff you do.
That being said it does have some drawbacks. People are more reluctant to believe in things they read/see on the web (blame spam, scams and hoaxes for that!); so you have to be more convincing. Advertising (in banners, ad-words and the like) is less effective (although MUCH more measurable) since web-surfers tend to develop a "filter" for ads. Don't trust me on this one? simple exercise for you, make a list of 10 sites you visit regularly, and try to remember if they have ads and where.
4. A lot to do.
Since technologies and trends are always evolving there's usually a lot of catching up to do in terms of marketing and content. The result is you'll be always looking at new stuff and approaches, changing along with the tide... well, that is if you want to keep up to date. This is usually so, although there are quieter times. Currently we are amidst the Web 2.0 hype, and if you don't have AJAX and social stuff you're totally off tune... only god knows what the trends will be in the future.
This does not mean you should be following and applying every single trend and fancy stuff that sees the light of day, truth is you probably don't need to use 99% of the new things, but it's important to be updated, to know what has changed, is changing and will change, because you never know what you might end up using or what might inspire you.
5. The basics.
-Present a nice and user friendly site.
-Web Marketing should go along with other non-web campaigns (this brings a sense of uniqueness and coherence, and besides there are people who are already only-web).
-Stay up-to-date with trends and technologies, but don't became slave to them.
-Update contents frequently! (and then update again). This makes visitors return to your site.
This is, probably, the first of a series of unordered thoughts I display here. After I get them out I might come back and make some sense out of it... then again that might not happen at all. Either way... I'm trying to hook you up and return some time.
My brain is still trying to process it. I've read around 20 articles on the subject, with different opinions and still can't make my own.
The webcast portraying the event is available at novell's website.
The thing is this: through god-knows-what legal resources MS and SUsE staff had made open source and proprietary patents somehow compatible. Of course this will go under serious scrutiny over the next months and some issues might rise, but the unthinkable has happened.
If Microsoft weren't Microsoft I'd gladly say a huge step towards common sense has been made. That the OS and computer industries will benefit largely form this, that it was a bold and intelligent move. But Microsoft has it's large personal record in taking advantage of such deals, whilst their counterparts loose enormously. The Apple Computer Inc. vs. Microsoft Corp. case comes to mind immediately.
Please list me on the sceptics list for this one.
To further support my scepticism while researching for this entry I came across an interesting entry on MS's web, dated November 3rd, with a very subtle title: Migrate from Novell.
We have only seen the tip of the iceberg here, but something already smells fishy...
PS: Ubuntu is starting to look very interesting as a replacement for my SUsE 9.3...
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Today... or during the course of this week I'll embrace a task only matched by those of Sir Francis Drake, Columbus or Magellan.
Well I'm exaggerating, but it sure does sound good.
Before you jump into it with your cool, fancy and new iPod, let me warn you this runs only on the first 3 generations of iPod. I'm cool with that since I have owned one of those since 2002 (go ahead, make the math: it's a first generation...)
The only thing that kind of makes me doubtful is that I'm reluctant to make backups of... well pretty much anything, and I'm not too much into ripping all the CDs I've tossed into the small gadget over the past 4 years yet again.
Shall I be brave and daring? I'll let you know the outcome of such adventure later this week.