I think a lot of us have started to see a change in the way things are sold online. To start, there are more personal brands being built rather than companies. The question becomes, do you want to be the next Apple, or the next IBM? Do you see the difference, Steve Jobs was the face of Apple and has continued to be the face of the company even after his untimely death, while IBM has faced a series of years with falling share prices and no real draw.
For those selling products via ecommerce, web design, graphics and the use of video is becoming even more important. For example, a company selling wine gift baskets could theoretically show scenes from each of their suppliers while talking about why each of those suppliers was chosen. It’s an exciting way to show off your products and really sell what you do well!
Whenever I’m in the United Kingdom there’s one thing I enjoy more than anything and that’s the TV there. Watching a show for an hour without it being interrupted every ten minutes for endless adverts is simply bliss. It’s not something you can do in many places and even fast forwarding recorded shows on a Tivo is not quite the same.
But the BBC is complete bliss and not only are there no interruptions but the quality is generally superb too. Of course the BBC has huge advantages in being centrally funded and not commercially driven however it’s certainly my favorite broadcaster bar none. Nowadays the BBC has invested heavily in it’s online presence and was a pioneer in transmitting it’s content online using the Iplayer application. You can watch pretty much all the shows online for a period of a few weeks or live whichever suits you best.
There is one drawback though – the BBC Iplayer application is not actually available outside the United Kingdom. The web site checks the location of your computer by looking up your IP address – presumably to restrict the BBC shows to British license payers, although this seems rather mean. Fortunately I found this useful post which shows you how to watch the BBC Iplayer abroad. Apparently all you have to do is connect using a fake UK IP address and you’ll get access as normal.
I have tried this method out and it works fine, although make sure you disconnect after or all your browsing will be routed through the United Kingdom. It’s kind of sad that we have to use these methods – the US media sites are no better, can you believe I can’t access Hulu on my laptop either when I’m out of the US. The internet didn’t used to be like this and I for one miss the times when everything was accessible to everyone.
Selling web design services is one of the most difficult aspects to the industry isn’t it? After all, how can you really differentiate yourself from all the other operators out there based only on past work? At the end of the day, anyone wanting to do website design or even simply web graphics has to have a solid understanding of marketing and how to sell yourself and your business.
I couldn’t help but think of the online wine club that I’m a part of when I was writing this simply because they face many of the same challenges. I guess that’s one of the really positive aspects to the web design business, you should be able to take parts of each business that you work with and blend them into your own project. That’s both liberating as well as being really good for the long term health of your small web design business.
Why would you want to do this I might hear you ask. Well it’s mainly due to a practice called geotargeting and it’s extremely annoying. You’ve probably come across it before – perhaps you’ve clicked on a particularly interesting video on Youtube, you click to play but just get a message about ’this video is not available in your area’. Rubbish eh. But there’s more – loads of web sites do it. When I’m abroad I’ve been blocked from my online bank account as I’m in a different country, can’t access Hulu or Pandora on holiday as their US only. Literally more and more incidents being blocked or filtered from websites I use to access without problem.
Now a VPN is a Virtual Private Network and it’s just a little tunnel between you and another computer. So for example I could set up a VPN to a USA server, or an Australian proxy, check this out. The beauty is that I now appear to be in the location of the VPN server not my actual physical location – so I can connect to the country I need to access a particular website.
I’m actually quite lucky as the company I work for has lots of VPNs all across the world. This means I am able to access the one I need at any given time. The ones I use most are the UK one for BBC Iplayer (blocked outside UK) and the US one for when I’m travelling. I really wish the web sites wouldn’t do this – it just seems against the spirit of the internet. However as usual money making seems to have overtaken ideals once again.
Wine is one of the more difficult things to sell online for a number of reasons. First, there are major, serious reporting issues.
Secondly, to deal with those reporting issues you almost have to use a 3rd party company to help keep track of every applicable law on the books. For a wine a month club there are monthly sales tax reports as well, for up to 30 states!
Does that sound like a business you’d like to be involved in? For a web designer, it’s important to know some of these type of issues before taking on a project!
Wine is certainly a food which gives us its fair share of incredible images isn’t it? From pictures of vineyards to those of wine gift baskets, there are tons of different ways to see the image of wine in photography. Clearly standing in a vineyard and hanging out on a website are two different things, but if you really want to do a great job selling wine…they can’t be. Web design and graphics need to bring people into your vineyard if you own one and let them experience wine country and the lifestyle that it creates.
If you want to make an impression with your website one of the most important factors to consider is simplicity. If your website is cluttered and full of text and content, it will simply look to difficult to read and your visitors will disappear with a click of the ’back button’. I always remember one website I visited some years ago – it was a site about running PPC campaigns and making money, stuff like that – fairly boring. But the reason I remember this site is that it was coded simply in very basic HTML – no graphics, adverts – just text in a plain style. It was incredibly basic but it stood out simply because it was different.
Sometimes less can be more – look at the Apple web site:
Their focus is the new Ipad and it’s image speaks more that a hundred pages of text. There’s no need to burden you home page with text when you have something as beautiful as the Ipad to look at. Apple is selling style and an image transcends words in that department.
Sometimes very basic templates and design help you to focus on the content. Blogs should generally have as little clutter as possible on them, the words are the important bit on the blog. You can of course use relevant images – so stay on theme – this page uses graphics to demonstrate how to use an Ipad proxy to watch the BBC. Notice how there’s very little in the borders which also helps speed up loading of a page as well. Video works well on these sort of minimal sites too as they don’t distract from the video itself.
So don’t be tempted to overload your visitors, web surfers have extremely short attention spans – if your site looks too detailed and involved it will not draw the visitors in.
Being a web designer I feel that sometimes I want to advise a client against using my services, especially if I suspect that the client is in a highly competitive niche and is not likely to invest money in SEO and promoting the site. The reason for hesistency in business is that with each new Google update to their algorithm they are making content more and more important to search engine position.
Some people are not worried about their poistion for key words in Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. They have a strong brand already or they are offering something unique. While others should be more concerned about the position of their website in the search engines than the look of the site.
For example, if you have a hotel on Koh Phangan Island called ’Happy Hotel on Koh Phangan’ and you set up a website with the URL ’www.happyhotelkohphangan.com’ then you will come number one or near near number one for anyone who types in ’Happy Hotel on Koh Phangan’ into Google. Your prospective customer will find you quickly and will soon realize that he or she has found the official website. In this case web design can make the site attractive and help improve conversion rates.
However, if you have a website with affiliate links to Agoda etc that promotes accommodation on Phangan Island then you will find it very hard to rise above Agoda etc. to the top 5 for the key words ’Phangan Island accommodation’. What is needed more than exciting web design is lots of content, and content that is frequently updated. Only by offering better content than competitors will you make any money from the website. In this situation a platform that involves minimal coding and is easy to use such as WordPress is much more appropriate than a complex website with lots of bells and whistles that is never updated.
So before going to a web design expert or a graphic designer consider what you need a website for, and whether it needs to be constantly updated.