Internet Marketing - a Practical Approach
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OF THE BOOK AND SO SOME OF THE CONTENT OF
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Digital Marketing: a Practical Approach

CHAPTER 3 : WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT

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3.1     INTRODUCTION

 simplicity is the ultimate sophistication - Leonardo da Vinci

The issue of weighting of website elements for importance is part of the analysis of this excellent research from Jakob Nielsen - Aspects of Design Quality

Throughout this chapter - and others in the book - an option for completing tasks or functions is to outsource them. However there is a drawback that I don't mention in the text, and here's an example - Music sites go down as ecommerce supplier goes bust.

I made the decision that throughout the book I wouldn't mention the costs of any of the services or products I talk about - but here's an article which does state a price: Site review: Four Seasons $18m redesign. I hasten to add that most websites cost a lot less than eighteen million dollars.

Don't forget there are also website development sections on my own website in tips, hints and advice and interesting articles.


3.2     THE BASICS

The rising popularity of netbooks has added to the problems of web designers, this article - What does rising netbook popularity mean for web designers? - explains why.

practical insight *pg 74* Same page, different name - vital importance: sorry, this article no longer exists.

The only people who are likely to complain about your website design are website designers go online *pg 75* Jacob Nielsen's 'Flash: 99% Bad' - and a couple of examples; form wins out over function and website over engineering. This article Does rich media mean lost sales for etailers? gives practical reasons why keeping a site simple helps customers spend their money, whilst the truth about search engines and Flash addresses the issue of SEs not being able to 'read' Flash content. Furthermore, as any of my students will tell you, I usually have a rant about the use of Flash - and have done so for years - but it seems that finally some of those responsible for effective website design are coming over from the dark side. This article - River Island finally ditching Flash site? - is a well written account that supports my view on the subject. However, read some of the comments on this one - 10 hella sucky Flash / agency websites - to see that all is still not resolved. BTW, I agree totally with the author of the article - and the comments from 'Scott' represent the opposite of our argument. When I complain that the majority of techies/web designers aren't marketers, it is the likes of Scott to whom I refer, he represents just what is so wrong with many ineffective websites. Or try this Q&A session that has some considered answers from one Matthew Don on Flash and SEO.

This article - Usability Key Feature for Auto Sites - reinforces the argument about providing the target audience with what they want rather than giving them 'flashy' websites. Still on the subject of usability, take a look at 67 questions usability testing can answer - it will provide you with a list of some of the issues web developers need to address with regard to usability.

Although Everything You Need To Know About SEO Web Structure & Internal Links says it is about SEO I think it belongs in the section on website development as it shows how 'simple' navigation around a website should be. I am pleased to say that this site meets the 'four clicks' rule - but then I was saying in 1997 that the rule was 'three clicks'. Why? Because it makes sense - I would even say it is obvious. Well it is to me :-)

mini case *pg 76* Ads on your home page: Here's another example - ads on your own site - noooooooooooooooo !

mini case *pg 77* Simplicity is the key: The most visited sites on the web all have simplicity as a core ingredient in their design [take a look at Google], another example is the USA's leading classified-ads site - Craiglist.

research snapshot *pg 77* Download it or lose 'em: Here's some more research on this subject - You've got three seconds, then I'm gone, Bigger picture - plus, in this section of the book I comment on users making a judgement on a website in a fraction of a second - read more on this subject in my musing - first impressions are lasting impressions. Although That slow website of yours isn't just annoying. It's sending business elsewhere looks at a busy period for online shopping it is really about making sure your website downloads quickly. And if you think this subject is old-hat, take a look at Tablets and Load Times and Slow-loading websites cost retailers 1.73bn in lost sales each year, whilst 20 things that could be slowing your website down lists the things that cause slow download. I'm not sure if they are in order of importance, but I totally agree with #1 - so much so that you will note that I changed the social sharing buttons on my website to links to my pages on those sites.

I briefly mention in the text that background music on websites is a no-no. Here's someone who agrees with me - Note to Next: don't make visitors listen to music.

In my sessions I skip over font issues quickly because all websites have got this simply thing right haven't they? Apparently not, see the most common error in Web Sites Nail Value, Poor On Design.

go online *pg 78* Don't laugh - they're your customers: The computer stupidities website.

In my list of 'key issues in presenting a web site to its visitors' I mention keeping the most important content above the page fold. Personally, I think this is still a sound advice - particularly if visitors are arriving from a SERP and may 'bounce' straight off if they do not see what the hope to see. However, this article - The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing - would suggest I am wrong. I would defend my position by saying that; [i] I am referring to home pages onto which visitors might arrive from a search engine results page, and [ii] the pages used in the test seem to be ones that people would naturally expect to scroll down for the full content eg the BBC and New York Times. And here we are three years on, and it would seem I have support from none other than Google, see 60% of Google visitors need to scroll to see high value natural search results.

To address the issue of different size screens, developers can now use responsive design - here's 11 gorgeous examples of responsive design.

go online *pg 80* For more on how text looks on the web: Take a look at my web page showing different examples of online text presentation. This one ow, my eyes - is not only a message to those who think I [and others] are being too simplistic [or boring] when we say text must be dark on light - but an example of why this is absolutely the case. Your Web Content Is Hurting My Eyes and My Brain is another comment on the presentation of text, this time concentrating on alignment.

One aspect of website design I missed in the book was the use of registration forms. Whilst they can serve a purpose [usually, the collection of user data], they are generally deteremental to the usability of the site. I have already given an example of bad practice in my blog [Register - just to check availability?] and Online Retail Registration Restricts Response is a research-based article which proves the point.

In the text I comment on the use of pictures on web pages and here are a couple of articles which endorse my comments - Text is more important than images on the Web and Photos as Web Content. Note that the two authors are among the best in the business.

Jakob Nielsen again - this time the article is about redesign, but it addresses basic issues and includes the quote 'Users don't care about design for its own sake; they just want to get things done and get out' and 'When people are visiting websites or using applications, they don't spend their time analyzing or admiring the design' ... great stuff - see Fresh vs. Familiar.

In the section on in-site search engines I mention the 'red sweater syndrome', I find students think I'm exagerating on this point - but in a keynote presentation from Nick Fox, Google's business product management director for AdWords [at SES San Jose in September 2009] commented on increased searcher sophistication, citing the example that in 2007, people searched for cashmere sweaters 47 different ways. In 2008, people searched for the same keyword phrase 73 different ways.

go online *pg 85* Give site visitors a personality: sorry ... this no longer exists.

For more on persuasive - or persuasion - architecture : read this white paper from Omniture.

practical insight *pg 85* Access for the disabled: The Worldwide Web Consortium.

Here's an example of what happens if you design for only one browser system - not so smart, and another - Noooooooooooooooo !. And if you want to check what any web page looks like in the different browsers, try this site - BrowserShots.

go online *pg 88* Website design guides: The first is the BBC's 12 deadly sins of web site design, with the next being one which is actually a follow-up to it - The BBC's 15 web principles. This one - KISS Your Customers If You Want Them Back - is from a practitioner, as is - 20 Things That Should Never Appear On Your Web Site This last one is not a guide, but an article commenting on some research into online retailers, but it does include a list of the what the sites were judged on - 91 of 100 online retailers flunk the customer service test. Note that there are dozens of such guides around - and the good ones all list more or less the same things.

Not exactly a guide to website design, but this - 10 Best Practices for Online Merchandising - actually serves the same purpose for an e-commerce site.


3.3     ONLINE CREDIBILITY


3.4     CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

A great quote from online content expert, Gerry McGovern: 'Customers don't arrive at your website to know less. They want to know more' - see What the Web is really good for. Furthermore, content [still] Reigns King.

go online *pg 94* Words, what words? Sadly, the text-sucker tool I mention in the text is no longer available, sorry.

For more on contextualization of content, read how web is different from print.

In section 3.2 I question the use of 'hero shots' because they take time to download and use up valuable space without adding to the objectives of the web page. Well, I should have made it clear that both of these negative points can be over-ridden if the image does a specific job. This article - Context Matters - shows that hero shots can work in some circumstances. One line from the article serves to support my stance that web content should be developed for its target market, it says: 'It turned out to be a classic case of how different audiences respond quite differently depending on the context'. However, if that is a good article on a specific type of on-page image, How to Choose Effective Website Photos and Images is probably the only thing you need to read on the subject. Take note: it is in three parts - just follow the links from part one.

mini case *pg 96* David Meerman Scott's Gobbledygook Manifesto, as mentioned in the book. This article has a similar subject - Crimes Against Clarity: Marketese and Malaprops.

In section 3 of the development of textual content, where the target market's expectations of the information presented on a web page, consideration is given to where on the buying cycle the potential buyer is. This article - Why Search Doesn't Really Matter - looks at the same issue from an online perspective. It includes a further example of the stages in a purchase funnel.

As I [try to] say in the book, developing content is not a task to be taken lightly - 14 Ways To Turn On The Content Flow has the same message.

Another example of how amateur content can work is Matt Barrett's Athens Survival Guide.

Research by CDA Ltd - Understanding how people use language when they search online and how this should influence the way brands communicate - resulted in these key findings. Source: Online language pathways.

Jacob Nielsen again - this time a whole wedge of tips on Writing for the Web. In this article - First 2 Words are A Signal for the Scanning Eye - the same author enforces the concept that we scan rather than read website content by suggesting that we actually only see the first two words of each sentence, whilst this one - Writing killer web headings and links - comments on that article and adds more advice.

Quite probably the best in the online-content writing business is the author of this article in which he explains content's importance, and how to develop it The Value of Content Marketing. This article - Product Descriptions: Are You Romancing Your Features? - is more practical, with examples of good practice.

practical insight *pg 104* When an image isn't a picture: See this page of images. With the exception of the text 'close this window' everything on this page is an image - yet only one is a 'picture'.

Take a look at the result of research into what visual features customers expect on retail websites.

Keeping images fresh isn't a problem if you only have a few products, but what if you have thousands? It may not be everything, but image counts for a lot spells out the issues.

In the text I mention 'widgets' - here is an example of how they can be used effectively.

practical insight *pg 107* Oi - you're not allowed in here: Here's some examples - They wouldn't lock the doors of their shops ..., good cause, but bad implimentation, its that old locked [virtual] door ... again. and give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. The cause of this is [too] frequently that designers 'over-engineer' websites by using the latest software - often a release beyond that used by the target audience. This being the case, that target audience - the people who will, ultimately, pay the designers' wages - can't actually see the marketing message. My students will confirm that I make the analogy of an off-line store having door staff who refuse entry if you are wearing last year's fashion - so I really like this picture.


3.5     THE GLOBAL WEB PRESENCE

At the beginning of this section I advise having translations checked by a native speaker, and working at a university means that whenever I have been involved in having website content translated [from English] I have been able to find a student or several who could 'test' the translation. This article - A Five-Step Guide to Take Your Campaign Global - gives a more comprehensive description of the process. After you have read it you might want to reconsider that notion of reproducing your website in a couple of dozen languages.

go online *pg 110* As global brands go you can't get any more universal than America's big auto companies. But their corporate websites have difficulty treating with the world at large, see How US carmakers relate to the world.

For some amusing examples of how literal translations don't work, take a look at this article - Urban Legends - about problems some companies have had in China.

When you are dealing with folk who are not from your country, you have to be extra careful not to offend - you say region ... I say language. - and I'm not the only person with this view, take a look at Don't localize your content unless you're going to do it right.

The advice in Web designs that communicate across cultures is pretty basic - but it includes some very good examples.

David Bowen gets a couple of mentions in the book, and here is some very sensible observations from him on the subject of international websites, see When to go native?.

6 Tips For Reducing The Impact Of Duplication For Global Websites has a focus on SEO, but the content has much wider implications.

In chapter 7 I mention the use of IP addresses to identify where a web-user is located geographically in order to deliver appropriate ads. However, the same technology has other uses with regard to delivery of website content. This article - 8 Applications of IP Geolocation - covers the main issues. For an example of geographic IP identification, go to my website's homepage and click on the 'what I know about you' link in the bottom left-hand corner.

In chapter 1.4 I argue that not all businesses need a website, and there is a similar argument around the question of whether the Internet makes all marketing international because any website can be viewed around the world. I feel strongly that having a website that can be seen globally is not the same as international marketing. That discipline is a much wider subject that includes stuff like 'localize or globalize' and whether to manufacture at home or in the local market, the use of agents and so-on and so-on. On a related theme is this article - 60% of EU cross-border orders can't be completed - which questions whether all retail sites can - or want to - actually sell things around the world.


3.6     WEBSITE MANAGEMENT

go online *pg 111* Lights! Action! Web site? Could it be that the person responsible for website development is its director? Read my views.

research snapshot *pg 112* Tim Berners-Lee talking about the Internet.

Strictly speaking The web is critical. The web team is not is not about website management - but in a way, it is.

Why is it that even the best seem to have a blind-spot when it comes to the web? GE - recognised for its stringent practice of - using its own 'Six Sigma' system - quality management. That system seems to have gone astray for its website which on October 3rd 2008 was still carrying a feature about GE's involvement in the Olympics that ended some six weeks previously.


3.7     LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS

Though not pertinent to many - if not most - B2C traders, the issue of child protection is a serious consideration. Whilst most legislation is with regard to the sexual abuse of children - and so not a concern for any legitimate business - in the USA there is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which mandates that websites must obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information from children under the age of 13. Though no such law exists in the EU, following the guide would be good practice - particularly if you trade in the USA and your product or service might appeal to minors.


CHAPTER EXERCISE

In the chapter exercise you are advised to look at a 'dummy' website for the Cleethorpes Visitors' Association. This link will take you to a front page for the site (the links do not work) - for the exercise, remember that this website was been set up prior to Phillip Ball joining the organization - how many things can you find wrong with it? Go to the site.


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