Webmaster tips & trix   contact | privacylink partnersfree website content
Home » Articles » Promotion

» Affiliate programs
» SE optimization
» Miscellaneous
» Newsletters & E-zines
» Promotion
» Web design
» Usability
» Domain names
» Create income
» Web writing
» Hosting
» Guerrilla marketing
» Accessibility
» Web credibility
» Data recovery

» Archive


Special articles

» Google tools/services
» Yahoo! tools/services

They've got me under their skins

For the longest time, I've been a big fan of skins; no, not the kind of which you're thinking. I'm referring to GUIs (i.e., graphical user interfaces, which create the look and feel of a computer desktop or application). Skinning is becoming very popular. I, like many PC owners out there, are bored with that same old Windows look and feel. (Mac users are surely not excluded.)

So I use an application package called Object Desktop by the folks at StarDock (see http://www.stardock.com/). Its GUI replacement application specifically is called WindowBlinds (see http://www.windowblinds.net/), which was recently featured on both CNN and ZDNet. (By the way, I also use a shell alternative, to replace Microsoft's Explorer -- the standard Windows shell -- called LiteStep, which simulates the Unix shell based on X-Windows. For more, see http://www.litestep.net/ or http://www.shellcity.net/.)

The advent of Linux, the new open source movement and Microsoft's many legal challenges notwithstanding, it's no wonder that GUI replacement is becoming popular. Today, almost every major, newly launched application offers users the possibility to "skin" the application the way one likes.

Many popular programs such as WinAmp, ICQ (with ICQ Plus), RealJukeBox and many others are featured on the popular http://www.skinz.org/. Even Windows jumped on the bandwagon by releasing their new, "skinnable" Media Player 7.0 (see http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/) -- and AOL did the same with Netscape 6.0's prerelease. (For more, a primer on skinning is at http://www.stardock.net/media/skinprimer.html.)

According to StarDock's Brad Wardell, in his article "The GUI Revolution," Brad says: "[Microsoft] designed the Windows GUI [as] an interface that was simple to learn and easy to use. The only problem is that as with any one size fits all, people who use computers day in and day out begin to feel limited by some of the choices that were made to make it easier for new users to use Windows. This demand has begun to be filled by programs that give the user the ability to change the look and feel, to match their tastes and their usage."

As Internet marketers, we do work on computers more than the norm. Many of us feel a growing need for some kind of flexibility in terms of how we interact with our computers. The interesting thing in all of this is the fact that StarDock provides an excellent model for web marketers too. They not only follow some of the most basic rules in successful marketing but also go the extra mile in many cases on some of the things we Internet marketers take for granted.

1) Community

StarDock has its own news (NNTP) server. I participate regularly in their forums and I can tell you that their support staff has been nothing short of exceptional. If I wanted to read about the latest update, trend, skin, bug fix or industry gossip, I scanned the groups. If I had a question about something I did not understand, I posted my question to which instant replies were given. Granted, not all businesses have the capacity to host their own news servers. But the success of this model dictates: Start your own online community.

From a simple, single, free remotely hosted discussion board (like one from http://www.ezboard.com/, http://mycomputer.com/ or http://bravenet.com/), to multiple discussion forums managed in a moderated and even private (i.e., password protected) environment (such as those offered for free by http://www.intranets.com/, http://www.communityzero.com/ or http://www.everyone.net/), managing your own virtual community is strong website glue.

That's not all. StarDock offers links to a chat room, related newsgroups, a newsletter, an IRC channel, support email addresses and numerous FAQ pages. Their primary software manager (called "Component Manager") is a subscription-based application that updates registered users immediately, while connected to the web, on any upgrades, news or software releases. Of course, they also have a very strong privacy policy. Nevertheless, is there a lesson in there for us Internet marketers? You bet:

Stay in touch with your customers.

2) Usability

StarDock's website is nothing over which to do cartwheels. But its power lies in its simplicity, usability and user-friendliness (not only in terms of design but also of content). If a person knew absolutely nothing about how GUIs work let alone skins in general, everything's right there at the click of a mouse. But there are at least three things I've noticed that they do, which to me are impressive. Let's take a look at each one.

a) Pictures

As I often mention in my articles, "Texts tell but pictures sell." On the web, the lack of touch and feel imposes upon online marketers the necessity to give something visitors can appreciate. Beyond good copy, graphics do that quite well. StarDock's website is replete with screenshots -- you instantly get a sense of what you're buying and, ultimately, what you're getting.

There's no guessing.

If you're selling a tangible product on your site, it is best to provide a picture of how it looks like (thumbnailed of course for quicker downloads). If intangible, use a logo or an image that communicates the core benefit of the service. As my friend Dr. Ralph Wilson once noted in a recent issue of Web Commerce Today (see http://www.wilsonweb.com/), "I don't really care what purists say, photos sell products and color sells better than black and white."

(Incidentally, Dr. Wilson's comment centered on the topic of HTML email, which is also being contemplated at the Internet Marketing Chronicles, the ezine of which I am the chief editor at http://SuccessDoctor.com/partners/imc/. Soon, we will be offering our subscribers the option to subscribe to either the HTML version or the plain text one -- like Internet.com has been doing with its ezine, Internet Day at http://www.InternetDay.com/, for the longest time.)

b) News

Like most developer sites, StarDock offers a news section on their front pages that informs visitors about what's going on in their firm or with their products. (And I say developer sites because, if you visit http://www.betanews.com/, http://www.customize.org/ or http://www.desktopian.org/, you'll notice that they look like virtual newsdesks -- you know what's going on all the time.)

This kind of transparency is often attributed to the open source movement and particularly software developer sites. But I believe that implementing such a process on any website, the ecommerce kind especially, can not only make a site stickier but also provide a great level of interactivity. Obviously, the issue here is credibility. If people learn about a website, that's fine. But if they can learn about the people and the events behind it, credibility is instantaneous.

To paraphrase my good friend Jim Daniels of http://www.bizweb2000.com/, "You must tell people that there's a living, breathing human being behind that electronic veil of yours." In fact, the funniest thing is that sites like those mentioned above are for engineers, programmers and the like. They are probably the "geekiest," most techno-driven people online. But their sites are proof that they are also the ones that make the Internet the most human.

(For many, this may seem paradoxical. However, the reason is that these types of sites rely heavily on other people. For example, they need people to download and beta-test their products. They need to maintain contact with developers -- like StarDock's many skin authors. More important, they rely heavily on constant feedback. Unfortunately, most non-technical, commercial sites are primarily focused on their products and not their customers.)

c) FAQ

StarDock knows that the large part of their customer base does not consist primarily of programmers. That's why their website has an extensive FAQ (i.e., frequently asked questions page). There you'll find anything you need to know, from installing, operating to uninstalling WindowBlinds. In short, StarDock is truly an excellent example of outstanding, online customer support.

The owners understand the primary objective of an ecommerce website (or of any business, for that matter). It's to sell products. Period. And they do so by first accommodating their target market as best they can -- repeat and referral sales are their bread and butter. Sadly however, too many sites are designed with the designer or marketer in mind, often communicating in a language that only they understand. But FAQs however provide the necessary leverage a customer needs in making a choice about buying what a website offers.

But that's not all. StarDock also publishes press releases, numerous articles and a newsletter, which they highlight and to which they link on their front pages -- such as articles they have written in their area expertise and on skinning in general. Like all successful Internet marketers, writing articles about one's industry or product, submitting them to the media or other publishers (or at least posting them) and publishing an ezine are excellent ways for maintaining constant contact with the people that matter most:


In the end, skinning is probably one of the least important marketing activities online, if it is at all. My goal was not to mention it as one. (It's mere eye candy.) But it deserved a mention because its exploding popularity offers a number of powerful insights on successful Internet marketing from which we all can learn.

As the face of the web changes, we too must look at how we can change and better our practices and particularly our websites. In fact, Internet marketers may also be in need of a new, shall we say, "skin"?

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

Latest articles

» Change your mind about an eBay bid?
We have all made choices in life that two seconds later we know we should take back. Especially when there is money involved this can become a problem.

» A simple way to create 7 effective autoresponder messages
Email is the Net's most powerful marketing tool. And autoresponders are the best idea yet for marketing with email.

» 7 ways to drive laser-targeted traffic to your website
Getting people who matter to see one’s website is a difficult undertaking if he tries to consider the fact that there are rivals everywhere waiting to pin him down.

» Website valuation: Why standard website pricing methods will emerge
The market of buying and selling developed websites is becoming more and more liquid each day.

» One way links are better than reciprocal links
You probably know by now that where your website ranks in the search engine rankings dramatically affects how many visitors you have to your site. Did you also know that you can change where your site is ranked by being proactive and getting as many one way links to your site as possible?

» How to make visitors stay at your website
The very first thing which you should provide the visitors with is some free interesting reading material.

» How to make your visitors click your ads
Here is a simple solution; Convert your banner advertisement to look like a text advertisement!

» Offline advertising should be a part of your online strategy
Day by day, online business has become more & more complicated and competitive.

» How to sell traffic
Selling the traffic arriving at your site is a good method to increase profits from your portal.

» Make money from online auctions
Online auctions have the best benefit of a vast platform. Your product is viewed by loads of people & hence there is more possibility of finding a suitable bidder.

» Groupware explained in easy terms
Groupware is a term used frequently to describe collaborative software. Groupware is application software that integrates work on a single project by several concurrent users at separated random workstations.

» Timely back up can save you from disasters
Few things which people often back up are e-mail addresses, bank records, photographs, personal records, software’s, music etc.

» Why should one go for autoresponders
Autoresponders are programs which get automatically executed in particular situations.

» Become your own boss - Start your own online business today
A survey conducted by SBA states that two third of new business survives at least two year and about forty four percent survives at least four year.

» Express your thoughts - Creating your own blog!
What exactly is a blog? Technically speaking it is a journal or a newsletter which is regularly updated and can be used by any one.

» Pop-up ads - To be or not to be?
According to a study conducted by the Bunnyfoot University, “The Efficacy of Pop-ups and the Resulting Effect on Brands” Internet users feel harangues and harassed by pop-up ads.

» Why content is king on the Internet
The advantages that Internet holds over the rest of the other communication mediums should not wasted because of the inability to find a comprehensive plan that will bind all these faculties together.

» 10 niche marketing tips
In our increasingly driven consumer economies, the average customer is bombarded by choices. With increased saturation of the market, companies look towards niche marketing to search new, ever-evolving and sophisticated consumers.

» Using free traffic exchange
These days internet has emerged as both, a market and hub for marketing. Unlike the ‘brick and mortar’ world where large manufacturers manage to squeeze out the market bases of smaller companies, the internet provides haven like the free traffic exchange.

» Ten ways to drive traffic to your website
Developing a web site and then letting it grow is like planting a tree and then nurturing it.

» Marketing through keyword articles
One of the most effective tools of Internet marketing is the use of keyword articles.

» Want to make money online? Market a service to businesses
Don walked across the street from his house to mine to announce he had finally retired. "But I'm not ready for the golf course," he said. "I want to make a living on the Internet. What can I sell?"

» Web site design mistakes - Database parameters in URLs
Creating a web site takes thought, planning and execution. Unfortunately, many designs are dead in the water before they are even published as far as search engine optimization is concerned. Whatever you do, avoid these critical mistakes.

» Alexa Toolbar - The ultimate internet tool
There are numerous tools available on the Internet to assist online businesses. A valuable tool that you should use is the Alexa Toolbar. Even better, this tool is free.

» Web site design mistakes
Some wise human once said "Learn from the mistakes of others. There isn't nearly enough time to make them all yourself." Hence this article. Here are five of the most annoying and common web design mistakes.

» Abandonment - Why visitors don't turn into customers
Every good Internet business understands the value of conversions versus hits received. Far too often, businesses become fixated on the hits they are receiving instead of monitoring their hit to sale conversion rate.

» Creative search engine optimization - A case study
Search engine optimization this and search engine optimization that. You read and hear about it all day, but what about your site?

Tools & services to enhance your online business

» Site Build It!
Over 100,000 small businesses of all kinds outperform larger, well-financed competitors. Read about this all-in-one site-building-hosting-marketing system of tools that delivers results.

» Secrets To Their Success
Take a private tour of two "Mom & Pop" web sites every month that earn $100,000+ a year... and discover the exact step-by-step strategies they have personally used to generate these massive profits.