Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Internet is for Information!

Everyone in business needs some sort of web presence. Even if you don't need new customers, it's a way to take care of existing ones, while offering 24/7 information about your company or services. It's more than hours, products and services, it's about your personality and expertise.

Just "Google it" is a pretty popular phrase these days. Some times you are running late and decide to order out. At the stop light (which is illegal in most sates) you Google "chinese menu" + your zip code. On your smart phone screen appears links for a couple of local places.

As an architect, I want good design to not only achieve marketing objectives but also to provide intuitive functionality and quality information. The information superhighway has, for the most part, grown up like weeds in a garden. It becomes hard to find the information that we really want. And amazingly, sometimes it is just not available at all!

Of course the web is mature in many ways. Our online banking, eCommerce and social media sites are really well designed, easy to use, and provide important day-to-day functions. There are some other genres of business which seem to be lagging behind. When I think of some of the things that  cannot easy find, I wonder why?

Here are a couple of examples:

- I had shoulder surgery and my own doctors office had zero information on their process, recovery and realistic expectations for things like pain management, possible complications, how long before I could go back to work, or a layman's explanation of exactly what they were going to do while I was in la la land. I found the information at another site, but it didn't give me all the answers, so I printed the info from the other site and brought them to my pre-surgical exam to do some fact checking. What was difficult, is that I didn't really know what questions I might have asked.

- I need an owner's manual for my 1985 Honda V65 Sabre motorcycle; there were none that I could find (lots of repair manuals). I found some information in a couple of news groups, and an old review from a magazine, as well as a partial spec sheet, but no original owner's manual. Nothing on how the suspension adjustments work, maintenance items or what the little air valve is under the right side cover is for. Honda seems content to manage things for those that are going to buy a new bike, but the rest of us seem to be out of luck. I did find one for a similar model that was helpful for now.

Nearly 20 years ago I designed a site for a bank. Of course they wanted to tout their products and interest rates as well as the features and benefits of doing businesses with them. I simply asked one simple question, "What information are you going to provide for people who don't understand banking and finance terms?" The decided to post a glossary of banking terms and for a number of years it was their most popular page on their site followed by the mortgage and loan calculators.

The Internet is still about information, and I suspect it will be for a long time to come.