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Blog : Websites



By Jo Harley, director, learnpurple

First Impressions

In my last blog 'iphones, ipods & the igeneration' I wrote about the prevalence of technology in our lives and how it is going to affect the way that we manage our people. So to continue on a technological theme - and in line with the fact that we are in the middle of updating our very old and somewhat tired website - I have started to think about what it is that makes a good site, what makes people visit your site and what will make them stay? Is it, I wonder the same as when you meet someone for the first time? Are impressions made in the first three seconds that stay with you thereafter, and if you make an unfavourable first impression, will people ever come back?

The facts

What makes people visit a website in the first place? Or specifically your website? There are over 108 million websites (source: Netcraft 2007) to choose from and this is growing daily. That's a lot of sites to choose from, and most people use a search engine to refine their search what they are looking for. In fact 87% of people in the UK use Google to search (hitwise June 2007). So there is a lot of competition out there (and don't even get me started on search engine optimisation!) Essentially I believe that people will visit your website for one of three reasons; for information, to purchase something or for entertainment. Interestingly the web is known as the 'gift economy' give away something and people will come a running. According to www.webreference.com: "Very few sites (5%) can charge for admission or require membership, and many people avoid sites with these barriers. Give away something valuable: information, software, advice, humour, and people will flock to your site."

Those websites selling a product are however growing at an unprecedented rate, a measure for this is the count of websites with SSL certificates (Secure Socket Layer) an extra bit of security for you and I. Six hundred thousand at last count, this is a 65% growth per annum (www.netcraft.com) but even so, with so much choice, and new sites being launched daily, how can you get people to your site without paying the likes of Google et al?

The 'duck quack'

Seth Godin (our very favourite blogger and writer) believes that one way to get people to come to your website (and stay there) is to have a 'duck quack'. This, Godin explains, originates from when National Discount Brokers created a voicemail system which was fairly normal until you got the last option, which would be a duck quacking. This was funny, people told people and millions called. This resulted in a pretty large phone bill for the company, however sales increased by 75% as a result.

There have been a few memorable 'duck quack' sites for me over the last year, both off the wall, original and funny, the first was at Christmas when US office suppliers Officemax gave people the opportunity to add pictures of their faces to dancing elves, this was genius, and had our whole office gathered round PCs laughing at the images (and sending them on to many others all over the world). The second, and more recent is from Caterer.com a hospitality based recruitment site with their 'little Gordon' www.caterer.com. Both of these were passed on to me by colleagues, and again I forwarded both of these on to friends and family. Once a 'duck quack' starts on its merry way people will forward it on for ages. I am not one that ccs everyone in my address book with any old thing, so for me, it has to be truly funny and original to pass on.

Now, there is a flaw to the duck quacks that I have chosen, did I know what website the dancing elves were from? Not a hope (until I looked it up for writing this). Would I go on to Caterer.com's website? Well no. I am happy in my job thank you. However, I guess that somewhere along the line, the sheer number of people that the sites attract will convert some of them into customers, or regulars, or whatever the company concerned wants them to be.

Making it easy

So, you've encouraged people to come to your site, but what do you do with them once they are there? Common sense shouts at us 'Make it easy!' but so many people fail to do this, Godin puts it very nicely in his book 'The big red fez, how to make any website better' by commenting that if you had to ring the doorbell to get into your favourite shop and look around, would you bother? So why do so many people have fancy pages that serve no purpose before the home page is even reached? I've noticed that this usually happens with organisations that think they are uber cool, I guess like their brand message which seems to be; 'You have to work to get in here', see www.chinawhite.com for a very good example!

So, be simple but also be original and credible and if you are imparting information ensure it's up to date, and of course make sure that you are giving something to your audience (www.webreference.com) remember your site is about them and their needs, not yours, and they may not care how many years you've been running, or what the Finance Directors three children are called. It would, I am sure, be very easy to spend a lot of money employing experienced consultants to design your site for you. From experience I'd say you are the person that knows what you want to say, you also probably have vast experience of what it is like to go on the web, (hopefully not whilst you are supposed to be working though!) It may be worth thinking about doing as we have done; sitting down with many pieces of paper and thinking about exactly what message you'd like to get across on each page, what is the point of each page, and what is the user receiving from each page?

The Purple Revolution

So, as we've discovered, it's quite a task getting the Purple message across the web. And whilst we are building our brand new website (to be launched in September, just think, you too will be able join our Purple People Revolution! We'll keep you posted) we're trying to keep all of the above in mind. However, we are still searching for an idea for that elusive 'duck quack'. Any ideas, or want to share your favourite funny, original, most informative sites we'd love to hear from you, after all with over 108 million sites out there why should we completely reinvent the wheel?

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