There’s not enough website awards in Australia with credibility, but SmartCompany have just held their inaugural SmartCompany Web Awards which shows some outstanding contributions from the Australian web community.
Having entered a website I can tell you that the criteria is thorough and asks a number of probing questions regarding cost to build, time to build and the all important standards compliance.
In true web-friendly style they ditched the gala ball idea for announcing the winners and did it via a webinar instead. Nice work SmartCompany!
Below are a selection of my favourite winners from the awards.
Simplicity and ease of use are two key factors designers strive for when building a new website.
Building a fancy new website worth thousands of dollars won’t be worth the effort if users can’t find it. Understanding search marketing is a key component of any successful website, which is why coupon retailer RetailMeNet records monthly web traffic of 10 million unique browsers and 22 million page impressions.
Developing a website around an eCommerce offering relies on simplicity and good design in order to make your business stand out. Data backup company Carbonite has managed to achieve a simple eCommerce offering without burdening users, according to category judge Naomi Simson, CEO of RedBalloon.
One of the key factors of our web award winners is simplicity, the ability to create a complex offering in an easy-to-navigate website. According to judge Simon Van Wyk, Hothouse Interactive owner, fundraising site Everyday Hero took out the best online tool award for its no-fuss design.
There are many ingredients to a successful blog, including strong design, good navigation and great SEO. But the key element is content – the best blogs have a clear connection with their audience and are updated frequently to keep the conversation going.
To read more about the SmartCompany Web Award winners in great detail, have a peek at their article.
It’s rare I receive an email newsletter that I pay close attention to, but the team at Returnity sent out a great one this morning, which perfectly highlights the points they were trying to get across regarding how visitors read your web and email content.
Heat mapping studies provide great insight into how people consume web content, presenting critical applications to how emails and web pages are designed. We have reviewed several studies and summarised the key findings for you.
This is the first email newsletter I’ve recieved from Returnity since I subscribed, but if you’d like to subscribe and catch some useful tips, you can subscribe here.
A couple of people in my office have recently been searching for a new home, and have both lamented at how the real estate agents haven’t quite embraced the web as well as they could, especially considering they’re such an ideal web-based business. The frustrations they’ve experienced are echoed worldwide in other industries too.
Here’s how we think real estate agents could stand out from their competitors:
The biggest thing driving us mad are the things wasting our time. Finding out the property doesn’t match the description written in the listing is big on the time wasting list, but also needing to call the agency to ask for an address is driving us insane.
The primary reason customers turn to the internet is to save time researching. Agents compound this problem with boring, short descriptions that provide very little information.
Agents need to carefully consider the suitability of properties to particular target demographics and consider the questions that demographic would ask when seeking a property.
We’ve been giggling about the abundance of awful photography. Some are photos are date stamped 2004, there’s a great kitchen shot with a big FLU INJECTION reminder tacked onto the fridge, and someone tried to rubber stamp something out of the back yard and botched it up. Many listings have no photos at all!
Photos will do more of the selling than any words you write, so ensure they’re clear, in focus and recent. Have a peek at my previous post on taking photos for your website.
There are so many sayings that need to be erased from the agent’s vocabulary. Here’s the shortlist of ones making us shudder:
Don’t these just get your goat? OK, enough with the cliches.
A colleague of mine introduced me to a unique eCommerce concept from an Australian website, Zazz.
Zazz sells just one product each day, which is a curious decision for any shop, and sells that product until it runs out. A new product is released the next day.
Perhaps the thing I love most about Zazz though is the owner’s quirky sense of humour going into great detail about each product listed and sometimes posting videos of the products in use.
I must confess, I haven’t bought anything yet, but I read the new product almost every day and have no doubt I’ll purchase something in the near future.
A great example of how a unique twist on a normal sales process can win untold loyalty (and perhaps riches too!)
Today’s product, the Puchi Puchi was sold out.
One of the major factors responsible for a cost blowout on website development is continually making changes and tweaks whilst the site is still under development.
Most web development companies will charge you hourly for changes made to your website, so it’s important from a cost perspective to get all the glitches, spelling mistakes and formatting ironed out before you hand it over to your web developer.
Lots of little changes add up, and can put a project significantly over budget. Even worse for businesses with marketing deadlines, it can also cause your website to be late.
When you’re approaching a web developer for a website, ensure you have the following ready:
Do your new customers ask the same kinds of things time and time again? Save your admin time by adding the answers to your website. You’d be surprised how many customers inspect your website prior to contacting you.
Here’s some logical things could consider adding to your site:
We hear lots of stories of how difficult it is to find staff in today’s tough labour market, but you’d be amazed how many positions are advertised in newspapers that don’t ever get entered on a company’s website.
There are lots of great reasons to have an employment page:
When I recently had a problem with my laptop, it was after close of business and I wanted to know the process for obtaining work done under warranty. Unfortunately I ended up needing to call the company the next day and waiting on hold for 30 minutes while the receptionist chased up the relevant information for me. It would have been far less frustrating for me if the company had simply chosen to publish this info online.
Information about refunds and privacy are required when you conduct transactions online, but most other businesses leave these important bits out.
If you have a policy, put it up online.
Despite price being the primary motivator for online shopping, lots of service-based businesses are still not transparent about their prices online preferring instead an enquiry page in place of publishing the actual rates.
Customers have a lot of choice online, and if they can’t find the price information they’re after from your website they’re more likely to buy from a competitor who is open and honest about their pricing online.
For the miscellaneous questions you are asked, include them on an FAQ page. For website which include an FAQ page, these are frequently the most popular pages after the prices page.
Include all the information you can’t fit onto other pages.
I keep a running list on my desktop of the questions I am asked most days… and I publish the answers in this blog!
We’ve had the ideaology of business plans, marketing plans and other plans drummed into us by business success professionals for a long time now, but one plan we don’t here a lot about are website plans. So, where do you start? With the goals!
Like all things, a website will have one or two major goals, and a number of minor goals. Usually the minor goals support the major ones. Throughout most websites we build, the major goals don’t change.
Does anyone have further suggestions on other goals websites might try to achieve?
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of your goals when building a website. We get ties up by the visuals; where photos go, how logos are positioned, what shade of green should you use… those sorts of fiddly bits. But the important part, perhaps the most important part, is keeping focussed on the goals.
Each page of your website should be trying to kick some goals, and before you even start writing the text for your pages you should have a firm grasp on which goal you’re aiming for.
Here’s some examples of what goals your website should be targeting.
Usually your website will have many goals, with most having the ultimate goal of generating sales. Achieving your website goals will be infinitely more successful with the use of strong calls-to-action.
There’s a dreamy romance about the notion of making money while you sleep. This is one of the major motivations for new online entrepreneurs – which is understandable when you read stories about the gobs of money made by the great global success stories such as Amazon, Google, facebook and eBay.
Many people concoct amazing new web ideas every day; lots don’t get developed, and lots don’t make it online. Some run out of budget after launch, and sadly fizzle in the market. Here are some aspects to consider when trying to make it in the web world.
It’s hard to believe, but the web has been mainstream in Australia since 1996. In 12 years the web has evolved significantly with some 5 billion websites. Just on numbers, the big winners are few.
The internet is experiencing an era like the industrial revolution where multiple people fought over who was the first to invent particular machines. Brilliant ideas are dreamt up every day, and there’s a good chance someone else in the world has already thought of it. In fact, there’s a good chance someone else is developing it already.
Many people believe the web money now lies in narrow niche markets. For example, there’s not a great deal of room in the market for another major player like Amazon. But there are strong online opportunities for antique book dealers, collectible book specialists, rare and hard to find online bookstores.
Similarly, as more people seek to purchase local goods and services online, geographically niche concepts will become more important, and certainly more profitable.
The first step of any online entrepreneur is to get some advice from people in the know. Sit down with a number of IT gurus and thresh out your concept. Refining the idea early on will save you a lot of money down the track.
It is best that once you’ve talked to a few friends in the industry that you seek the advice of seasoned internet professionals. Most web developers who’ve been in business for 5 or more years are considered veterans and will happily work in a consulting capacity to assist you.
People mistakenly skip this step and try to keep ideas to themselves for fear of someone else stealing it. The reality is ideas need substantial development to make it to market, so it’s well worth investing in the professional advice of people ‘in the know’ and experienced with your market.
The great rules of traditional business are equally but arguably more important for online business. A business plan, start-up capital and a strong marketing strategy are required for online success.
Business plans for websites are different beasts to those of bricks-and-mortar businesses, but you most certainly should not skip this step. Most web development companies will have somebody on staff to assist with the conceptual planning and realistic goal targets from an online perspective.
Start-up capital for most online operators needs to cover the cost of website development as well as realistic marketing costs to get the idea off the ground.
What’s your idea going to cost? Most customised websites with unique and interesting features start from $20,000.
All the awesomeness of the web’s automation has won hearts in the past but customers now crave the essentials of traditional businesses; customer service and reliability. Unfortunately, it is usually the automation features that attract budding online entrepreneurs and it’s important to remember that customers require so much more to become regular website customers.
Automation trends now only impress when intelligent interpretation and intuition is used throughout websites. An example of this is where you fill out an online form and upon answering a question the form tries to predict the answer to your next question.
Delivering superb customer service through intelligent automation should be the goal of emerging web businesses. Think carefully about the text in automatic emails sent to your customers when they complete certain actions on the website, such as asking for more information or subscribing to your newsletter, as you can keep a visitor for much longer if you can continue to satisfy their curiosity.
Ultimately once your website is built, you’ll need to sink some marketing dollars into drawing visitors. The quickest way to do this is through Google’s AdWords program, or advertising on high profile websites within the region or industry in which you operate.
Many new websites skip some of the user testing techniques employed by the big websites to maximise profits. Try this simple one: find 5 to 10 people you know to participate. Just friends, work colleagues and family will be fine. Give them all a slightly different job to do on your website. For example, purchase 3 items using the shopping cart, or make an enquiry. Watch how they traverse the website, where they need to stop and think about their next action, and where they find the site easy and intuitive. Use this information to improve your customers’ experience.
The web is undoubtedly an exciting place to do business, and if you don’t lose sight of the basics of business, the road to success and profits will be much smoother.
This article was published in the May 2008 edition of In Touch In Business magazine.
Google has made it so easy to include a map on your website. Once you include the map it has all the same great functionality you see on the Google maps site: zooming, dragging, different views.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Go to Google Maps.
2. Search for your address.
3. On the right hand side of the map, click Link to This Page.
4. Copy the embed in website link, and paste it in an email to your web designer.
Below is an example of the result – and a map to my office if you’d like to chat with me over coffee.