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Archive for November, 2004

Site Design Changes

As some of you have noticed the overall design of the site continues to evolve. I
apologize for the changes as I work toward implementing a new template over
the next couple of days. Please bear with me as I phase out the generic
MovableType template.

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The most difficult job of the web marketer at any corporation is designing the
home page. Every group wants a piece of the action. It is your job along with the
help of upper-management to fight this battle. You need to focus on what your
customers want, not on the wants and needs of every department.

So what do you put on the home page?

What you put on the home page is going to depend on your customer. And by
customer, I mean any visitor to your web site. This may cover a wide range of
different people. You and your friends in corporate and product marketing will
need to decide this.

To start, do yourself a favor and throw out all of the conventional wisdom behind
designing a home page. Do not go out and copy what other companies are doing
unless you have valid reasons that directly relate to your customers. If your
customers really do go to your web site to read your press releases, then put the
press releases on your home page.

Now, armed with your marketing personas, decide the importance of each
persona to your company and what each persona needs from your web site. This
should be an extensive list. You should see some similarities between these
groups. These similarities along with the predetermined importance of each
group will help you define your home page.

Finally, do not overburden your home page with the customer needs you defined.
The home page needs to be clean and easy to navigate. If you try to be
everything to every user, the message is lost you and the home page becomes
nothing to everyone. Focus on the message (2 to 4 customer needs) and provide
simple navigation and a prominent search for your other content.

Don’t Forget: You need to perform usability testing. I’m not
going to go into great detail here as it deserves its own blog. Remember, you
must test the site against real customers. You can not build a great home page in
a vacuum.

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The Fall of TiVo?

TiVo announced today that in March they will be providing users with
advertisements while they fast forward through recorded programs. It seems like
the more we move away from mass advertising the more things stay the same.
This will affect TiVo in a huge way potentially turning off many of their current
customers, including myself.

I have been a huge TiVo advocate for the last 4 years but now I fear they are
giving in to the mass advertisers. Personally, an ad placed during fast forwarding
is not going to sell me on a particular product. In fact, if DirecTv updates my TiVo
OS with this new advertising version, I will not buy a single product from any
company advertising in this way.

I know the shift from mass advertising scares a lot of companies but you can’t
fight the momentum. The technologies are in place to vastly improve a
company’s communication with its customers. Why not use these technologies to
your advantage rather than using one of them to keep the status quo.

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It may seem obvious that you should build your home page around your
customers but this is not practiced very often in the real world. Instead, I find
home pages cluttered with content and overloaded with information companies
think people want to see.

If you want to focus on your customers, you need to think like your customers.
List all of the potential types of customers that will visit your web site and build
personas around them. Then list the reasons why each of these customer types
would seek your company out. Next, focus on how you get these customers from
your home page to the information on lower levels of your site as quickly and as
easily as possible. The home page should not be used to entertain (Flash), brag
about your company accomplishments (web users are smart, they know what
you’re up to), or go into great detail about what your company does (several
sentences or paragraphs of text). People scan content on the web. Putting
barriers in the way in the form of paragraphs of text and unwanted information is
going to send them elsewhere.

The next part of this blog will focus on what should be on a customer focused
home page.

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Corporate Home Pages

I have been doing a lot of research on corporate home pages in the tech space.
This again has been a very disappointing exercise as there is very little
differentiation between any 2 sites. It is not surprising that a 70% abandonment
rate on the home page has become the industry norm.

What can be done about this you ask?

I like to look at it in 2 different ways:

  • You can either design the site around your customer.
  • Or you can design your site around it’s function

Over the next couple of days I’ll be addressing these ideas.

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Why is it that all of the recent cutting edge design on the web has revolved
around blogs? They are usually crisp and clean, with little design fluff. The same
cannot be said for most corporate sites today.

Designers continuously push site designs that look like every other web site out
there. Look at one corporate home page and you’ve seen them all. I suspect this
is occurring because the design theory for the web has evolved into the “why
create something from scratch when I can copy what X company is doing”. The
web is built around the reuse and leveraging of code, design, content, and
navigation structures that everyone else uses. It’s rare to find anything truly
innovative these days.

This approach has got to change. Is it too much to ask for original ideas to
develop while designing new corporate sites? What would happen if you
redesigned your corporate site without looking at the supposed “best practices”
of other company home pages and designed a site that leveraged what you know
about your customers? Now what would your site look like?

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The Journey Begins Now

Some of you may have come here expecting to see the old Focused Web
Design site. I have retired this site for several reasons.

  • I have moved from the my past freelance/consulting business back to the
    corporate world. I’m constantly looking for new challanges and this has
    broadened my opportunity in web marketing arena.
  • The previous Focused Web Design site was your typical stale content site.
    Retiring that site was long overdue. Blogging allows you to meet, learn, and
    develop relationships with a community of people who enjoy the same subject
    matter.
  • Ideas come and go, pushing them out to the web community helps to grow
    these ideas. Some of my blogs may come out of left field. It’s what you and I do
    with them once they are out there that matters.

If you have any questions, I’m always available through email,
cwills@focusedwebdesign.com.

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