Roger Dooley from CompStar was up first, his forum name is "rogerd". He first goes into the question about building the software yourself or using a pre-built software application. The first question you need to ask is "is your business really that different?" When using pre-built software, especially open source, look at proven install counts, look at feedback and requests by the current user base, and most of these have features that you will need down the road - things you did not anticipate. So open source is good for small budgets. But once you have it, you will probably need to make modifications. Software designers rarely design for search engines or what they have done is no longer important (i.e. meta tags). Encouraging signs that new open source applications are SEO compliant.
He then goes on the topic of adding features through outsourcing and goes through some of the points you should look at when selecting a company. Well developed freelance marketplaces, reputation aids, escrow protects buyer and coder, prepare specs carefully, communicate clearly and often, graphics & design can be outsourced too and check that wish list. I personally hate outsourcing any development tasks, I have in the past and it stinks. I only now outsource design projects.
He said its important to remember that there is life beyond search engines. The other PR, press releases. He is a personal fan of online press centers (company background, bios, past press releases, past press coverage, unique products or services, story ideas, mailing lists and contact info. Make sure to make your site media friendly (not just search engine friendly). He then discusses some of the types of "viral marketing" (I love this topic), such as email a friend features, add to favorites, most popular, print this page features. I have some good examples (as some of you do) on this topic. If you add a comment to this entry, it will remind me to discuss it after the conference. Some entries at this blog where I discussed Viral Marketing include; Subservient Chicken - Viral Marketing by Burger King and Orkut Viral Marketing Success & Down Briefly at 8:25AM (EST) (the last one I was mistaken, sorry). But I have my own case study which I can share with you later. He then went into the branding component of a Web site, consistency is critical! He said it all starts with your logo, your logo can define your business. This will increase conversions on your site - so don't take it lightly.
Next up was Ted Ulle from Mews Group, his slide started off with the "Complete Package". Make your workflow support your priorities for your site. Every Web site has a goal, and make sure its simple and seamless for the end user. He says, "Simplicity is the Discipline". He said the first thing you do after you know your goal is your Web Strategy (SEO), then your back end choices, then built metrics, the info architecture, then menu and nav, then graphic design and then copy and calls to action. He takes a shot that if you start with design, then it will blow up on you. He said its critical to document all key decisions as you go. (A) The Web strategy and SEO part: Mine your market's languages through forums, email and keyword neighborhoods (this is to find out what real people use to describe your business). Then research the market's concerns in addition to the languages. Build a process and not a product. (B) Back end choices: You have choices, the technology is your bedrock. (c) Build in your metrics, already know the business goals, define the key metrics, look at data that you can action on, too many metrics will blur the picture, the logs are not enough normally. (C) Information Architecture - just learn something about the field and he listed a few threads at WMW. (D) Menu and NAv: Tell a story in your menu, single words or longer phrases, too many choices on your menu is like no choices (his rule is no more then 7, the sweet spot is 5). (E) Graphic Design comes now and not before (he hits on designers now again - humor). It must obey all the decisions you made up to this point, the design must respect the medium (i.e. html). (F) Write Copy and Call To Actions. No time to be timid, a good copy writer is worth every penny he says.
So where do "seems" come from? "Showing off" works against your business. Graphic designers try to show off, or server side spaghetti, client side feature overkill, print mindset, IT folks is writing copy (for auto-responders you see it often). Keep your balance between technology and aesthetics - the whole balance is marketing. He said accidents will happen and showed some funny images of accidents - he also listed some examples of problems that occur.
Next up was Jen Weeks from Future Now, Inc. Persuasion Architecture is the methodology they use. Many people call her to maximize conversions, concerned about rankings and maximize ROI on keywords. Her case study is RAD-Direct who wanted a redesign to increase conversions. Persuasion Architecture; persona, keyword research, and uncovery, wire-framing, story-boarding prototyping and development. She went through what each stage means. "Uncovery" is defining the potential traffic. Wire-framing, if you don't know, is the detailing of what pages you need. Story-boarding is the copy development stage. She then went though the specific issues with the old site and what they did to improve it, hard to explain - sorry. One thing of interest is that she calls "bounce rates" -> "drop off rates", just interested me.
Then Brett discussed a bit about what he put into WebmasterWorld. His first concern was compatibility with all browsers. He tested every browser, ran every validators and he said it pays off now because it runs on phones now. He said he can run his whole site from his iPaq. In addition, he said he wants to make sure its easy to use. He tries to keep the content way at the top, as high as possible. He said his pages are very simple looking, just like Google. He said he doesn't really have a logo, he said the most important branding point on the site is the URL (keep the user on the site as long as possible). He said the Google Cache might be the most important thing they did, because it keeps users there. With WMW they have a rule where first time posters, the mods try to welcome and engage them right away. He said he was the first forum to allow for private messaging, so they come back to check their "sticky mail".