Just 10 days into 2014, I’ve received at least three emails from companies announcing they’ve launched new websites. There must be something about a new year that sees us dusting off our old image and starting afresh, brimming with resolutions, and it’s no less a trend in the corporate world.
As someone involved in website build on a daily basis, I tend to click, or more likely swipe through curious to see whether companies’ new web presences deliver on promise – that’s if they have bothered to think about promise at all. Typically, I find the new site fails to offer the user/customer anything of substance over and above what was available on its earlier incarnation.
Being ubiquitous on mobile devices is neither ‘new’ nor news
Not one of the new websites I browsed did anything remarkably different from the firms’ old ones, yet I hazard a guess internal teams and external-hire web agencies spent anywhere between two to six months from plan to launch of these new sites. Colours and navigation had shifted around; generally typefaces had become larger (great for those needing readers) and I found more white backgrounds and upfront social media calls to action. No doubt Medium, with its emphasis on back to the basics of blogging (words, sense, usability) is having some influence. The other discernible upgrades lay in the websites’ optimisation for mobile devices.
So what’s new Pussycat?
Now that I am able to access these firms’ websites wherever , whenever and through whatever device, what more could I achieve on them? The answer in the case of the three I visited this week is very little. The emails tended to give me their version of what I am supposed to find and be amazed by. But, let’s face it, usability across platforms should be the norm now, in 2014; industry standard in fact. So announcing their mobile ubiquity was a ‘yawn’ factor. If your customers are hanging out on mobile devices, it’s plain obvious you need to be there, if you aren’t already. Way back, the adage was ‘build it and they will come’; now it’s ‘make it mobile and they’ll quick march to you’?
Reward customers if you solicit help
Several solicited my feedback to help them massage their new sites further to meet my needs. What I was missing were features of real value to me in my transactions with them. At the very least some thanks for my loyalty or a carrot for my input in critiquing their sites (my time, for free!). In the case above, the ‘here’ link took me to their regular contact form with open text box, not even a short questionnaire. I wonder just how many folk bothered to respond to that solicitation?
Stop thinking about your beautiful new website and start thinking about your customers’ behaviour on your website
You’ve launched a new website, but do I really care? The best analogy I can give is the time I looked through my aunt’s 200 or so photos of her trip to the Antarctic; think penguins upon penguins. The photos had meaning to her, but were deathly boring to me. I wasn’t with her on her journey and neither were your site users or customers on your new website journey. They just aren’t as excited as you, so choose your words and calls to action carefully on that email announcement.
Your new web presence may have cost blood, sweat and tears, but bear in mind that unless you can tempt me with features of real value over and above which platforms you’re on, think twice before winging out a plain vanilla ‘broadcasting’ PR email; that’s so last year.