Anna Wells, Editor, IMPO

The web is a strange place to live because there is such a disparity in structure from place to place. In real life, my neighborhood is all maples, condos, and serious lawn care. I don’t accidentally turn a corner and find myself in a sewer. But the internet affords us these strange accidents; we might be looking for something and find it in the strangest of places.

Recently I was conducting some research for an upcoming IMPO article on the benefits of investing in automation in a down economy. This is something we hear all the time nowadays from consultants—that an increase in spending on automation technology is actually a good thing, even if the economic conditions are a bit scary. Exhausted by the usual avenues, I went online to see if I could attack a fresh stockpile of automation-specific manufacturing consultants.

What I found under the search engine was an enormous list. What I found when I began clicking on links to websites was surprising. To me, automation implies cutting edge technologies, yet some of these websites were basic at best. Even worse, some made it almost impossible to find contact information or a basic business mission.

Nobody wants to spend a lot of time navigating your site when they have a very specific purpose—to learn more about your products and services. Unfortunately for the less well developed, the most your potential customers will learn is that you have a really bad website, and then they’re on to the next.

I have a friend who gets a kick out of buying up domain names—oftentimes based on our regular get-rich-quick ideas that stem from jokes, but ought to be protected. You know… before gets snapped up by somebody else… My point is, having a website does not give you credibility automatically. It has to be earned, and sometimes utilizing the site itself is the only way to do it.

The adage has lasted long enough—first impressions matter. The fact that your company’s website is oftentimes now it’s “face” to the customer is not a responsibility that should be undervalued. Understandably, IT support is not your area of focus or responsibility, but it is something you might monitor. Make it a priority to stop by your site each day or each week and tinker around. Make sure that what your site advertises is consistent with your capabilities; why waste opportunities to market new products and processes?

Your site should be a place where people can get comfortable while checking out your company and its technologies. Think of it as a waiting room, except there are no dentists behind the doors. And no Kenny G piping through the speakers… unless that’s part of your plan. Remember, this is your first impression.