Usability and Search Marketing: If Your Home Page Could Only Talk

I wrote this many years ago and it still cracks me up. You can see how some of the user complaints are practices that, for the most part, are no longer used. I’m sure you’ve come across web sites that match the criteria I joke about below.

If Your Home Page Could Only Talk

Dear web site visitor. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you found my website. You have no idea the great lengths we’ve gone into to get you here, let alone what we’re about to do to keep you here.

First, let me say, I have no idea who you are, or why you came, but believe me when I say, I built my site just for you. My company and products are the best there is to offer. You can find everything you need to know about me in my About Us page (it says “us”, but there is only me, really. It’s all about impressions you know?). I removed my address because Google will give you a map to my place and, like I said earlier, I have no idea who you are.

Contacting me is easy. Just fill out the form when you find it. When you find the privacy policy, please take an hour to read that. Basically it says I don’t have time to record your data and don’t care who you are. I’m only interested in selling you something that has my company name on it.

Speaking of which, did you find my site in search engines by using my company name? Being new to the web, I figured I had to do some things to grab your attention. I’m so sorry the “blinds” you searched for led you to my sunglasses page. While you’re here, can I interest you in my e-book about ostrich feather arrangements?

The product catalog is to the left of that big fat image on the right of the homepage that’s distracting you. Above the two global navigation schemes in the top header is your login area. To register, you need to first give me your phone number so I can call you at 3am and tell you about my specials. I put the search box at the bottom of the page, so you can find things quickly. The sitemap needs to be updated, sorry. We put it there for search engines to crawl and then forgot we had it. Since we’re not sure how you like to find our products, we figured we’d put a link to what we think are the most popular items in the left navigation. Unfortunately there’s an endless need to scroll. We couldn’t decide what you’re favorites are, so we put everything there, just to be safe.

A word to those who use screen readers. We heard that getting to the top of search engines is a nightmare and were advised to put in hidden keywords in the text, behind images, and repeat our keywords in the content. I wouldn’t advise turning on your screen reader, as it will say a lot of words over and over again and drive you crazy. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and the loss of your sale. But, we were guaranteed the number one spot by that SEO Company, and by golly, you found us didn’t you!

We know you want to know everything about our products and that you use different browsers. We know you like to control your experience and totally understand your right to do so. Therefore, we made a popup window for each product that allows you to zoom in, enlarge or shrink the image, rotate the product and imagine it on your girlfriend’s body. For the convenience of those with their pop up windows turned off, please use the link that says “Relax, this is not a popup window” so you may view and rotate to your heart’s content in a new window. For those who hate new windows, we have a FLASH demo, but you’ll need the plug in. For those who hate plug ins, we put in a link to one static, basic product picture, and the “Add to cart” button next to it, because, dear one, you cause us the least amount of hassle and we really appreciate that.

Some of our pages may look weird. This is because they’re separate landing pages. We removed the template and navigation you’re used to seeing on every page and replaced it with a story about our trip to Manchu Pichu, with a link to our homepage, and catalog. We know it’s strange but the conversions people told us to have landing pages. And besides, you should have seen it when we had 350,000 doorway pages to the site.

We get lots of requests for links to our site. If you came to use because you wanted our PR score to make yours look good, we’re just so tickled about this. We worked so hard for our PR 3 and are more than happy to sell a link to you for 300 US dollars paid in advance via PayPal.

While you’re here, we invite you to visit our links pages. We know the sites we thoughtfully linked to have a lot to do with the subject of our site, and the ones that aren’t, well; they sent us such sweet emails about how they visited our site and loved it. How could we possibly resist such a nice gesture like that?

Our products are great, like I said earlier. If you want to see if I’m telling the truth, just read the many testimonials we provided throughout the site. You know, the ones with the comment and the handy unlinked, unidentifiable initials next to them. We value your trust.

Please note that we prefer you ignore the broken links and the copyright year of 2001 in our footer. We haven’t bothered to maintain our site in years, but we hated like hell to lose our great rank.

The newsletter signup isn’t really an underhanded way to spam you later. We’re just not skilled enough to put up an example copy or archives of the older ones we labored over.

Like I said, I don’t know who you are or what you want, so I decided to put all kinds of fun things up on my site. The web ring, guestbook, links directory to links pages that lead to links pages, email to friend, Google Ads, banner ads, animated spinning things, RSS feed, blog, directions to my cousin’s house (he doesn’t mind surprise visitors), picture of my dog (I link to that from my profile on the dating sites I belong to), vacation pics and logos I had to put on my site so that people wouldn’t remove my site from theirs – all this is hopefully something you might like.

I know I do.

Thanks again for visiting my web site. It’s fun to watch my traffic stats to see where you came in from and where you left. I’ll even give you a hint about one thing, just to show how customer oriented I am. Don’t bother to buy anything.

The shopping cart stopped functioning months ago.

Intuit Web Site Setup Service Misleading

I would like to thank Intuit for their hard work in bringing me new clients. It came as quite a surprise that you support my web site usability and SEO services.

Imagine my surprise when I flipped on the boob tube for several minutes while making tea from the comfort of my (very busy!) home office and there you were, all professional sounding like, with your (dare I say it?) sly and devious commercial to small biz web site owner hopefuls.

For the mere fee of $4.99 (or some such pittance), new web site owners can buy a web site designed and marketed by Intuit. In just under 3 minutes, you had me going there, by golly. Especially the part about being findable in search engines? You naughty dog, you!

Services such as this help to explain why I get so many people from my community asking me to build a web site for them for $100. You should see the disbelief on their faces when I bring up web site requirements, user behavior, mobile use, special needs users and little mundane things like “web standards” and marketing.

As more and more people come to me wondering why their sites don’t function or people aren’t buying anything, I should write you a thank you note. They truly believed that if you build it for them, they’ll get rich.

Now, I’m as lazy as the next person, and a template and domain (“homesite”? Wow!) sounds awesome. I love how you never mention the part about how the competition may also choose the same design (that comes with your pre-fab content). And you made it sound so easy to “Get Found by Customers” but you don’t say how or what happens once those customers get to the web site. Isn’t is clever that your customers never need any search engine optimization and no social media marketing to be found? Not to mention your templates would pass usability and accessibility audits. Right? How cool is THAT!

I was so thrilled at your offer, I went to your web site and checked out your “learn more” and I must admit, if I had no clue about web site development, marketing and ownership, I’d be sold on the pay, click to customize and watch the world come to your site stuff you’re saying. No doubt, your software and the thousands of others just like it, is a practical option for somebody.  I was certainly impressed with how one form makes their site show up in “important search sites” like Google Maps and Yahoo! Local.

Personally, I don’t envy you the guilt of knowing how many of those poor folks will eventually throw in the towel and come to companies such as mine looking for help on things like what their customers want, who their customers are, how to get them to do something and why, after all the money they pay you, their site is on page 55 of search results.

Best wishes on what will undoubtedly be a very lucrative holiday season for you as you rake in the big bucks from hopeful new ecommerce site owners.  I’m looking forward to a very busy second quarter.

Gratefully yours,
I Fix Web Site Wrecks

Ms. Dewey Search Lives On

Every once in awhile I long for the days when my sassy female search idol, Ms. Dewey, would tap on my monitor asking where where I was. Today was one of those days.

If you remember, Ms. Dewey as a viral marketing campaign started by Microsoft 3 years ago this month. The site was an experimental interface for Live Search. It didn’t take searchers long to discover you could prompt her to say and do naughty, silly things with certain keyword searches.

Looking to see if there are any updates on her demise (they bring back dead soap opera stars, why not Ms. Dewey?), I found her domain alive and well sitting in the first spot in Google SERPS.

However, upon clicking the domain, I was redirected to a site called Evolution Bureau. Instead of her smiling face and cocky attitude, I found myself staring face to face with a big muscle bound dude. Then, the picture dissolved and I was facing an Office Max “Elf Yourself” ad. At first, I was miffed.

How could Microsoft let a company steal their domain? This was illogical, so I took a look around.

Turns out the company, called Evolution Bureau, created Ms. Dewey, along with advertising agency, McCann-Erickson. (Click to see a picture of our heroine holding a butcher knife.)

Of this project, they wrote:

Microsoft (a somewhat well-known computer company) and its traditional agency, MRM Gould, came to EVB with a very ambitious goal – to join Yahoo! and Google as a leader in the online search category.

In response to this challenge, we created one of the most successful and popular online experiences of all time – Ms. Dewey.

Their web site is creative, off planet quirky and stubbornly non-conformist. I had trouble figuring out what they do but I could imagine myself playing foos ball in their break room.
The mystery of why the search engine was shelved is still unknown. Perhaps unforgiven. According to Evolution Bureau, “Ms. Dewey lives on in a countless number of user YouTube recordings and in daily emails that we still get pleading for her return.”

So, I feel much better now. The sexy smart ass who who stripped for my husband is not floundering somewhere off camera. She resides now in a advertising agency’s portfolio.

Memory Lane

She was famous for responding to search queries:

“I read in a magazine that aliens snapped up the most beautiful woman in the world and put her on the internet, and that you can ask her anything and she’ll have an answer for you. What a crock.”
“Ok, take off your clothes. That’s right. Socks too. Now, fold them neatly, and toss them all out the window. (rings buzzer, you hear sirens) There, now you are screwed.”
“Keep asking questions. The more you ask, the more I will know. And, soon I will rule the world.”
“Doing the same thing over and over didn’t do anything for the last woman in your life. What makes you think I’m any different.”
“I tried that with three close friends once. Let’s just say my memiors would fetch a million.”
“Girls, don’t let him fool you, sometimes it is the size of the gun.”
“Honey, have you seen my birth control pills? You didn’t mistake them for breath mints again, did you? (guy drinking glass of water spits it out)”
“Like I always say, a girl’s got to be prepared. (takes out whip and slaps it down)”
“Hello, type something here!”

See Also

Ms. Dewey Facebook site

Don’t Piss off Ms. Dewey

Ms. Dewey Phrases

Bye Bye Ms.Dewey Search Engine

I have rather shocking news to report. The loverly search engine sexy ex-porn star, MsDewey, has gone on to Search Engine Heaven (or is on vacation with some half-naked SEO’s feeding her grapes?)

I shall miss you.
MsDewey Speaks Her Mind and Dances For My Husband
Ms. Dewey Meets the Geico Cavemen
Ms Dewey Charges Into SES Keynote Discussion

In her traditionally wacky, I’ll-dance-naked-on-the- bar-for-you kind of way, she teases Steve by saying, “You look really leadery.” He launches into a promotional dialog about delivering search in a different way and who can do this better than MsDewey?

During the roughly three minutes she was up there, she didn’t shut up. She inquires with Steve about her future and makes a list of demands for what she wants (”I want to go to Paris, or Panama…”) and apparently “Jeeves” is her chauffer now. Despite her script and its theme of the “future of search”, Danny seemed a little surprised at the intrusion and forgot where he was in his questioning.

This experimental search engine has been missing for a month now.

Discussion and Memorial Service

WebGuild picks up the story here with Gates & Ballmer Fire Ms. Dewey – Close Site

As do SearchEngineRoundtable