What is a Content Management System?
A content management system (CMS) is a web application that allows you to easily manage your website. A CMS can be an extremely powerful tool allowing you to create, manage, distribute, and publish information. Or it can be as simple as allowing you to update just one page of your site. […]

Empty plastic bags roll through a cracked and patched pavement parking lot. Shopping carts are scattered about… some maneuvering themselves unmanned through the rows of unpopulated parking spaces of the Electronics-O-Rama. The store signage is in disarray, and the glass of the storefront is fogged and dirty. The color scheme of the decrepit building is like that of a circus tent, plastered with fliers and promotional signs made with poster-board and Sharpies. However, on the inside of this dilapidated place of business is the brightest team of individuals ever to be in customer service, and their product is one in a million. No one comes close in either quality or customer satisfaction, but few customers have even thought twice about giving them the chance to prove themselves.

Electronics-O-Rama suffers from poor perceived credibility. The surface of their business, the “visual handshake,” is lacking a quality that the competition offers, though the competition can’t offer the same quality product or service.

Just how important is perceived credibility? Many small retail establishments have faded over the years to flashier, bigger, chain retailers providing the same products with worse customer service, or in some cases worse products (and customer service). What makes Best Buy more credible than Joe’s TV’s? The answer…

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Sep 30, 2009

Web Language

It can be a bit confusing trying to figure out what language people are using to communicate on the web with.  “I’ve got one of those HTML pages” or “My site is dot net!” – but what does that really mean?  How can we distill something more than “My site is better than yours.” Hopefully the following information will help to clear the fog.

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There is a book in our office that has been required reading for all staff members for the last 3 years.  This book is called “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.  The book is about usability of website design and how you don’t want to have your site visitors have to think when they visit your website.  There should be a clear purpose to the site that spells out to the site visitor what you want them to do next, whether it is to fill out a contact form, buy a product, pick up the phone and call you, request a quote now, search for a dealer in their area, refer your site to a friend or apply now.

Don't Make Me Think - Book

Don't Make Me Think - Book

The book is deceptively simple and most of the information in it seems so straight forward and obvious, because… well, it is.  It is a clear message that doesn’t require thought and offers examples of how to enact better usability on your website, or websites you produce.

It is easy to get caught up in the message of your site without thinking about how that message is being received by others.  Sure a 5,000 word dissertation on what your product does can be informative, but it can also be overkill, or even boring and not worth the time of a busy internet suffer who is just trying to determine if your product can provide the particular benefit they are looking for.

When you are the provider of a product or service it is easy to be too close to the message – too “in-the-know” to be able to see how the site is coming across to others who are not “in-the-know” on your product or service.  Maybe usability testing is something you should consider.  This is basically a test audience who does not know your company and it’s products or services.  Let them navigate your site and see if they get it as quickly as you think they will.

Usability studies can be as simple as inviting a trusted friend over to try out your site and give feedback to doing a full fledged study with hired testers, video taped sessions, surveys and reporting.  However you do it, do at least something so you have good, third-party feedback on your site.

Most importantly, think of your call-to-action – that clear purpose to the site that spells out to the site visitor what you want them to do next.  Make sure your call to action is ever-present, on every page, reminding your visitors what you expect them to do next.  Sometimes a little redundancy is ok.

Too many business owners get caught in the trap of making a website something that they like as opposed to researching what type of site will best convert visitors into buying customers.  I commonly hear “I want” this or “I want” that without having answers to how a customer might percieve those things.  I’m not saying the site shouldn’t be an online reflection of your business – it should, and it should be appropriately branded – but, site usability, content displayed and specific features added should be geared towards your client’s likes and dislikes.

The site is a sales tool, and like all sales tools and marketing messages it can be refined and tweaked to better convert customers.  The only way to refine your marketing materials is to step back from being emotionally involved and look at your material from a strictly analytical view.

If your site is not a sales tool but provides a service itself, such as an e-commerce site or membership-based site, then you need to be even more aware of your customer’s wants and needs because with websites, you always have stiff competition that will try and woo your client base with features specifically tailored to them.

Regardless of your site, stay in communication with your customers and solicit feedback from them on their impressions of the site.  Ask them want they like, what they don’t like, what they wish the site had and what they would change about it.  Visit your competitor’s websites to stay on top of new features they add.  Keep track of your website traffic stats to monitor changes in traffic as you tweak your online message.

No matter how optimistically it is presented, no matter how often it is mentioned that “everyone’s onboard” and no matter how much you want to believe it will work for the better, design by committee is a process that delays the completion of a website that no one involved will be happy with.

I have seen this situation play out countless times on website development projects throughout the years. When a committee is involved everyone has to compromise to some degree yet no one wants to. Someone has to sign off on design work yet no one is willing to do so until everyone is in agreement. Someone has to direct the design team and provide timely feedback yet no one wants do so independently without a scheduled meeting.

Everyday, sites with a single point of contact move quickly through the system. There is less spreading out of the information that is shared, so consultations have more impact. Impromptu meetings can occur on a moments notice. Feedback is immediate. All involved in the project stay engaged from start to finish.

Don’t let your website development project become a burden and use your committee as an excuse to procrastinate until later – have a single point of contact for your website that is committed to it’s delivery.