Friday, September 15, 2017

My house, my rules

Many organizations, including several universities, use third party websites as part of their marketing. One example of such sites is that facilitates offline catalogues to be reproduced online in a click-to-turn-the-page fashion. Whilst these are aesthetically very good, in usability terms they are a disaster. 

On a PC screen, the default is screen size which is about the same size as the printed version. But we can hold the printed version nearer or further away to suite our eye site. Make the screen image bigger and you have to scroll around the page as the text goes off of the screen. Try it on your smart phone – the device of choice for a university’s target market. 

For 20 years I have said ‘do not simply reproduce offline content for online, it is not read in the same context’. This is still true. 

Also, simply reproducing the offline version online means you lose that great tool of the Internet – the hyperlink. In an offline publication you have to say; ‘if you want to apply; ring this number/copy type this address into your email/go to this website’. In sales terms, these are all barriers. Online you say; ‘click here’. 

Furthermore, take another look at the image. Notice the ‘ads’ to the right of the ‘publication’ area? Yep, people search for your prospectus on Google – and help YOUR prospects to find another seller. D’oh! 

These are reason enough not to use this method to publish online – but there is also the ‘my house, my rules’ issue. Take a look at’s terms and conditions. Oh dear. They have total control over everything published on their domain. Hmmm ... is that what you want for your marketing content? 

So why do organization’s use the likes of In this instance I suggest it is [a] the novelty of the click-to-turn-the-page facility [bells-and-whistles syndrome], and [b] easy to use – you upload the digital version of the printed brochure and does the rest. 

But if you have the digital version of the printed material [every publication starts in digital format], why not convert it to html and put it on your website? You won’t get that fancy aesthetic of the page turning, but you can insert hyperlinks – and users will be able to read the words [that is why users are there] on any device . 

Out of interest, I put “University of Sunderland International Prospectus” into Google – and the page was fifth in the SERP listing – which isn’t bad. But the first four were all pages on If the online-prospectus is on your own domain then you have potential customers coming into your 'shop' where they can see your sales pitch and you can capture their details – and there are no ads for your competitors’ products because it is your site, so they are your rules. 

Ho hum.

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