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Your Corporate Web Site – Have you looked at it lately, really looked?

The other day I want to the grocery store and bought a bottle Carnivore wine. A modest little red but we like it. When I got home I fired up the ole computer and on the first page I opened was an ad for Carnivore. How did it know I went to the store? I used my Ralphs discount card and sure enough, within an hour, items I bought were being promoted on my computer.

What’s all this got to do with your corporate site? The Carnivore incident got me to thinking about web sites in general, and how long it had been since I really looked at our site. I took a group from our office on a mini retreat, set up a 55 inch flat screen, and we went through every page and tore them apart, bit by bit.

The more changes you make to your site, the more content you run, the more automatic stories are put up, the more chance there is for things to get sideways. We found for instance, that there were pages that were years out of date and never used. We found that some of the backgrounds were so fuzzy that the foregrounds were difficult to see. We found that some of the banner ads that we sold to our customers were being overwritten by other banners.

We also found that with minor changes we could make it easier to users to find content. Where it took six clicks to find a story, we changed that to one.

Your website may be static, that is with few changes done by your web master weekly or monthly, Our site is under constant stress. We make myriad changes every day. Some are automatic like putting up blog entries and headlines from Parknews on our home page to others that required human intervention like the crawl across the top of our page and changes to the association and calendar listings.

We found that we had begun to take our site for granted. It needed freshening up. Like a fall cleaning. Over the next few weeks you will see many changes, some minor, some not so, but all which will make the site easier to navigate and use. You can have the best content on the planet (and we do), but if you can’t access it, so what.

This project took about three hours. The cleanup will take a bit longer. Have you looked at your site lately.

When you do, I suggest a couple of things:

First, do it yourself. Have your staff around but you operate the mouse, find out just how hard or easy it is to move around your site.

Second, if you find it confusing or difficult, how do you think someone who has no clue about your product or service will find it.

Third, let there be no sacred cows. Just because that logo has been there for 5 years and was designed by your brother in law doesn’t mean that its perfect for that spot on the web site.

Fourth, if it doesn’t do anything, remove it. We found page after page that either replicated other pages or had links to nowhere,.

Fifth, click on every link and find out where it goes and ensure it makes sense. If it does nothing, get rid of it.

And most of all, be sure your website delivers what you want it to deliver. In our case, we want our readers to find content, both new stories from blogs and parknews.biz, and historical content from the magazine. Frankly I found it hard to navigate. We are fixing that.

Websites have a tendency to be designed by 20 something technocrats who know everything about everything and make assumptions that the rest of our mere mortals do too. Fix that.

Oh, and it helps to have a glass of Carnivore Zin in hand during this process. I’m not sure why, it just does.

JVH

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