While we've been analyzing John Amos' essay about his thoughts as a disaffected radio listener, our local radio station's been busy.
I first looked at WJMA's website back in November, and have checked it monthly since. It's been a fascinating look at the disconnect between commercial radio and the Internet.
The good news is that there's some change. The bad news is that the change still shows ignorance of basic Internet concepts.
At first blush, the site looks the same. But click on "Meet the Staff." The "under construction" notice is gone! We can now "Meet the Jocks."
I hope the higher-ups at Piedmont Communications didn't do a lot of high-fiving when this page went live, because it doesn't up their Internet credibility by much.
First off, the layout's confusing. Directly under the header "Meet the Jocks" we have.... the air shift schedule. The eye has to search for the name (it's to the right). OK, we bumped on the flow of the page, but now we understand the layout -- schedule on the left; name on the right. We continue down and find that under Weekends, the names are on the left (and no schedule at all)!
My takeaway from this page is that the person who constructed it doesn't understand the basics of design, or doesn't care -- or perhaps both. Not a good corporate image to project.
Thankfully, there are handy instructions ("click on name to e-mail") in the upper left corner. Hyperlinking is a basic concept of the Internet, and such instructions should be unnecessary. But the way the text is set up, it's not clear that the names are also links. Look -- even if its a graphic, all you have to do is underline the text, and the reader will know to click on it. Again, this looks like the work of someone who's unfamiliar with the basic concepts of web navigation.
And then there's the final touch: "Pictures Coming Soon." As I pointed out in a previous post discussing "under construction" signs, this is a sure mark of amateurism. Don't offer something you don't have. If that notice was gone, I wouldn't think anything was missing from the page. Many contact pages have e-mail links and no pictures.
The professional approach would have been to post the page without the notice, and when the images are ready, repost. But the note calls attention to what's not on the page, and tells us this page isn't finished.
Why does any of this matter? It matters because a business' website is their calling card, and for many potential clients their first impression.
My impression of the station from this page is not good.
And there's one other thing.
Unfortunately, WJMA's used the phrase "coming soon" before. I think their placeholder webpage promised this site would be "coming soon" for about a year. When I started monitoring the site in November, we were promised other things were "coming soon." And now in March (or perhaps late February) they finally deliver .
So is that the station's definition of "soon"? If a sales representative promises to get back with me "soon," am I in for a three-month wait, too?