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Archive for the 'web development' Category

Common Name Web Domains can be a Problem

Friday, November 29th, 2013

I’ve had this web domain for years and invested tens of thousands of hours in content generation, site maintenance and relationship building. Throughout my university years up until now this has been the main marketing channel that brought in business and income. It endorses my expertise. It provides a form of legitimacy that I need to sell myself as a professional. And it makes me look good when people hunt me out as a web professional.

However, over the last two years there has been a growing (and slightly annoying) problem with emails that I receive through my main email account. The one attached to this domain.

A South Australian lawyer shares the same name and has a very similar domain name. His URL is different by one letter because he includes a middle initial. And I get approximately three emails per week from clients or people related to his law firm.

At first I used to forward these private and confidential emails along to the other Steven Clark. Then I began replying instantly to the sender that they have the wrong email address. But my issue with both of those solutions was the lawyer perceives that the problem doesn’t exist simply because I’m the sap using up cognitive load dealing with these errant emails.

Add that up… three emails times fifty two weeks in a year. That’s how many times I receive notifications or meeting requests, attached PDF and Excel documents clogging up my limited account space… over 150 free services that I have provided in the last twelve months. I’m not an employee.

My other concern is that I am receiving private and confidential legal documentation. This is really not a good situation. But it comes about because they chose their domain name or named their business very badly.

So at the moment I’m ignoring this spam. Because that’s what it’s become from my perspective. I have a huge sympathy for the lawyer and can see how this has occurred but I really don’t like having to deal with my clogged up inbox or the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach that private information isn’t being appropriately secured.

The moral of this story is probably that a near enough domain name is always going to be an issue. One letter wrong in the sender’s email address and the communication channel has a high likelihood of chaotic error. If you only receive 99 per cent of your mail then you really have no idea what should or shouldn’t have arrived in the first place.

I really don’t know what to do about the issue though. I know it would bother me if I was their client.

Web Designers / Builders & Return on Investment

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

I don’t know why it upsets the web design industry to hear this, but clients walk in the door for other reasons than to gift thousands of dollars to have a meaningless web presence. It’s not 1998, give the client credit. They are walking in the door to make a business investment in a marketing or sales channel. And that means they deserve to be treated as a business client – the focus should be on ROI (Return on Investment). The focus should be on making money (or equivalent value) for the client’s business.

ROI comes with some difficult accomplices – success and failure need to be measurable and measured, objectives set and steps taken to adjust strategies when goals aren’t achieved.

In other words, if clients aren’t there to gift money then they expect their investment to achieve something of that value for their business. Designing how to achieve that is the web designer’s job. And a smart web designer would think about learning more about business and marketing OR working closely with somebody who can provide that expertise.

Unfortunately, this is why a lot of web designers are only worth $5 per hour in the market. Just building stuff like a five page website with a contact form isn’t enough anymore. Even if those so called web designers think they can keep seducing naive mom and pop business owners out of the odd paycheck year-in-year-out.

It’s something that makes me a little mad about the web design industry as a whole. This idea that mom and pop businesses can afford to throw away thousands on the website that achieves nothing. Without questions about who is the customer, why would they be on the site, where would they come from, what the business needs to communicate, the objectives and goals of both parties in that equation, and how these all intersect at a solution? Mom and pop businesses can go broke pretty fast throwing away money to bad investment.

And that’s what websites I refer to as Internet Beach Towels are – wasted investment.

You would never find a larger business throwing cash out the door with the idea it won’t have ROI. And you’d find few of those so-called web designers willing to give half their pay to an SEO witch for the same reason.

So here’s my 2013 call to the web design industry. Clean up your act. At a certain point on the web design scale this may be a moot point, but somewhere down the mid-scale and lower it has stagnated into a long-con industry. One where lazy developers and technicians and graphic artists pretend to offer something they are unwilling, unable and unprepared to provide to customers.

Purpose of Email Addresses in a Web Design

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

I’ve been involved with web development for nearly a decade so take this short article as a heads-up about something blatantly obvious – email addresses on small to medium enterprise (SME) websites are often thrown at customers without consideration. Worse. Customer enquiries are too often ignored by the business or chewed up in spam filters.

The problem is that hardly anybody designing web solutions is a business strategist.

Yes, everybody likes to imagine they know everything about everything but just like you don’t know your arse from your toenail without being a trained doctor there is a lot to be said for accepting professions like accounting, law, management and plumbing (don’t split hairs over this loose analogy) are in possession of specialised trained knowledge. The manager may not know HTML from a simple widget. Just as you may not know a professional marketing strategy from a television advertisement.

So, somewhere within the bounds of the web development process a client is casually informed the business website contact page will provide their business name, business number, email address and contact phone numbers. Perhaps even a Google Map so they can be located.

And the reason for including (or excluding) the email address isn’t thought out any further.

Let me ask you this question: How does it serve the business that doesn’t intend or has no capacity to effectively communicate with the customer via email? Not answering email or doing so rudely will incur far more damage to their brand and marketing objectives than not providing an email address.

If the business has no capacity or is, in all honesty, unwilling to provide that service to customers then the email – in all seriousness – does not belong.

OK, let’s look at it this way. If you have a website it should exist for a reason and it should have SMART Goals that can be used to assess it’s Return on Investment. If you’re in business you’re in business and you don’t just pay thousands of dollars towards the witchery of an Internet Beach Towel.

And that website should be a part of an integrated marketing strategy (ie. brochures point to website URL which supports the television advertisement). It’s integrated and all channels underpin and support the others. And in that marketing strategy there is a place where a manager would write EMAIL. Under that heading it would include something like:

  • All customer emails will be responded to within twenty four hours
  • All responses will be via email or telephone as elected by the customer
  • All responders (by email or telephone) will be trained in customer service
  • All responders will flag issues as resolved only when the customer is satisfied
  • The spam filter will be reviewed by support staff every X hours to catch lost emails

Because email is a critical touch point between the business and its customers.

BAM… that is when you include an email on an SME website. When it will be answered professionally as an underpinning element of an integrated marketing strategy with goals and objectives that make sense and are measurable. It’s not a personal email address to check every other day – this is a business enterprise out to make money and customers are the most important element of that paradigm.

I like Tommy Wong’s analogy – think of the customer as someone who has your money in their pocket… and your job is to convince them to give it back to you!

As a web designer your job is to develop a web solution that facilitates the client’s business. So the inclusion (or exclusion) of the email address becomes your business, too. If you want to do it well. If you’re interested in selling more than Internet Beach Towels to unwitting SME saps.

Yes, of course you can just flick the SME’s email address onto a contact page and call yourself a web designer but I’m not convinced there is any design involved if the underlying functionality and reason for that element being included is totally ignored.

Every element of a web design, including the email address, needs a clear reason why it has been placed and what it is intended to achieve.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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