Does your Web site make it easy for customers to do business with you online?
It's amazing how many do not. Take a look at yours and see how difficult it is to find:
* Your location(s). Potential customers all over the world can find you on the Web. But they can't really find you if you if they don't know your physical location. (Note: it doesn't count if it takes more than three or four clicks from your home page to find this information.)
* A clear description of what your company does. If your site goes on about how you're a provider of engineered solutions, then you'd better make some changes right away. Ditto for any site that uses the word "paradigm."
* Your telephone number. Most folks include e-mail links, which are great. But many customers aren't going to spend any money until they talk to a real person.
We find these sorts of problems every time we edit our "Web Watch" directory. (The print directory, a free listing of processors and equipment, material and service providers, next comes out June 4. You also can find the guide online anytime at www.plasticsnews.com).
To be included, companies complete an online form, then our staff checks that against information on the companies' own Web sites. It's amazing how frequently firms say they perform a specific process (say, industrial blow molding) or offer a particular material (like custom compounds), but the Web sites say nothing about that capability.
There's plenty of free advice online about how to build good Web sites, at least from a technical point of view. Things like avoiding difficult-to-read graphics and features that require viewers to scroll horizontally. Many Web developers are taking these recommendations to heart.
But avoiding practical problems are just as important. In an era where some firms are generating real business online, it's amazing that so many still mess up the most basic steps.
While we're on the subject of Web communication, let's cover a related pet peeve: e-mail courtesy.
We make it pretty easy for readers to communicate from our Web site directly with reporters, correspondents and editors, as well as our sales force and Plastics Encounter trade show staff.
Every week, we see cases where one person will send a question or a news release to nearly every single person on our editorial staff. (Here's a typical question: "Dear sir, can you please send me any information you have on plastic recycling? Thank you in advance for your help. ...")
Face it: e-mail is cheap and easy. You can cut and paste one note and send it to dozens of people, asking them to do hours of research, and you've invested almost nothing. Not even the expense of a long-distance telephone call.
We try to respond to questions, even if it's to say we don't know or to suggest another source. But misuse of e-mail is rapidly turning the medium into the equivalent of junk mail. That's a pity, and there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it.