Prior to the publication of the Business on Smith St (BOSS) traders’ association website in May 2009 I wrote a critique of the inexplicable delays in its release and the waste of ratepayers’ money in funding it. Since then I’ve decided to write a series of posts about locally oriented and community focused websites in Melbourne. I’m analysing their marketing and their effectiveness in building connections between people in local communities. This post will focus on the websites of Melbourne traders associations.
This post is the fifth in a series about the development of community based and locally oriented social media in Melbourne. The previous post was advice on online marketing strategies for Melbourne arts events. The first was a guide to local guides and the future of local media, the second was a beginner’s guide to blogging ethics and strategy and the third was advice on starting a blog or website.
www.smithstreet.org.au – Smith St Fitzroy / Collingwood
This site is an embarrassing amateur mess. If it was an undergraduate design assignment it would earn a fail from me for lame graphics and layout and spelling and punctuation mistakes on the homepage that have been there for months:
Just as Paris’ Champs Esylee’s [sic] colourful history adds to it’s [sic] appeal and charm, so too Smith Street’s melding of social and cultural related history has produced an array of individual gems and stories waiting to be discovered …
I suffer ‘I knew it would be like this’ schadenfreude and genuine incomprehension that it is this bad. It is fundamentally incomplete and lists only some traders, presumably the financial members of the association, not all the traders on the street.
The other issue is that BOSS has a political agenda, particularly in relation to issues like street drinking. So why does their site tell us nothing about their politics and what they stand for? What is their agenda? Who are their members? Why don’t they want to engage with the public?
As I explained in advice on starting a blog or website, the High St Northcote site fails one of the most basic tests – it cannot display correctly in Firefox. Designing sites only for the antiquated Internet Explorer v6 is pathetic and incompetent.
Like the Smith St site it is fundamentally incomplete and lists only some traders.
Oh dear. It’s a graphic design mindfuck followed by copywriting suicide on the homepage:
Classified as a Heritage area, you only have to walk along the street and read the bronze plaques on the Bridge Road buildings to be transported back in time.
Wow. The history page is even better:
Bridge Rd is Classified as a heritage area it’s history dates back to 1837. Just two years after the European settlement of the colony of Victoria.
I particularly dislike not being able to browse complete lists of traders. You can only select from categories to get lists containing traders in those categories. It’s only sorted by category, not by street.
The site claims to be ‘your one stop shop for everything you need to know about the area.’ So why is it a single static page with no links to traders or any further information? At least they have Twitter.
www.sydneyroad.com.au/home.htm – Sydney Rd Brunswick
It’s got a stupid splash page I have ignored in favour of linking to the main menu page, which has a video that is quite good. The rest is typical of a static site.
Despite the odd layout on the homepage it has two useful features: an email list and an up to date events calendar! Yes, genuine relevant information. I know, how dare they upstage every other traders association site in Melbourne.
Chapel St has the least worst site of any traders association in Melbourne. But that does not mean it’s a good site. Mostly, it’s not. It’s just that all the other traders association sites in metropolitan Melbourne are routinely awful. Here’s some more:
- St Kilda Village
- South Melbourne
- Fitzroy St, St Kilda
- Albert Park Village
- High St, Armadale
- Glenferrie Rd, Malvern
- Toorak Rd, South Yarra
- Toorak Village
- Altona Village
These are the features I suggest are essential for all local sites aiming to attract a broad public audience:
- Regularly updated news
- Email newsletter
- News feeds – RSS
- Events calendar
- Events feed – RSS or iCal formats
- Information about who owns or runs the site, eg the traders association
- News and information about the traders association’s role in the community, its politics, its agenda, etc
- Copies of press releases and submissions to local and state governments, particularly about development issues
- Information for new businesses on how to be listed on the site
- Information for new businesses about doing business in the area
- Clearly identified content sections for different audiences: the public, traders, etc
Many of the traders association sites have none of these features. As a result, they don’t deliver much value to their members and fail to adequately market the benefits of their locations to potential customers. None of these sites make me want to visit these areas and spend money there.