Saturday, July 17, 2010

Redoing Stern Communications Web Site - Design and Definition

If your web site doesn't reflect social media, video, the endless power of the Google search engine, new coding formats, I will not hire you as a partner.

I'm looking for a partner in government relations for what could be a very large project and people are sending me recommendations so I go to their sites - they are just like mine but even flatter. I will not work with them.

I've been wanting to my redo my site for awhile and now we're starting. Awhile ago, I realized that all of the things I was telling clients to do - start blogs, use social media, RSS feeds, and especially coding with key words - were not done on my site.

A colleague put up a band-aid on the gaping out-of-dateness of it, with an RSS feed from one of my blogs and some buttons to social media sites. He had absolutely no sense of design and it looked unbalanced and weird. But he didn't charge me and I can't complain.

My web site is three years-old. It was created before I understood social media and what it can do for you, when you couldn't upload your web site into really flexible formats (or at least no one told me that) and by a woman who though very nice, was pretty limited in her web skills.

Bottom line PR people - while it still may be possible to live within the worlds of the future and the past - your time is ending. Get with the program.

This time around I'm doing better with the web development process. I found a designer through one of the only designers I know in this town who is really good, and the woman she sent me is better. The exact endorsement was "I found this fabulous new designer. . ." and she is absolutely that. I'm not going to give you her contact information until she finishes my site though. The other advantage is Alissa is very client savvy and easy to work with.

Not only did the new designer come with talent - she came with a web developer who is affordable, will answer any questions on just about anything and is as smart and as affable as you get. I feel like I've died and gone to web heaven.

Oh and I forgot the best part. I got a bid to develop a web site from a company recently and it was $15-20,000. This is a designer and web developer who has already done the look and feel and put it into a book and e-book. Plus all their web sites look exactly the same. I'm not saying that overall they didn't do an excellent job - they did. But design wise my redo is creative, smart and going to be 15-20% of that.

To be fair I'm keeping my logo, but it looks so updated in the new format it's unbelievable. So it's really new copy, new categories, new architecture, it's a whole new web site.

So here's what I've learned so far, other than prices for these kind of services, and quality, are all over the place.

Know your business model. When I started this company it was after eight years of fuzzy thinking about how to brand an organization. A group of us tried to define and brand and specialize the DC PR company I was with for several years but all we got was rolled eyes from one founder, and a full listen too by the other who then didn't do anything. Their web site makes mine look like it was developed yesterday morning.

So I started my business and based it fuzzily on the practice I'd developed at the previous client. Like my old company, I was reluctant to specialize because I felt it would cost me business. But of course if you don't specialize, and you can't quickly define what you do best, no one else figures it out either. So now I know - Sharing science, health, engineering and education with everyone. We take our clients' complex stories and transform them into compelling easily understood ones for the media and general public. It's that simple.

Give yourself a break. I could think of a million reasons why I shouldn't pay out a couple grand to redo my site right now, but I can only think of one why I should. If I went to my site and looked at it, I wouldn't hire me. That's about as strong a reason as it gets.

Sound bites are the future You have to tell your company's story right away - and you have to get my attention or I'm off your site. Compelling isn't saying you are great at what you do - although I am. It's conveying experience and confidence then demonstrating through examples how you've helped others. Pretty simple.

More next time on architecture. Oh and as I was writing this I figured out how to connect my intro page with all of the others. So it's not just a rant - it's a productive one. Yeah.

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