Comments on home page

  VNAM75 19:14 18 Jun 2009

I've recently redesigned my homepage after some constructive criticism of it, which I agreed with.

Would be grateful for any comments.

click here

  Forum Editor 19:19 18 Jun 2009

you've mentioned 'trail balance' rather than trial balance a couple of times.

Before I comment further, could you tell me what your target audience is - who is the site primarily aimed at?

  VNAM75 19:41 18 Jun 2009

Thanks FE, I've still to go through the text of the website for grammar and spelling but I never noticed the "trail" spelling error.

The site is primarily aimed at small to medium sized businesses who use Sage accounting systems or similiar. It will be directed at accountants and managers who require up to date information on key aspects of their businesses in a robust but also flexible format. I once developed something similiar to what is in the last section of the access database page (Reports section) while workig at the nhs for 2 accountants, but this isn't my target audience.

  Forum Editor 23:30 19 Jun 2009

and thanks for the information, is that I found the site quite baffling. It reminded me of my old maths teacher. He used to cover the blackboard with complex calculations which he clearly understood perfectly. The problem was, most of us - the people he was supposed to be helping - were absolutely isolated; he made the mistake of assuming that because he understood everything we would, too.

I mean to imply no criticism of your service, I'm sure that what you do you do very well indeed, but I'm wondering if it's necessary to cover the pages with reams of tables and figures when a few brief text paragraphs, illustrated with the odd image, might get the message across in a more appealing way.

A commercial web site's homepage is its shop window - it either encourages prospective buyers into the store to examine the goodies on offer, or it fails to whet their appetites, and they move on. Research has shown that the average web surfer spends takes about seven seconds on the homepage making a decision about whether to explore a site in greater depth, or to click away. I wonder how many potential buyers - even if they are accountants - would be tempted by small images of a calendar page, a couple of charts, and some big blue buttons - all adrift in a huge expanse of white space.

Rather than covering pages with examples of what you can do I think it might be better to engage with potential clients in a slightly less detailed way. It may be worth rethinking your marketing strategy - present your services in a more lively and appealing fashion.

Take a look at this simple, informative site. click here

It's the kind of thing which is pretty easy to put together. I'm not holding it up as the ultimate in web site design, but it does the job - it encourages you to delve a little deeper into what's on offer.

I hope you'll view my comments as constructive - there's little point in telling someone that all is well when it isn't.

  VNAM75 21:07 20 Jun 2009

fourm member, to see what the site is about click on the middle blue button on the homepage. Its not aimed at helping people, but towards finance managers and acountants which may find the services of value to them. As for the white space your monitor must be large. Mine's a 20inch wide screen and it takes up about 60% of the length but there is no scroll bar.

FE, thanks a lot for your in depth response. I can say I'm not a technical person and the content doesn't involve any complex calculations or programming - it's not my area of expertise. I just spent a lot of time working on something I have a lot of experience in aided by a lot of material on the internet (finance tutorials, database examples etc).

If I take an example section - Excel Reporting - for instance. The first data table shows the full sales information for a company, broken down by products within each category. From that data, it can be rearranged to show sales by market, seasonality (which months sell the most), year to date totals etc. All pretty standard stuff in a robust and clear format.

The site is not intended to be commercial but more of like a CV with practical examples to impress my (specific) target audience/potential clients. The site you point to looks very good actually. You say its something that would be fairly easy to put together but its beyond my ability plus its not what my intention is. I have not produced a product that does xyz, but rather want to demonstrate how I can use the day to day microsoft packages to produce meaningful financal reports that add value to the business.

I also got feedback from another person on a sage forum. He runs a marketing website and echoed what you said, saying it was too focussed on the technical side. He said it looked like it was designed in powerpoint and he was right. I had originally produced it in powerpoint and wanted to distribute it via email but of course a website is a whole lot better for this purpose. I've made the blue buttons smaller (they did look too big!).

Your comments are very constructive and thanks for them but I think I will test the waters initially with the site as it is and see what the response is and take it from there, one step at a time.

  Forum Editor 00:32 21 Jun 2009

about the scrolling text, it's very irritating and distracting, and it's yesterday's news as far as site design is concerned.

He's right again about the white space on the homepage - I get acres of it on a 21 inch screen, and a horizontal scroll-bar that produces an entire screen of white space. Another scroll-bar appears on the MI and KPI page, and another one on the Access database page, although that one hardly moves the screen at all.

The problem I have with the whole site is that it fails to communicate with me, a visitor. I arrive, I see big (still too big) blue buttons, and I click on them. I see pages with reams and reams of tables, charts, and figures, but nobody tries to sell me anything, or even tell me who they are, or how I should contact them. All I see is an email address on the homepage.

Commercial clients aren't going to be interested in seeing demonstrations of how you can use standard Microsoft software - they'll take it for granted that if you're offering your services to them you must know what you're doing. What they want to know is how you can help them improve the way they run their businesses - they want to see text outlining your services, plus some enticing images to hold their attention. By all means include the occasional screenshot of an Excel workbook, or an Access database, but keep them to a minimum. Major on your ability to provide them with expertise, tell them that no problem is without a solution, and assure them that you have the answer to their data-mining and manipulation prayers.

If you are offering commercial services on a website in the UK you must provide contact details that include a postal address, an email address, and ideally a land-line phone number too - fail to do this and you'll appear unprofessional.

Finally, I cannot understand the need for that calendar page on the homepage - it's superfluous, and is another distraction.

You obviously have a skill when it comes to data presentation, and that's what you're selling. Tell people about yourself and your skills, and impress them with your understanding of their needs. They'll imagine the tables and charts.

  VNAM75 22:16 22 Jun 2009

Forum editor and Fourm member, thanks again for your comments. I have redesigned the home page to something that more reflects a typical website. If it doesn't look like its been designed in powerpoint then I'm fine with it. It needs a bit more information in the top banner and the middle which I will add to later.

I will stick with the content however, and leave it unchanged. I actually have some more stuff to put in the Access database section. My strategy is not to provide catchy marketing phrases - "no problem is without a solution, and assure them that you have the answer to their data-mining and manipulation prayers" The problem I have with that is anyone or business can claim this that and the other, which is fine if you're an established business.

I will be offering a free 30-45 minute presentation in my accompanying letter to businesses I will be targeting, so they can ask any questions they may have.

The white spaces were due to how large I made the page/master borders. I have adjusted them but there is still some space but its not a problem. The homepage is now fixed and centered. I did not know scrolling text was old fashioned - the BBC uses it, though it is for new content. As for the "flash" calendar, it was supposed to be a major selling point for the lastest netobjects version. I wanted to use it to show my availability/schedule. I may put it on another page.

The colour scheme reminds me of a website I visit - can't think of which one it could be at the moment.

  VNAM75 22:18 23 Jun 2009

fourm member, thanks for the advice.

"something which encapsulates what you have to offer" - this will be detailed in a covering letter and a marketing leaflet, so when they get to view the website they will know what its about.

  Forum Editor 23:01 23 Jun 2009

is to target businesses and write to them offering a free 45 minute presentation I can't quite understand why you're launching a website. The whole idea of a website is that it harvests people who either land on it from a link on another site, or find it via a search engine.

A 45 minute presentation is far too long, by the way. I have been doing business presentations for many years, and I advise corporate clients on presentation techniques - keep yours to 20 minutes maximum.

To be brutally honest I feel that you need to have a complete rethink on the way that you're going about this. It seems to me that you've decided on a strategy without really doing any market research, and without fully understanding the marketing power of the internet. Your revised homepage is certainly an improvement, but simply bolting onto the front of an otherwise unaltered site is not going to do the job - the site is still a very long way from being an effective marketing tool - it simply does not do what you want it to do, which is to act as a shop window for your services. You may think that you don't need 'catchy marketing phrases' as you put it, but I assure you that you do - every commercial website needs to appear as slick and professional as possible to its potential customers, and a site's marketing text is absolutely crucial to its success, regardless of what it is selling.

  gerri-atrick 13:46 25 Jun 2009

A poor website could loose you business ......and that is poor :(

Lets not beat about the bush, it looks so 90`s and unprofessional, a business needs a site but a site reflects a business, poor site = poor business, first impressions count.

  VNAM75 23:20 25 Jun 2009

Forum editor/Fourm member, the website is the presentation. As mentioned earlier, the content was originally a powerpoint file but I can't go around emailing 10-20mb files and of course a website works as a much more effective medium of distribution.
The 45 minute time is a maximum, the presentation would be about 20-25 mins and the remaing time set aside for questions. I take your point about the marketing power of the internet but I only want to start off slowly by doing a few presentations.

My marketing strategy is to impress potential clients with the detail and content. They will not be expected to understand what they see in the website nor should they feel intimidated by it because there is the reassurance of a free presentation. On the other hand they may understand it perfectly and are attracted by what they see and how it will benefit their business.

For example, on the front it "advertises" multi-period P&L reports whereas in sage there is only facility for single period reporting. So all of the points on the home page can be seen as "selling points", which is how I am promoting my website.

I am not saying my strategy is better. I don't know how it will work out but I am confident (not over confident) with the content I have produced. I may eventually find I have to alter my strategy, but all I'm doing to start off is writing to a few businesses backed up by an offer of a free presentation to see what response I get. If I don't get sufficient response then I can always rethink my strategy, redesign my website etc.

gerri-atrick, you don't say what is "poor" about the website, and why is it unprofessional? How do you define what a 90's website looks like? I don't think you understand the content of the website. Its very easy to have a dig at something but you need to back it up.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

HP Envy x2 review: Hands-on

How Sketch and InVision have revolutionised our design workflow

The best tech gifts for Christmas 2017

Les meilleurs jeux de société (2017)