Now the Online Finance Awards have been delivered and the various non-winners have retreated to lick their wounds, it is time to pause for some serious thoughts on what is required by way of web-improvements to keep the industry going in the right direction.
Speaking as one of the judges involved – and, no, we did not tattoo ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ on fleshy body parts and swear eternal bonds of silence – I think it is important to follow up on the thinking involved to ensure continuous improvement.
That, after all, is what all providers, intermediaries and clients require if this thing called ‘e-commerce’ is really to rocket past the tipping-point – however it may be defined.
Here, then, are a few suggestions for improvements:
Avoid deserts and waterfalls. In terms of basic design there are always going to be balances between what the website provider wants to do and what users actually do once logged on/in Assuming a website is for most targeting provision of a one-to-many experience – it is not the case a new site is ‘built’ for each different user, although this may change through tools being developed under the umbrella idea known as Web 2.0 – the trick seems to be to tread a path avoiding either a front end seen as so limited in content (a desert) as to be incapable of offering anything beyond the home page, or on the other hand so full of content, for example, links to other pages or services so as to persuade the visitor/user to feel they are in the midst of a flood (a waterfall) of content.
KISS your users well. This goes without saying, yet too many both b2b and b2c sites still come across as the equivalent of a teenager in the hormone vortex wearing steel rails on their teeth and trying to plough into their first ever date’s mouth. The recipient – who in many cases as a user of e-commerce is also the equivalent of a first dater (though perhaps not fully a virgin in such matters) – is unlikely to respond in kind. Of course practice makes perfect, but bearing in mind the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) from the start may save much time, money and angst.
Make yourself available. Too many sites frustrated the judges on grounds of silly little omissions, such as not prominently showing a contact telephone number. Especially in the area of b2c websites this should be a ‘no-brainer’. Considering most urban areas in the UK will offer up some sort of free wireless calls through the internet in the next two or three years, and considering the ongoing moves to click-to-call supplementing click-to-view models being pushed by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft as part of their developments in lead-generation services, these are the types of web design and web service aspects contenders to the awards will have to improve on if they are to stay in the running in the next and subsequent years.
Do not reinvent the wheel. This is applied by businesses to many other parts of their operations, so why not in the way they prepare and deliver their websites and services? Your own guess is as good as anybody else’s as to the total number of b2b and b2c websites across all sectors of the economy, not just financial services, already in operation. Why try to beat them all on the idea of the ‘website to beat all websites’. That simply will never happen. Study the competition, but also look outside the sector for good ideas and use them. Supermarket websites are rubbish because they cannot deliver – a quick poll around the office suggests of online supermarket orders delivered 95% or less of the goods actually ordered are delivered 100% of the time – but entertainment sites such as Virgin Radio are pressing all the right buttons – fully tuned in, so to speak.
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Jonathan Boyd on 020 7484 9769 or email [email protected].IFAonline
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