Think about your users when writing your content
Thursday, October 20, 2011 2:20:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Ignoring the aspects of design, SEO duplicate content, underlying code and tone of language, as a content editor you really should give consideration to your user and what they're looking for. I generally steer clear of critiquing -or even commenting on work that isn't our own (or when being asked by the creator) but sadly there still seems to be a real misunderstanding from clients on what makes a usable website.
We recently launched a website for local award winning pie makers - Elm Tree Foods and as a result we've spent a lot of time dealing with other local providers websites/council websites and I'm left stunned by the horrific experience they're offering their users. What riles me more about this though is the fact that most of their users are the sort that need to be helped through the process as they aren't often familiar with the internet (somewhat of an over generalising I realise).
A good example I came across today is Herefordshire's main tourism website: www.visitherefordshire.co.uk. It's well ranked for the search term of "Flavours of Herefordshire" (a good start) but it's then down hill from there. I was trying to find out where the Elm Tree Foods stall would be and when the festival was. We've seen signs locally saying it's at the Hereford Race Course (there's some debate over whether it really is) but we weren't sure that was the case for Elm Tree Foods.
You can try this yourself, see how long it takes you to find out where and when the Flavours of Herefordshire food festival is purely be using www.visitherefordshire.co.uk. Ideally you want all the information on one page.
Step 1: The Landing Page - Homepage
Message on the homepage - good start. Or is it? Take a closer look and you may find that although you've got the dates (and if you continue reading a time) there's still no indication of where the festival is:
Step 2: This week's events in Herefordshire
Clicking the only apparent link on the homepage (I didn't want details on the other events -rather the Flavours of Herefordshire event) takes you through to the listing page which has the Date, location, contact details but no time (which was on the homepage if you remember?).
So we're set? We have the location and the date/time, what more is there?
Step 3: The Flavours of Hereford event landing page (version 1)
Well, not knowing Hereford that well, I don't know where 1 King Street is so need to find that out. Logically I click through onto the event's page and I'm taken to:
Putting to one side the MASSIVE white space on the top right, again there is no mention of when this glorious event will take place. Presumably they were going to put all the clear location/date/time information in that large white space at the top of the column -but were overwhelmed with their workload forgot.
Another point with this page is that the content talks a lot in the past tense which is very confusing, was this page meant to be released after the event?
I still don't have a single page with all the information on so lets pop back to the homepage to see if that offers anything else.
Step 4: Back to the homepage
Back in the homepage for another look and it turns out the title, although not completely clear, is also a link.
Step 4: The Flavours of Hereford event landing page (version 2)
Clicking the title, I'm taken to this page:
Ok good, I've got loads of helpful information here: "Hereford Race Course for the weekend of Saturday, 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October, 2011 - 10.00am to 4.30pm each day" -exactly what I was after (even though it's hidden away in a paragraph of unnecessary fluff)!
But hang on, I thought it was at "Discover Herefordshire Centre, 1 King Street, Hereford, Herefordshire"? What's this about the Hereford Race Course? Also, the other page didn't mention anything about tickets or prices, does that mean I have to pay now? I'm now confused.
Imagine if you didn't know it wasn't at the race course (as I previously did), you'd now be going to the Hereford race course, paying £7.00 to get in and left disappointed at not getting to try Elm Tree Foods' award winning pies. Bad times. To be clear, I won't know until this weekend whether it is at the Race Course or not (or indeed what will be at 1 King Street) so if you're interested, follow me on Twitter to find out first.
"But it's complicated because we have so much content"
We've all heard it from larger organisations when getting them onto the web. It's not hard to confuse the user -and it's also not difficult to help guide the user either; regardless of how much content you have, you just need to give consideration to the user's journey and what the important messages are at each step.
Although it is still having work done to it, here for comparison is the Elm Tree Foods homepage and event details page. Even when resized, the important information is largely available:
But good design costs too much
I don't know how much www.visitherefordshire.co.uk cost to design and develop however, one thing I'm almost certain of is that the user could have been offered a much better user experience than they are currently receiving.
If after reading this you're concerned about your user's experience, contact The Site Doctor for a website check up.
CodeGarden 09 Open Space Minutes - Space 1: How to sell Umbraco
Monday, July 27, 2009 10:53:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It's taken some time to get here and there's still more to add as I think this is a pretty big topic but I thought I'd get started. I wanted to keep the session more focused on the selling points of Umbraco and how people pitch Umbraco to the clients than selling techniques which on the whole we managed to do.
The first thing I stressed was that I wasn't going to teach you how to sell or selling techniques as I've never found that hard selling works -though I'm not saying it doesn't, I just prefer to educate the client into the most suitable solution (even if that isn't us).
There were a number of questions that were raised and I'll answer what I can here, if you were at the session and I've missed something, please let me know and I'll get it added:
- What are the key selling points of Umbraco
- How do you pitch Umbraco
- Do you tell clients it's open source (or use that as a sales point)?
- How do you price Umbraco
- Once you've won, what do you ask your client
- How do you support Umbraco
- How do you get around the question of "What happens if you get hit by a bus?"
What are the key selling points of Umbraco
A couple of the attendees came up with better 30second sales pitches so I'm sure they'll post those up shortly but here's a few I remember:
- It's easy to use -you don't need any previous computer experience
- You can edit any page's content yourself at any time
- It's highly flexible and lightweight
- It's search engine friendly
- It's open source (this really can be a selling point at the right time)
Do you tell clients it's open source (or use that as a sales point)?
We do and we don't. Again it really comes down to who you're pitching Umbraco to. Where the client has had issues with developers not releasing source etc then it's clearly a selling point.
Generally we do tend to explain to clients that we will base their website on an open source project that we then build on and customise further to suit their needs and that by using best practice methodologies, any developer can in theory pick up the system and continue to develop it (even if they have no experience of Umbraco).
How do you price Umbraco
This question was asked in a couple of different ways throughout the session and it's a topic in itself (see the article I wrote a while ago about pricing your work).
If you look at Umbraco in the right way you'll see that it's actually rather easy to price as there are a few components that you can sell either individually or together:
- Installation and configuration
All you need to do is work out a minimum cost for each component and then that will give you a core system cost.
Once you have your core Umbraco costs (don't forget to factor in your license costs) you can then alter the costs accordingly for your client -and this has to be on a case-by-case basis.
How do you pitch Umbraco
This is easy, there are so many selling points to Umbraco that regardless of what the client is looking for, as long as it's CMS based, Umbraco will have some benefit you can overview to the client.
When pitching Umbraco, we have found educating the user as to the benefits and what the client should be looking for in other systems. If you do this, then the majority of the time, the rest of the competition falls by the wayside.
If the client is a large corporate it's always worth mentioning that it offers much of the functionality that SharePoint does but with little of the cost (or setup pain!).
Once you've won the contract, what do you ask your client
The first thing to do is to get all the information you need to complete your contract (or at least tell your client what you'll need and when). You should know what you'll need already but we tend to ask for:
- Design inspiration (websites the client does and doesn't like -and why)
- Logos and other source imagery
- Text for the website (you'd be best to load the initial content during training but get the client to think about it while you're developing or you'll never get there!)
Next, you'll need to make sure your paperwork is in order. Once you have agreed the general premise of your contract, it's important that you confirm all deliverables (what you'll be doing for the client) in a work order with the client. This avoids an ambiguity on what you'll be delivering and when. This doesn't need to be pages of text (though sometimes it needs to be) but avoids disagreements later.
You should always request signed work order and deposit (we request a minimum of 20% regardless of project spend) at a minimum before starting any work.
Once you have the signed work order (you sign one for the client to keep and keep one yourself), you can start thinking about the project. If it'll take longer than a week to deliver, I recommend you provide the client with rough timescales, this will have the added benefit of helping you focus your mind.
How do you support Umbraco
This is something that Paul Sterling addressed through another session and if he doesn't write up his notes I'll make a few notes in another post.
How do you get around the question of "What happens if you get hit by a bus?"
Although this was asked a couple of times throughout the session, I avoided answering it a little due to a conflict of interest. For the past few months we've been working hard on a new system called Crisis Cover which has been designed to help you with this exact question.
Crisis Cover monitors you to ensure that you're still around and if you don't respond to a number of alerts, it will contact your clients informing there's something wrong.
I'll post more information about Crisis Cover, but if you're interested in getting involved with the beta, leave me your email and I'll get one sent out.
There is a lot of information about selling and business in general in my previous post "Business start-up advice" which if you're starting out, I really recommend you reading as it should give you a really good start (and includes example Service Level Agreements, Contracts and other useful documents).
Maplin loses it’s way with it’s GPS
Saturday, April 25, 2009 12:17:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This came through in my email today and it made me smile:
Market rates –can I have the same hourly rate for all clients?
Thursday, July 03, 2008 8:36:01 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This started out as a response to a comment and then I thought it might be better as a post in it's own right.
In his comment David Conlisk said:
First off Tim very well done on providing some excellent information on the site. I've just spent my first afternoon as my own boss reading your business start-up advice and it's been excellent (it's called research, not slacking off!)
One question I would ask you about this post is what about market rates? I am going from being a contractor on an hourly rate to being a limited company. I never considered working out a base rate like you've done, instead I spoke to as many people as possible in the marketplace to gauge what the rates are and I price accordingly. Of course this works fine for more corporate clients, but I doubt I could charge smaller companies similar rates. Let's hope I can make a good enough impression on my corporate clients to keep that kind of work coming in!
Keep up the good work,
Thanks for your kind words, I'm glad to hear you found it of use.
In regards market rates, it's one of the oldest debates in the book AFAIK and has a rather unhelpful answer of "You should charge what you feel comfortable charging". I'll try to improve on that a little as it's always hard but in essence it's true. Basically from experience I would keep it as simple as possible, have as few rates as possible for all clients, just make sure you feel you're worth the rate in your own mind.
Although you need to keep an eye on the "market rates", you'll find your rate will determine the type of client you work with. Being the cheapest on the market is not necessarily a good thing. One advantage of offering a freelance service to other development companies is that we get to see what happens when your prices are rock bottom -take it from me, more often than not, it's more hassle than it's worth. When you have someone going el-cheapo all the way you often find they're overly picky about every aspect and require a lot more management time (that's not to say those paying higher rates aren't, I guess you just notice it more).
As long as you're reasonable with your rates, clients who are willing to pay your rates, will use you (they may complain a little but it's unlikely) but at the end you'll both be happy with the work produced. As long as you believe in yourself -and your rates, this will be conveyed to your clients so if you know you're value for money you will be able to justify it to any client (corporate or otherwise). It's up to the client to decide whether you're value for money.
Believe it or not the service industry is not the only industry to set it's fees and then get them negotiated on -Stacey used to work in Debenhams a few years ago, for those of you who don't know what Debenhams is, it's a large department store in the UK, they sell items for a set fee, everyone knows this but regardless of this she still had people trying to negotiate on the fee. Be open to negotiation but don't be silly about it otherwise the client may always expect a discount of that level (so stick to no more than a 10% variation).
Don't worry about having clients not use you because of your rate, as long as you're around the market rate there will be a client for you. At the end of the day, you can't realistically expect to service every prospect that comes through your doors -sometimes you just have to say "sorry that's the price".
I'm not saying charge £1,000ph when the market rate is £10ph as that's just silly but I would say your base rate shouldn't be cheaper than the market rate or more than 3 times the market rate (unless your service really is that good and you're bogged down with work [I did have a link for here about an ?SEO company charging $1,000ph and still being too busy but I can't find it atm], in which case go for it!).
Tip: How do you find out market rates? That's simple, find a couple of companies who offer similar services, to a similar client base who are a similar size to you, call them up and just ask them what their daily rates are. Call 10 or so companies and you should have a few prices to compare :)
Another tip: Always ask for an rough idea of their budget -even if it's just a range, this will give you a good idea of they're realistic or not.
And one more: Don't forget your rates don't need to be fixed. If you find you're too busy, increase your rates a little, if you're too quiet (whereas everyone else is really busy) then you may need to look into how you market your business, your presentation skills and finally possibly reducing your rates.
A word of warning: I would avoid dropping your rate "for the nice client" as the majority of times you'll end up regretting it, either because it gets out of control and you get frustrated because "you're doing them a favour" whereas they feel they just negotiated your service rates down (and so should be getting the same level of service. Remember, it's business, you don't need to do anyone a favour, charge what you feel is fair for your time and you'll always enjoy your work :)
On the flip side of this, if you're lucky enough to get a large corporate, make sure your rate is their market rate as we've lost work for being too cheap (and in my eyes we were already overcharging for the workload).
It's easy to be busy and cheap, but being a busy fool is no way to live!
The Site Doctor gets creative with print
Thursday, June 12, 2008 9:59:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
After months of painstaking work I can FINALLY reveal what we've been beavering away on -our new brochure with a twist. If you're involved in marketing at all you're probably already aware how hard it is to print interactive designs. Regardless of that, we needed some way of advertising so we got our thinking caps on.
The brief was simple: we needed to come up with a way of marketing our bespoke design and development services. Being a creative company we also wanted something that stood out from the other 1,001 West Midlands based web design companies. It should also reflect the attention to detail and quality that goes into our web design and development.
Our target audience was to be high end management so the brochure had to be quick and easy to navigate, have clear calls to actions and require minimum effort to read (unlike my blog!!).
As all "good" ideas* start with a pen, napkin and one too many coffees, we trotted off to our favourite Costa for a brain storming session and here's what we came up with:
* not all good ideas do but some do but it's a good excuse for a coffee.
We went through all sorts of ideas ranging from having themed TicTacs produced, to sending out branded bottles of wine, most of the ideas were dismissed because they had either already been done or would just be binned/eaten and forgotten. We needed something that stood out.
For those of you who can't understand our scribbling's, we decided upon a brochure with a twist (or two).
The First idea was to make the brochure quick and simple to navigate -like the websites we develop so we decided to go a little Avant Garde (off the wall/pushing the boundaries) and opted for a coloured tabbed navigation system, the idea was taken in part from an Argos catalogue which uses colours to separate the sections. I felt combining the tabs and colours would ensure the brochure was quick and easy to use.
The next issue we addressed was how to get the reader to open the brochure, it sounds silly but getting someone to open the brochure (let alone reading it) is pretty hard to do so we decided to offer the reader an incentive and what was better than our new stressball? Why not put one on the front of the brochure?
I've jumped a few stages in our thinking but here's the final product -a brochure with a stressball attached to the front, mimicking a pill packet (complete with foil on the inside to get the pill out), coloured tab page navigation and loads more.
The Site Doctor stressballs have arrived!
Friday, May 23, 2008 3:24:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Exciting times as all our hard work is finally coming to fruition -our branded stressballs have arrived and they look AWESOME! I really couldn't have hoped for a better looking outcome if I had tried, they're unbelievably cool (that or I'm unbelievably sad!) but take a look for yourself and see what you think! (You'll have to excuse the photography)
They were delivered in a massive box -I don't think I've seen so many pills before! All exciting...