Oh dear. Why do people give me opportunities to be right? All the time I hear ‘Brian you’re wrong!’ But when I’m right I enjoy saying ‘I told you so!’ I recently wrote about the revived Smith St Business Association (SSBA) and their dubious plans to build a new website. Remember what happened last time they tried this, I said. It was 5 years ago and the result was a disaster and a waste of ratepayers’ money.
Their new Smith Street Life business directory website is now live (it’s being promoted on the SSBA Facebook page) and it is an absolute disaster. It may have been produced by self proclaimed marketing and information technology experts, but none of them appear to be writers, editors or content managers. The content is an incomplete and out of date mess. In its current state it is incapable of achieving its stated mission of increasing foot traffic and consumer spending on Smith St. Here’s why.
First, the site states that it is ‘endorsed by the SSBA’. It’s a curiously vague choice of words. Endorsed? It doesn’t exactly commit to claiming to be ‘owned’ or ‘published’ by the SSBA. What exactly is the relationship? As I understand it, the site has commissioned, built (by commissioned consultants) and paid for by the SSBA. So why don’t they say that?
This failure to claim ownership implies that the site is owned by someone else. If so, they are unknown as the site makes no further disclosures about itself (there’s not even a copyright statement). The site also fails to explain who the SSBA is. The SSBA has no separate site of its own (which would be redundant in any case as Smith Street Life is its site, except that smithstreet.org.au is also still live). It doesn’t even link to the SSBA Facebook page. Fail.
Second, instead of using the existing smithstreet.org.au domain, they’ve made a new one at smithstreetlife.com.au. If you Google ‘smith st melbourne’ the top result is smithstreet.org.au. Not using that domain was a serious SEO mistake. What were they thinking?
Third, the data. The businesses listed in the site have seemingly been added from an extremely out of date source. Furious Platinum hip hop fashion shop? It went out of business over 3 years ago. MDO menswear? Closed about 9 months ago. Queen fashion? Closed about a year ago and replaced by Lupa. I could go on.
How about restaurants? Trippy Taco is still listed as being on Smith St (where Storm in a Teacup is now), but it moved to Gertrude St about 2 years ago. Provenance is now Rockwell and Sons. Cavellero is now Saint Crispin. Rice Queen? It relocated to the former St Judes space on Brunswick St about a year ago. Again, I could go on but I think I’ve made the problem obvious.
The data is wrong. Deeply fundamentally wrong. It’s bad enough that an out of date source has been used to supply business listings, but the fact that so many closed businesses remain listed demonstrates that no one has audited the content after it was uploaded. Whoever is responsible for content management is incompetent. Did anyone do any fact checking? Someone who knows the street well should have checked every entry. Quality control? No? Didn’t think so.
Fourth, there’s the writing. OMG. Let’s LOL over these. The article titles feature inconsistent capitalisation and punctuation, which looks bad. Then there are all the spelling and grammatical mistakes:
‘We will, in coorperation [spelling mistake] with Collingwood Gallery Director Mark Laidler, showcase a digital exhibition af [spelling mistake] Smith Street now and then, [comma is wrong] present the webdirectory and illustrate how social media, [comma is wrong] can help draw attention to your shop/organisation!’
‘Searching for a solution, the SSBA teamed up with Gareth Benson and Regin Buss Vels Jensen who proposed building a comunity [spelling mistake] web directory for Smith Street, with advanced features, [comma is wrong] not used in any other web directories [should be 'directory'] for shopping streets at present moment.’
‘Gareth and Regin has [should be 'have'] together with the president of the SSBA, Howard Frederick, been the driving forces behind a project, that now enters its 5th month of active development, and that will transform the way tourists and locals see and use Smith Street.’
I’m not trying to make fun of people for whom English may be a second language. But such people should not be writing and editing marketing content. You need a writer who is fluent in English and able to write for the intended audience.
Finally, the sales pitch. All Smith St businesses are eligible for a free basic listing containing their contact details, phone, email, website and street address. But to get more, business owners are being asked to pay $40 a month! Unbefuckinglievable. Read the promotional flyer (721kb pdf).
What they’re offering is not worth $40 a month or even a year. I would not give them $4 a decade for this. The website is dysfunctional or, to be generous, unfinished. The mapping doesn’t work properly and the business index is full of businesses that closed down years ago. It should not have been made public in this state. As it is, it’s a failure. The only thing they got right is that it features a responsive design and displays well on smartphones.
If you’re a small business owner on Smith St, read this carefully. Have you ever wondered why, when you search Google, other businesses show up in search results and on the map but yours doesn’t? Here’s how to get your business on the map and significantly improve your online presence and findability for free. Sign up for a Google Places account.
Listing your business with this service means that your business will appear in Google searches and in Google maps, along with your phone, email, street address, website address, photos (if you upload some) and trading hours. All this is free. You don’t need your own website. You can use Facebook if you want but it’s not essential. If you simply want customers to be able to find you and contact you, the best thing you can do is use Google Places. Not Smith Street Life.
The new site is being launched at an event on 29 August. If you’re a Smith St trader, I suggest you attend and ask some straightforward questions about the value proposition Smith Street Life is making. What exactly are you buying and what will your money be used for by the SSBA? If it goes to the SSBA. That’s not clear either.
At least this time, as a voluntary organisation that does not appear to be funded by the ratepayers of the City of Yarra, the SSBA is not wasting our money building this website.