Business website

  VNAM75 14:29 19 Sep 2010

What do people think of this website? It's almost complete and will be a 2 page CMS site. The home page is to have a 3 picture alternating banner.

Home page: click here

page 2: click here

I've asked for it to be modelled on this site:

click here

I'll appreciate comments on it because I'm not a web designer and want to get it right because it will be a business website.

  Forum Editor 00:40 20 Sep 2010

this all looks a little familiar - didn't we see and comment on this site some time ago?

  VNAM75 02:02 20 Sep 2010

Yes FE, good memory! Last time it was a site I developed myself and was purely for information purposes. This one I've had developed by a company.

You (and fourm member) gave me a lot of advice and feedback, especially concerning the site's overly complex nature and the need to have a much more marketable site. It may have appeared to you that I wasn't taking the advice on board but it was all very helpful for which I am grateful. I was trying a different strategy (thought I could bypass a marketing strategy). I didn't do any work on it for a while but have now got the motivation and confidence to take this forward to completion.

I will post the link to the previous thread when I locate it. In the meantime I would be grateful if you could comment and advise on 2 things. First is whether the site looks professional (enough)to attract potential clients and second, do I have the right balance within the content ie. too simplistic or technical, does it convey the message (service I'm offering) well?

  VNAM75 20:20 20 Sep 2010

fourm member, sorry the 2 page cms reference is misleading. To confuse things more its actually going to be 5 pages. I'm getting charged for a 2 page cms site ie. the home page and 2nd page in the links above. The rest (contact, pricing etc) will be on separate pages or within the first page but only viewable if you press on the links.

In response to your second post, as you can see illustrated on the home page, I'm offering a service where I go and develop an integrated and dynamic reporting system for businesses. So I use an Access database to pull off raw data from a company's central computer system (ie. Sage or some other accounting software, CRM, ERP etc), clean and correct any problems with it(add value to it, if thats the right term), then use a series of pivot tables and access database reports to analyse and present the data. Bear in mind, the website is not complete and theres still 2 more picture banners to go on the homepage(for the analysis and reporting section), plus the diagram going to be tidied up too.

There are 3 key benefits to this system. 1) the stages are linked (ODBC), therefore dynamic, so any change in the source data (ie a sale is made for £1000) it is instantly refelected in the reports and dashboards 2) the tools used are robust so the user can't really mess it up and its also low maintenance. 3) doesn't rely on huge investment in any software other than microsoft office. Neither does it involve heavy progamming which is not my target area/market.

I know lots of companies have very good reporting systems but I've also worked in many organisations (small to corporate) where there's a lot of potential for improvement in this area. If you're interested or have the patience to read it, my next post contains the text linked to "Why change your systems?" on the home page.

  VNAM75 20:22 20 Sep 2010

Whether in small businesses or larger corporate organisations, the methods employed to analyse and report financial or any form of business data often involves the use of complex analyses, consisting of a network of sophisticated spreadsheets interlinked across many directories and folders. Whilst these methods are often more than sufficient to achieve its aims, problems arise when the users or creators of these systems are unable to maintain it to a standard where breakdowns can be easily rectified or traced back to source, resulting in a lot of time resources wasted on correcting these failures.

Formulas can easily fail if a source file it is referencing is moved by a colleague or IT personnel. Complex formula based calculations can be very difficult to maintain or mapped back to the data ranges to which it is referring. The integrity of any analysis or report is dependent on the accuracy of the source data on which it is based. Data exported out of a Central database, Accounting Package, CRM, ERP or other system can come out incomplete and error ridden. Examples include leading zeros being dropped during the export process to Excel, unwanted spaces can appear in certain text fields and duplicated data can all affect the accuracy and quality of any subsequent analysis or report.

Moreover, even without these errors the nature of the export file usually makes for a restrictive data source on which to base business reporting. For example, the Financials report in the Sage accounting package is a relatively flat file and does not make use of the multitude of data tables that exist within the backend of the system. The reporting templates go some way to address this issue but these are standalone and it is rather impractical to integrate these with Excel or other software to perform any concrete and fluid analysis or reports.

A further consideration is information lag time. In the modern business world, having up to date information is key to holding a competitive edge. Reports produced at the end of the week or even day are already outdated. Waiting for IT departments to service requests for data can be a frustrating and time consuming process. A Real time reporting system would be the key to solving this problem. What could be the solution to disjointed and complex spreadsheets, incomplete and error prone data and a lack of access to up to date information? A system of components that make up an integrated, dynamic and robust reporting system that separates Data, Analysis and Presentation.

  Forum Editor 23:59 20 Sep 2010

Let me say right at the outset that fourm member is right - there's no way that a potential customer would have a clue what this is all about, based on your homepage content.

A business site's homepage is like a shop window - it's your one chance to grab the attention of passers by, and entice them inside. What a homepage must do is this:

1. Announce the name of the business, loud and clear.

2. Describe the primary product(s) and/or service(s) in clear, concise language, without being overly technical.

3. Contain images and/or graphics illustrating what is described in 2.

4. Have a clear and uncluttered navigation system, so people can see where it is they need to go in order to find what they want.

5. Inform the visitor where the business is based, if this is likely to be relevant to a potential purchaser. Consultants can travel, but clients in Melbourne might not be prepared to pay someone to come from Leeds to advise them about something when there are suitable people in their local area.

And that's all - home pages should contain no unnecessary clutter.

People who specialise in something are not always going to be good at designing their own website - they tend to be so close to their subject that they make assumptions - you make one on your homepage when you assume we'll all understand what it is you're selling. We don't understand, because your page doesn't tell us, and if we don't understand it's s sure-fire bet that others won't.

I urge you to sit down and think very carefully about how you want your site to function in terms of attracting business. Try to imagine that you're a potential customer, and think about how your site looks - is it immediately obvious what's being sold here? Is there any indication as to why someone should buy what you're selling?

You need a brief, punchy paragraph that describes your service succinctly, and in language that leaves the reader in no doubt about what's on offer. You need an attractive image or two, and/or a simple graphic that doesn't dominate the page. The graphics you have are far too big, and don't tell me what's being sold here.

It's no good falling back on the 'people who are potential customers will understand what's on offer' because that's going to lose you business - assume that they won't know, and tell them, entice them to explore further.

It's a big subject, internet marketing - I spend much of my time talking to corporate and private clients about it. You may have an excellent service to offer, but that's not a bit of good if your target market doesn't know about you. Sell yourself as if you are a greengrocer in a street of greengrocers - show your wares, and tell people why they should buy from you, and not your competitors.

  VNAM75 20:58 21 Sep 2010

FE, thanks for your very detailed reply. I don't have time to reply today but will do tomorrow. The website has been compiled in html and the link is at click here

I've asked for a few changes to be made (including making the boxes smaller)

  VNAM75 21:01 22 Sep 2010

FE, before I got the company to produce this website I thought long and hard about the design and content. I went through a lot of drafts before eventually deciding on the current design. I did take on board yours and other people's comments.

The message of the website and what it is advertising is very simple. The logo immediately tells you its business reporting and the tag line below "Smarter Data, Analysis and Reporting" tells you its made up of the 3 core elements of business reporting, ie. you get data from your company's system , do calculations on it and present it - very routine and standard procedure in all organisations. I highlight and focus on these 3 areas throughout the site.

"Smarter" is implying and referring to being more efficient and effective which is the unique selling point (or aspect)of my service, compared to many existing methods/working practices. You see lots of IT adverts (IBM?...) emphasising working smarter not harder etc...Then you have a short phrase on the right telling you how its done ie. takes your data and turn it into corporate reports.

Below you have the alternating picture banner highlighting some of the key features of the 3 elements. Beneath there are 3 big coloured boxes and screenshots (which are for highlight purposes only) illustrating again the 3 stages with a short note describing what each one does.

Below that, you can see bullet points of the advantages, eg having up to date reports, not having to wait long periods for other departments to get your data (something I've had to endure in many places I've worked for). This fits in with the "Smarter" aspect under logo.

The diagram in the How it works link is a further iilustration of how the 3 stages are connected ie. correct any errors with the data, then do calculations on it to give you financial reports, KPIs etc, then present it in charts and reports. Theres some text still to go on to highlight that everything is connected (dynamically linked).

On the home page theres a link to a descriptive explanation of what I'm illustrating on the home page (see my 2nd post). So to summarise, the website is offering a 3 stage process that turns your raw business data into professional looking reports using standard Microsoft software. Its illustrated throughout the website from top to bottom. I mean, can I make them boxes any more bigger? (I've asked for them to made smaller and space freed up will bring up the bullet points further up). I really can't think of any way to make it more clearer to the target market.

I know that some (or a lot) people will not understand the content of the website but that is those who have virtually no experience of working within a department that involves working with computer data. So creating a "shop window" to cater for them in the very unlikely event they could be interested or have a need for these services, is going to invlove detracting (and dilute) from the core messages of the website.

I'm not disputing your expertise in internet marketing as its very obvious that you have a lot of experience in this area, I just believe your assessment may not be entirely relevant in this particular case. I may be wrong (or very wrong), and if I am, I will have no hesitation in admitting it but I will have to go with what I believe in. It may become a valuable learning experience for me too. All I have to lose is what it has cost to produce the website. If you have any further ideas on how I can improve the content or its marketability, it would be very much appreciated.

fourm member, does it make any more sense to you now?

Just in case you missed it in the previous post, the website is now at:

click here

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