Archive for November 2015

What’s the Difference between Designing a Website and Buying a Saree?

Recently I got involved in a couple of projects of website revamping, including the website of the company I work for. I suddenly started to realize how outdated are the websites of most Sri Lankan companies (yes, including our own one). The web has evolved drastically over last five years or so with heavy focus now given on factors such as user experience & user interface, loading speed, navigation flow of the website, mobile responsiveness, singular call-to-actions and many more hot topics.
Sadly in Sri Lanka (and I guess so is the case in most other emerging markets) still the prominence is given for factors such as color theme, special effects (ok.. flash animations are still cool in Sri Lanka), and aesthetics of the design layouts. People still think of their websites as a piece of art to impress others. This is why I always say, designing a website for a Sri Lankan company is more like buying a Saree for your wife (or any other significant woman in your life). It will take enormous amount of time to decide on the perfect Saree to buy. You shop for the perfect colors, perfect design, whether it matches the occasion, whether it fits your budget and all sorts of factors. After going through this entire process (and just as you start thinking that your wife is happy about the Saree you bought), here comes her best friend (or her mother) and make a nasty commentary about how lame that design is.
This is exactly the same thing what happens when you design websites for Sri Lankan clients. As Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik always says, the HIPPO approach to internet marketing is the biggest stumbling block today in creating outstanding marketing results through the web. (Don’t know what HIPPO is? It’s ‘Highest Individually Paid Person’s Opinion’).
People don’t visit your website to solve a puzzle or to critically evaluate your CEO’s aesthetic taste. They come to your website to solve a specific problem, and they will take not more than 15 seconds to decide whether your landing page can solve that problem or not. Within 15 seconds of landing on your website, 55% of the people decide what to do next, and I’m quite sure that, their decision is not to write a review about your website’s color platter or how exciting your flashy animations are (Do something really exciting #ThingsYouHearInAgencies).
Think about world’s most successful websites; Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest (and LinkedIn!). All these websites have no more than 2 colors in their color platter. They are neat and clean (no flashy animations), and very clear about the call-to-actions. For example, “Contact Us” is “Contact Us” on most successful websites. They don’t put an ambiguous icon of a half opened door and expect website visitors to figure out that, it is the contact us link of the website.
Be very clear about what actions you expect your visitors to take on every page. Don’t leave more than 3 call-to-actions on deeper pages. Deeper you go inside the website; more focused your call-to-actions has to be. Don’t try to brain tease your website visitors by trying to be over creative. Tell them what you want to tell them in plain English (or whatever the language your website is in). Use an Analytics software to track behavior of your website visitors, doesn’t matter how small the volumes of traffic to your website. It gives you a clear picture of how people end up landing on your website, what they are looking for on your website, and how they leave your website with or without finding what they were looking for. After doing this analysis for a while you will realize that your CEO’s wife’s opinion doesn’t really matter when taking critical decisions about your company website. After all, you are not buying Sarees. You are building your company’s online branch.
Originally posted on LinkedIn on this link. Please join the conversation on LinkedIn if you have opinions to share.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Google Live Traffic Updates Now Enabled for Sri Lanka

Here is great news for all Sri Lankan drivers who own a smartphone as well! Recently Google enabled their live traffic updates feature on Google maps for Sri Lanka. From now onward, when you check a route on Google maps on a busy Colombo neighborhood, you will see a heat map overlay to signify how intense is the traffic jam on the road you are planning to take.

First, you have to enable traffic updates on your Google Maps app. To do this, open the app and slide the screen from left to right. You will get the detailed menu to enable different features of Google Maps and then select “Traffic”.

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I tested the live traffic updates while I was driving to work this morning and found that it is quite accurate. It shows the intensity of traffic jam in Colombo roads on a heat map overlay from green to red, where red being a high traffic situation. This is really useful to plan your route in advance. You can select an alternate route with less red areas in the traffic map, instead of the usual route you would take.

One thing to remember is, the map being red doesn’t necessarily means that the traffic is “jammed”. Basically it’s just an indication of ‘lots of vehicles’ in a particular area, and these vehicles maybe moving in a decent speed. It doesn’t mean the vehicles are in a stand still mode in a traffic jam. For example at this particular point of the route (see below screenshot) my car was moving at an average speed of 25Kmph. This is reasonably a good speed compared to the average speed of vehicles moving inside Colombo city limits during the rush hours.

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This can be a handy tool for Sri Lanka traffic police, if they really want to do something about the decreasing average speeds of vehicles moving inside Colombo city limits. Two years ago it took me only 30 minutes in morning rush hours to drive from Nugegoda to Barnes Place (approx 10 KM). Now it takes me average 45 minutes. If Sri Lanka Traffic Police deploy some qualified analysts to look at these stats, I’m sure they can come up with optimization plans for traffic in Colombo city, without just blindly making some random roads one-way.

I’m sure you might ask me the question ‘how does Google predict traffic jam?’. According to HowStuffWork.com Google Maps bases its traffic views and faster-route recommendations on two different kinds of information: historical data about the average time it takes to travel a particular section of road at specific times on specific days and real-time data sent by sensors and smartphones that report how fast cars are moving right then.

This is what Google has to say about how they do this.

“If you use Google Maps for mobile with GPS enabled on your phone, that's exactly what you can do. When you choose to enable Google Maps with My Location, your phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you're moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions. We continuously combine this data and send it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers. It takes almost zero effort on your part — just turn on Google Maps for mobile before starting your car — and the more people that participate, the better the resulting traffic reports get for everybody.” (Google Blog)
Oh! BTW, with Google traffic updates now enabled for Sri Lanka, we will see real conversations like these very soon.
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So I’m sure you got a pretty decent idea about how Google Traffic Updates work on Google Maps. Next time you drive to work or back home, make sure to check the Colombo traffic updates on Google Maps. But please don’t use your smartphone to check the traffic updates while you drive! It’s better to get to where you want to go a little late, rather than not getting there alive at all.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Who Owns Digital Marketing at Your Company?


Maybe you are a genius in electronic engineering, and you know how to build a television set from scratch on your own. You know exactly to use which circuit boards, the correct transistors, ICs, resistors, sensors and all other electronic gadgets which make a perfect TV set.
But if I ask you to direct and produce an Emmy award winning Television series, you will definitely struggle, won't you? Emmy Award winning TV directors were not electronic engineers.
This is why a company’s Digital Marketing decisions should better be left with qualified marketers not with qualified IT professionals.
There is a difference between networking your company PCs and Social Networking. Simply because you were an early adapter of internet based technologies, you won't become a marketer on the internet.
Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, for whatever the reason I still can’t understand, IT departments are having a say in the Digital Marketing decisions made by companies. Is this the case with other emerging/less evolved markets?
Originally posted on LinkedIn on this link. Please join the conversation on LinkedIn if you have opinions to share.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

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