Web Tools & Services

What Do Your Visitors Think? — Usability Testing

Some time ago I reviewed a book called “Don’t Make Me Think“. The premise is that you should make sure your website is very common sense oriented. If your visitors must think about your website, they might not give you the desired results. The professional term for that is “Usability Testing” — finding out what a visitor gleans from your website without knowing you, what you are selling, and without any benefit to telling you what you want to hear. Continue reading

Yext – Is It Bait and Switch?

2/5/2015 – I’ve been doing a lot of SEO work for clients lately. One of the most time consuming details is making sure a clients’ NAP listing (Name, Address, Phone, etc) are correct across the Internet, without duplicates, and without typo’s. There is a service called Yext (www.yext.com) that automates that entire process. I had heard about them several months ago and as intriguing as it sounded, the cost was around $1000 to update a client. This was outside of my small business customers’ budgets so I went back to manual inputting.

I got a cold call yesterday from Yext’s reseller department telling me that they were not the same as the division that hard sells to SMB (small to mid-size businesses). The sales rep assured me their reseller prices were much better. Count me as skeptical but I stayed on line long enough for her to tell me their reseller package was only $199 plus $35 per month per client. That is quite a drop from a grand down to $200! That got my attention.

Yext - is it a bait and switch scamTo give me time to find out if this was a scam or something fishy, I asked a bazillion questions (if it seems too good to be true, it usually is!). I suggested that the sales rep give me a day to ponder it which, to her credit, she didn’t turn on the hard sell but set up a time to call me back.

I then did my research to make sure I knew what I was getting in. There were quite a few bad reviews and hostile comments about Yext.com in various parts of the Internet but there were also some good comments. But the bad ones were enough for me to want to either get a 30 day trial to check things out, or to get a 30 day money-back guarantee. My gut reaction is that it was a legit operation with some resellers who did not ask enough questions or did not get clarification of what was being offered. I felt like I was clear on what my needs and expectations were in my discussion with the sales rep. If they could provide some sort of trial to make sure it would meet my needs made it seem like a reasonable venture.

So when the sales rep called me back today, I told her of my concerns, reiterated my needs, and asked her if they provide a trial or money back guarantee. She assured me that they would make things right as they don’t want anyone unsatisfied. I asked her to put that in an email to me either from her or from her manager. She put me on hold for a while and, after some back and forth, reluctantly agreed to put that into an email to me. She did so and I was getting excited.

Then we started the application. When we got to the point that she and I had agreed to where I could use one of my clients as the free training account, she informed me that would be another $50. I told her that added fee was not mentioned yesterday when we discussed that option. I was told my only charge would be $199 plus $35 per client after the first free account (used to learn how to use all the features). I expressed concern that she was already adding a charge that we had not agreed upon in advance. She said that she could not do what we agreed upon for $199 but rather it was now $249.

Was that an oversight that she forgot to mention or the beginning of added fees once I made a commitment… a bait and switch? She suddenly declared that her supervisor told her that they did not want to do business with me (gee, did I ask too many questions?). I agreed that things were not going as they had stated. After thinking more about it, I’m still not sure if the rather insignificant fifty-bucks was an oversight or Yext playing slick games. Either way, they did not win my trust nor my faith in how they conducted that sales call. But at least I found out before giving them all of my billing information.

Lessons learned or reinforced? Make sure you do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask uncomfortable questions from stuff you’ve uncovered while doing your research. And make sure you have a clear understanding. And if something is important, request to get it in an email so there is no chance for confusion. And don’t be afraid to back away from something that seems too good to be true!

UPDATE (2/27/15): Since writing this article, I found another tool that works well for my needs called Bright Local (www.brightlocal.com) that another ex-Yext user recommended. Bright Local has a huge battery of reports and gives you the option of taking care of your own directory listings or they will do so for $3 each.

I suggest you have Bright Local take care of at least 10 top listing directories for $30 and then you can do some others at your own pace. Or after a few weeks if you are too busy (or don’t want to) you can have them take care of some more listings. That way it doesn’t appear to the search engines that you are overloading the site with links all at once but rather updates appear at a more natural pace without invoking Google’s Penguin wrath.

So check out Bright Local (Disclaimer: My praise is just pure love for them… I haven’t gotten a finders fee for sending you there 🙂 ). In addition to all of their reports they have excellent Webinars and support info. Night and day difference between them and the pushy bait and switch experience I got with Yext!

A Software Company’s Gentle Departure

In the past I’ve given good reviews to a software company, Spud City Software Company, for a time tracker that I used for years, called TraxTime. All licensed users and myself got a nice email from the owner of the company today announcing that they were closing their doors. It made me realize why I liked this company. It was a longish and well thought out email with reassurances like this:

Your software will continue to work as it does now. None of our products relies on connecting to our company via the Internet, or anything like that. So if it is working on your computer system now, as long as your system stays the same the software should continue to work indefinitely.

We have always offered free e-mail support for our software, and I will continue to do so through all of 2015. I will try to check e-mails at least twice a day.

The message continued:

The web site will continue to operate so you can view FAQ information and download files from there as before. However I have disabled the links on the web site to purchase software.

On December 31, 2015, the web site and our e-mail server will be shut down completely and forever. I will answer no support inquires after that point.

I’ve got an entire year to make plans. Now that is considerate! I’ve used software from other companies in which they just disappear. Their website goes down and there is no support. It is refreshing to see a company who actually cares enough for their customers to take the time to plan a graceful exit rather than just bale out!

In the past I’ve written articles like the one titled, “Don’t Leave Your Clients Orphaned” to remind fellow web designers to develop an exit plan. This is a great example of a software company who thought long and hard about their customers needs both currently as well as after they have closed their doors. Bravo to them!

I just wanted to post this to remind myself and others that there are still lots of caring software developers out there who appreciate their customers. To the folks at Spud City, I wish you much continued success at whatever you do. You have been, and still continue to be, a class act!

Thank you.

 

Eulogy To my Laptop

I am not one of those folks who worships new gadgets. My laptops never start feeling comfortable until I’ve used them for a few years. By then I finally know where things are located and how to effortlessly use the mouse or touchpad. When I got my current laptop it was the best I could find for my needs. It is a Toshiba with a wide 17 inch screen and lots of power to meet my needs.

Now, due to an unfortunate disagreement with a rouge bottle of salad dressing (another story for another day), my keyboard has started sticking and smelling like over aged blue cheese dressing.

Sadly, it is now time to say goodbye to an old friend. Oh the new laptops are faster and have better resolution. But now I must face finding and installing all the neat little programs that I use to make my tasks easier.

I reluctantly plunked down the money for a new Dell laptop yesterday. It has the latest Windows operating system which requires more memory and more storage than I’m used to having.

When it’s all said and done, I’ll probably not have a PC that lets me do anything faster. In fact while I get used to a new keyboard (did you know that Toshiba laptops only have one control key?), l will also be rearranging menu bars the way I’m used to using them.

Maybe in a few years when Windows 8 becomes obsolete I’ll find this sparkling new laptop to be comfortable and start feeling at one with it. But in the meantime. I’ll wipe the blue cheese dressing off the keyboard of my old faithful PC and start the arduous task of moving all my programs over.

I wonder if others have as much trouble parting with  broken computer. Feel free to use the comments section to tell how you cope.

Are You “Form Challenged”? Formstack May Help

I like to think I’m fairly good with the task of creating on-line forms. I can do quite a bit of form building by hand. But recently I was given a request for a form that had multiple components. Not only some tricky validations but also connections via API to other applications to feed info to them. I finally looked into a form-building service I’d heard of, called Formstack.

I spent quite a bit of time testing and studying various components of the form builder to make sure it would do what was needed. In the process, I learned that Formstack has a lot of nice features for folks who may not be very proficient at building their own forms — it is not only for complex, multi-layered questionnaires and surveys. A beginner can even build a form and then embed it into their own website. The forms easily interface with the major payment systems such as Authorize.net and PayPal so it is easy to set up an on-line form to allow clients to pay on-line while gathering just the right amount of information.

If you have the need for multi-page forms so you can fill out one and it feeds to the next page, and the next one, that becomes quite easily managed as well. And they have the capability to select from some templates (themes) to match your site. Add on the logo and it is a quick easy way to keep your branding strong.

The support team knows their stuff too. I handed them a couple of questions I thought I’d never get a straight answer for, yet I got good solid responses with details on how to implement the fixes. Just so you know, I tried on 3 different times  during the business day to use their on-line chat but found that no one was there for those quick questions you run into. But I guess given a choice, I’d rather have rock-solid answers to my tough questions.

So my experience so far with Formstack has been very positive. It works well, has lots of great suggestions in their blog, and is backed by a good support team. Whether you are a “form novice” or an old hand at forms, it is worth another look.

 

Needles In A Haystack

Using Search Engines Effectively

Are you using search engines to their fullest potential? Do you find it easy to locate information that you are looking for? There are two basic steps in searching on the Internet: (1.) Match the search engine to the job, and (2.) Focus your search rather than taking a scatter-shot approach. Continue reading

On-line Editors

I’ve been asked by other web designers what I recommend for their clients to edit their own web site. I use Dreamweaver and there is a program called “Contribute” that allows you to set up the template and the FTP info and the client can go in and change content without breaking the template. The advantage of Contribute is that the client buys their own license and they go through Macromedia for support. Continue reading

How I Automated My Invoicing System

For years I have used QuickBooks memorized transactions to send out invoices to my clients. This meant printing, stamping, and mailing out invoices to each of my clients for every renewal. A while back another web designer I trust suggested I look at changing to FreshBooks. Because I had just lost my bookkeeper and wanted to revisit that idea anyway, I set up a trial account. Here’s what I found out (good and bad). Continue reading