Business Reorientation

I had a meeting some weeks ago with the founder of Smile Konnects. He is trying to create an organization to offer integration services for new immigrants here in Quebec City.
We had this talk and his ideas about the business problem he wanted to fix were great: in this province and mostly in this city is there are socio-cultural integration issues to solve. He wants to offer integrated services like activities, hosting and accompanying newcomers while offering information and guidance.

It has been 1 year ago since he started to promote the business. Smile Konnect is known and people start to identify him and his organisation, but not as much as he wanted. It is a promotion problem.

So I proposed him to get started with his main entry and starting point of audience: the web page.

Client Focused Web Page
Smile Konnects already had a web page but was not working at all. I did a review of it and I found a common issue when someone starts a business: it was more a business information page than a client oriented page. I’m a technical developer but I prefer to consider myself as a client oriented: you have to think as one of your clients at the same time you do a relation with your business objectives.

Before all, instead to run and jump directly to a new web page design redefinition, we did a business clarification with some simple questions:

  • What is the main objective/mission of your business?
  • What is your target audience?
  • Which are the core services you offer?
  • What do you think your customers expect to find?

After doing this exercise I evaluated his actual web page. I found the following issues:

- To much / unnecessary information
The three main business activities are hosting, social activities and offering advice/cultural integration guidance. But in here there was information for classifieds, external links to multiple sites, external accommodations, advertise offering, home stay, faq, membership, etc.

- Heavy use of text description
Your client has to identify what your business is about in a few seconds. Your page have to explain them in a few words what are you offering. Leave the secondary details for person to person talk or email explanation. The prospects will not stay around and read all the details of your business, and they doesn’t care anyways. If you are going to use text, use it with relevant important and precise information to help them to find what they are looking for.

- Content is king
You can have a beautiful web page done by the most expert designer having flash animations with some videos and special effects embedded in it. But if you don’t have the right content in the right place or you don’t have any content at all, these things are irrelevant.

- Speak your client language
Instead of talking about your business, talk about what your prospect is looking for. In this case, the clients aren’t looking for a nice page with faqs or links: they are seeking for useful information that will help them to succeed in their immigration process . Also we find common technical sentence like “personalized search request “, “ feeds “.

- Let your business talk for itself instead of tell / describing it with histories
We find a whole description about activities, for example: get-together activities : pub crawls, society games, international dinners/degustations, etc. But if the user doesn’t find a real scheduled activity about that, this could be disappointing.

- Not structured design, hard to follow
More important than having an impressive design, you must have a simply, usable well organized structure yet call to the action site. Do for your customers a simple and easy way to find what you’re offering to them.
In the actual site we even found many graphical elements that look like links-functionalities that were not working, like some kind of icons that were not clickable. This is confusing for the user.
All these issues were distractors and were impeding the prospects to have what they were looking for quickly.

Redefinition process
To recreate the business web page, I propose and stick to the following statements:

  • Focus on the core business activities and do them relevant in the page

  • Minimize secondary activities that are not relevant
    For example: we keep classified ads but only as a category in the blog.

  • Simplify all the design to make easy to customers get what they were looking for
    User of the site should not do more than 2-3 clicks to get to a section of your site. Design is simply and well organized. Sections are clear.

  • Create a emotional link for prospect instead of show the organization as a business
    Instead of do a static site that looks like as accommodation services, I proposed to do a blog with articles related to immigration issues, advices and experiences. A blog is great to post information that is relevant to customers, and keep it dynamic and publishing articles in a constant basis will help with Search Engine Optimization ( SEO)

  • Validate every requested feature for the new web page with the business objectives.
    It is easy to think that more features / animations / media effects creating a “ wuaw ” factor will help your business to succeed. The answer is: it depends.

    Every time you think to request these kinds of features ask yourself:
    - How this is related to my business?
    - It is really relevant?
    - Will this make a real difference if I don’t having it?

    It is very important to do this exercise because you could spend extra efforts on complicated web functionalities that will add complexity to your site, do more difficult the development and won’t make the difference anyway; costing you more time and money . Technical advice is recommended.

  • Speak the client’s language
    The main target are young people between 18 and 30. The content is written in a informal-friendly way. Also we remove all I.T. technicism like “submit”.

Last final word
Remember that at the end, your web page is a tool (an important one). Besides situations where you sell online not- in-person services / products where the web site becomes the core of your business, don’t expect your page solve all your business related issues. I mention this because is easy to fall in the technical-wuaw-features thinking and expect the web site do the work alone.

More important is the time and money spent in those features. Invest your time in testing your web site in the field and validate what really is working and what it isn’t, instead of take long time developing technical functionalities.