James Royal-Lawson

distributed web

Same procedure as last year James?

Dinner for one is pretty much totally unknown in the country of it’s creation, yet a great number of other countries – of which Sweden is one – seem to know the script off by heart!

Over the years that I’ve lived in Sweden, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve introduced myself as James (especially around Christmas and New year) and heard “Same procedure as last year James?” in reply. At first I just gave a puzzled, but polite, smile as it was clearly me who was missing the joke. Then I saw “Dinner for One” the sketch and received a bit of a briefing on it’s history.

It’s a good example about how something can be so visible and well known, but yet totally unknown at the same time – what is obvious to one group, it a mystery to another.

Which brings us to the web connection…

What you think or see is not always what your visitors think or see. With personalised search, Local search, mixed media search – you may think you have a top 3 listing in SERPs, but for your visitor perhaps you’re a fair bit lower down.

You may think that you have all the information your customers need on your website, only to find that they are all discussing your products on a price comparison site.

Perhaps you thought no-one would notice that 2 hour downtime you had in the early hours of the morning, only to find that all your Australian clients have been talking about it from the moment it happened on Twitter.

Understand your web presence

It’s not the same procedure as last year, it probably never will be. You need to be part of the Internet, not just on it.

5 reasons your web presence misses the mark

DDB Stockholm have been behind some excellent creative work, including some fantastic viral videos (Who hasn’t seen the piano stairs?). Their new website is a step forward showing that they understand that your website is just one part of your web presence – one part of your distributed website that exists across multiple platforms and services.

But, it falls short of ticking all the boxes. Here are 5 examples of where they have missed a trick…

1. Flash based

A similar result could have been achieved (plus improved performance/less CPU-drain) with other technologies (eg html, css & ajax). For a recap of this bugbear of mine, see this post on Why flash based site suck.

2. Loading time

We may not be using 56kbps modems anymore, but loading times are just as important as ever.
It’s not only humans that bore whilst waiting for pages to load (and we bore very quickly), search engines bore too. Slow to respond and slow to load pages will be penalised.
Just the index.html file on is 148 KB. The entire start page (non-flash version) is 1231 KB (1057 KB of this are the various images used)

3. Accessability

OK, perhaps not up their amongst DDB’s target audiences, but making a web site accessible isn’t an optional extra.
It should be standard practice for everyone producing web sites. Granted, a non-flash version of
the site exists, which of course is a Good Thing, but accessibility doesn’t stop at “alternative content when flash disabled”.

4. Sitemap.xml

An easy win. All the major search engines love eating up sitemaps. Combine a sitemap.xml with robots.txt and you’ve made it so much easier for your content to be indexed. A valid and correctly linked RSS feed is an important part of the package, but it’s not a sitemap.

5. Microformats

rel=”me”. This is just as important for companies as for individuals in order to consolidate and confirm official identities across multiple sites and platforms. By cross referencing your various pages, you help join the dots for search engines (and visitors). Other microformats are of increasing importance; Geo-tags, contact details, product information. The sooner you make use of them, the quicker you’ll have the data indexed.

What is required…

These things are not overly complicated, new, expensive, or unavoidable. What is required is a web project manager with a good broad knowledge of the how the web really works, plus a quality web master/web manager. A web site manager isn’t a code-monkey or a copywriter, but someone who understands your web strategy, your target audiences, and the Internet – and who can make sure your web presence keeps on ticking all the boxes long after launch.

A Christmas shopping story

I may be an Internet professional, but i don’t think I’m that much of a freak when it comes to my shopping process.

About this time last year we (my siblings and I) discussed buying our mother a digital photo frame. In the end we put that thought on ice and got her something else instead. But Christmas, like a tax return, comes around every year, and so did the idea of a photo frame.

As far as I’m aware, I have had no exposure to any marketing of digital photograph frames, perhaps I’ve read or skimmed by something in T3 or Stuff magazine – but even so, no particular product has “stuck”.

Price comparison sites

My first step was to head straight straight to my favourite price comparison site (This is currently the excellent Swedish site Prisjakt) and located the product category for digital photo frames. Once there, I had a quick look through the listed products to get a feel for the price range and general specifications.

The next step was to narrow down the search results. I worked out features we (including my mum) would need for the frame. Clicked some buttons, checked some boxes and quite quickly there were just two products left (that were in stock and matched requirements).

Armed with two product names, I started hunting for detailed reviews, which didn’t take long at all. I took the time to read quite a sizeable portion of the reviews, building my own opinion, working out if the various features really would deliver what they promised.

Once I’d finished with the main detailed reviews, I took myself a little deeper and read some of the customer reviews where they pointed out (what appear to be) real experiences – with both negative and positive comments.

By this point, I’d pretty much narrowed the choice down to just one, at the same time realising that neither of them are “perfect” but that in the price range I’d decided, “perfect” was unobtainable.

Visiting a physical store

Now I’m getting very close to the end of my purchasing process, in fact in a lot of situations I would have clicked buttons and made a purchase at this point, but this time I wanted to touch and see the frame I’d decided to buy. So I visited a physical electrical store in order to confirm a few last details (namely that it can be switched to English – I’m buying it in Sweden) and that the display and build quality are acceptable.

Finally, it’s back home and straight to an online store in order to buy it for 25% cheaper that I’ve just seen it for in the physical electrical store.

Stunning change

This purchasing process has undergone a stunning change in a very short space of time. The traditional product launches and time-limited campaigns aren’t enough. From a B2C perspective; Branding, reviews, recommendations, and logistics (to make sure it works to order online) are what count. The manufacturers’ web sites? Surplus to requirements.

It’s about web presence not web sites

Once upon a time, your company’s website was the central point of all it’s online activities. The point was to get your target audiences to visit… No wait. back in the day, no-one thought about target audiences. The web was a niche thing and it was all about hits and grabbing as many visitors as you can.

Today your corporate website is irrelevant. It’s not the focal point of any one’s valuable surf-time; apart from, perhaps, you and your employees. Your web strategy is not about a web site. What matters today is your web presence; your distributed web site.

You will presume, at first thought, that I am talking about brand management and marketing plans. Yes, I am to an extent – those functional areas are part of the mix – but your web presence needs evolve to entwine itself in the way that every part of your company goes about it’s business.

For many departments this will translate to social media, for others it will necessitate a need to co-ordinate and co-operate across internal divides like they’ve never done before. The Internet has opened up an opportunity for convergence through distribution. Enlighten and Educate your organisation now.

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