Monthly Archives: June 2014

Web design mistakes companies make

Web design mistakes companies make

There are common web design mistakes companies make which tell customers that communication and support is secondary. They should know better. It’s a dead giveaway when the stock holder, for instance, is given a link when the customer isn’t. That company’s landing page may be responsive with big branding statements, but their anti-social tendencies and communication avoidance is bigger because of a lack of prioritization.

It’s hard to believe these mega companies are making common website design mistakes – putting important information below the fold, for instance – when they spend millions on advertising and public relations campaigns. While these web design mistakes companies make often result from risk aversion (i.e., Legal and Compliance departments won’t allow a company Facebook page, or they clog the flow of company news), a lack of usability on a company’s landing page immediately reveals how much the company really cares about opening their door for customers.

chevron website goodA relevant example of web design mistakes companies make is found when comparing two of the very biggest players in energy – Chevron and ExxonMobile. While these companies are doing a lot of things right on their websites, one of them is communicating – whether true or not – that their priority is with the stockholder first.

 

Company Website Landing Page

Visible Social Links

Visible Recent News

Visible Contact Link

Innovative Design

Company Stock Ticker

Exxonmobil.com

NO

NO

NO

YES

YES

Chevron.com

YES

YES

YES

NO

NO

 

ExxonMobil website badWhat ExxonMobil has here is a failure to offer readily available communication tools to the average customer. While their design is higher on the awesomeness factor than Chevron’s, their lack of blogging and below-the-fold availability of social media and company contact information keeps the user searching for too long. In fairness to ExxonMobil’s designers, the massive SEARCH box at the top of the page is one of the most utilitarian features we’ve seen, but by placing too many marketing call-out boxes above the fold, they’re telling the customer that making an impression is more important than anything else.

You’ll find many websites gabbing on about how great designs are impacting clients’ impressions. But functionality and utility always trump design where customer service is important. Image is not everything – not when those people are trying to find a solution to a problem by searching for the CONTACT link at the top of the landing page.

Common web design mistakes companies make:

  • No visible social media links “above the fold”
    It’s hard to understand how big business misses the boat on social media. But they do. Often, these button-down types have LinkedIn accounts but fail to leverage their existing users and those who are following them with this massive social marketing tool. Like it or not, clients expect Twitter, Facebook and even the others like Pinterest.
  • No recent news  “above the fold”
    It’s called a blog, but most Fortune 500 businesses still don’t have one on their home pages. The fact of the matter is that investors and customers are much less likely to visit the website unless new information is made available on a daily basis.
  • No contact link “above the fold”
    Most clients are not interested in reading about a company’s high opinion of itself – especially when they’re looking for a quick solution to a problem. Netflix.com gets this mostly correct, for instance, by linking clients to that place where all their problems can be resolved: HELP CENTER.
  • No slogan describing the business “above the fold”
    Unfortunately, not even dow.com associates their logo or places this information above the fold. These executives shouldn’t assume the public – or their potential investors – know what their multi-billion dollar company does simply because sycophants around them do. These are web design mistakes companies make, but that are easy to avoid.
  • No sales funnel “above the fold”
    In the beginning steps for building a website, both big and small, website managers must include a sales funnel for moving new customers into revenue generators. The sales funnel visually carries the user along the sales process from their first visit on the site to the final sale. New customers also appreciate the assistance.

By designing a website landing page with glitz and fabricated nuance, a big company can reinforce their innovative branding; nonetheless, once those first few seconds elapse for the customer the sense of alienation will start to sink in. Design mistakes start with website managers who put too much emphasis on visual attractiveness and not enough focus on knowing what it is their customer needs.

Communication to customers should be the reason for your website, after all.

Schedule content before anything else

Schedule content before anything else

Let’s update the procedures for building a website. Before considering the site architecture or web graphics, schedule content before anything else. We all know by now that having a website is not enough, and one thing many website managers have in common is that they forget that blog and content writers should be required to wear many hats. It’s no longer enough to send an email with a document attached.

Direct writers to post content “off page”
First, let’s tell it like it is – your content is more effective when it’s “off page.” Your customers come to your website because they need answers to a problem or want to contact someone to help them with an issue. They don’t want to read boasts about your company. Therefore, consider content on your website the window dressing that gets in the way of what they need. Unless your website is updated on an hourly basis or you are offering some other real-time service or product through it, users are ignoring your news feeds altogether. Instead of putting content above the fold, put contact information above the fold and relevant troubleshooting solutions. Most customers want answers from your website, not thought leadership. When you do put content on it, make sure it’s focused on solutions and value pertaining to existing services. This strategy is often more successful for funneling customers because it has context on your products.

Direct writers to post on multiple venues
Because a website is the auxiliary to an overall portfolio of managed digital services that support an overall media strategy, a good website manager funnels customers to a website from those “off page” resources they’ve negotiated. To schedule content before anything else means to find those resources and make sure the writers post to them. These resources include the following:

  • Customer feedback venues
  • Social media communities
  • Conference and Trade Show networks
  • Award and competition initiatives
  • Allied partners
  • Traditional news media

Have writers contribute using social media tools
The argument for posting to multiple venues is further supported by the ease with which writers can post to these outlets already familiar to them. The price of content writing reflects the ease. Website managers should put less emphasis on posting to their own websites and more emphasis on getting writers to contribute to those digital venues outside the company, especially LinkedIn and Facebook. A hired writer needs no special training posting to Facebook where a custom Joomla or complicated Word Press integration implies higher fees for the contributors.

Negotiate writers to create email “Newsletter” digests
Somewhere along the way marketers decided sending emails to customers and subscribers was a waste of time. reuters-news-digestIn reality, news digests that aggregate information is making a comeback. Check out Reuters.com‘s free news aggregation service that lets subscribers specify what headlines show up in their inbox. By hiring writers to create newsletters, you can pluck stories from them while maintaining a fresh and periodic media outlet that your customers will appreciate.

Pricing should be negotiated on an hourly basis
For far too long, website managers have considered a static word count the guidepost for paying writers. Because a picture is worth a thousand words and videos much more, the price of content writing should be based on time and quality, not quantity. Consider using oDesk or Elance online outsourcing venues which offer hourly tracking software to monitor contractors’ time on projects.

Buy in bulk when negotiating the price of content writing 
Contracting content in bulk allows website managers to schedule postings throughout the year, with designated posting times that are friendly to Google algorithms because it demonstrates freshness, originality and organization. It also saves website managers money. Contracting content should be for daily, weekly or monthly posts – ignore any advice suggesting there could be a one-time price paid for parking content on a website. (Google ignores websites with old news displayed prominently.)

Where five years ago it was enough to have a website, today’s successful marketing professionals know the elements to successful digital marketing derive from the division of off page referencing, including sourcing information from emails they receive on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. To schedule content before anything else means hiring writers based on these aspects.

Auto Scaling your bandwidth limits

Auto Scaling your bandwidth limits

The definition of auto scaling is when the web server automatically scales due to spikes in web traffic. Nodes are added and subtracted like a rubber band. A feature offered only from the most reputable web hosting companies, automated parameters trigger increases when needed, automatically adding more nodes when physical demands are required on the web server.

Server hosts don’t like it when website managers use auto scaling to avoid reaching a site bandwidth limit. They don’t like it because with preset triggers there is no need to contract additional server hosting space that will go unused most of the time. By auto scaling your bandwidth limits, spikes are covered at a huge savings because you only pay for the spike. Billing changes proportionally with the instance of auto scaling, but paying for occasional usage is better than paying every month for capacity you don’t need.

Website managers make the mistake time and time again. First, they rebrand a client’s website into something beautiful and useful, but frugality gets them in trouble because they choose a hosting option that doesn’t allow for scalability in regard to pipe limits.

Only a few hosting companies offer it, including Amazon and Rackspace. Others will try to sell you on a dedicated server costing hundreds of dollars per month. But you don’t need to spend a lot to auto scale your site bandwidth limit. Avoiding the dreaded Bandwidth Limit Reached for this Site does not require buying extra capacity that you don’t need. Instead, auto scale your site bandwidth limit by insisting your hosting company provide the technology to do it. Or find a hosting company that does.

Auto Scaling for WebsitesThere are many aspects to consider when choosing a hosting provider. But the biggest problem a website manager is likely to encounter – especially on shared hosting plans – is bandwidth limits caused by too little RAM. Most shared services allow a maximum 1 GB RAM at any one time, which means there’s no way to scale the traffic when a post suddenly goes viral. That means when your website gets more than 10,000 users at any one moment, users will start receiving errors.

Auto Scaling is the first – and perhaps most important – dynamic to look at when choosing your hosting service. But other aspects do matter.

  • Site Bandwidth Avoidance System – Remember that the website manager is the captain of the ship, so contracting a web hosting service that provides auto scaling is the first step. Once contracted, the website manager monitors the controls and sets autopilot, but he or she also needs to check in regularly to make sure the settings are correct for the site bandwidth limit avoidance system. A hired technician to manage the website’s server shouldn’t require more than a few hours per month. Check the logs and ensure the proper auto scaling parameters are in place.
  • Server Location Matters – The server datacenter location should be within 100 miles of your primary place of business with redundancy spread out. Most reputable auto scale website servers will have multiple datacenters across the continent. For instance, if your client is located in Greenville, South Carolina, you could shoot for a datacenter in Atlanta, Georgia, less than 150 miles away. Make sure there’s redundancy in other big cities like New York City; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, San Francisco and Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Network Transfer is also important – Users might have up to 3 terabytes of transfer assigned for a given month, but a viral post will exceed this limit in a matter of hours if you don’t have auto scale technology activated for transfer limits as well as for load balancing. A proactively managed hosting service has built-in technology that monitors the CPU and RAM resources and monthly bandwidth. The more traffic required, the more physical resources will be dedicated to the system – automatically.
  • No Shared Services – While those discount hosting services are tempting, shared hosting services will inevitably create problems when a website grows, usually because these services don’t offer auto scaling technology. Auto Scaling services are included in monthly plans costing less than $150/month, a price that will pay off in spades when your website goes viral.

If you plan in advance to use auto scaling for managing your site bandwidth limits, servers will upgrade automatically during times of intense traffic on a website. Should traffic on the website exceed expected levels, auto scaling responds with additional bandwidth to cover traffic.

Document management system roles

Document management system roles

Website managers should assign the following document management system roles for sharing documents on a website – Users, Reviewers and Administrators. Once in place, the structured workflow of a document management system, or DMS, makes each of these roles accountable and responsible for finalizing documents. After all, it is the document management system roles that provide unique content for websites beyond what a simple content management system (CMS) like WordPress will do.

A generation ago, there were Electronic Document Management (EDM) systems that specified document extensions based on proprietary nomenclature. But for today’s document management system roles there are no limitations on what types of files these participants upload and manage. Static websites are no longer sufficient because websites are fast becoming the destinations for peer review of all types of content for compliance, legal or group review requirements.

For tracking, approving and storing electronic documents on a website, the document management system provides a library of PDFs, spreadsheets and other files that make websites useful for visitors looking for collaborative libraries where useful information can be easily accessed.

Overview of Document Management System Roles:

Document management system roles

  • User Document Submission – The common user can upload the document with specific naming and summary information accompanying it. Once uploaded, the user may also delete or replace the document. Users may or may not choose specific categories when submitting, but users do not typically have the ability to see other user submissions. Their document can be approved or rejected at any time by the administrator.
  • Automatic Email Alerts – Whenever an action is taken by a user the administrator receives an email alert. This parameter may also be extended to reviewers. Time stamps also help keep updates straight for all roles.
  • Administrator Approves Document – This role is typically a unique one assigned to an office employee who is responsible for approving submissions. Because some submissions may be of bad quality or otherwise inappropriate, the administrator has the ability to accept, reject or defer a submitted document according to predefined parameters.
  • Automatic Email to Reviewers – Once the document is approved by the administrator, an email alert goes to all reviewers who are prompted to log in and take action on the document.
  • Reviewers Download Documents – (Reviewers are assigned by the administrator.) Once logged into the DMS, the reviewer will see a list of the approved documents and the associated titles, details and users who submitted them.
  • Reviewers Score & Comment Documents – By writing a reviewer’s own comments and updating the status of each document to Accept, Reject or Defer, he or she provides feedback in a forum for other reviewers to see.
  • Reviewer Discussion – Administrators have the ability to run reports to aggregate all the comments and tally the votes for accepting, rejecting or deferring a document.
  • Reject or Accept or Defer Document – A running tally is summarized for the administrator to finalize a status for the document. Because parameters may differ for how a document is rejected, accepted or deferre, this subjective step may require offline processing and further discussions.
  • Library of Approved Documents – Once a document is deemed “approved” by the administrator, that document will be stored in a public or private directory, with or without reviewer comments in tact. A full audit trail exists for each document.

By assigning the proper document management system roles, website managers generate content to a website’s library of approved documents while meeting deadlines and maintaining accountability. While the DMS is a single component to building a website, it is a powerful workflow tool within a content management system.

What’s more, a website manager delegating these document management system roles is no longer reliant on posting and managing documents on behalf of everyone; instead, the DMS workflow solution is self-sufficient. These three roles take responsibility for posting and managing files on one website so the website manager can sit back and watch the site build itself.

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