How not to design a professional website

Irony

Given the title and contents I can’t talk*, I haven’t seriously revised Ackadia in years, something I need to correct soon.
*(At the time of writing)

Anyhow, someone disagreed with one of my reviews and requested a link removal. Looking at the page in question, found half the other links were dead too or had changed owners.

One thing on the page, which I’ve moved here, below, was my less than complimentary review of their website. The place in question is long gone now, but the points I made some ten years ago remain valid.


[ Removed, link dead ]

First off, this is an objective view of someone looking for training and seeing their site for the first, even second time. My comments in no way reflect the professionalism of the franchise or it’s training staff.

The first time I visited their site I found it annoying and uninformative. However, after an email from one of their franchises, I decided to give it another look-over. (Their typo’s, left in, only emphasised my points!):

“I run one of there franchises and stumbled accross your site accidently. We prefer to work on a personal contact basis and don’t expect people to sign up for courses they haven’t seen online. You clearly haven’t contacted any of our Centres since you can so flippantly write us off. I would appreciate it if you could check all your facts before you publish such damming opinions.”

At first, it didn’t ring a bell, then after a few minutes of owls, telephone numbers and logos constantly fading in and out I remembered why I went off them from the first. Perhaps you noticed the almost complete lack of java applets, mouse-over effects, Flash and animated gifs on Ackadia…  Strike 1!

The “Centres” page (complete with pulsing map points) is no doubt comprehensive but when I see lists with companies and contact names I personally expect links to individual sites and contacts emails. For myself, it jars when I don’t see something I expect. It’s rather like when someone decides to emphasise something badly and you sit there clicking like crazy, thinking, “Why won’t this blimming link work?”   Strike 2!

Finally, which is why I found it uninformative, it has a courses page. Let’s choose “The Design Series” Good, there are 3 Macromedia courses they run. Let’s click on “TTEC202 Macromedia Flash 5”. And we get? The “Contact” page. No matter what option you choose, you end up on the contact page asking you to contact them for further information.

The above comments can equally apply to any other commercial website. Basically, as an end-user looking for training I will stand by my first impression. As far as I am concerned, I went there to look for information and was bounced from page to page before being shepherded to a contact form. I can deal with companies being vague about pricing, the exams fee’s alone for an MCSE are over £800, but what I don’t like is unanswered questions.

The lady in question has obviously missed the entire point. I did contact their company. The web site was my first point of contact.
As for not signing up for “courses they haven’t seen online”…

Surely my entire argument is they – I – haven’t seen the courses online because there’s nothing there to read! Take TTEC010 A+ PC Support Certified Professional for example. Is this one of their own exams or the CompTIA A+ certification?   No distinction is made. Assuming, naturally that it is the latter, maybe I don’t even know what this course entails and I think clicking on the link will give me further information.

Throwing oil onto the fire I’ll put it another way. I follow a link recommending a training site, the courses offered appear to include some seriously involved Web Design courses. I take one look at the site. Strike 3, you’re out!

The lady is correct, I did write them off without bothering to contact them further or giving them a better chance. Over the next few years, I am looking to continue my sabbatical with an obscene number of courses. These include MCSE, MCSD, CCNA, CIW, LPIC, Advanced ECDL and at least a dozen others. And my point is?   The web site simply does not inspire me to bother finding out anything further. Sooner or later I will visit again – if only to check the link. If things look better maybe I’ll be more complimentary.

Below that, for another company, I’d written:

Taking the above comments about those above into heart, I have to be fair and rip a chunk out of this company too. They offer discounts if you book courses in bulk. Despite an order form, they don’t appear to publish the fees. At least not that I could see, but I’m a typical lazy surfer. If I can’t find it without a big spade, I’ll dig no deeper.

Anyhow, I decided to find the nearest testing place. It’s alphabetical. What, you can’t sort by area?   A real hate of mine – one which (these) are equally guilty of – there are no links to the training centres. What is it with these people!?

Maybe it is just me, but I deeply distrust any IT company that doesn’t have a web presence and it rattles me no end to see a list of venues without URLs or email. As far as I am concerned it goes like this:

Visit the web site.
Is it appropriate, good even?
Right, let’s see what I want.  

I have neither the time nor the patience anymore to walk through messaging systems, through secretaries, first, second and third line support before finding someone who understands what I am talking about.

Incidentally, the closest test centre is Knowsley College and they proved a waste of space (at the time). I’ve been trying for three months to get on MCSE and A+ courses and they simply don’t follow up phone conversations, mail nor email. If I get one more brochure offering flower arranging courses…

Like the old cliche says, the more things change, the more they stay the same!


Addenda (2020)

There is probably another related post somewhere on Ackadia, but from memory, my analogy at the time was this:

Suppose you are visiting a new area, and fancy some lunch. There are two cafes near to each other. One could be a shoehorn for the feature image above. The paint on the door and window frames is old, dirty, and peeling. Peering through the dirty windows, trying not to look at the dead flies in the frayed curtains, you see the place is empty. Almost. There are bare tables and chairs and, just about out of sight, a woman is behind the counter, smoking.

The second cafe appears bright, most of its tables are occupied, and the customers appear to be enjoying their meals, which do look tempting. There is a board outside with the prices and recommended meals. The smell of freshly baked bread is drawing you in.

If your website is the internet version of the first cafe in my story, people are not going to want to go inside; yours is the online versions of needing to wipe your feet on the way out.


( Feature image by congerdesign from Pixabay )

Ack

Been playing with computers since the stone age, online since the '80s, and developing websites since the '90s.

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