Good, all-round IT advice is hard to come by, so I was curious to see if the new Business IT Guide website, being promoted in my Twitter feed, was actually any good.
And it is. If you’re not put off by signup forms.
Produced by HIE, the guide covers a wide range of computing and web topics from Buying a PC, Online Invoicing, Building a Website and Using Social Media. It goes into specifics like Accounting in the Cloud, Green IT, Ecommerce Explained. There’s 150 pages of advice in there. It’s not lightweight by any means.
It does a pretty good job of making sense of it all for those who need a little bit of help. And when it doesn’t answer your question, there’s a facility to ‘ask an expert’.
Backed by Business Gateway, the advice is given a distinct business slant, and there are plenty of external links for people to follow to find out more.
But in my mind, it has a big drawback.
As a resource, it should be easy for businesses to access, but HIE are forcing users to give all their details before allowing you to login and enjoy the guide.
That’s fine if it is for a select audience, but it’s not. It’s aimed at every business in the HIE catchment area.
Putting this barrier between the user and the content will almost certainly result in abandonment when following various links from Twitter and elsewhere.
It’s a usability obstacle for potential users, particularly when following a recommendation from a colleague or friend. Even those that sign up, may decide not to share it because it’ll irritate their colleagues.
Ironically, the guide itself advises businesses against this practice.
In the section ‘How to get repeat business from your website’, it says:
“Avoid the login brick wall. Asking visitors for their name too early can make them feel like they’re being accosted by an over-familiar salesman. Most buyers will leave your site rather than fill in a form.”
They ask for your name, address, business name, email and phone. And so they know ‘most’ users will leave the site instead of use the resource they have provided.
Why did they do it?
No doubt they will argue it helps them ‘build a profile’ of businesses in the Highlands and what IT help they need. Well they can get that by looking at the analytics. And they may say that it’s not fair that businesses outside the region can access it too. That’s not how the web works.
Come on HIE and Business Gateway, you’ve made something great. Businesses are crying out for help like this, don’t make it difficult for them to get it.
For the record, it’s worth signing up, but what do you think when faced with the signup form. Does it put you off?