April 23, 2009
AxisPortals isn’t a big believer in personality tests, but does have an appreciation for the whimsical and clever, as in the Twitter Profile Analysis tool from twanalyst.com:
The statistics are informative, and the analysis light but with a positive educational spin, so this tool is very appealing, and increasingly popular. If you’re an active Twitterer, why not give it a try?
AxisPortals Aphorism: When useful information is delivered in an engaging fashion, the line between tools and toys blurs delightfully.
(Note: For a counter perspective, see Lois Gray’s recent blog entry on his Twanalyst results.)
April 21, 2009
As we have seen, small businesses too often miss opportunities to make good use of websites and other aspects of online presence. Robert Scoble notes that this is an area in which the leading tech bloggers have failed to offer much leadership, and AxisPortals agrees. There are many blogs devoted to things such as
But often this advice is aimed at early adopters and current enthusiasts of technology, not at those who are just beginning to explore these spheres.
Only 44% of small businesses have a website.
Where to begin? With the very basics. Here are some initial suggestions for small business owners who want to begin bridging the digital divide:
- Secure a Domain Name: If you haven’t already purchased a domain name to match your company, do so immediately. Because the internet is now a quite a crowded space, your first choice will not always be available. Use a tool such as Register.com to search for available names and variations. Choose something relatively brief, descriptive, and easy to remember. Then, make sure that you fully own and control the name. This may seem obvious, but AxisPortals has too often worked with business and organizations whose domains were owned and controlled by a former employee or a long-since disappeared web designer. Owning and controlling your own domain name is key. Keep your ownership current, and your user name and password secure. Do not pass this responsibility off to an employee or a web designer without ensuring that he or she is putting everything in the company’s name, and without insisting that you can access the account.
- Launch Your Initial Website in a Timely Fashion: It does take some time to design a good website, but it does not and should not take months and months. Select a competent designer; provide the designer with key content about your products, services, location, personnel, vision, and goals; review and revise an initial draft or two, and then publish. For the vast majority of small local businesses, this is not a process that should take months and months of painstaking review and effort. Review a list of some of the basic qualities of a good website, get those items checked off in a timely manner, and then put your website where it belongs: online where clients and colleagues can access it, not on the drawing board, where it serves no one.
- Continuously Revise and Update Your Site: Keep in mind that print publication and web publication are entirely different creatures. Once the process of revising a print publication is over, it heads to press, and then distribution can begin. Not so with a website or any online presence. Online, texts evolve, and content is constantly refreshed and regenerated. Move online quickly, then, and make updating and maintenance priorities. Unless you a) have an internal employee who is very talented in this arena and b) can afford to allow this person to devote a good portion of his or her time to working with your online presence, consider outsourcing this funtion. It will be most cost-effective for you in the long-run if your web design company also provides ongoing maintenance services, as well. That way, the integrity of your design will not be compromised by necessary updates.
- Track and Analyze User Statistics: Make sure that your designand maintenace company also provides feedback about your users: How many people are visiting your site? How often? Which sections do they most frequently visit? Which portions of various pages do they click through on? How loyal are your visitors? Where are they located? How do they find your site? Gather and evaluate this information on a regular basis, and revise your site accordingly to optimize the user experience.
- Don’t Mistake the Chassis for What’s Under the Hood: A website is a lot like a car. We all drive cars. We know how to get from point A to point B inthem. We know how to keep them fueled, and we know we need to service them regularly to keep them in tip-top running condition. Most of us, though, aren’t experts on what’s beneath the hood. Just so with a website. A very nice lookingcar-–red, sporty, and fast looking–might be a perfect lemon beneath the surface, and this can also be true of a website. Keep in mind, then, that while looks are important, they aren’t everything. Your website should both look good and fulfill it’s basic purpose, which is to allow users to locate you, learn something about you, and contact you. Just as you test drive a car, you should test drive your website, approaching it as a user would. Once the site is up, head to Google and put yourself in the role of a customer or colleague who is looking for you. Then, test the site itself. How easy is it to navigate? Do all the features load? Do all forms and interactive elements work flawlessly? Does the site not only look good but also function well in a variety of browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome)? Ask a few trusted colleagues to test drive the site on their computers as well, and to offer you feedback. Then, bring your questions and concerns to your design and maintenance team, and make sure that they are quickly addressed.
AxisPortals Aphorism: Now is always the best time for a small business to begin bridging the digital divide.
Next Time: Adding interactive features and social networking elements to your site.
April 20, 2009
Cartoons by Andertoons
Today, AxisPortals has been pondering this article on the ways in which small businesses are often either entirely missing out on online opportunities, or are growing frustrated by their early marketing efforts in this sphere. Consider these facts:
Though less than half of small businesses do have a website, the ones that do are not necessarily seeking to get traffic to it, and are not happy overall with their online marketing. Among those small businesses that have a website:
- 51% believe both the quality and ability of their site to acquire new customers is only “fair” or “poor.”
- 30% of business owners feel that they typically do a better job of marketing than a close competitor.
- 78% believe they advertise in the same places as their competitors.
- Only 7% of small business owners say their primary marketing goal is to get more visitors to their website.
- 61% spend less than three hours a week marketing their website.
- 99% of small business owners are directly involved in the marketing.
- 65% believe it is very important to know where their customers come from.
- Only 9% are satisfied with their online marketing efforts.
- 78% of small business owners dedicate 10% or less of their budget to marketing. Of those, half spend less than 10% of their marketing budget on internet advertising, while 30% do no Internet advertising.
The upshot? Small businesses (which aren’t always all that small in terms of either income or number of employees) are missing important online opportunities. Local businesses, in particular, need to consider the reality of consumer behavior today: when current clients and colleagues and potential customers and connections are looking for you, they will inevitably begin their search online, and this is true even when their initial contact with you or awareness of your name or service has come in another forum. When these folks enter your name, the names of your key team members, and/or your company name in a search engine, it’s crucial to ensure that they not only find you, but find rich, appealing, informative, polished, and positive information about you. When a search yields either limited information or shoddy information, you lose important opportunities to extend your success.
AxisPortals Aphorism: Small businesses can’t afford to make web presence an afterthought.
Tomorrow: Towards Bridging the Divide
April 17, 2009
Searching for medical information and community support is one part of supporting your health online. Now, let’s have a look at another aspect of online health: the health widget. Fun, convenient, informative, and potentially motivating, health widgets can easily be embedded in web pages or blogs. Some can also be downloaded to your smart phone or your computer desktop. Health widgets come in many flavors, including those that focus on weight loss, calorie counting, fitness, pregnancy, exercise, meditation, and health news. Here are a few examples:
Yoga Pose of the Day
The CDC's "Flu IQ" quiz widget.
There are health widgets to suit every taste and interest. Try exploring to find the ones that suit you or your online audience the best. You might also consider developing a widget of your own.
AxisPortals Aphorism: Exercise and diet regimens can grow dull, and health tips can seem preachy, but it’s always fun to widgetize.
April 3, 2009
AxisPortals defies anyone to be gloomy while watching any of the entries in this series of videos.
AxisPortals Axiom: When human beings cooperate, beautiful things can should do happen.
April 2, 2009
Open Mosaic makes for an interesting study in the ways of collaboration. Earlier this evening, AxisPortals visited the site to add a tree. The tree was all branches and leaves. It wasn’t fruit bearing, and it had no background.
Less than five minutes later, the tree was dotted with apples, and surrounded by a jaunty teal sky with its very own square yellow sun. Grass and a hot pink and red flower in full bloom soon followed. Who knows what’s next? Before the evening is over, the tree could be part of an entire forest, or it could be entirely gone.
Watching the mosaic evolve reminds AxisPortals that digital collaboration with far flung colleagues often requires a certain je ne sais quoi. To participate fully in the process, and to enjoy it–and to allow others the freedom to do the same–one must be enthusiastic and willing to chase a vision, but must never be so unyieldingly focused on a single vision that it disrupts emergence of the always shifting whole. Yielding gracefully, after all (as gracefully as the digital branches in the mosaic yield to the pixel wielder of the moment) , plays a crucial role in collaboration. There’s plenty of room for individuality and originality, here, but there’s little room for the fixed or the permanent.
AxisPortals Aphorism: Online collaboration isn’t really about thinking outside of the box. It’s about sharing the sandbox willingly, with good humor, and with grace. (So, wish AxisPortals’ tree good luck, but don’t mourn its passing when it goes–something new is sure to grow there.)