Tag Archives: Web Design and Development

Pretty/Useless

This Foodie Friday I have restaurant marketing on my mind. That’s the result of some close encounters with restaurant websites.

English: 0

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From time to time I’ll check out places to eat in cities where I’m heading. Of course I use the review sites as a first source of recommendations.  Inevitably if a few places seem to be of comparable quality and hold potential I’ll go to the establishment’s website to do a deeper dive on the menu.  This is where things begin to break down in a couple of ways and there are some broader points which come out of the experience.

Many of the sites are beautiful.  Clearly, someone spent many hours creating a multimedia site complete with music that plays while you experience the site, flash movies that auto-play, and dozens of pictures of happy customers.  Unfortunately, most of these sites are painful to use and are a huge waste of money.  I’ll go even further to say that they do more harm than good.  In the case of restaurant sites, no one cares how the site looks.  Visitors want information, not to be entertained.  They’re pretty and useless.

Think about it.  Why do you visit the site?  Probably, first and foremost, to check out the menu.  Many of the sites I visit force a download (it’s easier to update one file than several pages of the site) and some of those downloads are huge.  Next, I may want to make a reservation so I need to know where the place (Google Maps link!) is and some means of doing so – a phone number or a direct link to Open Table or whatever service the place uses.  Finally, the hours they’re serving and maybe a listing of the specials would be good.  That’s it.  Designers need to focus on the business goals and not on “pretty.” The most important factor in the design of a website is that the website makes it easy for users to find what they want.

The problem isn’t restricted to restaurants.  If you’ve built a site and not had a discussion with the design and coding team about business goals for the site, target audiences, analytics you’ll be using to measure activity and success, or how you’ll be marketing (SEO implications), you’ve missed the mark.   Unlike the restaurants with crappy sites, there probably aren’t lots of review sites driving people to your business (most review sites contain a modicum of the critical information).  Maybe now is a good time to take a look at your site through a visitor’s eyes?

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Too Many Cookies Make You Fat And Slow

“What the heck is he doing writing about food on a Monday?”

English: Plateful of Christmas Cookies

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Given that it’s Thanksgiving week here in the US I’ve got food on my mind more than I usually do.  However, while cookies is the theme, it’s not about the sugary kind.

I was reading a bunch of sports sites as part of a research project when I came to one that seemed to lock up my browser   As it turned out, this site (which shall remain nameless since singling them out doesn’t serve any purpose) hadn’t locked me up but it was taking forever to load.  I opened a new tab and hit another site which popped right open.  Returning to the slow-poke, I took a look at what the page was doing as it loaded.  Imagine my surprise when I had a look at all the external (meaning off the site’s own servers) scripts and cookies that were running.

While my browser had taken the site’s primary analytics cookie (hey, I’m in the business so I like to help others learn) as well as their main ad serving cookie and even their Twitter tracker, my browser had  blocked 66 third-party cookies.  Each of those took a call to a third-party server.  These were ad networks, retargeting firms, on site ads from third parties, behavioral targeting firms,  etc.  The page (and each subsequent page, as it turned out) took  a long time to load .  While it came right up the  browser won’t respond since dozens of scripts are running.  Maybe a great revenue experience for the site owner but for we lowly users, it sucked.

One solution to this issue might be Google Tag Manager or deferring the parsing of JavaScript but it really goes beyond that.  Years ago there was a real emphasis on light page weights (the amount of code on the page as well as all the images, etc) and fast load times.  With the advent of broadband, I can’t recall having that conversation with anyone lately and maybe that’s a bit of negligence.   In addition to the SEO benefit fast pages get, they’re better user experiences.  That’s a broader point no matter what business you’re in.  If the focus isn’t on making your product the best it can be for your consumers, you need to refocus.  While I get that for media the “consumer” is the person buying the eyeballs you’re aggregating, without a good experience to bring those eyeballs back again and again, you won’t be in business for very long.

In other words, lay off the cookies!  Thoughts?

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How Many Doors In Your House?

I know very little about Feng Shui and I’m not sure how I ended up looking at this statement on a web page but as I found out:

In feng shui, the main door to your home is very important. A house with many doors can create chaos with too much chi energy entering and leaving the home. This can impact various areas of your life, including finances, health, career and especially your relationships.

Feng shui symbol

Image via Wikipedia

Naturally, this said a lot to me about what’s going on with a number of the web sites on which I work.  Does it say the same to you?  Let me explain. Continue reading

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Do Something!

Voltaire, one of the leading figures of the En...

Image via Wikipedia

Think back to your days in school (or for those of you still there, recall last month!) You know what was worse than handing in a crappy paper? Not handing in anything at all. We’ve all been there – we have great ideas, we spend a fair bit of time doing research and we come with lots of new, interesting choices about where to take our discussion.  In fact, sometimes we have so many good choices that we get hung up trying to pick the perfect one and end up missing our deadline or handing in a rush job.  Good bye brilliance; hello remedial English.

Business is the same way and I’ve found the digital business in particular to suffer from Voltaire’s favorite enemy:  perfection. Continue reading

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A Focus On What

Circle-question

The title of today’s screed isn’t a question – it’s a recommendation. It’s been my experience that we spend an awful lot of time paying attention to and arguing about the “how” and in the process we often lose sight of the “what.”  Let me explain what I mean and then you guys can straighten me out. Continue reading

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Failing Correctly

the Twitter fail whale error message.

Today’s post is about a great example of how you can fail and leave users feeling good about you.  I signed up for a new web service after I read about it on a tech blog. I won’t tell you the name but in short it’s something that syncs all of your contact information together in one place. When you have as many “places” as I do, and the accompanying contacts, this is a great thing to have. If it worked. And it didn’t. But here’s why I’m OK about that. Continue reading

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Set It Free!

Another late post, I know. It’s this pesky business of trying to do some work. I particularly like it when the work is the stuff I do for free. Yep. I think everyone should have at least one pro-bono account in their roster and I’m drinking my own Kool-Aid on that.

My client is in the process of building and launching a new website. This has been fun – a white sheet of paper, SEO built in from the ground up, lots of open minds (OK, maybe that’s not your idea of fun but I’m digging it). But the real fun is yet to begin since we’re just starting to populate the site with information.

“Where is this all going to come from?”, she wondered on our call. That’s when we talked about a pretty significant paradigm shift she, like most people in digital, was going to have to make.

I told her she had to stop thinking of the site as hers or her organization’s. Instead, realize that it belongs to your community – your users, your members, and those who you want to become part of either of those two groups.  We went on to talk about link-building, guest-blogging, and how “viral” doesn’t mean vaccinations.

The important thing here is all businesses have to embrace the Chinese proverb on setting things we love free to see if they return.  By opening up your site to the conversations, you don’t lose control – you gain engagement.

Thoughts?

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