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Main | November 2006 »

Flash is Growing Up ...

It is nice to see that Flash has finally grown up.  One of the biggest advantages that came with Flash  was the enhanced ability to do video.  YouTube.com delivers hundreds of millions of videos with Flash.  A number of top news sites deliver streaming video with Flash.

Being a proud pundit of web usability, I always encourage some restraint with clients who "need" Flash on their web site. Recently, a client requested Flash on their site.  We tried to tactfully talk them out of the idea, but were unsuccessful.  They spent over 30% of their web budget on a cool Flash masthead.  It looks great.  Was it worth the investment?  In my professional opinion, I would say "No." We presented the option of using Javascript to accomplish a similar outcome, with little or no additional cost, but they insisted on Flash.  The client invested a significant amount of money that won't bring them an appreciable ROI. 

Being cool with your web site isn't always desirable. After a few visits, the novelty of a cool web site starts to wear off.  Look at web sites that don't have all the bells and whistles.  There is nothing cool about Google, Yahoo, or any of the top news sites.  Yet, they are the most popular sites on the Internet. Top Internet sites provide high quality content, mostly in HTML text.  Always remember, users seek content, not cool.  If you want to be cool, strike a balance with useful.   

My issues with Flash is how people use (abuse) it.  If you are going to use Flash, use it in moderation.  A few video files or online presentations are a nice addition to any site.  I don't recommend designing significant parts of your site's architecture around Flash, especially navigation.  Make sure you have plenty of HTML text.  Search engine spiders eat up HTML text.  The same spiders don't do well with Flash.  The lack of HTML text makes it very difficult for them to interpret Flash.

Flash definitely isn't going away, so if you are going to use it, use it wisely.

Additional Resource:
Flash: 99% Bad

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Web Site - Browser Testing

Have you ever been to a site that didn't display properly? A simple mistake web developers commit is failing to rigorously test web sites on multiple browsers and platforms. Numerous web sites get out to the public without being properly tested.  The end result is pages that don't look right.

Why should I test?

I run across web sites on a regular basis that don't render properly.  This can create havoc and significant frustration for users of your web site. A site might load properly in Firefox.  Yet, if you load the same site in Internet Explorer a blank screen appears.  In more severe cases, a web site can instantaneously crash a browser.

Test your site in as many browsers and operating systems as practical. Below you will find a list of browsers and operating systems to test.  Ask family or friends to help.  Most people have friends who use the listed browsers and operating systems. Send out an email with a link to your web site.  Attach a screen capture to illustrate how the site should look. You should be able to tell if there are any issues in a short period of time.   

Test in these browsers:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
  • Netscape
  • Safari
  • Opera

Test on the following Operating Systems:

  • The Windows Family of Operating Systems
  • Mac OS
  • Unix and Linux (If you have some who uses these)

If there are issues, have your testing participants document what software version they are using and what occured.  Their feedback can be in very simple terms, "I'm using Firefox 2.0, when I try to load the video on your site it doesn't play." Pass the information to your web developer or IT department.

More people are getting PDA phones with Internet access, you might want to consider testing for the mobile user.  If you decide to test your site on mobile phones, consider the test an experiment. Don't get overly concerned if you site doesn't render as expected.  Most sites won't display properly unless they are built to be displayed on mobile phones.  The sites that fair the best are those built with significant HTML text.

You won't be able to guarantee perfection for ever user.  The browser and operating system variables are endless.  But, you can test your site with a few users to ensure the greatest compatibility.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

On Being Late . . .

I'm sure everyone has been late to a meeting.  Having been through the experience on more than one occasion, I thought it may be helpful to pass along some observations.  You can always make more money in life, you can't make any more time.  Make sure you hold other people's time in the highest regard! 

If you know you are going to be late, do something about it!
This is the most important rule, and by far the most effective. As soon as you think you aren't going to make your appointment on time, let the person know immediately.  Over the last ten years, nobody has ever been upset at me when I called ahead and informed them I was runnning behind.  Most of the time the person was very amicable, "You're gonna be late, no problem ... I need a few more minutes anyway ... thanks for letting me know!"  When you know you are going to be late, call at least 30 minutes ahead of time.

Plan accordingly
How many times have you been headed to any appointment and thought to yourself, "oh no - I'm going to be late."  In an attempt to make it on time, you become a lead foot and speed through a number of yellow/red lights.  In order to avoid this, think about the drive ahead, well in advance of when you should leave.

  • Is there going to be traffic? 
  • Any construction along your route?
  • Are there going to be weather issues?

Plan your meetings when traffic won't be a concern.  If you plan accordingly, you can eliminate some of the challenges of getting to your meeting on time. 

Be on time, neither too early or late
I'm a firm believer in being on time.  Too early is just as frustrating as late.  One colleague of mine would show up to meetings 15-20 minutes early.   When I was running 5 minutes late, he'd complain that he had been waiting for 25 minutes.  In a different, but all to common scenario,  job interviewees are notorious for being way too early.  Yes, show up to a job interview a few minutes early, but not 20-30 minutes early.  Make sure you are at your meeting location, plus or minus five minutes of your scheduled time.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Straightforward Domain Name Purchasing Guidelines

Are you thinking of purchasing a domain?
Be sure to review the previous post, Time to Register a New Domain?  It contains valuable information to determine if you should consider purchasing a new domain.

If you are ready to purchase a domain, here are some recommendations:

  • Keep Your Domain Short and to the Point
  • Ensure Your Domain is Easy to Remember
  • Make Your Domain Name Easy to Spell
  • What's Value of your Domain Name?

Make sure the domain is short. Try to keep it less than about 20 characters, not including www. or .com. The name of the site doesn't need to be your company name.  Make your domain name unique. It could include industry terms or a play on words.  Putting keywords (event marketing, event promotion, event promoter, etc.) in your domain name can help you with search engine rankings. Just remember there are other important variables when it comes to SEO and search marketing.

Make your domain name easy to remember. Look for a domain that's easy to remember.  Here's an example from the dating market . . . DoubleYourDating.com. There is little ambiguity to the previous domain name - you know exactly what you're going to get. You don't want to have a radio advertisement featuring your domain name and then have people forget. If you are doing traditional advertising, remember to repeat the domain name at least three time in your advertisement - especially in radio.

Your domain name should be easy to spell.  If you are thinking of registering a new domain, get family or friends to write it out on a peace of paper.  Ask them to spell out the domain names you're thinking about. If they can spell it without difficulty, you should be in good shape. This might seem trivial, but trust me . . . I spent years trying to explain to people our domain UsabilityMatrix.com. Yet, they continued to pronounce both the company name and domain name, USA (pause) bilitymatrix.com.  Stay away from hyphens in domains, it makes the domain even more difficult to remember. Keep your domain name simple.

Try for the .com, first, but it isn't always an absolute necessity.  Look at del.icio.us or craigslist.org.  Both companies have very popular web sites that use the .us and .org extensions. These domains are also good examples of a powerful brands that have been built over the years.

Domain Valuation
Gone are the prosperity days of domain name brokering (for the most part). Actually, I don't know if anyone prospered except registration companies.  Looking back, would a reputable business have paid billions ten years ago for Google.com or Yahoo.com?  No way! The domains didn't have any value at the time. A web site’s value is determined by what the web site offers its users, not necessarily by the name of the domain. 

Use the above guidelines to help you select the right domain for you.

Additional Resources:

Use the above guidelines to help you select the right domain for you.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Time to Register a New Domain?

As the price of domain registration continues to decrease, it might be time to consider registering a new domain or re-branding your existing domain. In this post we'll look into considerations for registering a new domain for your web site.   Some of the things you need to take into account are your existing domain, links to your domain, and domain name registration companies.

A few considerations:

"Why should I register a new domain?"
Did you originally get the domain you wanted the first time?  Because of domain availability at the time, you might not have registered your first choice.   Or, you may have recently thought of a simpler version of your existing domain name.   Several domain names become available every day due to expired registration.

Some Fun Internet History ...

Ever Heard of EchoBay.com?

"Originally, the site belonged to Echo Bay Technology Group, Pierre Omidyar's consulting firm. Omidyar had tried to register the domain name EchoBay.com but found it already taken by the Echo Bay Mines, a gold mining company, so he shortened it to his second choice, eBay.com." Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EBay

Many people bought domains thinking they could "cash out" with domain name brokers.  One person I know spent tens of thousands of dollars buying domain names, their ROI was ZERO.  Nobody bought any of the great names they purchased.  This is the case with 99.9% of people who buy domains hoping to score big.  Don't waste your money. The value of your domain is not in the actual name, but in your web site and your brand.

If you are thinking of re-branding your domain, look at  your existing links.  Your web site is indexed within search engines with your current domain.  If you change the domain, you'll lose all the backlinks.  Links are the gold standard for high search engine rankings.  If you have over 50 backlinks going to your existing domain, you might not want to change so quickly.  You can check your backlinks, use the Google Toolbar.

Here is a real world example: An anonymous professional sports team registered a new domain and immediately deactivated their old domain. If you went to Google and typed in related sports search terms all the listings pointed to their removed domain name.  If you tried to go to their web site, via one of the search engine results, you were greeted with an error message.  It took their web developer over a week to correct the problem.

"What's the lesson?" When you change your domain name, keep your old one active for at least a year, if not longer.

Remember to consider the reputation of the domain name registration company.  If registering a domain is too inexpensive to believe, go elsewhere.  Look for a company that is reputable and make sure they have a good management interface. Top domain registration companies include: GoDaddy and Register.com.

Last, plan when you domain is going to expire.  Domain name registration and web hosting are usually handled by two different companies.  In most cases domain registration companies disable your domain the day it's due. You are then left with an inaccessible web site.  Keep a spreadsheet or notebook to remind yourself.   

Keep your domain contact information up to date.  If you registered the domain with an old email, you won't get renewal notices.

If your domain does expire, unless otherwise noted, you typically (but not always) have 30 days to renew.  If you don't renew a set time frame, your domain can be purchased by someone else.  I can recall horror stories of companies that forgot to renew and someone else picked up their domain.  There are people waiting to do that to you right now, don't let them!

Next time, some guidelines for choosing the right domain name.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Marketing via Voicemail

Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Away Message?

I am amazed how few businesses use their voice mail or phone system to market their web site.  Both systems are on 24-7.  Are you using your away message as an excellent opportunity to market your web site?

You can add the following to your phone message, "Visit our web site, whatever-site.com, for more information."  Use a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on your site to answer common questions.  Doing so, helps you avoid having to respond to very simple questions about your business or product.  When your web site answers your visitor's most common questions, you get more time to work on other things.

If you record your voicemail message, be sure to use a land line.  The sound quality of most cell phones and portable phones is not very good.  Record your message in the highest fidelity possible. Be sure the person recording your voice mail message does so in an appealing manner and tone.

Is your domain name short and easy to spell?  If your domain is difficult to spell or hard to remember, be sure people can find you through one of the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, or MSN.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Web Page Statistics - "Hits" versus Visitors

"We had 180,000 hits on our web site last month!" - Unsavvy Business Person

Business people and web site owners trumpet the number of "hits" they receive on their web site all the time.  Hits are no longer a viable metric to measure web traffic. Companies that report hits are unintentionally misrepresenting the number of people coming to their web site.

Hits versus Visitors
Most people don't know the difference between hits and visitors.  There is a large difference between 100,000 hits and 2,000 visitors a month.  In some cases, they could be pulled from the same data and mean the same thing.  How you present the data makes a difference.

"Hits" and why they don't accurately portray site performance . . .

Hits are an indication of how many pieces of information load on a single page of your web site.  Specifically, how many individual images(a significant number on each page), Style Sheets, or text files, load on a each page of your site.

If a single visitor loads only your home page, it could register as 2 hits,34 hits, or 90 hits.  With 90 hits per page, a 100 visitors might fetch you 9000 hits or 2000 visitors get you 180,000 hits. Hits aren't a good metric to use.

A more accurate statistic to describe performance of your web site is the number of visitors or unique visitors. Visitors are the number of people coming to your web site.  Unique Visitors measure how many people visited over a set period of time.  "I had 3600 visitors to my web site this month!" The person saying that, knows their stuff!

Here's my anticlimatic close - Ultimately, it's not about Hits or Visitors . . . It's about getting the right traffic to your web site and getting them to take a specific action, regardless if that traffic is 100 or a 1,000,000 visitors per month.

Here are some Additional Resources:

Borat's Guide to Marketing

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) do not represent the views of this author.  I in no way condone his actions or beliefs.

Who's Borat?
(Warning: Borat is NOT Suitable for minors or people that are turned off by inappropriate humor!)

Now that we've established Borat as completely over the top and inappropriate . . .

I believe Borat's New Movie, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," will become the biggest dark horse comedy of the year for the North American Box Office.

What does Borat have to do with Internet Marketing?
In my opinion, Borat (Cohen) is a Internet Marketing Master.  He has taken a little known film and brought it into the mainstream.  It's been mainstreamed with an inexpensive video camera, a web site, video blogging, and social marketing.  He is achieving many of the same feats that Howard Stern accomplished in the 1980-1990s.  The biggest difference is that Borat is doing his marketing in a far shorter time frame, just a few months.