Curb Appeal for Your Online Real Estate

August 17, 2010

I live with a graphic artist / web designer, so in addition to killer Adobe Photoshop requests produced on demand, I also get to witness the shock of a potential client after they’ve received a quote for website re-design.  I never quite understood why they were unwilling to invest the money to update from the GeoCities page created by the CFO’s nephew to a sleek, customer focused site. Oftentimes I chalked up their unwillingness to a lack of money and forethought; they’re a small business, why have a fancy website?  Turns out, it’s not only the little guys who think they can get away with a bare bones page.

An interesting article by Jennifer Modarelli asked the same question; why do companies cheap out on their websites?  Modarelli has witnessed the same scenes I have, but on a much larger scale.  “I have actually met with billion-dollar companies with 10-plus-year-old sites that want to do a redesign, but do not want to invest more than $75,000 to $100,000” even when their class-A office space cost “considerably more to build”.

I tried to think of examples. What big business spends money on making their real-world buildings look impressive, but settle for a shack in the virtual world? Banks. Banks love spending money on marble and columns and glass, anything to portray strength and security to their customers.  Do you get that same feeling after visiting the United Bank website? Keep in mind, United is a publicly traded company with $7.5 billion in assets and 113 full-service offices in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.

Modarelli points out that the folks in charge haven’t realized that websites are much more than “a simple marketing asset, like a piece of collateral” (although frankly, looking at some bank brochures, they could use some work, too). A website, she explains (and I agree) is just another place to do business. It’s probably safe to assume customers are happier doing business in a well-appointed office instead of a dark alley.  Modarelli, who works for a design firm that specializes in digital media, ends her article with the suggestion of heading towards the nearest agency with an open mind (and wallet).

But I wonder, do the “experts” even have it right?

Some of Buffalo’s top design firms lack a positive Web presence.  They tend to forgo time tested SEO rules in favor of lots of Flash and maze-like navigation.

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