Kevin Devine, a user experience designer Arekibonite, takes a lighthearted look at website development with some home truths about the importance of a strong web set-up for SMEs.
The web isn’t about technology, it never really was. It’s about people; ever since Tim Berners-Lee launched the first website, 20 years ago, he did so to open discussions and to allow users to share information and content.
So, what does this human-led view of the web mean for modern SMEs?
Imagine you’ve just opened your shiny new café and with all the preparation, business plans, meetings with bank managers and menu deliberations that that involves. The doors are finally open and you’re welcoming your new customers. At some point, in between ordering tomorrow’s supplies and serving customers someone asks you as they stare into their smartphone, ‘What’s your web address?’
So what next?
Well you ask friends and colleagues for advice and register a domain that suits your café. You get a friend of a friend who can get a page up with the address and a photo. Happy days, your business has started well and you can tick the ‘have a website’ box. One happy customer likes the service so much she wants to tell all her friends on Facebook and like your Facebook page. ‘My Facebook page?’ A panic call to the friend of a friend to get a Facebook page set up follows. People start leaving comments and you build a social connection with your customers, great. They even start mentioning you on Twitter! “Twitter?” (Not to mention Google+).
You start to see the benefits of your Twitter updates and Facebook posts and build up a nice rapport with customers. You even start receiving orders and reservations through Twitter and some regulars have set up Foursquare and Gowalla locations so people can check in there.
I think we need a bigger boat!
By now your business is growing strong and you’ve built up a loyal clientele and social community. You’re even organising meet-ups through Twitter (with photos on Flickr) and offering discounts through these channels. As your business grows so does your online presence and you laugh at the thought of that initial splash page you had back in week one.
The above is just an example how an initial expectation of a simple webpage can quickly turn into a feature-rich website with bookings, galleries, and social media. You see the direct benefits to your café, pub, hotel or whatever your new venture may be.
Sure there is technology involved but it’s about people, each and every step of the way; your friends, customers, clients, and staff.
As a user experience designer it’s my job to make sure that even the smallest sites are designed and built so they can grow to accommodate these, and many other, additions and changes.