Friday, 15 May 2015

Company Websites 2.0; it’s all about business 3/3

Click here for Part 1 ..websites of business are underused
And here for Part 2 ...suggestions to make it business oriented

User experience

Larger tech firms dedicate a team to continuously improve user experience of their sites, with good reason.

“One tenth of a second delay in the website will lose Amazon 1% of sales”
     – Amazon Rising, CNBC 2014

The quality of users’ interactions on a website is what user experience is about.  While this is a topic by itself, it really comes down to speed – how fast the user gets to whatever he is trying to reach.  It is a combination of:

  (1) response time (how fast a web page is served),
  (2) how little distractions (so he focus on his task, exiting quickest after he’s done),
  (3) how little steps he takes (number of clicks) and the
  (4) quality of the information around the content (so he doesn’t have to look elsewhere, and for SEO)

Once the maxim was to fill a webpage to the brim, today it is as little as possible.  Minimalism is not a style, it’s in response to (1), (2) and (3).  Notice the bland look of Google Search, AirBnB, Trulia and Flipboard.  No clutter, no distraction, only the relevant are shown.  Move everything that’s not relevant elsewhere.  Corporate information is a good example.  The link to it can be at the bottom of the page or the next level.

Personalisation is at the centre of user experience.  When applied to website design, it is the ability to capture a user’s browsing habits in order to use that information to improve his experience by reducing his site navigation effort.  An example - if she usually navigates 4 levels down to a specific brand of lipstick, let her do it in 2 clicks the next time.  It can even be as simple as returning to the same spot after she clicked on a product in a multi-page product list.  But surprisingly, most sites do it the lazy way, to the top of the page, not where he left off.  It may sound simple but personalisation is complex.  It is about Big Data, using algorithms and analytics. However for a firm like Acme (case study, see 2nd post), a simplified version can be had by coding it into the website.

Minimising the number of clicks is something tech firms obsess over.  I call it the 2-click principle. Two is not possible most of the time but this is a way of saying - minimise the number of clicks when designing processes and if it can be done within 2, that’s great.  Personalisation is one way to achieve this.  For small firms, being thorough and having the 2-click principle in mind when designing the website wireframe (page schematics representing the skeletal framework of a website) is probably the best way.  I have tried this.  It is surprising how being rigorous can reduce the number of clicks and in my attempt, by more than 50% from an old site.

User experience is a huge topic, what’s presented here is a snapshot.  And improving it is not a one-off task.

Finally, if you are considering revamping a website, bear in mind these modern techniques: agile, interactive snippets, lean startup, responsive web design, responsive app, landing page, material design, A/B testing.  And note that Google’s SEO (search engine optimisation) algorithm rewards good user experience and content.


Although they must scream sales, using the web only to sell is akin to using roads for sales and not for other aspects of a business.  As a firm goes through its day-to-day business, there are times when it carries out business development or to seek assistance for a noncore design or for talent acquisition.  These now can be carried out online to reach the sources, directly or indirectly though consumer activities of crowdsourcing.  In fact with the economy digitising, this is another way to achieve many business objectives, possibly at lower cost and with more impact.  Or use it to complement conventional methods.

Corporate website 1.0 was essentially closed, assessable to its customers and partners while version 2.0 opens it to the public with the object to develop the wider market and to engage this resource for its routine operations. It is a facsimile of a business.

©Thet Ngian Chen, (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thet Ngian Chen and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Corporate Websites 2.0; it’s all about business 2/3

Part 1 suggested that business websites are underused.  Two factors were raised.  We continue with the 3rd here followed by suggestions to make it business oriented.

3. Misguided use of websites, misguided understanding of business internet

       “Social media is only the tip of the iceberg”

Executives then (first phase of the web, pre-2000) misunderstood the internet as a tool for commerce.  They couldn’t grasp the differing culture or the changed rules of business. The result is that many firms today, through their websites, are not realising their full potential in a digitising economy.

To overhaul the website to do so will require the firm to meld business objectives it wants to achieve, say, long term engagement of their customers, online and applying the right digital mechanisms.  That is to say, apply the relevant internet ‘rules’ to the business processes.  This is more than using responsive web design, agile or another term the tech industry spews out. A grasps of the fundamentals of the machinery of the internet economy will help.  This is a huge topic so I’ll just leave references.

Most will agree that operating or even using online services feels a bit different from what we are used to.  Since culture eats strategy (Peter Drucker), some understanding helps. 

  The culture that lead to lean startup   Key is to be able to live the open culture.

“’Free and open’ was what made the internet work then, and it’s a critical principle now. I didn’t have to ask permission to build my first websites.  I had unfettered access to material that helped me teach myself how to code. As I learned more, I quickly came to understand that the internet was so much more than a network of cables and wires that connected computers around the world. It was a platform for the purest expression of freedom, openness and possibility that I had experienced in my life”
                                                                                 – Chad Dickerson, founder of Etsy

One big trend is the consumer economy - whence once the consumer only consumes, they now also produce.  This made billionaires of the founders of Facebook, Uber et cetera.  Consumers can indirectly play a role for a business if they are ‘asked’ 

   Crowdsourcing; a tool for business

‘Free’, once a niche in business is now taking centre stage in the internet economy.  Would Facebook be free to use if a traditional telco invented it?  Rules have changed, new business models have emerged.  Tech firms use ‘free’ strategically, so can traditional firms.  They understand that free now has value.

Another is active vs passive websites.  Website 2.0 is active by definition because it engages the public, using an open (digital) platform to do that.

Finally, this is self explanatory.

Towards a 2.0 company website

 “Digital capabilities increasingly will determine which companies create or lose value” - McKinsey, May 2014

Business websites today tend towards sales but business is more than about selling.  2.0 version adds three things to improve business; capability to engage consumers (market development), put online specific business processes (to execute goals like market surveys) and improving the overall user experience.  It does more than that but three suffices here.  And by being inclusive, business should improve just as costs are brought down. 

Engaging consumers

Website 2.0 is about selling but it also engages consumers, some of whom would in the process contribute to the business.  Instead of traditional marketing, which is really one-way, online it is two-ways using crowdsourcing.  AT&T had an initiative in a crowd-driven video to market its phones.  The first episode was posted online, inviting anyone to suggest how the story continues.  The only condition was that AT&T phones are featured as crowd cartoonists build their ideas into the story.  Downloads were high.

Crowdsourcing can do more by engaging consumers.

          These are about applying the relevant ‘rules’ to increase digital impact.  ‘Rules’ refer to
          methods, business models and mechanisms of the internet economy.

Obviously the use of such a platform is not limited to marketing but to business development and other aspects of a business.  This leads to the second capability.

Business processes 

Essentially this is about weberising business processes.  Businesses from time-to-time necessitate specific actions; carrying out a market study, developing a new product, recruitment, etc.  In this new social-economy, the crowd can assist rather than doing everything internally.  Why?  Because you can and it improves the deliverables while lowering costs.  It also brands.

 “China’s Xiaomi crowdsources features of its new mobile phones rather than investing heavily in R&D, and Telstra crowdsources customer service, so that users support each other to resolve problems without charge” - McKinsey, ‘Strategic principles for competing in the digital age’
Why they can is because Free now has value.

Let’s see how Acme does it.  Acme is in retail, hawking a variety of bicycles and accessories.  To better stock the shop, it wants to know what his customers really want.  Talking to them is one way but they know that idle chatter, say while a group of enthusiasts is on a country trial provides the most authentic data,.  Let’s see how this can be realised online.

Acme set up a forum off its main website, titled ‘off roading’ suggesting that enthusiast use the forum to discuss their experiences.  Accessories they like, specific performances of their bicycles and issues would be in the chatter.  Acme simply reads the forum for data.  They also set up another, a Q&A forum for its customers and opened to others. If the shopkeepers respond diligently and add a dose of enthusiasm, some of them will become customers.  When they want to ascertain something specific, say, whether to stock an accessory, he posts it as a question on the forum.  [Twitter and Facebook can also be used.]  This way, he is researching his market.  They can do more.

This is a simplistic example. Execution is never easy unless you are a global brand with an established fan base.  To get the forum going is like a branding exercise, it needs creative effort and there’s no guarantee.  A combination of traditional marketing (PR, giving talks, article placements in trade magazines, etc), traditional internet marketing (email, website, etc) and social media (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc) can draw in the initial participants.  In all cases, ask for email addresses.

User experience is probably the most important for a business website.  This is discussed in the next concluding post.

©Thet Ngian Chen, (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thet Ngian Chen and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.