Friday, October 31, 2008

why is this my problem?

I was listening to the BBC online, and got this message:
If something - I'm not sure what, there was no 'movie' on the page - is causing problems then the publisher's techies should get it sorted. I clicked on the 'yes' to abort the script, but I have no idea what might have happened had I not seen the message - which was likely as I was using a different application while the radio was playing.

gone - but forgotten, apparently

A significant advantage that the web has over other media is the ability to have its public message changed [almost] instantly - unlike, say, the printed media. The BBC know this well and use it on their 'news' pages. So why have they forgotten the fact with regard to their published listings for up-coming shows.

One of the main news stories in the UK this week was the Brand/Ross telephone prank. By today the storm was passing after a couple of resignations and a suspension. As the presenters would not be available for tomorrow's radio show it seems odd that the Radio 2 website still lists that show on their listings.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ads on your own site - noooooooooooooooo !

I was looking for a book, and came across this site. It is the web presence of a publisher - How to Books. It would seem that times are hard in the publishing world, because they have decided it is a good idea to host ads on their pages.
Oh dear, who thought that was a good idea?

Now I would accept the argument that if the ads are producing an annual income that is in four figures then perhaps it is worthwhile. However, I would still point to the damage it is doing (a) your brand image, and (b) your sales - many of the contextually-targeted ads [naturally] link to self-help books and websites, and so take potential customers away from your site and onto another. Can you imagine wal*mart/asda having ads in their shops for Tesco? No, of course not - so why do it online?

Note that hosting ads as a business model on [say] a blog or content website is perfectly acceptable. Having ads on an organizational site is not.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

they're called domain NAMES for a reason

I was looking for something else when I came across this site for an organization called Countax - though you wouldn't be able to tell that from the URL that shows in your browser window when you are on the site.I also noticed the message saying that the site was last updated shortly after midnight on the first of January 2008 - in other words, [probably] when '2007' was changed to '2008'.

I have always considered 'last updated' messages a waste of time. Consider (1) if your website is updated frequently then the actual content will reflect this and it will be obvious to the user; eg a current affairs website, or (2) like this one, your website is rarely changed - and you don't really want to be advertising that fact.

And what is all that grey around the page all about? Note that I put the lines in to hi-light that it shouldn't be there.

I had a quick look around the site whilst I was on it, and look what I got when I clicked on 'site map' ...
Yes, that's not an error on my part - the 'sitemap' is blank. Kind of sums up the effort/expertise that has gone into this site doesn't it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

not so smart

My wife has a Smart car, and I was looking on the Smart website to see how much a new one would cost. Trouble is, I couldn't use the 'build your Smart' feature because I was using Firefox - and the numbskulls who designed the Smart website used a protocol that doesn't work on Firefox.

And if anyone at Smart who might be responsible for hiring those numbskulls reads this, I'm now off to the Fiat website to look at the new 500.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

you say region ... I say language

This organization came to the university where I work to demonstrate one of their products. Naturally, I took a look at their website - and found this on the front page:Now, as is my wont, I am being pedantic on this point - but I make it on behalf of all those folks who are [a] not English, and/or [b] don't speak English.

You see, French, Spanish etc are not regions, they are languages. If you click on each 'region' you are presented with a regional site [eg each lists 'local' clients]. So, people who manage Wimba's site, either change the terms used to France, Spain etc, or translate your site to the languages shown - and stop annoying me and all those South Americans/Americans who speak Spanish, Canadians who speak French etc etc.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

form wins out over function

Let's get this straight from the beginning : I am no fan of 'Flash' - or flashy - websites that seem to be more about the designers showing off their skills than actually achieving some marketing objective or other. Yes I admit there are a few good ones out there, I just don't see them very often. So when an article in the ClickZ Today newsletter included an article called 'using video to evaluate luxury marketing online' I went to see what it was about. Now the article was about online video, and to that end the article was good. Sadly, the site in question - luxury brand Tods - was not.

In fact, it is a perfect example of what I don't like about this kind of site. The navigation is appalling - if you can work out how it is supposed to work [try finding a store], going 'home' kicks the whole Flash thing off from scratch again, one part wouldn't let me in [I didn't have the latest software], the background video on every page slowed things down [OK on my T1 line at work, but it hung up on my standard broadband at home], poor product descriptions [just the words 'supple suede gloves created by expert glove makers for a perfect fit' on a $445 pair of gloves], no persuasive copy [a 'register' link and form, but no text to describe what I might gain from
doing so] - and finally, a typo on the front page [see below], let's hope the glove-makers are better at quality control.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

getting the SERP text right

The text that appears on the SERP is controllable - at least to a certain degree. Taking my name as an example, look at these two returns that appear together on a Google SERP for "Alan Charlesworth".Now, if you were looking for me, I think it is obvious which one is my site - but what about the other one? Is it me? The only way you would find out is by clicking on it. Now take a look at the text on my web page that linked from this SERP.Notice how the text in the SERP is the first line of the text on the page? Think that is an accident, or that I just got lucky? Think again. Now look at the homepage that links from the other Alan Charlesworth's SERP.
Sure, there is some text there, but it is not on the SERP - why? The answer is [I think] that the site is in frames and the search engine cannot read the text in the right hand frame. Just one good reason for not using frames. Notice also that the text I use in the first line gets across the message that I want it to do - again, no accident. I do the same for my main .eu site. Below is the listing from the same SERP as those above. As a footnote, whilst I might laud it over the other Mr Charlesworth in this regard - he still got one over on me by registering alancharlesworth.co.uk before me. Indeed, the reason I registered the domain name alan-charlesworth.co.uk and put up a single page on it was because when someone searches on 'pages from the UK' on the name, my dot eu domain loses ground because it is not a 'uk' domain.

Update on last paragraph Jan 2013: Google no longer offers searches on geographic areas [eg pages from the UK] but does this automatically by considering the IP address of the searcher. For example, if you search on 'electrician' the SERP will list electricians local to where you are.