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The Last Post

March 14, 2011

In a  short while there will be a new department. As a result of the ‘comms review ‘ I will be the web manager for CCBS, albeit I will be moving to Chief Execs. There will be a new improved and larger webteam. Our services to you will remain the same if not better.

The first webteam blog was posted in May 2008, followed by a further 205 counting this one. I have written some 50,000 words equivalent to around a third/half an average paperback novel. Posts have been read 54,442 times. On 408 occasions you have added comments.

But all good things must come to an end, and now seems an appropriate time for the webteam blog to end.

Internal comms is high on the agenda for CCBS, to find better and more effective ways of reaching and engaging with staff. I will let our new managers and comms experts decide whether a blog like mine has a role in the new department.

Bye for now and thanks for reading.

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Don’t blame the messenger

February 28, 2011

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but I still get regular comments from venue managers about our bit of Hantsweb along the lines…  ‘Why can’t our website be more exciting’ or ‘more interactive’ and similar requests to magically enhance the website.

The underlying message is that if the website had these things, the venue would receive more visitors through the doors. They often show me examples of the websites they’d like it to look more like. These websites may look appealing at first glance, but fall down when you actually begin to analyse how they work (or more often don’t work).

Here are two of the most common suggestions for improvement.

The first is to have a slideshow of photos on the homepage. Think about it… do  you ever passively sit  though the cycle of marketing images when you arrive on a website?… I doubt it… or more likely, do you find them a visual distraction?

That’s the reason we have gone for the ‘gallery’ homepage, which provides four or five images for the visitor to scroll through and learn about what is on offer if they want to… but the big difference is that the visitor is in control of the process.

I also hear the comment ‘why can’t we have more interactives for children on the website. The subtext is that games and other time-passing, quasi-educational activities on the website will bring more children/families to the venue. There can be no direct causal link between an online game on a website and a venue visit.

That’s not to say that online resources can’t enhance a visit, however research suggests that visitors to a venue are likely to follow-up a real world visit with a website visit to get more information, rather than before they go.

That’s not to say that a good website won’t stimulate interest, but it’s not the lack of flashiness or interactivity that is to blame, and adding these elements is certainly not the solution. Get the product (venue) right, get the website content right and keep it up to date… in that order.

And your username and password is…

February 25, 2011

We’re again being warned about not divulging usernames and passwords. How many times do people need to be reminded not to tell anyone their HCC logon details. More than once it appears.

Like me you probably also get spam emails which get through the HCC filters asking to to reconfirm bank or other accounts you don’t have…  this is the latest spam which arrived a couple of minutes ago.

Your webmail quota system has exceeded the storage limit,Due To hidden files On your mailbox,Your Are Currently Running On 23GB to Validate your mailbox and increase your quota.

In addition, You are advice to click the link below, fill in your appropriate email login information in order to boost your webmail quota and to enhance the security of your email account.

Please Click Here: http://gambiachat.com/form/use/57788996544332/form1.html

If your mailbox remains de-activated for an extended period of time, it may result in further limitations or eventual closure

Technical Support
192.168.0.1

This is a semi literate attempt, in fact not even a quarter literate, to get you to click on the link and probably infect your computer with malware or some other nasty piece of software. Some people will be fooled… and unfortunately more fool them for not seeing what is patently and quite obviously a scam.

Reply to all

February 24, 2011

A county council was recently fined £100,000 for two serious incidents where they’d  faxed personal information to the wrong people. These were highly sensitive cases, one involving child sexual abuse and the other included details of care proceedings. I was more surprised that anyone still used a fax as much as that they’d managed to send to the wrong people.

Sending to the wrong person can be quite easy using modern technology. I’ve texted to the wrong person and occasionally clicked reply when I meant to forward and email. This was only a problem when I added slightly negative comments about the original sender in the forwarded email. Then there have been several memorable ‘reply to all’ mistakes where someone replies to an all-staff email and we all get to read the response.

I’m not sure how much confidential or otherwise sensitive stuff we communicate, however some emails have a footer along the lines of

This e-mail may include confidential information and is solely for the use by the intended recipient(s). If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately. You must not disclose, copy, distribute or retain any part of the email message or attachments.

Now that seems to be shutting door after the horse has bolted.

Until I had to use it, I believed the Outlook ‘recall an email’  was a failsafe, however it doesn’t appear to actually retrieve the email, but instead just sends another email saying the previous message is being recalled… which draws attention to the original one, and usually makes me read it to find out why it is being recalled.

And while I am on the subject of email, please don’t tell me to think green and not to print out your email… I wasn’t going to anyway!

Don’t thank me

February 16, 2011

I broke my wife’s netbook a while ago. I was being my usual super-efficient self and decided to help her out by updating the computer bios.

For those of you who don’t know what the bios is, it stands for basic input/output system. It’s the first code that activates during boot-up and before Windows starts…. anyway my update failed making her netbook little better than a large paperweight. I checked for fixes online, but nothing I tried worked.

So rather than throwing it away, I thought it was worth trying a major national computer repair company who are based in one of the major electrical retailers superstores.

They were unable to mend it, but recovered the data. Their technician was around 19 years old, incredibly knowledgeable, and we chatted over the two hours while he took the netbook apart, rescued the data and wiped the hard drive clean. It cost me £30.

When I got home let my wife know I had got her photos, music and word documents back. I told her how helpful the technician had been. ‘I’m going to contact the company and tel them how impressed I was with the service’ I told her. I’ve often said I would acknowledge good service, but usually forget.

So I went to their website to find an email address… I could phone to book a repair, ask for technical support,  and finally to complain… so I will be phoning their complaints department to say thank you for good work.

I phoned soon after 9am and was greeted with the message ‘We’re very sorry but we are experiencing unusually high levels of calls at the moment, however your call will be answered in 5 minutes’. There are companies I have phoned who always appear to be ‘experiencing unusually high levels of calls’, or perhaps they just don’t have enough call centre staff. Maybe the complaints department delay answering in the hope you will get tired of waiting.

I actually waited well over 6 minutes. The customer service guy had no idea how to deal with a thank you, and I waited another few minutes while he went off to find out what to do. He took a few details and said he’d pass it on… my call lasted 12 minutes altogether.

Our online reviews pages give our customers the chance to comment, critisice and praise, which they do in equal measure. There is  nothing like receiving praise for a job well-done, but perhaps it should be easier to say thank you.

Don’t ask me for personal details yet

February 14, 2011

Over the weekend I have been looking to get a small bank loan to cover the cost of a new central heating boiler for our house.

There was nothing wrong with the old one other than its age, inability to get replacement parts and its comparative lack of efficiency in this energy conscious time.

Sites like moneysupermarket aggregate search across providers making it easy to find the best deals… but whatever deal you find, the next step it to get a final quotation… and this is where websites fail to understand their users.

I will single out the Sainsbury’s website for this example of how easy it is to lose a potential customer. I arrived at their website knowing that their rates were competitive and just what I wanted.

I re-entered the loan amount and loan period and clicked next… but the next thing they wanted me to do was add was personal details including name, address, email, employment and marital status, date of birth, gender and nationality. What I wanted at this point was a final quote before I had to provide this information.

I didn’t bother to complete their ‘step 2 of 7’, instead left the website to find another that would provide a quote without the intruding into my personal data until that information was needed.

Significant dates

February 7, 2011

I was looking through web stats for our web pages about Jane Austen.

This is  the graph of page views over the period 1 January to 31 December 2010.

The profile of the graph is fairly consistent across the year with two exceptions.

There is a small but significant blip around 18 July when page views rose from around 120-150 per day to 486, and a really enormous spike on 16 December reaching 1,533 page views.

The dates reflect the death (18 July) and birth (16 December) of Jane Austen.