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Archive for the 'web development' Category

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.

The Internet Archive Bollocks

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Step right up, step right up, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet. The frantic effort is underway to archive the Internet warts-and-all so that future digital archeologists can turn back time and rediscover our 2011 web design rock stars in way-forward 2070. Or, more modestly, so people like Jeremy Keith can still find their social networking identities long after Zeldman has left the building.

Jeremy Keith tells me Pruning is Bollocks

Here’s my premise::: I would suggest that the biggest problem we have with archiving anything substantial from the Internet isn’t mass archive. Our problem is digging out what should be archived & what should be let to fade away gracefully into the vacuum of history.

Jeremy Keith, in a tweet, says “That’s utter bollocks… in my humble opinion.

Somehow I doubt that opinion is humble on the subject of Internet archival and I’d humbly reply that in my opinion, regardless of my lack of rock star conference speaking and book authoring status, when Jeremy Keith says it’s about archiving everything (culture) then bollocks to that. Double bollocks. The problem is bigger than bookmarks, LOLcats or relying on businesses stupid enough – like Delicious – to think their business model of FREE was going to take them anywhere in the long-term.

But I have a number of comments and questions regarding the arrogance of a total archival of the Internet (which we’re really synonymously using to mean the World Wide Web, an application that runs on the Internet). Let’s start with the value of information.

The Quality & Value of Information going into an Archive

My comment about sifting out the crap to find the value relies on a scientific fact of life – any repository of data (and therefore information – data + context) is only as valuable as the quality of the data. Any business knows that data becomes outdated because people move addresses and telephone numbers change. Hey, people even lie about stuff – so there you go with more crap into any repository. My suggestion that pruning is a part of any challenge to archive the Internet is based on that premise… a big load of rubbish pushed into an unordered box without pruning would have limited value. It would be information soup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Extra Questions to ask Web Designers

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

One major problem with web design is that for the most part clients find it difficult to conceptualise what we do and what final product we provide for them. On the surface, a web designer has some nice work and may be represented on portfolio gallery websites. But those portfolio sites may not be peer-awarded cutting edge contemporary best practice web design. So here are a few quick extra business questions I’d recommend thrown into the conversation before hiring anybody for the role:

  1. Do you have an ABN or ACN? What is your business structure – sole trader, partnership or company? And are you registered for GST?
  2. Are you insured (because you may damage my business or destroy my data or get me sued by a third party)?
  3. Who owns your business? How big is it? Where does the money go? It’s a fair question where money is involved.
  4. Are you a member of any professional associations, have you won awards, do you have client testimonials that I can verify?
  5. Is your business currently in financial difficulty? Again, it’s a fair question going into any financial contract.
  6. Do you have a lawyer? If so, can I have their contact details for my lawyer to discuss the contract?

These questions aren’t to piss anybody off or to bully service providers. They are the questions that will get the business owner / client over that hurdle of being stuck with a self-proclaimed award winning agency that turns out to be an uninsured, unregistered, unaccredited web designer. If you lose all of your data – what then? And if you get hacked & all your client lists are compromised and lawyers are beating down your door – what then? And if the taxman drags you in because the sums don’t add up – what then?

If you aren’t satisfied with any one of the answers to those six questions then walk away and consider the value of investment in a corporate firm that can protect your business interests while providing a professional web design service. There’s nothing worse than losing your own business because the other guy bullshitted their way in the door.

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About the Author

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

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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