December 2013 Newsletter

**** The 4specs Perspective

Thoughts on Website Redesign for 2014 -
Be Responsive

Our November newsletter started to discuss:

In a word, Google is basically demanding that your site be Responsive!! ...or else.

My focus is on your company selling "specified products."

Google has a focus on local searches and on mobile devices (iPhones and Android smart phones plus iPads and Android tablets). Google, Yahoo and Bing do not understand the "specified product business" as it is an alien concept to them - someone searching today, writing a spec this afternoon and someone else will purchase the products in 3 years - as compared to an Amazon-type search and a purchase within an hour or checking online prices while in Best Buy.

Every month I look at 10-15 manufacturers' websites in greater detail while talking with the person responsible for advertising decisions. I see the following steps as essential in the sales process, starting from the end working towards to the beginning:

  1. Successfully quoting the best price & performance to the ultimate sub-contractor or distributor
  2. Having your local representation and/or distributors in place to cover the local questions & issues during bidding and design
  3. Being specified by the specifier, or being accepted as an substitution alternate during bidding
  4. Being selected by the architect (probably by searching on Google)
  5. Being found through the search engines by the architect and design team

While web designers down play a "brochure website" in my opinion a brochure website - think 3-ring binder - is the most effective website for items 3, 4 and 5 above. This newsletter will expand on why and suggested changes. Another view of the changes you can implement is found here:
[link no longer works]

Jacob Nielson has great thoughts on mistakes in website design that covers the typical manufacturer's website:

Here are the biggest problems I consistently see in manufacturer's websites:

1. Apple iPad and iPhone devices do not display flash - eliminate flash from your website. Check the iPhone and iPad views of your website for flash and small screen sizing problems
[Link failed]

2. Run your home page and typical inside page through as the first step. This will show you your website speed and point out other problems. Your goal should be to get the site to completely load within 2 seconds. I see many sites in the 3-10 second range that could be easily changed to under 2 seconds.

3. In general the primary speed killers I see are the following:

  1. Home page does not use gzip to compress the file - this single change will trim around 1/2 second as the page is downloaded faster and the rest of the files start earlier. You can see this in
  2. Images are not compressed - while some manufacturers want high-resolution images, high-res images should be avoided on the home page and minimized on interior pages. If a high-resolution image is needed, do it as a separate link and not on the primary page.

    Here is a quick tool to compress your images.
    [link broken - Photoshop Elements for under $100 does a great job]

    As an example, I took our 4-year old home page image and smushed it. The top one is the original and the bottom one is the smushed one - about 900 bytes smaller - and I had already compressed the image.

    Old Image

  3. Combine and eliminate multiple javascript and css files - one manufacturer's home page had 18 javascript and 18 CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) files on the home page. Content management systems (Wordpress and Joomla as examples) will frequently download every javascript in their system rather than adding just the needed components. Question why each javascript and CSS file is included rather than using just one a tight javascript/CSS file to do the work. Eliminate jQuery unless absolutely needed. Avoid general javascript programs that do everything and probably only one 1 function is being used on the page.

    Several years ago our first step to speed up 4specs was to minify the Zoom script used on our internal searches - eliminating comments and white space. The size dropped from 15,000 bytes to under 4,000 bytes. As only 10% of the pages use this javascript, I made the loading conditional on being needed. This eliminated more than 95% of the bandwidth and significantly speeded up the pages.
  4. Eliminate slide shows on the home page and use 4 or 6 static images as more effective. Do you really think someone is going to wait for 30 seconds to see the entire rotating image sequence?

    Here is our example of a suggested home page first developed in 2000 and updated in 2009:

    And our newsletter - Can a Website Be Too Simple?
  5. Go to your Google Analytics and see what suggestions they have on speed. Use this set of links:
    Your Google Analytics - select Behavior > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions

  6. Other links you may find useful:

Remember, the first step to your next sale starts with being selected by the architectural design team (most likely through Google or another search engine) and then by the specifier.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Suggestions and comments are always appreciated.



Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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