Tagged: Web

DIY WEBSITE BUILDERS: Going Online with SquareSpace

I’m a WordPress guy. That’s the CMS I used to build my marketing communications, copywriting, and (now defunct) soccer sites. Though, as I noted in an earlier post, I did try GoDaddy (where I do my hosting) when creating a new portal site.

But when a client was looking for a simple, affordable website to showcase their new rental property in Brooklyn, I decided to use one of the DIY web development platforms. In addition to the cost factor, I was also thinking of a solution that they – or someone they designate – could maintain long after I’m out of the picture (as opposed to many developers who count on a steady stream of revenue from site maintenance and updates).

Having already experimented with GoDaddy, I decided to consider the two most popular options currently available: Wix and SquareSpace. After doing some research and exploring each interface and the templates they offer, I opted for SquareSpace as it seemed better suited for my client’s needs at the time.

The upside of these platforms is that they try their best to make building a website practically brainless. In fact, one could argue that they try too hard. But if you have no vision of what you want the site to look like or how you want it to flow and function, then these could be ideal options for you. You just need to pick a template that you like, replace their images with your own, and drop in some text.

The downside is that I have a vision. I always have a vision. And these platforms make it very difficult to achieve that vision given the constraints of their templates.

For example, my client originally wanted the navigation centered across the top of the page. But when they decided late in the development process that they would rather have it along the left side of the page, there were very few SquareSpace templates offering that option. And in selecting one, we had to sacrifice some features from the original template that were not available in this new one.

I was also frustrated by the extremely wobbly drag and drop function. And the inability to copy and paste blocks of content on a given page – let alone from one page to another.

Also, at least in the templates I tried, the options for formatting text were extremely limited. My client wanted to underline a headline, which wasn’t allowed. And I could not change the color of one word without changing the color of all the text throughout the site. It all felt very rigid, and very limited.

Near the end of the process, when my client decided they wanted a custom email address, I discovered that SquareSpace outsources this to Google. And between those two “service” providers, neither were willing to provide any service on this front. Had this been part of the original plan, I might have opted for GoDaddy instead, as they are really good at helping with such things.

In the end, though, I think it worked out reasonably well. And the client is happy, with two of the apartments going into contract on the first day. You can see their site here.

So if you are looking for a way to create a basic website without the expense of hiring talent or acquiring skills and software, then these DIY website builders are definitely worth considering. You won’t be able to build the home of your dreams, but at least you will have somewhere to live online until you can afford to.

MARKET RESEARCH: Internet Usage Trends of Interest to Marketers

I have always been a proponent of research, data, and analysis. And I had the good fortune of working closely with some of the best researchers in the business over the years, so I may be more willing – and perhaps even better equipped – to use these tools than many of my colleagues.

But what I think is missing most from today’s data-driven marketing world is the ability – and willingness – to ask the right questions. That goes for the questions asked of the subjects as part of the research as well as the questions asked of the data as part of the analysis. And that ability to determine the right questions really comes from experience.

That said, the reason I’m thinking about research is because there has been a flurry of reports in the media about the latest trends in internet usage, as cited in the annual study done by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Adweek had seven trends, whereas VentureBeat had seven takeaways. And Ad Age topped them both, with 12 key takeaways and a call to panic. That’s 71-percent more takeaways, folks, and did I mention that they said you should be worried? Fear! FEAR!!! It seems to be selling better than sex these days. Sad.

As a marketing communications professional immersed in the digital world, I was keen to read these reports, to see which way the digital winds are blowing. And one thing that stood out for me wasn’t the growth of digital media, which is hardly surprising, but rather the average amount of time an adult spent consuming digital media in 2016: 5.6 hours per day. That seems like an awful lot of screen time. But when you consider the shift toward consuming traditional media – films, television, music, etc. – over the internet, it seems quite plausible. And it would certainly explain why, on a recent visit to the Guggenheim Museum, I noticed several people sitting on the benches in the Thannhauser Gallery with their faces buried in their phones instead of taking in some of the finest artwork in the museum’s collection.

Another interesting albeit unsurprising finding was that online ad blocking continues to grow. Personally, I use the Ghostery browser extension, opting out of almost everything, and can’t imagine how anyone lives online without it. Now I’m hoping someone will create a solution to suppress these advertorials, the sponsored stories from questionable sources that have undoubtedly polluted the public mindset to the point where a feeble-minded man-child ended up in the Oval Office.

The study also noted that, as measurement continues to improve, the ROI on social media ads remains a large, if rarely acknowledged, concern. Which reminds me that I just had a client ask me about advertising on Instagram. It would seem like a hip and happening place to be for most businesses. But once I showed them some of Instagram’s demographics (80 percent of users are outside the US, and 90 percent are under the age of 35), they opted to invest elsewhere, as that’s far from their target audience.

And while the study found that online ad spending finally topped traditional channels in the US last year (how long have we all been predicting that!), the amount of time we are spending on mobile devices – the highest growth segment – is increasing faster than ad spending. As a marketer with deep roots in public relations, I take some comfort in that. With usage increasing faster than ad spending, along with the rise in ad blockers and increasing concern over ROI, it’s likely that earned media and other forms of unpaid communications still have their place, and plenty of it, in the evolving digital landscape.

So what’s my takeaway? Content is still king! King, I say!!! Which is good news for those of us who try to make a living from it.

If you want to see Meeker’s entire 355-page presentation, you can find it here. And if you do decide to browse through it, you’ll likely boost our average of 5.6 hours per day for the next annual survey. But, please, just don’t do it while you are sitting in a museum…the stuff on the walls is infinitely more interesting.