Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Ten Questions re: Does Your Tech Company Web Site Suck?

Ten Questions re: Does Your Tech Company Web Site Suck?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Lately I’ve been researching government contractors and consulting companies in the DC area. This is what I’m looking for as explained last week on GovLoop and Google+:

I am researching the identity of contractors in the DC area who have been awarded civilian agency or DoD contracts in the past 12 months dealing with collaboration technologies including design or operation of interactive websites or intranet sites, agency and inter-agency social networking, or SharePoint implementation.

So far one of the most useful tools I’ve found is the ability to search in FedBizOpps for awarded contracts. FedBizOpps also lists “interested contractors” for many of its Federal contract listings.

As I’ve researched companies I’ve noticed a rather disturbing fact: many of the smaller company web sites I’ve reviewed leave a lot to be desired. Here’s a checklist of things I look for:

  1. Out of Date. When was the last time you updated your copyright statement, 2007? How about company news? If you haven’t added anything to company news since last year is it safe for me to assume that nothing has happened at your company — no new hires, no new business, no new technology, no new staff presentations?
  2. Too Much Animation. OK, the animation is pretty the first time. But at best it distracts from your message, and at worst it makes your site difficult to navigate. (I especially hate it when I have to wait for pick lists and menus to appear magically.)
  3. Too Much Marketing-Speak. If I read “XXX is a leader in YYY” one more time I’m going to scream. I don’t care what buzzword you’ve decided to pursue leadership in; the minute you have to tell me that I immediately assume you’re not. Just tell me what you do and what makes you different. And please, don’t tell me about how honest and ethical you are, and don’t say you’re “customer-focused.” Who isn’t?
  4. No Humans Listed. When I go to a company website, especially a small or midsize company, I often wonder about who runs the company, where did they come from, and why did they get there. Too many times I see no names listed, even under the “leadership” heading. How is that possible? I immediately wonder, “Is this a one-person shop? Have so many people left recently they can’t keep the leadership page up to date?”
  5. No Clear Focus. Many companies just don’t provide a clear picture of what it is they do and what (they think) they’re good at. Either they are all over the place (unfocused) or are fuzzy (“industry leader in X”). Now, there might be some perfectly good reasons why, especially here in the DC area, you can’t really talk about what it is you do, especially if most of your work is classified or is work for hire under nondisclosure agreements. But that’s no excuse for being fuzzy and unclear. You especially don’t want to give the impression, “We’ll do anything you want” since that’s the road to a “butts in seats” reputation — and lower billing rates.
  6. Broken Links. I know, it’s a bitch to keep links up to date. But you need to do it, especially if you link to other companies or agencies you’ve worked with. Having too many out of date links can be the same as the sound of crickets.
  7. Too Complex. Don’t give me a dissertation. Make it easy for me to search and/or navigate through your site. Don’t force me through a sequence of pages or clicks because you think it’s important to “educate” me about what it is you do. Let your executives or sales people do that one on one. Remember you may only be one of a dozen sites that I’m checking out. If I have to play games to figure out if I want to talk with you I’m going to vote with my mouse or trackpad and go elsewhere.
  8. Too Social. OK I get it — you have a Facebook page and buttons for sharing all over the place. That’s good. But I’m not interested in getting social with you; I want to find out what you do and whether it’s relevant to me and my own business. I’m on your website; do you really want me to go elsewhere to find the real you?
  9. Not Social Enough. This is the flip side — you give no indication of the world of social media that might be relevant to your business. If you’re in the government contracting business, are any of your people active in any GovLoop groups, for example? Or a Linkedin group? You don’t have to be all over the place. But if you do indicate that you have some familiarity with social media that tells me that you may be open to being more flexible about how you communicate with your communities, and that’s good.
  10. Too Hard to Update. This is me reading between the lines, but I suspect in many cases that one of the reasons why many websites are not updated is that it’s just too difficult or expensive to do so. You might be using technology that’s a decade old that requires a trained professional to update stuff. If that’s the case you need to be looking at more modern tools that you can use yourself. They’re out there. Don’t let the attitude “My company is different and therefore we need an expensive customized website” lead you astray. No one cares what tools you run your website on if the content is timely and relevant — as long as you aren’t running banner ads for competitors or get rich quick schemes!

Feel free below to add more — or take me to task!

Copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald.

Update on 2012-12-13 17:06 by Dennis D. McDonald

Here’s number 11:

  • Do you do “mobile”? When I arrive at your website is the page optimized for a smartphone or tablet? Or is the page displayed in standard browser format with teensy weentsy text I can’t read?

 Here’s number 12:

  • What’s your phone number? I arrive at your web site while working at my desk. I read your blurb and think, “This might be just what I need! I’ll call this company!” I pick up my phone and look at the “contact page.” There’s no phone number listed, just a form for “requesting more information.” Nor is there a physical address listed so I can look you up. I put down my phone.

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