It was really gratifying to read this week in Broadcast Magazine, Andy Taylor’s declaration that finally we might start to make money at this digital media malarky. And that investment into it, has finally reached the good old ‘tipping point’ Malcolm Gladwell wrote about all those years ago. We might all finally start getting a return on it, rather than it being a secret sunk cost. And that means SME’s too.
It seems like we’ve all being doing it for years now, and that just like more mature businesses, the cyclical nature of it has emerged. More on that in a later blog.
It has, in fact, only been 15 years since BBC Online launched. When I joined to head up the launch of the Drama and Entertainment ‘categories’ in early 1998 there was a smattering of small sites pre and post the December 1997 launch. Interestingly mainly in radio. However that was probably more to do Sheila Sang. Our esteemed editorial leader then.
Imagine a world without BBC Online…hard isn’t it? And yet it’s only 15 years.
I had no clue what I was doing then (probably still don’t – there, I said it before anyone else did), however we did launch a huge range of digital content. Some more groundbreaking than others – like E4.com. Some more commercially successful than others – not E4.com then! (That was 10 years ago, sigh!).
Although we can’t visualise life without the internet, it is still a nascent unchartered medium for a lot of folk who are using it to create commercial and / or marketing opportunities for themselves and their businesses.
The subject is especially close to my heart, as I am tutoring a bunch of students all things digital at Ravensbourne College. They are starting from scratch as creators of digital products (mainly websites) rather than consumers of it.
They are just discovering the giant world of difference between consumption and creation of digital products.
They are not alone. There are a plethora of business websites out there commissioned by people who don’t have the expertise to differentiate between what is good or what isn’t. Or what will drive their business and what won’t. For them it’s an often opaque art, impenetrable, and full of language that is completely meaningless to them. And why would it be anything else.
My lovely friends, who own a small yet very successful business have just come a cropper with their new site. It’s a shocker. Aside from it being barely functional, it has dummy text on the LIVE site for over a month now, and no one knows how to change it.
And don’t get me started on SEO. One of my neighbours, also an SME’er, was paying £200 a month for site analytics he could get free from Google.
I guess it’s a bit like getting quotes for replacing your boiler, in the end you are so blind-sided by the gaping chasm between the plumbers knowledge of boilers and yours that you go on personality and reviews in the end. And that, sadly, doesn’t mean you are going to get a good job.
So back to my students at Ravensbourne, who are just starting their journey and will one day be pitching for our business; They have created a check list of what is really important to know before you contract.
Apologies that this is very top level. If you want to add to it, please do and feed back your additions. If you want to share it with your friends who are commissioning a website, then feel free to share.
So our top 5 recommendations are…
1. REALLY know what it is you want your website achieve for you. It can have multiple purposes, however you must be clear about the hierarchy of what you want / need it to do. For example if it is to sell your products, make sure your customers are not more than a click away from purchasing at all times. And never have that function below the fold. If it’s just a branding exercise (like my site) make sure the brand is visible, sharp, and tells you what it is.
2. I know it’s totally unsexy, and you really want to just see the beautiful designs. However a wire-frame of how the site hangs together is really important. The wireframes entire purpose is to accomplish your business objective. It does this by ensuring your customer is clearly signposted to where you want them to go. And just a teeny other thing to remember on this; Because of Google (and other search engines) people no longer start at your homepage and take a linear journey through your site. Another good reason to play with a wireframe before you start design.
3. Please, Please if you take no notice of the rest of these tips, take notice of this one. The rule of thirds is a guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as paintings or photographs. It’s a basic design principal which guides the points of interest on a page from where the eye is draw subconsciously.
Graphic courtesy of Pinterest.
So 41% of people look at the top left quadrant first, before they look anywhere else on your page. It’s obvious when you think about it because we read from left to right in the West. So top left, or across the entire top centre, should be where all your important stuff should be.
Name any movie poster, the star of the vehicle has their name top left. Always. It’s always top left or right across the top, left to right. I challenge you to find a movie that has different billing. Please send it here.
Of course, always one to break a rule myself, there are reasons why you might want to deviate from the rule of thirds. For example BBC iPlayer is redesigning their homepage, because their top left ‘recommendations’ are being ignored by their audience. They want to recommend their own playlist, and not have those of an anonymous BBC iPlayer editor!
4. Don’t forget people will want to look at your site on their phones, tablets, and different web browsers to you. So make sure your site renders as you want it across a range of the most used platforms. There are quite a few fantastic device simulators freely available on the net which will mock up what your customer sees. Insist your designer does this. And don’t be fobbed off if they tell you it’s really hard to code. It isn’t. Hell, even Dreamweaver has the functionality to enable this. You can also do it yourself really easily by just dropping in your web address on this site. http://spoon.net
5. Don’t be blinded by expensive Search Engine Optimisation strategies, and the need to embrace social media. Consider these elements really very carefully, especially social media. Once you are out there in the digital space, there’s no going back. Of course you want people to find you, however you want them to find you for the right reasons. If you don’t, you could have negative sentiment and brand perception whizzing around the world. Yes the World.
Most Marketeers will tell you a strong brand perception begins Online these days. And you’ve got just 8 seconds to give your customers what they want when they land on your site. If they don’t get it, they’re either gone for good, or your brand’s golden halo is forever tarnished.
I’m going to be running a series of workshops and Webinars on this for SME and Entrepreneurs after the Summer so if you’re interested please do get in contact.