What did I do wrong? Does my website suck?

angry kidI have been following a conversation about hate mail: what to do with it, how to mentally process it and how to get over it.

When I started making and selling art work—way back in the freakin’ 70s! (Yes, I am that old), at my very first show, I heard a little girl who was standing in my booth with her mother say, “Oh, Mommy, let’s go look at something pretty!”

Another favorite comment was from a man who sort of shouted over his shoulder as he passed by, “They teach guys in prison to do that, you know!”

A thick skin is required to be in any business, especially one where you do the creating yourself.

None of this is exactly hate mail. But it is, at least, disrespectful. If the comments you get are like those, you laugh them off. Any other response and you look like a dolt.

cloudsIf you’re looking at a cloudless blue sky and somebody says you’re a jerk for not seeing that it is, in fact, black as night, again: Laugh it off.

You might even think, “Good, I’m making some waves. People are noticing me. I’m different. And for my peeps, I’m right.”

But if you’re looking east to a beautiful cloudless sky and the other guy is looking west at an approaching severe storm, laughing it off is not only counterproductive but also really does make you look like jerk.

So here’s what I do when somebody sends sends me an email and says,

Your website sucks!
I can’t find anything that should be there.

Get past the vitriol. Find the important message in that note.

Don’t laugh that off and figure they are blind or stupid.

Skip over the ugly and get some details.

Maybe your site looks great in Firefox but in Chrome there are lots of extra characters. I’ve seen malware actually show up on sites in Chrome when in Firefox and IE they look perfect. (You do test your site on multiple browsers, right? At least: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE—new and older versions—and Opera, right?)

An organizer friend of mine says, if you can’t find your caulking gun, you don’t own one. No matter if you really already have 4!

If a visitor can’t FIND directions to your business, then they aren’t there—no matter if they really are included but buried way down below the form on your contact page.

If people complain about your colors, check them out on different monitors. You might be surprised about the differences.

Look, I am NOT saying that you should bend in the wind with every complaint you hear. You cannot make everyone happy. And, in fact, maybe pissing some people off is exactly what you have to do to get your point across or to narrow the field of ALL possible customers to just the ones you want to work with.

But look at the basic complaint offered. Try to see if there is ANY validity to it. If a thank you is in order, send one. But it’s not always a good idea to engage your enemies.

How do you deal with “fightin’ words” from your public? Have you found your tack to be working? Please share!


Mystery Christmas Music

This story has nothing to do with websites or website design.

It’s family tradition that I can’t really identify as anything more than a mystery. But I think it’s a good story and one that should be shared so that maybe, just maybe, the right person might know how much we are tickled by it.

Coconut head

But first: this corollary to our story:

Ed Clinch of Peoria, Illinois had a decorated coconut mysteriously delivered to his house every Christmas from 1948-1996.

If your math is a bit rusty, that’s 48 years!  It came by donkey, by the mayor—twice, by ambulance on a stretcher and by parachute, to name a few scenarios.

The last one was delivered to his grave. He died at 82. He never knew who was behind it. (Don’t believe me? Check it out.  Search Ed Clinch Christmas Coconut)

At the our house,  for the 36th time in as many years, we found Christmas music mysteriously left for us on our porch on Christmas eve.  That’s 36 Christmas albums… probably a better collection of Christmas music than most brick and mortar record stores.

Record PlayerHere’s our story:

We moved into our first house December 22, 1975. We were young. We had a big empty house. We got the biggest tree we could find to help fill that vast empty living room. That year we knew where, and from whom, all our  gifts came from.

But the next year, on our front porch wrapped in a Korvette’s shopping bag—a long-gone local department/discount store with an exceptionally fine record section—we found a brand new copy of Handel’s Messiah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recorded in quadraphonic sound!

We had a pretty good stereo system. We were, after all, newly out of college where stereos were a particularly important marker of something or other.  In each place we lived, by then apartments or dorm rooms, the stereo was the first thing to be unpacked and the last thing to be packed. Music should be available at all times and in all places.

But we did not have quadrophonic sound.

We did not know where the record came from.  I knew it couldn’t have been Joe because quadrophonic records were expensive, and as newly-weds, why spend money on a record we couldn’t fully appreciate?

The next year, the record appeared again.

When we moved to Mississippi, the record came  wrapped in brown paper, postmarked Baltimore. But no other markings.

There was a CD before we had a CD player. Then there was music ripped on a CD or a memory stick.

Over the years there have been classical recordings, contemporary recordings, country music, traditional music, choirs and single performers.  Annapolis Brass to Maryland Consortium to the  TransSiberian Orchestra and everything in between.  This year it was a bizarre mix of songs including Dominic the Donkey and White Christmas by Iggy Pop!

Generally we find it on the front porch, but it’s been on the back porch and it’s been tossed under a bush.  Sometimes there’s a knock on the door—a rather tentative one—so nobody thinks to rush to see who’s there. But mostly there is no signal.

This year, my husband spied a young African American kid walking up the street, paying  no body any mind—certainly not out of place on our street.

We have some suspicions.

The exCIA agent neighbor? The father of a kid who lived on my block growing up and who now also lived in Baltimore? (both now sadly dead and missed) Somebody from my job at Bethlehem Steel? A friend of Joe’s from school? Or work?

Each year we review the possible benefactors.  We just don’t know.

It is a wonderful family tradition.  We talk about it often in hopes that whoever is doing this knows how much we enjoy the game and the prize! And maybe someday it will be nice to know who’s doing it.  But not today.

And thank you!
Kerch McConlogue signature

What do window washers have to do with websites?

The way you do anything is the way you do everything

In the last couple of months I had the windows in my house washed by professionals and I had some landscaping done by … UMM….how to say this and not be accused of slander… a crappy company?

First the window washers

window washer

I live in an old house with 34 windows and 3 doors.  The “old” is important because the windows are big AND have those old triple track storm windows that do not fold in for easy cleaning by beautiful women with perfectly manicured nails!  Cleaning these windows is WORK.

(Did you know you had to wash windows more often than every 5 years.. and that there is no guarantee that they’ll stay clean, no matter how much you pay?  Coulda fooled me.. But I digress.)

I am thrilled and amazed by the results of work by R&J Home Services (if you’re in the Baltimore/Washington area, call them!)

But it’s their process is what’s important here.

Two guys showed up when they said they would—actually,  a little early. They walked through the house and surveyed the project. They helped me move some big furniture out of the way. Then they removed the storm windows, keeping them by the permanent ones so they didn’t get confused.

They put ladders up to the outside of my house (like my father used to), scrubbed the windows with sponges and cleaned the water with squeegees. Then they did the insides, the storms and replaced them all.  It took about 4 hours.

Second the landscaping company

The company owner came and walked around my property in the near dark. I happened to have a scale plot map of the yard and gardens so he told me what he thought I needed, wrote a contract (by hand) at my dining room table and then asked for one third payment. SNAP… just like that he was gone.

He showed up nearly 2 months later than promised with a crew of about 9 guys. They had no visible plan, no copy of my map.  It was 3 days before Christmas, and my substantial number of perennials had died back.  But 9 guys started digging. Then in two days, “Wham bam thank you ma’am. Pay up” and they were gone.  (Need I say that spring was a mess?)

What does this mean to web design and development?

  1. Planning is key to a good experience. Not only did the window job go smoothly, nothing broke and I am over the moon with the results.
  2. Sometimes big is not better.  I shouldn’t have had to (and really couldn’t) pay attention to 9 guys, but neither did the boss who wasn’t even there the whole time.

About the results:

Of the windows: As I notice a one, day or night, (and with 34 that’s pretty much all the time I’m in my house!) I am amazed and thrilled. They sparkle!  Remember the old ad:  “Makes your windows so clean they seem to disappear”?  That’s my windows.

Of my gardens: I can’t really enjoy them anymore. I know stuff will eventually grow in and I am perfectly capable of moving the plants (except the trees) by myself.  It will get better. But I thought paying someone—with a bunch of guys—a bunch of money would give me the results I dreamed of. (Listen to that? Do you hear that buzzer? And the announcer saying “Thank you for playing our game”?)

The window guys listened to me gave me exactly what I wanted, what they promised, and what I thought I was buying. I am sure they have exactly the same process in every house they work in. I don’t care, it works.

A plan for the content of your website is similarly pretty systematic. You need to know who is your ideal client so you can  give the right information to your visitors.  The ad for J&R Home Services showed a picture of a house with a big window and a ladder up to it.  They know who they want to attract!

You need to plan (and write) some content: Home, About, Contact at least! You need a plan for how you’ll keep your site up-to-date and for how you want to grow it and your business.

The landscapers had no plan, just dug and planted.  I’m guessing that’s the way they do all their jobs, too.

A big company with a big price tag does not insure a great product.

Kerch McConlogue, Web developerWeFixBrokenWebsites is a small company. Really it’s mostly just me. I have some colleagues who I trust to help when I can’t figure something out.  But if you work with me, you’ll work with me.  I answer the phone when you call. I read your emails. And if something’s not right, I fix it.



All about the trade show display… or 10 easy steps to a better one

After 20 years of selling stuff out of a full sized 10×10 display, table top trade show displays just bug the crap out of me.

Church bazaars (no offense meant) set out tables for people to set out the stuff they made and are trying to sell. Professional craftsmen (and professionals in business) spend time thinking about how to best show what they made. They think about the story they want to tell about their products.

Think Tiffany window display vs. T J Maxx windows

Here are a few things I learned selling from a 10×10 booth:

  1. Your display is not only about professionally-made stand-up banners (and I am not dismissing them). But people will NOT read all that copy. If  I’m standing there, wouldn’t you rather tell me a story about your service and how it can benefit me?  Not stand around waiting for me to finish reading?
  2. Put your sign high enough behind your display so as to be seen from the end of the aisle. Why?
    Nobody can miss this business name from the end of the row!
    1. If the sign is hanging on the front of your table, people crowding in front of your booth hide your name with their knees. If it’s high, they can look up and see your name without stepping back to read it. (Allowing/encouraging stepping back signals it’s ok to leave)
    2. The “be backs” (people who tell you , “I’ll be back later”) can look down the aisle and find you.
  3. table legs
    This kind works. Other shaped legs don’t.

    Drape your table to the floor. It’s not only hiding what visitors shouldn’t see, it’s also about presenting a uniform clean front view.

  4. Raise your table to counter height so people—especially vain women who don’t’ like to wear their glasses—can see what’s they’re looking at. An easy way to do this is to carry with you 4 pieces of PVC pipe about 14″ long that you can slip over the table legs (IF they have those U shaped legs like the table shown. It won’t work on the legs that are slanted)
  5. Bring something to change the heights of stuff on your table. Covered cardboard boxes (with something heavy inside) allows you to make important stuff higher than the rest of what you’re showing.
  6. Bring flowers or a plant. Have a bowl of candy. Don’t make a candy display that people are afraid to disturb. Get a pretty bowl they can stick their hand in and take a piece or two. Flowers are pretty and attract the eye. A bowl of candy gives a person a reason to stay and talk. People get embarrassed grabbing your candy and then walking away.
  7. If you can have lights (which is less likely at a table top kind of event than at a pipe and drape event) don’t skimp! No lights means no one is home so there’s no reason to stop and look.
  8. Don’t sit behind your table. It’s a barrier between you and your visitors. If you must have a chair (and I am not arguing for standing all day!) bring a tall, bar-height director’s chair.People don’t want to think they’re putting you out by asking you to stand. And why would you want your customers to look down on you?
  9. And perhaps most importantly, think about how people will look at your booth. They won’t see it all at once. They’ll see a piece, a piece, a piece.Think about the story you want to tell when someone stops.
  10. Never start with a question that can be answered “no.” For example: “Can I help you?” leads to “No, thanks, just looking.” And now you have to overcome that negative to get to a positive. How about: “Can I tell you a story about my product/service?” A small first agreement leads to later bigger agreement and sale. Once you know the story you can tell it over and over and be confident. Even if it bores YOU to death, each new visitor will hear it for the first time.

If you’re looking for ideas, visit any high end craft show and pay attention to the booths. (It’s a cheaper experience that way, but the craftsmen might not like it much!)

6-year-old’s Marketing Video… Beautiful!

I feel like I must be a hundred.. but back in MY day, the Boy Scouts sold light bulbs!  THAT was useful.  My dad would keep a big list all year and then get them from a neighborhood kid.

Now, at least here in Baltimore, they’re selling popcorn.

A friend of mine has a 6 year old son who is very proud to have just joined the cub scouts. His den is selling popcorn. “He” wrote an email to his friends and relatives (using his “daddy’s email”) to ask them to buy popcorn.

OK., that’s pretty standard fare. And pretty easy to ignore if you are not ACTUALLY the grandmother (which I am not).

However, it looks like the scouts have upped their game for selling stuff because now using the link in Jack’s email, I go directly to a page which gives him the credit when somebody buys something. (Only problem here is I know the kid as Jack, but his real name is Jonathan.. and that was a bit confusing. Particularly as the picture on the page isn’t Jack).

But I digress.

Here’s the really cool part!
Jack made his own video to sell the popcorn.

And THIS, I am quite sure, he did on his own. The video (just a minute and a half) is a riot sure to impress not only grandparents but friends of his “daddy’s” as well.

It’s short. And feels like marketing genius to me. Only thing I would have suggested, is to put the video link up higher in the letter. And make some reference in the video to the cost of the popcorn and where to find the link to buy the it.  But hey, there’s always next year.

But buy some popcorn from this kid today! The fund raiser is over the end of September.