Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Does your website have any sustenance?

Try thinking of your website like this: It is Thanksgiving Day, and you are more than ready to eat. You know it should be good because so much money has been spent, but will it be? You walk into the dining room to a lavishly set table, beautiful china, shiny silverware, pressed linen tablecloth with matching napkins, and candles glowing all around. What a great way to start a Thanksgiving dinner!

You sit down and discover no one bothered to prepare the meal.

Most websites are not giving visitors a meal. And if they are, often it is full of empty calories. Companies are spending their budgets on web design, the niceties, and forgetting about content, the meal. The problem starts with creating a site that looks good and has things to play with but does nothing to educate or inform visitors about the company or organization. Games, 360-degree panoramics and virtual tours are cute. But once you’ve played with one, the uniqueness wears off, and none convey information about your business or product that your customers or clients will remember for the long term.

Did you know the average time visitors spend on a website is 30 seconds? It’s like watching TV and the finger stays poised on the remote.

What will pull someone into your site—video or words? If you said words, sorry you’re wrong, and that could cost you another potential client. Go to your site, count out the first 30 words and see if that really is the information you want someone to know about you. You ask “why 30”? The average person will read 30 to 40 words on a site, but they will watch 30 seconds of good entertaining, informative video. In fact if it is real good they will forget how long they have watched and could give you a couple minutes of their time.

“Sixty-eight percent of the top 50 Internet retailers use video content on their Web sites, compared with 18% in 2008. Online retailers are committed to making product videos central to their merchandising and marketing strategies because of the positive return on investment (ROI) that this visual feature generates. While only 16% of online buyers watch product videos on retailer Web sites, 64% of those consumers who do have found these videos to be very useful. Retailers should focus on understanding drivers of consumer usage and find appropriate contextual uses for product videos by integrating them into the overall e-Commerce experience”, from Forrester Research, November 5, 2009 Online Retailers' Adoption Of Online Video Content Is Ahead Of Consumers' Preferences by Patti Freeman Evans with Cristina Bugnaru, Brendan McGowan

According to a March 15, 2010 article from Multichannel Merchant, Outlook 2010: E-Commerce, their recent survey of retailers found that in the next 12 months 55.2% of businesses were looking to create more social media tools and 42.3% were looking to add more video. 

What kind of first impression does your site create? That’s your home page, and it should be just like the first meeting with a client: quick, energetic and interesting. Make a lasting impression. Take a look at this video for the Kissimmee (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lt2vL93YW9c. It is quick, energetic and introduces viewers to businesses, individuals and organizations that are part of the Chamber.

“The online video covering Central Florida provides an outstanding visual of how diverse the members of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce are. Showcasing nonprofit organizations to national sports teams, these 60 seconds indulge in the worlds of entertainment and education, speaking to many audiences,” said Wendi Jeannin of B&B Promotions of Central Florida, who oversees marketing efforts for the chamber.

Don’t take this to mean that all you need is a home page with plenty of bells and whistles. Once visitors are hooked, you need to keep them interested about your services or products using fresh video and copy. People are more apt to watch information in a good video than read the same information in black and white.

Kissimmee Main Street Program has a video targeting people looking for something to do whether they are tourists or locals trying to find something different. The piece also is working to change the attitude and perception of the city’s “Cow Town” image.

Cheryl Fish, executive director of the Kissimmee Main Street Program said this about their first venture into website and social media video, “This video has been running for almost a year on the Tourist TV channel in over 20,000 hotel rooms in the tourist area of Central Florida. It is also on many websites throughout the area, including the Kissimmee Main Street website. Numerous visitors have told us that seeing this video in their hotel room made them want to visit our downtown. The positive impact of this production has encouraged many businesses to use it as well,” she added. “Many businesses, such as Realtors, have put it on their site to use to present a positive image of our town to clients [considering] moving into the area. It has proven to be a great way to promote our area. The video has worked so well that we are currently creating a new video to promote our year-round outdoor sculpture tour. It will again be used, as the first video was, to promote our Historic Downtown and all we have to offer.”  Over the past year their video has generated nearly 4000 views on YouTube.

If you want to do it yourself take a critical eye, be your own worst critic. Write a script and use it. Buy a fluid head tripod and learn how to use it. Shoot at the highest quality possible, some people still have the attitude “It’s just for the internet” the video from YouTube can be a better quality than your TV. Edit the video so it is informative but no longer than necessary, if you are over two minutes ask why, if it is over three start over. Ask other people to watch the video and get their honest opinion. When you show people the video watch them, are they excited, attentive, bored, zoning out? Often watching will tell you more than what they have to say.

Too often people and companies shy away from new media, because they don’t understand how it works or how to make the most advantage of it. Web-savvy multimedia professionals can help you understand how you and your business can best use the technology to your benefit.

Website checklist
What is the most prominent part of your home page?
How long does it take to read the text on your home page?
Do the colors and layout complement your company and message?
Are viewers lead from one spot to another on the pages or confused over where to look?
Are viewers going further into your site or clicking off the home page?
Who is viewing your site? Is it who you want? Is it appropriate for the clientele?
Is it too technical or too simplistic?
Does it communicate your message in the quickest way possible?

Edmond D. Sackett runs his business, Dawson Multimedia Productions, through the website dawsonmultimediapro.com and can be reached there. He has been involved in visual communication for over 30 years.

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