Saturday, 18 August 2007

So many days, so little blogging...

Apologies for my recent silence. I've still been busy on Twitter and Facebook; I kind of like how easy it is to microblog.

Before a quick roundup of news from my front porch, a few thoughts on usability and word of mouth.

Jeremiah Owyang reports Facebook's amazing numbers. Meanwhile in NZ, well-funded Ferrit's traffic still trails Trademe, the corporate-owned startup that still acts like a startup, particularly in the restraint shown with marketing and advertising (ie they don't advertise at all).

As I slog away at re-doing my company website (that's the old one) I think of how many little details make up the overall user experience of a site. There's a lot to think about, but those little things make a huge difference.

So when we think of Trademe and Facebook attracting huge numbers, I believe it's because they've taken the dollars they could invest in advertising and promotion, and ploughed them into the invisible, but far more important area of usability.

The temptation is to think these sites were done on the cheap, because they don't have the usual ostentatious corporate expenses. But as I'm discovering with my own site and my involvement in, usability takes time and headspace, and that costs some sort of money. Even if that money is opportunity cost.

For, we've been trying to do something completely different - which, as we've discovered, is very time-consuming, particularly when we all have quite intense day jobs. Because we're looking at the new all the time, it's taken me quite some time to remember some of the blindingly obvious aspects of the old that I've heretofore (love that word) forgotten - such as an easy way to contact us!

Meanwhile, for the redesign, I've been blessed to have some great advice from David Young (no relation), who pointed me to WordPress as a CMS.

Then, in my search for a web designer familiar with WordPress themes, I discovered John Lewis had just - I dunno what the phrase is, got WordPressganged? Taken up the press? ... anyway, he had switched to WordPress a few months back. So he's done an excellent WP theme for my new site (coming soon, have patience).

The longest part of the journey is writing the copy. Actually there was also the information architecture. It is all legitimately part of my role as a web copywriter, but it is amazingly time-consuming, particularly when it's my own business. Hard to get perspective, y'know.

But Marie is helping no end. She's not a writer - yet - but after reading Persuasive Online Copywritingshe has been a fantastic coach as I get out of writing business articles mode, and get back into poet-artist-make-you-think-guy - my native mode.

I also got interviewed on the subject of writing like a human being by Anna Farmery this Wednesday just gone. Anna is great to listen to and just as great to be interviewed by. Stay tuned for that!


In other news, this week's share market hiccup reminded us all that good times do not last forever. Jason Calacanis believes it might be a taste of things to come for the tech sector.

It's uncomfortable, but has the ring of truth. I started in business at the same time as the last tech crash (launched my first website in April 2000), and I knew nothing about business then. Ignorance (and still having a day job, albeit at a non-profit organisation) was bliss.

Now I'm a bit more informed, and have a bit more on the line. But a key thing that's different this time compared with 2000 is the social networking scene. I know that some companies that are part of the environment may disappear in the coming months. But the people behind them won't (we hope!). Now is a good time to read stuff like Getting Things Done, so we can make the most of relationships, and the technology that enables worldwide relationships, without losing out on vital productivity.

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