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Holiday Rants and Raves -The Practical side of Online Marketing and User Experience

It’s always interesting when an online marketer and website developer slips into consumer mode. The armor is off;  I’m not researching on behalf of a client, not performing competitive analysis – nudda.  It’s the holidays, and I just wanna find some cool gifts for family and friends. I’d also like to keep it local.

Given the gargantuan size of the Forster clan, this means finding a crapload of gifts, and subsequently my ‘nerdy’ browser cache and web history is starting to look a lot more consumer-typical. (Don’t worry Rand, SEOMOZ is still waaaay up there).

Making my list, Checkin’ it Twice…

christmas edmonton 2012


These are all REAL and TRUE observations relating to REAL Edmonton businesses this past month. However, the names have been omitted to protect the not so innocent.

So – without any further ado…

The Rants:

– ‘Site content blocked by robots.txt’ snippet – Yes, I’ll be calling you – but not to buy anything 😉  Let me change one line of code on your website and introduce you to a little thing I like to call ‘Google traffic’…

‘ This site may harm your computer’ – ’nuff said. My Goodness – is anyone paying attention over there?? That’s gotta be one DISMAL click through rate…

– Contact information impossible to find / difficult navigation – I’m walking through SouthGate phone in hand. I’m walking up Whyte Ave phone in hand. I AM the walking cliche. Somebody slap me. However, teeny tiny menus, teeny tiny text, and cluttered poorly thought out navigation are REALLY annoying at the best of times – especially when on the go. If you have a single website serving content to users on all devices, err on the side of BIG and SIMPLE, mmk?

– Phone numbers / Addresses as images are NOT clickable on my mobile phone. Maaaaaan is this ever frustrating when on the go. Think about it: I pretty much have to memorize your phone # or write it down to dial it on my phone. Don’t make me work for it; there’s a 6 dollar latte in my other hand.

– Google places / website / directory info that is inaccurate: Andrew has done some great posts this year on local, and while we’ve established how important it is to ‘consolidate’ your NAP for ranking purposes, I’ve discovered it also serves another, far more useful function – helping customers figure out where the (*&#$ you are actually located! Suffice to say, I wasn’t too fond of driving across Edmonton only to discover you were never actually there. (Sorry Dad, looks like socks again this year).

– Responsive/mobile sites done wrong: Mobile sites are fine, Responsive sites are even better – provided they serve the intended purpose: meeting the needs and intent of the user on that device. Forcing me to download your app, providing me with alienating navigation and site content with important information missing are NOT helping me. Give me a well thought-out and fast desktop site any day of the week and twice on Dec 24th.

– Horrific Google Places / Yelp / YP reviews that are unanswered: Hey, we all make mistakes, and there are ALWAYS two side to every story. As a small business owner, I generally tend to give a negatively reviewed business the benefit of the doubt. But if you’ve got dozens of negative reviews dating back several years and you haven’t replied to a SINGLE one of them or presented your case…well… it don’t look so good.

The Raves:

And of course, it wasn’t all Doom and Gloom. Here’s a few gems I was able to find through the season (not necessarily online marketing related):

– People taking the time to hold a door open / Inviting you in front of them in line / Good old fashioned manners : Chivalry is NOT dead, girls can do it for guys, and we’re ALL busy. I can’t tell you how many smiles I put on people’s faces with these simple gestures, and how much ‘I’ appreciated it when done for me. Karma!

– The amount of Edmonton Businesses that actually have a website compared to the last time I really thought about it: O.k, it’s actually still pretty bad, but compared to the last time I really ‘spun up’ in consumer mode I found I was able to find a lot more of what I was looking for without having to resort to…dare I say it …That Yellow Company.

– Businesses who’s websites have indicated some type of ‘seasonal’ effort – A promo, special, or even a  simple acknowledgement of the holiday. It lets me know without saying that you guys are ‘on’ it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even all that pretty – Just let’s me know you have a pulse.

– People taking the time on the phone to be genuinely helpful in my search: call me old fashioned, but I STILL tend to look for a phone number and want human verification that you’re open, have an item in stock,  haven’t moved (again, sorry Dad). I am acutely aware that most retail shops are going nutbar this time of year, but those that took the time to answer my stupid questions really stood out and reminded me to make sure I’m taking the time for our customers regardless of how knee deep I am in php. Kudos!

– Responsive/mobile sites done right: As mentioned above,  many businesses were clearly sold a bill of goods and have a ‘mobile’ site simply for the sake of having one. However a few (typically the larger companies) have REALLY put some thought into making a great user experience for those on the go. Bookmarked!

Final Thoughts

As I officially wrap up Christmas shopping for yet another year (save for a few ‘odds and ends’ – which you and I know damn well means at least 6 more outings) I feel I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the ‘end game’ of what competent design, marketing, and user experience can really do. It really is all about our customers and making their life easier.

Eggnog anyone?