Home – New Forums Tell me straight… Please review: Not just the website, but the 4 step program

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  • #987436
    Calcul8or
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    Hi Everyone,

    I’ve been hard at work revamping my website, and putting together a four step business optimisation program that I hope to go to market with shortly, and flog the daylights out of!

    Most of my work for the last 2 years has been project work, and this is my attempt to set up some (hopefully) solid recurring, and therefore more reliable, business.

    So basically, the first step is a free business health check, which is a downloadable application called “Diagnostix”, and is built on an MS Excel platform that assesses the various functional areas of any business based on some widely used financial ratios and key performance indicators. The inputs are monthly Balance Sheet & P&L figures (that can be either entered manually or imported in bulk) for the last twelve months.

    The report produced is a collection of graphs and dials, and a comprehensive written summary at the end. The aim is to see if any areas of weakness can be identified in the business being reviewed. If not, then it hasn’t cost anyone anything, and everyone can happily go back to what they were doing. If there are areas of weakness that show up however, then the next step is a free process analysis, which goes much deeper into the processes that those under-performing areas have.

    This second step is also completely free, but this time we review the processes that businesses enter into our online database, and produce a report with recommendations on how to implement real tangible solutions, with estimated annual savings.

    If they see the value of taking up our recommendations, then we move on to the third step, which is creating and implementing the solutions. If they don’t wish to go ahead, then the whole exercise has not cost them a cent, they’ve gained a lot of valuable insight into their business, and there is absolutely no obligation on their part at all.

    Once the solutions have been implemented, they can continue to use Diagnostix absolutely free for as long as they like to monitor the general performance of their business over time, or we can tailor-make reports that focus on specific areas, including the ones we’ve improved to ensure they continue to do what they’re supposed to, and as a means of being able to anticipate other problems before they become disasters. We could build these custom reports for them to use, or we could provide completed monthly reports to them by an agreed deadline every month if they don’t have the time to do it themselves.

    Apart from meeting the requirements of the first step, the other reason I decided to make an Excel based application available for free download is because there are a lot of people out there who just don’t know the capabilities of Excel in being developed into fully-fledged stand alone applications, and this would be a great way for them to sample that in the process, and hopefully gain some trust in using them.

    What I would greatly appreciate is an assessment of the idea as explained above, together with your evaluation of the site, and if you like, how easy it was to download and use Diagnostix (it’s free), and how easy (or otherwise) it was to understand what the process mapping section (step 2) required.

    The url for this new service is:

    http://www.calcul8ors.com.au/Services.html

    I look forward to your thoughts and feedback! :-)

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1162702
    martin.firth
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    He there,

    Your site is not bad, and I commend you on it. I’ll try to give you some tangible recommendations RE the design.

    First, it’s very boxy. Separating the header, navigation and content visually is very web 2.0 and seems old fashioned. Simplicity is the fashion here, so you might want to consolidate them into one ‘shape’. A simple white rectangle, with a straight nav bar in light grey would look nice (See rough attachment)

    Rather than a pop up, display your steps one after the other on the page as regular content. I don’t think the pop up adds anything to the user experience, other than making the page a bit shorter and the whole thing a bit more complicated. If you are worried about the sheer amount of text being overwhelming, use your markup (headers, emphasis, bold, paragraphs) to separate the text into digestible points.

    I’m also not sold on the black background. Professional sites are almost always light and formal.

    There are a few other things that come to mind, but those are the main points that I’d consider first. I can tell your not a professional designer and are just giving it a go, but it might pay to read a bit of design theory to help you along your way. Look at every element on your page, and think about what it’s purpose is. Why should I use rounded corners? Why should I put a shadow behind my headers? Why grey? Why yellow? A good designer always knows the answer to these questions.

    On a side note, using images as your main navigation is terrible for SEO, and people with screen readers.

    #1162703
    Greg_M
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    Just spent a little time reviewing your site. Here’s just a few random thoughts and impressions gained.

    My only comment on the actual site design was that the step1 and step2 “call out” screen should have the “action” arrow (or button/link) in the middle, or left of screen. I personally found I had to go looking for what to click next … my eye was looking at where the mouse was … which causes the screen to show on hover, but I had to move my eye around to find where to click … and lost the hover screen.

    It wasn’t such a big deal on steps 3 and 4, because the link was directly above where I had the cursor.

    Small thing maybe, but if step one is a challenge??

    After reading through your stuff, including how to use the template etc. My question is … who exactly is your target market?

    The reason I ask is, that if it’s what I call small business, say 1 to 10 persons (this has been my usual client base). I doubt they’ll go through the whole process … too much to do … to much to learn, and even mention the word Excel and you’ll get a blank stare.

    I don’t doubt the need for the analysis, or the ability to solve it effectively using your tools, but the copy comes across to me as an analyst selling to like minded analyst’s … just my take maybe?

    If your site said “I can save you a heap of money and time”, fill in this questionnaire, and upload some files … and I’ll show you how”, most of my clients would check it out, and possibly do it (and pay you to monitor/fix things).

    Sorry for the long post, but I find your skill in process analysis fascinating, and wish I’d had access to your skills 20 years ago (I’d probably have more money).

    You’ve also hit a bit of a raw nerve I think … I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years analysing what I do (business process) and how to automate it (and sell the automation process).

    Good luck with the new plan.

    Greg

    #1162704
    Calcul8or
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    Thank you Martin and Greg for your feedback. You’re absolutely correct Martin, in guessing that I am not a designer. Not by a long shot, may I add! The tools I build for online applications definitely have more of a functional rather than aesthetic orientation, and it is always good when there is an existing theme to copy.

    I really like your modification, by the way, and agree that it does give it a bit of a lift, both in looks and dragging it into the 21st century! I will try to contemporise it over time, and taking it along the lines you suggest looks to be the best option, so thank you!

    As far as SEO is concerned, I have to confess that I’ve never really been sold on the idea. Not that I don’t understand the importance and benefit of ensuring the inclusion of copy that is optimally catalogue-able by search engines, but that it offers a valid competitive platform, leave aside a competitive edge. I have decided to put my faith in Adwords, and hope for the best!

    And Greg, thank you for the suggestion about the positioning of the buttons on the hover menus. I hadn’t even thought about that, but it isn’t hard to recognise the brilliance of your suggestion, so thank you very much! I will make that change right now, in fact!

    As for my intended market, I’m hoping it appeals to EVERYONE! haha. I do take your point about it all sounding too complicated and fiddly, but assure you that it isn’t. The kind of businesses who are likely to need the kind of services I offer would in my estimation be those who understand the importance of analysis and the active search for areas that can be improved. The mere fact that there are so many Business Consultants out there is testimony to this fact, I think. Those kinds of people I presume would also understand the need for their persons AND their brains to get involved in the quest to optimise their operations.

    I also understand what you mean about the language sounding a little bit too analytical. I thought about simplifying it, but I really don’t think my services will appeal to anyone who actually needs a simplified version.

    I am really keen to know what people think about steps 1 & 2, if they’re willing to give it a go. At the top of the list is definitely getting some feedback on how useful they are, or not.

    Thank you for taking the time to take a look. I really appreciate it! :-)

    Regards,
    Shail

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1162705
    Lindz
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    • Total posts: 254
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    Hello Shail,

    Looks like it’s coming along nicely. I’m not a website expert, so just commenting as a hypothetical client: On your ‘Examples’ page, I would like to see a dedicated panel for each of the headings. Perhaps you could write more about some products and less about others to end up with seven or eight equal sized panels. Particularly, since part of your home-page pitch is “simplify. standardise.” a client would likely expect your website layout and useability to reflect this wherever possible.;)

    Quite apart from that, in your latest post you said “I’m hoping it appeals to EVERYONE! haha.” that made me laugh a bit too. But then you also wrote “The kind of businesses who are likely to need the kind of services I offer would in my estimation be those who understand the importance of analysis and the active search for areas that can be improved.”
    Sounds like you’ve already narrowed it down a little! This is good! :)

    All best,

    Lindsay

    #1162706
    JohnTranter
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    Hey Shail,

    I haven’t the time to look at the spreadsheet I’m afraid, but I did want to say that you should look at using the transition css attribute for your popups.
    It would just make them a little bit nicer if you including some easing and it’s easy to implement.

    http://css-tricks.com/almanac/properties/t/transition/

    J

    #1162707
    Calcul8or
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    • Total posts: 481
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    Thanks Lindsay, and point definitely taken on the importance of better arranging the examples section. I am actually working on that section a bit more and will be including more examples, and will definitely take on board your suggestion about dedicated panels! Thanks for the idea! :-)

    Thanks for taking a look John, looking forward to your feedback on the spreadsheet when you get a chance to check it out. I actually did use tranistions! lol…..maybe I need to increase the delay?

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1162708
    Calcul8or
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    Couldn’t help myself. Got the urge to change it sooner rather than later, so I did!

    Thanks for the tip Martin!

    martin.firth, post: 188123 wrote:
    He there,

    Your site is not bad, and I commend you on it. I’ll try to give you some tangible recommendations RE the design.

    First, it’s very boxy. Separating the header, navigation and content visually is very web 2.0 and seems old fashioned. Simplicity is the fashion here, so you might want to consolidate them into one ‘shape’. A simple white rectangle, with a straight nav bar in light grey would look nice (See rough attachment)

    Rather than a pop up, display your steps one after the other on the page as regular content. I don’t think the pop up adds anything to the user experience, other than making the page a bit shorter and the whole thing a bit more complicated. If you are worried about the sheer amount of text being overwhelming, use your markup (headers, emphasis, bold, paragraphs) to separate the text into digestible points.

    I’m also not sold on the black background. Professional sites are almost always light and formal.

    There are a few other things that come to mind, but those are the main points that I’d consider first. I can tell your not a professional designer and are just giving it a go, but it might pay to read a bit of design theory to help you along your way. Look at every element on your page, and think about what it’s purpose is. Why should I use rounded corners? Why should I put a shadow behind my headers? Why grey? Why yellow? A good designer always knows the answer to these questions.

    On a side note, using images as your main navigation is terrible for SEO, and people with screen readers.

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1162709
    martin.firth
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    • Total posts: 259
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    Looks loads better, great work.

    #1162710
    martin.firth
    Member
    • Total posts: 259
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    One other thing, I thought your text at the left could be formatted a bit better, to be more clear and less like a daunting block of letters. I’ve bolded a few words and added the following to your

    styles.

    text-align: left;
    margin: 9px 3px;
    font-size: 14px;
    line-height: 15px;
    letter-spacing: 0.03em;

    See attached

    #1162711
    Calcul8or
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    • Total posts: 481
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    Thanks once again Martin. Please let me know if I can ever repay the favour!

    martin.firth, post: 188287 wrote:
    One other thing, I thought your text at the left could be formatted a bit better, to be more clear and less like a daunting block of letters. I’ve bolded a few words and added the following to your

    styles.

    text-align: left;
    margin: 9px 3px;
    font-size: 14px;
    line-height: 15px;
    letter-spacing: 0.03em;

    See attached

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1162712
    JohnW
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    • Total posts: 2,642
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    Hi Calcul8tor,

    Please forgive my brevity – I’m short of time.

    Some suggestions for your consideration…

    Think about what you want site visitors to do.

    That means you also need to think about who is likely to access your site and on which pages.

    1. Free Business Health Check
    If someone is looking for a “free business health check”, if you do it right, they are likely to arrive on your BHC01.php page.

    • Who is it for?
    • What benefits?
    • How do I start?

    I don’t think you address these issues well.

    Other info that may be needed by those in research mode:

    • Who has used it? (Case studies and testimonials.)
    • What is the ongoing service and what does it cost?
    • Are you any good, do you have experience and qualifications? (Link to About Us page)

    2. Home Page
    If someone has read your business card or followed a non-SE link, they are likely to hit your site at the Home page.

    What do you want them to do?
    It sounds like you want to get them to one of your “free” service pages.

    If that is your objective then your Home page should be written and designed around these objectives.

    You don’t talk about “we”, “us” and “our”, you talk about “you” and “your”.

    Start talking to the types of businesses you are targeting. Are they large or small? What industries are they in? Etc.

    Don’t use animated images. People won’t wait for the rotation.

    I suggest separate eye-catching images for your “free” services and use a call to action. Don’t just say “Free Health Check Report”, tell them to “Click here for your free business health check”.

    Your 4 step program page footer may be more effective if presented as a single graphic image that goes to the Step 1 page. What is the value of offering people links to each of the 4 steps. Won’t that confuse them?

    Some general suggestions about web page formatting.

    Make use of page headings and subheadings.

    Use bullet points

    Use bold and italics (not underlining unless it is a link)

    Don’t be afraid to create longer, single column web pages. Avoid a two collumn layout.

    Write your page copy so that it starts by telling people who the information is for and the benefit of reading further.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1162713
    Calcul8or
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    • Total posts: 481
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    Hi John,

    I just realised I completely misunderstood your suggestion about css transitions! Yes! You’re absolutely correct! There are fantastic things that can be done, and that is one of the things I plan to do on this lovely Saturday afternoon!

    Thanks for steering my attention on this!

    Cheers,
    Shail

    JohnTranter, post: 188147 wrote:
    Hey Shail,

    I haven’t the time to look at the spreadsheet I’m afraid, but I did want to say that you should look at using the transition css attribute for your popups.
    It would just make them a little bit nicer if you including some easing and it’s easy to implement.

    http://css-tricks.com/almanac/properties/t/transition/

    J

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1162714
    Calcul8or
    Participant
    • Total posts: 481
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    Hi John,

    Thank you for your reply! However brief you thought it was, there was certainly no need for an apology! hehehe

    From everything you’ve said, it seems you’re looking at my site from the perspective of someone who had accidentally stumbled on it. And you’re right, for that person, it would probably make as much sense as the website of a cat whiskers collectors’ club would to the unsuspecting traveler.

    Given that most of the traffic I am likely to get are those people who happen to get ensnared in my meagre adwords campaigns, or who have gone to it after some kind of contact with or from me, there are a few specific things that would have brought them there. These would be things like:

    1. The desire to find out how to go about making processes within their businesses or departments more efficient, productive and less costly, or
    2. Checking out the free business performance diagnosis tool they can download, or
    3. Checking out the free process analysis service I offer, or
    4. The need for a specific type of tool, model or application to help them better manage tasks and functions in their business, or
    5. To find out how to better monitor business performance and set up systems that will alert them to emerging problems before they become a disaster, or
    6. They want regular information on what’s happening in their industries, locally and abroad, or
    7. They need some topic researched and compiled into a professional report, or
    8. They need specialist assistance with Supply Chain and Operations issues.

    I think the people who fall into any of these groups would understand what the site was about from the getgo, and would head specifically to the areas of their interest.

    So, given that my services are suitable for businesses of all sizes and in any industry, who want a partner to travel alongside them to ensure their processes and functions are as efficient as they can be, and that they have another set of eyes helping them oversee their operations, together with the considerations above, I wonder what kind of an affect that would have on your suggestions.

    Also, the reason there are links to each step in the four step optimisation program is because each of the steps are a complete standalone service in their own right, and can be accessed independently of the others.

    Regards,
    Shail

    JohnW, post: 188381 wrote:
    Hi Calcul8tor,

    Please forgive my brevity – I’m short of time.

    Some suggestions for your consideration…

    Think about what you want site visitors to do.

    That means you also need to think about who is likely to access your site and on which pages.

    1. Free Business Health Check
    If someone is looking for a “free business health check”, if you do it right, they are likely to arrive on your BHC01.php page.

    • Who is it for?
    • What benefits?
    • How do I start?

    I don’t think you address these issues well.

    Other info that may be needed by those in research mode:

    • Who has used it? (Case studies and testimonials.)
    • What is the ongoing service and what does it cost?
    • Are you any good, do you have experience and qualifications? (Link to About Us page)

    2. Home Page
    If someone has read your business card or followed a non-SE link, they are likely to hit your site at the Home page.

    What do you want them to do?
    It sounds like you want to get them to one of your “free” service pages.

    If that is your objective then your Home page should be written and designed around these objectives.

    You don’t talk about “we”, “us” and “our”, you talk about “you” and “your”.

    Start talking to the types of businesses you are targeting. Are they large or small? What industries are they in? Etc.

    Don’t use animated images. People won’t wait for the rotation.

    I suggest separate eye-catching images for your “free” services and use a call to action. Don’t just say “Free Health Check Report”, tell them to “Click here for your free business health check”.

    Your 4 step program page footer may be more effective if presented as a single graphic image that goes to the Step 1 page. What is the value of offering people links to each of the 4 steps. Won’t that confuse them?

    Some general suggestions about web page formatting.

    Make use of page headings and subheadings.

    Use bullet points

    Use bold and italics (not underlining unless it is a link)

    Don’t be afraid to create longer, single column web pages. Avoid a two collumn layout.

    Write your page copy so that it starts by telling people who the information is for and the benefit of reading further.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1162715
    JohnW
    Member
    • Total posts: 2,642
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    Hi Shail,
    With respect…

    You may want to watch your Google Analytics figures to see how long people spend on your site.

    Check out your Audience -> Behaviour -> Engagement figures. You will probably find 70% spend less than 10 seconds on your site. Given its load speed, that will probably average less than 2 pages viewed for most.

    Just my opinion based on almost 20 years of Internet marketing…

    Studies have shown you get less than a second for people to decide whether they want to “read” more on a web site.

    I humbly suggest your Home and Services pages won’t pass the 1 second test for most visitors.

    1. Revise your Home page copy.
    Stop talking about yourself, talk about your customer’s needs.

    Nothing switches potential customers off more than a company that talks about itself.

    IMHO, THIS IS THE BIGGEST AND MOST WIDELY IMPLEMENTED MISTAKE MADE IN THE WHOLE WORLD OF MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS!

    It is particularly common in B2B and service marketing. Ignore it at your own expense. (I hope a bunch of professional copywriters will comment on this.)

    YOU NEED A PROFESSIONAL COPYWRITER! You may not realise it but I can only recommend it with all of my being. (I am not one, so I have no bias.)

    2. Focus on the Action
    Every site owner I’ve ever met thinks people who visit their website is as interested in their product/service as they are.

    WRONG!

    I suggest for optimal results, you need to point a page visitor to one very clear and simple action.

    Good luck and regs,
    JohnW

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