Last week I met with the managing director of a relatively big local electrical engineering firm. “We need a website ASAP!” he cut to the reason he’d called me. “You still don’t have a website? And why now?” I asked. “It’s urgent my brother. We submitted a bid to a company in the EU. They’ll expect us to have a website!”
He is right. They sure will. They’ll expect his company to have some kind of decent online presence. A www.companyname.co.zw that says this is what we do, this is what we have done and this is who we are. An online company profile. I referred him to a geek friend who was more than grateful for a $300 job in these trying times we live in.
Our guy is one of the many business leaders in Zimbabwe who still struggle to appreciate the benefits of a well designed and updated website for their business. Apart from this needing-to-impress-an-EU-company moment I doubt he ‘gets’ the real essence of needing to be online and I hope I’m wrong. He’ll probably have a sleek and neat website done for this ‘special purpose’ like many companies have. They will put up the great work they have done on it; huge projects for the government, NGOs and the private sector. They’ll order new business cards with their website address proudly imprinted on them for all managers and the sales team.
Fast forward to six months later. The sleek and neat website is now noticeably suffering from the usual web diseases; the information is outdated, there’s no activity that shows the company even checks and updates their site, broken links, some forms don’t work anymore or, in the worst cases the website is now offline.
With more and more Africans connecting to the internet through their mobile phones and 3G modems, it’s time Zimbabwean business started taking seriously the message their online presence (or lack of it) is giving visitors about their business. You’ll be hard pressed to find a person between 16 and 35 whose living in the cities not having a Facebook account they check regularly. All my professional friends (even the non-IT ones) have LinkedIn accounts. A few are on twitter (‘getting’ what twitter is about the first time can be a task) but more and more people are talking about it. With all this online activity by Zimbabweans (read potential customers) it’s surprising and very unfortunate that only a few companies see the need to be equally active on the Internet. A significant part of their target market is spending a lot of time online and business should follow them there.
There are numerous examples of big companies whose websites do damaging injustice to their public image. We will check some of these big company websites in a future article and list the most glaring commissions and omissions. If you have come across any, please share below.