Sunday, March 30, 2008

You're welcome to use any of our data ... except this bit

As I've got work published in my name, and I had to conduct research to write those books, I am aware of copyright and how annoying it is to have others reproduce your work as their own. However in academic circles it is quite acceptable to refer to the work of others so long as it is referenced properly. Indeed, I would see it as a complement if someone referenced my words in work of their own. It is also common practice [these days] for businesses to publish white papers and/or research as part of their promotional efforts. Quite what Netfactual's business model is I cannot be bothered to find out, but I did come across their site when researching for my latest book. Their home pages says ' NetFactual's goal is to share factual information about the Internet for everyone to use. Any of this data maybe used as long as you cite and you agree to our data policy'.

While on their site I found some facts I liked, and was about to use them - referenced correctly, of course - but at the bottom of the pdf file that had the details I liked, it said: Exclusive & Proprietary. This Report is being provided with the understanding that Reader, agrees that the information herein is the exclusive, and proprietary property of In accepting this Report, the Reader agrees that all information herein will not be copied, replicated and distributed with any third party without prior written consent from'

Harrumph. Guess what Netfactual, I don't have time to contact every one I am going to reference, so your correctly referenced data - complete with link from the book's web site - will not get mention in my book. You know, the one that will be read by those working in - and hoping to work in - online marketing.

So make your mind up, if your content is part of your organization promotion, sort out your copyright issues.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Simple ... but nice

Able Labels [I'd hate to work on their switchboard] have a clever little facility that lets you see how the rubber stamp you are ordering will look when it prints by clicking on the 'preview personalization' button after you have entered your details. My only criticism would be to ask why not be a little more ambitious? Sure, there must be some restrictions for making the actual stamp, but why not let customers use a 'WYSIWYG' style facility to 'design' their own stamp - in much the same way as this blog does?

Blank form

Completed form with preview

Noooooooooooooooo !

My students will tell you this is one of the aspects of web development that annoys me most. It is a marketing/sales DISASTER. It is not neccessary. In business terms it is an act of lunacy. I thought the practice was dying out, but this morning I was looking for a text book for a new module, and came across this:There is NO REASON for this. Design a site that EVERYONE can access (see, the rule of one). Sorry 'web designers', but use the technology that everyone has - there is no need to be 'cutting edge' on this. You are not showing off your abilities to use the latest technology, you are making the site's publishers [your employers] look like IDIOTS.

Here's the issues - designers, read this carefully:
  1. I know what this message is all about. I have written books on the subject. My wife on the other hand - who is not stupid - would find this message a mystery. On our laptop at home do you think she has any idea what 'Windows XP Professional SP2' is?. She has no idea what this message is about. She would be alarmed about it [viruses and all that]. She would leave the site at that point. Hello ... you just turned a customer away at the door.
  2. I use a PC at work. Like most [all?] organizations our IT dept don't give individuals 'administrator' access to their computers. I couldn't download the latest versions of these things if I wanted to.
  3. This message goes over the actual content of the web page (see the image below)
  4. I'm not an expert on the technology - but a quick scan around the site didn't reveal anything that couldn't be handled by the previous versions of the browsers.
And finally, here is the kicker - my computer HAS this technolgy already - I have the latest versions of these browsers - the message isn't for me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

in-text ads - context please?

Much has been written about in-text ads and whether of not they [a] work, or [b] intrude on the content. I think they have a place if they are used correctly - but in this example, not only does the 'in text' element not work - the relevance of the ad to the content is zero.

This is the original text - it is about a footballer being transferred from Manchester City to Nottingham Forest. Notice how the 'ad' is identified by being in green and double under-lined.

Now look what happens when you run your cursor over the 'link' - note that you do not need to click on it:

Yep, that's an ad for flights to New York. And you cannot even fly from Manchester. Obviously this ad would feature every where on the entire web site that the word 'Manchester' appears. Why? What is the link between flights to New York from Gatwick and Heathrow?

Complete and utter marketing nonsense.

Friday, March 21, 2008

excellent front page design

This front page is fantastic. The company obviously has two target markets - so when customers from those segments arrive at the web site they can easily choose which service they want. Great.Of course, aesthetically it is not wonderful - but so what? It's there to do a job, not as an ornament.

Friday, March 14, 2008

email as relationship destroyer

In my lectures/seminars/training/books I emphasise the need to consider carefully any email content [over and above direct email]. Too often I find that simple 'communication' emails can make or break a customer's relationship with the organization. This is such an example.

I recently booked a hotel room in Las Vegas - not on the hotel's site, but through an online agent, Five Star Alliance. When looking for prices on various web sites, this one presented the information as "$350 per night, 2 nights for the price of 3" - in Vegas terms, one night 'comp'.

So when the confirmation email said total bill $1050 [ie 3 x 350] I sent a polite email querying the total. The first email informed me that the discount was included in the $350 nightly rate. I replied pointing out that I could have booked [on their site] one night for $325 - so how come I was - effectively - getting no discount for three?

I then received this reply:
"Dear Mr. Charlesworth,

We receive all our rates directly from the hotel. Four Seasons has loaded their discounted rate offer as three for two. If you can find a better rate through a different source, we recommend that you reserve that rate. We unfortunately cannot alter rates that the hotels send out to booking agencies".

I'll not include the 'signed' name, but Ms 'Client Service Manager' - this is not the way to effectively service clients.

To be honest, my wife had set her heart on the hotel in question - the Four Seasons - and I couldn't be bothered to start all over again looking for prices.

But guess which booking agent I will NEVER use again?

Oh, and by the way, between my two emails, the 3 for 2 offer disappeared from the site. Coincidence, or someone realising there had been a cock-up when they read my email?

FOOTNOTE : the same day as I posted this comment I completed a '
'Compliments, Comments and Concerns' form on the Four Seasons web site that basically out-lined my comments above and pointed out that by their actions, Five Star Alliance was damaging the Four Seasons brand. I got a prompt response from the organization's President, Jim FitzGibbon and a follow up email from Robbie Schneider, the reservations manager at the hotel in Vegas - both of which were written in a tone that was commendably customer-friendly.

Oh, and I loved the footer on Robbie's email : "Serenity in Las Vegas does exist, you just have to know where to find it ... Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas"

FOOTNOTE II : If you are going to Vegas you should stay at the Four Seasons. The service is simply excellent, with staff from bell-hop to receptionist to pool staff all being an example of how it should be done.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

you'd think an airline would know about 'landing' pages?

Those folk at KLM are at it again with their emails to me - though to be fair, the email was from Newcastle airport, but I assume KLM were the originators of the message. This time they have sorted out the fact that I'm only interested in flying from Newcastle [see my previous entries 1 & 2 on the subject], but there is an issue with the landing page. You will note in the email below that there are a number of destinations mentioned - with each [in yellow] being a link to the KLM web site.
So far so good, except that every link goes to this page ...

... and I don't want to go to Venice. To seek out the offer to where I might want to go I had to go to the KLM home page and type in all the relevant details in order to get a quote. Harrrummph.

Friday, March 7, 2008

nice from Google

Perhaps signalling how search has, and will continue to, evolve - March 08 saw Google launch their 'search within a site' facility. Expect it to become common soon, and expected before too long.