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of Mrs. Misfit who has a website for one of her voluntary activities. It has cost her a lot of money, time and temper. She started off by asking our daughter, who has an MA in IT, to do the job, which was duly done at a very reasonable price. It looked nice and everyone was happy until the time came to make some revisions. Daughter, who had time to spare when the first version was prepared, was now busy and did not want to do the updating; instead sent details how to do the job. Mrs. M. and her mates duly made a complete hash of it and gave up. Their next try was to get a professional website designer in, at some expense. The main difference, as far as I could see, was that he had his logo plastered all over their site. When the time came for the annual update he had disappeared. Lessons learned: One – keep it out of the family and two – there are a lot of characters out there calling themselves website designers who, to be blunt, have not done the training. Knowing a bit about computers is not enough. So Misfit has decided that if he is going to do this thing he will have to spend serious money on it. If it isn’t done properly better not to do it at all. The people I have got in, who have a track record and come highly recommended, have spent a lot of time interrogating me as to what I want to get out of it. They seem to know the pitfalls. One which I already knew was that a website can reveal more about your business than you realise. I knew because I had looked at the website of what looked like a possible supplier. It prominently featured the pictures of two attractive looking lady directors who had designed a collection based on the belief that the public deserved shoes made entirely of natural materials, to help save the planet. The shoes themselves seemed interesting but the current distribution appeared to be restricted to one outlet the other side of said planet. I began to suspect that their international HQ was the spare bedroom in one of their houses and their world-wide distribution was their uncle’s shop. I may have got it entirely wrong, but the impression I got was what counts, not the reality. My advisors have emphasised that a website exists to sell things. It is not a work of art, nor an ego trip. It is a combined shop window and a sales floor. They quoted the example of a car dealer’s site one of them had consulted. All he wanted to know was when they were open but the site was so complicated and confusing, with a whole lot of stuff that seemed to be put in for the dealer’s own amusement about high performance cars, that he gave up and bought what he wanted somewhere else. They explained that there is a world of difference between an expensive site aimed at the public, which might have lots of music and clever graphics, and a simple retail site which is basically a statement of who you are, what you

M Website Worries


isfit Shoes is in the process of getting itself a website. For a long time old Misfit has taken the view that having built a business with minimal advertising except word of mouth there was no need of one. Besides, websites seemed expensive and there was the experience

sell, and how and when the customer can get the goods delivered. He suggested I look at some big retailer’s sites to see how they go about it. What I learned was I needed to keep it simple. The customers do not want to know how long we have been in business, what our shops look like, how many staff we have and what nice people we are. They want to know whether we have a certain article in stock, what the size/fitting range is, things like heel height and materials used, what colours are available, the price and delivery details and what our returns policy is. Nothing more. The big thing is, naturally, the photo of the shoe. If you think you can get away with taking photos of your range and uploading them into your website you are making a big mistake. A professional photographer once told me shoes are one of the most difficult things to photograph well. I once saw this proven. A mail order firm who bought shoes from us got one of their staff who was a keen amateur photographer, he had won prizes for his work, to photograph a shoe for a special offer. The result was minimal sales.

Lessons learned: One – keep it out of the family and two – there are a lot of characters out there calling themselves website designers who, to be blunt, have not done the training. Knowing a bit about computers is not enough.

The picture he took was competent but somehow lacked zing, or more precisely, sex appeal. To save the situation they got someone who specialised in photographing shoes, who jetted off to a tropical location together with model at enormous expense for a photo shoot, while I muttered about wasting money. When the revised advertisement appeared I had to admit the result looked like a million dollars, and more to the point, it turned a lacklustre seller into a runaway success, leaving me wiping the egg off my face. I personally think it is important that a retailer has the company’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address and opening hours, plus a map showing where the shops are easily available either on the home page or by clicking on “Contact us.” To my mind, if you make it difficult for your customers to talk to you, they’ll talk to someone else. It also builds confidence. Not having those basic details is like those leaflets that come through the door from builders who have a mobile number but never an address. So I have, after much worry and thought, told the professionals what I want, and they have gone off to prepare the site. I’ll keep you posted.

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