The User Is Always Right, Indeed

One recurring theme of this column over the years has been to push for you to consider what your Web site says. It seems so obvious a thing, but most manufacturers pay very little attention to what their sites are saying and to whom they are saying it.

Columns From: 11/1/2006 Modern Machine Shop, ,

One recurring theme of this column over the years has been to push for you to consider what your Web site says. It seems so obvious a thing, but most manufacturers pay very little attention to what their sites are saying and to whom they are saying it. Sure, a lot of time is given to how to say something through your site—how it looks, what verbiage is used, how graphics are presented, how the navigation works. But mostly, it’s obvious that it’s just assumed what the Web site’s message will be from the get-go.

Describe the company? Check. Machinery list? Check. Picture of the building? Check. Pictures of sample parts? Check. Obligatory comments about honesty/longevity/dependability? Check.

Readers of this column should also remember this consistent message: Don’t just talk about what you make and what you make it with, but portray through your site how you’ve made your customers and their products better.

To help you with the whys and hows of this approach, I’d like to introduce you to a book. Yeah, I know you’re busy with a lot of things, but if you’ve recognized the important role your business’s Web site plays (and will continue to play) but haven’t been sure what to do next, you need to read this book.

“The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide To Creating And Using Personas For The Web” was written by Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar. Both work for an Internet consulting firm, but don’t hold that against them. Pardon the pun, but these guys have given a face to what is the grand solution to the problem of what a manufacturing Web site should say.

The premise of this fine work is that you should create personas that represent the types of people you want your site—and your business—to serve, and using those personas to “tell” you what’s important to “them.” The book can take you step-by-step through a process that identifies these “people” efficiently, effectively and without too much effort. Its message and processes are very flexible in that you can select from and tailor the processes that are best for you and your business.

Research, statistics, interviews, surveys and other forms of info collection are explained in an easy-to-understand voice, and suggestions as to how to conduct research are practical and useful.

Some areas of the book are a bit over the top – for example, recommending that you create cardboard cut-outs of personas seems a bit contrived.

But I’ve not found another book that describes and instructs so well on the topic of Web content and how to create and sustain it.

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