Tag Archives: trends

Content is only king when there’s context

“Content is king”. That is a rule of thumb adopted by website creators because they know that high quality content helps to attract and retain customers by positioning the company and by building relationships with people.

Seth Godin, in his excellent free ebook Everyone is an Expert, says that people aren’t searching for anything online… they’re going online to make sense (page 9). That’s a brilliant distinction and it supports the belief that content is king. We need content to help us make sense.

It used to be that content would get piled on top of content on the first page. Website owners wanted links to many things on their first page to help position the company as the expert. They wanted people to click to their home page and see that there were many options to choose from.

But lately, things are changing. Businesses still know that content is king — that people will still go to their site to find trustworthy information to help them make sense. But those businesses are beginning to realize that overwhelming people with links on the first page is not the way to greet prospects and customers.An excellent example to show this difference can be found by comparing the websites of software giants Oracle and SAP.

Here is a screenshot of Oracle‘s home page.

AaronHoos_BusinessWriter_Oraclehomepage

It’s not easy to tell from here but there are 72 “primary” links on this page (“primary” meaning highlighted in the main body of the page, not the smaller ones in the the header or footer). 72! That is a lot for any web visitor to read through even if they are sorted the way Oracle has them.

Here is SAP‘s home page.

AaronHoos_BusinessWriter_SAPhomepage

Again, it’s hard to tell at this size but there are 10 primary links (with only 5 ever showing at a time).

What a difference! Oracle’s page has an overwhelming number of links that could turn off any prospect or customer. SAP, on the other hand, has a simple, clean site with only a few links.

In my mind, SAP has made a huge change. My advice to Oracle? Better fix your site quickly!

It is so important to guide your visitors rather than to simply present them with all of their options at the beginning. The whole web 2.0 environment has a clean look with much fewer links. Just click to web 2.0 companies like Skype, Facebook, Box.net, Flickr, and LinkedIn to see how these companies are using a minimal amount of links to greet customers.

The point of this blog is not to simply suggest that your homepage should have fewer links. Rather, it’s to illustrate much more important concepts:

  • People want to be guided. They think they want all of the options but they really don’t. They want a way to get to the right options quickly. The thinking used to be that businesses give all the options up-front to reduce clicking through a long content pathway from one page to the next. But people would rather click for quick sorting and clear, “bite-sized” content. It creates longer content pathways (by requiring more pages on a site) but it makes choosing easier because each click narrows the choices they have to make.
  • Content is only king if it is useful. If content is presented en masse, it requires effort and it can be difficult to place that content within a context. Content becomes more useful when it is presented in manageable pieces within a context. And that context is created with high-level choices presented to the website visitor right on the homepage.

Great ideas from this week: Collaborate, Quench, Earn

As you can probably tell from Monday’s blog post, this was a busy week. Actually, it was a record-setting week in a record-setting quarter. It killed me not to blog as much as I normally do but I had to focus on clients or else they’d gather in a mob with pitchforks and torches and break down my door. (But I love each and every one of them).

Anyway, while I was working and NOT blogging, I did stumble across a number of absolutely brilliant ideas — organizations, websites, and concepts. I bookmarked them throughout the week and am delivering them all here to atone for my quiet blog.

Idea #1: Collaboration tool

I’m big on collaboration: I use GoogleDocs, MindMeister, Zoho, and other sites for immediate collaboration. But I’m also a visual thinker and you’ll notice that I may be a writer but I usually map something out before I turn it into words. And that’s where the first great idea comes from: ImaginationCubed. This site is from GE and it’s a free drawing tool you can share with others. I’m sure there are similar services from others but I liked this one for its clean, simple look and intuitive interface.

Idea #2: Storage rental

You may remember me writing about iStopOver, a site that helps to match businesses with spare office space and travelling business people who need the space. Great idea, great value proposition for buyers and sellers. Well, I did a bit of work for a new client this week who is based out of Australia. His site is StoreroomRental.com and his business proposition is similar: Homeowners and businesses have lots of extra space (spare rooms, closets, sheds, garages). StoreroomRentals helps to match people who want to rent out that extra space with people who need the space, want convenient proximity, and don’t want to rent a large space from a commercial storage facility. It’s a great idea and turns all that extra room that we all have in our homes and offices into revenue-generating space. I’m excited to think about the possiblities in front of his business!

Idea #3: Water for the world

I like to think about business but I’m not all about business. There are people in the world that need our help. I’m usually a “teach them to fish” kind of guy. Today, I stumbled by total accident across this site: Hipporoller.org. They point out that many people in third world countries go to the local watersource and use dirty, heavy containers (even gas cans!) to lug water back home. They can’t bring much (have you ever tried to move jugs of water cross country?) and they’re not carrying it in a safe manner. Hipporoller has build sturdy round water containers that carry a lot of water, they roll across the ground, and they bring more water back home in a clean, safe container. That is huge.

Idea #4: Another collaboration tool

I like Google. They have consistently changed the web in several ways. This latest collaboration tool, I believe could be a game changer. It’s called Google Wave. If you think about the benefits of collaborating in GoogleDocs and the interactive communication in Facebook and the feel of real time conversation snippets in DMs on Twitter, this builds on those. Here is a video. It’s long; I don’t expect you to watch it all, but watch some of it. It seems like it will be a go-to collaboration environment for me and I love that they will come out of the gate with many apps ready-to-go.

What periodicals of tomorrow will look like

Newspapers are struggling. Magazines are wondering “what’s next?” I wouldn’t say that paper-based communication is dead but I would say that it’s in the hospital and doctors are calling up the specialists.

Chris Brogan, a business/tech/social media consultant (okay, that description falls short of what he actually does) had some insightful things to say about print publications and opportunities for their survival. He delivers meaningful specifics that show how information delivered by the “ideal” next media company intersects with the needs of the audience.

Read his post here: The Next Media Company.

Google trending the economy

Recently I posted a blog about how Google Trends “predicted” the recession. While I was there, I decided to see the search trend on the term “economy“. I wondered how it would compare. Here is Google’s trend chart:

aaronhoos_googletrends_economy

This chart fascinates me for a couple of reasons:

  • The current economic climate is not prompting people to search for the word “economy” any more than any other economic climate. I’d have guessed that it would be higher.
  • Not surprisingly, there is a valley through the third quarters when everyone is away on vacation and not thinking about work or business or the economy.
  • There are slight peaks at the end of every quarter, which makes sense that people are thinking about economic factors that might influence their EOQ results or forecasts.
  • What surprised me the most was the large dip at the end of the year. It’s as if people are so focused on Christmas and New Year and the opportunities for the year to come that they stop searching for “economy” information? While there is often a small spike at the end of every quarter, there is a huge dip at the end of the year; and in every case, that end-of-the-year dip is greater than the summer dip.

Google Trends: (mis)fortune teller

I was in Google Trends the other day, doing some research for a client. On a whim, I decided to also see the search trend for “recession”. What an interesting find! Here is Google’s Trend graph:

aaronhoos_googletrends_recession

At first glance, it’s shocking to see how much the search volume and news references have grown. It’s shocking, but not a huge surprise: the recession is bad but the badness is stoked like a fire by the media.

But there’s something I find even more fascinating: Look at the first quarter of 2007. Recession searching spiked there. By today’s standards it wasn’t much, but compared to the amount that it was searched prior to that, it was huge. If someone had been paying attention, they would have had almost an entire year of warning before the through-the-roof spike in the beginning of 2008. Time to sell stocks, short stocks, lock in customers, and reduce inventory.