Tag Archives: web

Three Web Site Decisions – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Having not posted for quite awhile I have accumulated a number of stories to tell. Today is one of them – or rather three similar stories about some decisions that web site owners are making and how it affects their business.

Three Web Site Decisions - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Small Business BlogThe Good
Imagine an online store that doesn’t sell anything. Yep, there are certain niches that – no matter how hard you try – will not sell as good as you think. This business owner is in one of them, provided he has a show room full of merchandise. The web site is a mere catalog with pricing. However, if you just take out the online checkout option – you suddenly don’t seem credible enough. It reads like “I’ve got all this great stuff from all over the web, but in real life I’ve got one dusty shelf“. So you have to make it look like you’ve got stuff ready to go – only to lure customers to the show room.

The good decision – figuring this stuff out and presenting the customers with the choice to buy stuff online, even though almost no one is really buying.

The Bad
Three Web Site Decisions - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Small Business BlogThis is a diverse category because you can drop pretty much every single major issue with your web site – from non-working contact form to eye-scratching design from 1980s to web sites that never finish to load because your friend’s son who put it together didn’t realize that cute kitten picture on a front page is 15MB BMP file. But rather than talk about these, easily addressable issues, I’d point to a really major one – not having any kind of web site. Imagine – there are businesses out there who decidedly go without web site at all. There are usually two main justifications – “we don’t need one” and “we don’t have money for it”. It’s almost like wishing for a win in a lotto without buying a single ticket. Aside from the fact that people prefer to shop from the convenience of their homes (less clients for you), there are more choices online that you will ever have in your inventory (again – less clients for you), you are also limiting yourself by not pitching to those who actually are interested in what you want to sell to them. With the average rent on any decent store around tens of thousands of dollars per month a budget web site would cost you a lot less than that. And, of course, there is the rationale that you can only save as much as the web site costs, but your earnings are really not limited.

The bad decision – not having a web site for your business. In fact – its the worst decision you can ever make.

The Ugly
Three Web Site Decisions - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Small Business BlogOne of the worst things you can do to your web site is keep relaunching it every few months on a new domain names. It’s not a secret anymore that your domain name equals your brand – twice true for small businesses. Of course, you can launch a new web site on a new domain name if you used to be GreatWidgetsOnline.com and you have just bought GreatWidgets.com – it’s not a major major change, but rather a welcome convenience. However, if you keep relaunching the site from GreatWidgetsWeSellHere.com to ThingamabobsOnlineRightHere.com to WhatchamacallitSalesForYou.com – it’s not really clear how you are going to attract the customers and keep them around. Even if there were some issues associated with your domain before – it’s easier to fix them than rebuild the whole thing from the scratch. Besides, even if there was some bad press – you can always use it to your advantage.

The ugly decision – keep relaunching business web site on different domain names in order to avoid issues associated with previous domain.

Web Site Usability – Why Should You Care?

Everyone is talking about usability, it seemed to be a hot topic recently, but thanks to the crisis everybody seem not to care. I have covered some usability ideas in the past, but it just turned around and bit me in the back – again!

Yesterday I was paying my bills. By the way, just imagine how much of on open market is paying bills – banks play there, credit card operators play there, ISPs play there and still it isn’t a single way of doing things. But I digress. I headed to Banana Republic’s web site since I didn’t have a direct link to credit cards account login page. Click on Credit Card all the way at the bottom of the site. Redirected to a secure portion of Banana Republic’s site. Good. Now let me see where’s my account. Click on the big button with “HAVE A CARD?” question next to GET A CARD button (BTW, did you notice that it’s all ONE IMAGE MAP? With another huge image map below?). Imagine this – a new pop-up window opens, with totally random URL in it. The onlinecreditcenter6.com seem to be the flavor du jour, courtesy of GE Money Bank (has anyone heard about GE Water Bank? GE Blood Bank? GE Sperm bank?). Alright – no questions for GAP brands, let’s bash look at GE.

Aside from modern and very inconvenient way to log in the user (first you have to provide login only, then either answer two personal questions or provide password and identify an image), the whole idea of opening a new window with new URL seems strange. We seem to fight phishing wich partially based on deceiving the unsuspecting user that this new URL is the one he needs to visit – and you get something like this? No wonder banks keep being hit. And why do I need to provide a login only?

To protect your security, we ask for only your User ID to initiate access to your account. Then we show you the Personalized Image you selected before asking you to enter your Password. We do this to help prevent phishing, and to ensure your confidence that you have accessed the correct website for your account.

Right. With the proliferation of social networks it’s much easier to gather personal information about someone rather then guess somebody’s password. But nobody seem to care anyway.

But the turning point (and the reason for this blog post) occured a bit later. After filling all the fields to make a payment and clicking MAKE PAYMENT button, script found that I’ve made a mistake entering a date. Turned out I typed 2008 instead of 2009. Alright, I am not asking to fix such an obvious mistake for me, but WHY DID YOU JUST RESET ALL THE ENTERED INFORMATION? Instead of paying full amount I just made a minimum payment. And no – you can’t reverse it or make another payment today.

Now back to initial question – why would you care? It’s simple – because things like this matter in your personal and business life. It used to be 30 minutes to pay all of my bills – utilities, credit cards, etc. I use special software that opens login links for me, types in my passwords for me and submits it for me. The advantage is that I use one VERY complicated password to manage other VERY complicated passwords to my accounts – instead of remembering a bunch of simple ones). So with a single mouse click I can get right into account information screen. With modern ways to log in (that are just as prone to phishing as old ones) I spend over 2 hours for same amount of activities. An impact is kind of obvious.

The time is not the only concern here. It would take a really small distraction for the difference in amounts paid to go unnoticed. Next thing you know – you think the credit card is paid in full while it’s not. And we all know what a credit card company can do if you missed a payment.

Usability isn’t some form of useless science. It’s something that directly affects us in everyday life. The way we pay our bills. The way we interact with things. The way we achieve our goals.

Buying A Domain On A Smartphone

CatBegemot.com - Buying Domain From Smartphone Yesterday I noticed that the very first domain I ever tried to own, but never did – CatBegemot.com (it’s coming from here, if you must know. Not that I am infatuated with Woland figure, it’s just that specific character – Cat Begemot – is very appealing to me.) is actually free (as in Deleted and available again), so I decided to waste no time and grab it. Unfortunately, the place I am working from right now blocks the access to all three domain registrars I am using – GoDaddy, Moniker and NameCheap.

No problem, I said, I have a smart phone (it’s AT&T Tilt at the moment, equipped with Windows Mobile 6), so I’ll just go get it from there! Yeah, right.

Namecheap loaded fine, but refused to acknoledge my credentials. No matter how many times I reloaded web site and tried to sign on – no luck. I was thrown back to the same page requiring login and password. Sorry, Namecheap, no business for you today.

Moniker loaded fine too, even allowed me to sign into my account. Next step – check if domain is available. I never realized it until that day that every time you check for domain name Moniker checks for all the available extentions. Guess it’s an upselling technique. What threw me off was those AJAXy boxes that roll for a moment and then present you with a checkbox – empty if domain is available or filled if it is taken. Obviously, boxes never got their AJAX stuff to work, so no way to register domain there too. Moving on.

GoDaddy was the scariest place to go on my smartphone, mainly because you can hardly see any useful features behind heavy advertising. Just imagining all that mess on a tiny (comparing to 1920×1200 24″ screen I have at home) smart phone screen was giving me creeps. Nevertheless, I jumped on the task. Quite a few minutes later, when all the junk loaded over my 3G connection, I was able to log in and submit a domain search. As you might have guessed, another button was teh culprit. The Go To Checkout button happened to be powered by some AJAX or JavaScript or whatnot and simply doesn’t work on mobile version of Internet Explorer. Sorry, you loose!

It wouldn’t be me if I left the problem unresolved. A little search around turned up two unblocked providers – Joker and Name.com. While I’ve stumbled on more than one occasion of negative feedback about Joker on WHT, the Name.com sounded like a reasonable choice, so that’s where I went. The whole transaction took no more than ten minutes and ta-da! Finally, after almost 10 years of exile, the catbegemot.com is in my posession.