Always play your trumps. That’s what my dear old Aunty used to
say. “How the hell do you expect to win if you lead off suit?”
Words usually followed by a sharp kick under the table to remind
you not to do it again.
Sure she was talking about Eucre but she could well have been
commenting on web sites. The logic is the same. If you don’t
play to your strengths you won’t take many tricks. Why is it
then that this principle is overlooked so often on the web?
It is amazing, (or frightening if you are the one writing the
cheques), how many web sites conceal their most useful content.
Spending more time on animated flash intros and e-prefixing
mission statements than thinking about how and why people are
going to be using their site. Unfortunately not all companies
have a vigilant Aunty to keep recalcitrant webmasters in line.
The web at the moment is a bit like when you first buy an
answering machine. No one leaves a message until you realise
that the Richie Benaud impression your mates thought was so
funny down at the pub, is actually irritating people who just
want you to ring them back. Think functionality. Why did you get
a web site in the first place? Remember it is a tool not a
Don’t hide your content. Placing a web site’s marquee content
several clicks deep is the equivalent of placing a direct
marketing flyer inside three envelopes and then hiding it in the
bush next to the mailbox. Just plain dumb.
Visibility is the key. The reality is that on average half the
visitors to your web site will not progress past the home page.
The back button is the most commonly used navigation aid for web
surfers. This means that unless your key content is up front and
exposed the chances are that it will be missed or passed over
for an alternative. This is not rocket science. This is basic
There is a commonly quoted rule of thumb within web development
that any item should be no more than three clicks away from any
other item on a web site. This should be considered a maximum
not the norm. Especially regarding navigation from the first
point of entry. Content should be up front and obvious. Even if
it’s only a tease of what’s available inside. Porn sites have
been doing that for years, and let’s face it they’re the only
ones making money from pure content on the web anymore.
If you’ve got a good deal going, put it on the home page not
tucked away in your product catalogue. If you have a member’s
area let everyone else know what they’re missing out on.
Don’t be afraid of the telephone. Web users are becoming
increasingly savvy and selective about the way they use the
Internet. The web is a tool to obtain information, not a means
of being funneled through predetermined pathways.
Fast track them to your sales team not insult their intelligence
by using some feedback form addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some businesses spend more on a bold Yellow Pages ad than they
do on their whole Internet strategy, yet still leave phone
numbers off their web sites.
The Internet is a flawed medium. But then so are telephones,
television and the press. The key is in recognising what it does
well and what it does not. It is unlikely to deliver untold
riches but it may shave a few dollars off your information
delivery costs, or help compliment your latest marketing
campaign, or become a mouthpiece for corporate announcements.
But don’t forget the best thing that your site can do is to is
direct potential customers to your sales team.
Although e-commerce is now about as popular as e-coli and your
sports car driving web consultant is now serving lattes on
Chapel Street, it should be remembered that a web site is only
as good as the use that is made of it. If it remains idle and
static it might as well be a museum piece. It is a tool not a
gravy train. Your customers may not like to purchase online, but
if used correctly the web site can still be an invaluable sales