How NOT to do it?
A simple example. Lets say you have heard of GNOME or you use it and want to downlaod the latest GNOME live CD. What would you do?
Right, you type in “gnome live cd” in a search engine like Google. Lets see what we get on February 2010:
So we get essentially two top results. The first are in the GNOME Live! Wiki and the first result is the page GnomeLiveCd. If you open the page you do get a page that was last updated by me in 2007 so about three years ago.
The other link leads to a not any more exiting webpage http://live.gnome.org/GnomeLiveCd
Marketing is no magic. Its more or less often about giving people what they expect.
If you lead people who expect to be able to download a running live cd to three year old information and none existing websites this is a #FAIL.
You can mostly forget thinking about any more marketing if you fail here.
Another failure is that GNOMEs website do not provide custom 404 pages and that just too many websites become 404 (not found). In 2008, so two years ago I reported this as a bug and provided a simple page as a solution. Nobody cared – so it was ok to LOOSE all visitors who do not find a page. Ali Abdullah talked about why this is important.
A website without 404 page cant be taken seriously in 2010 from a marketing perspective. If you take into account that fixing it would have been an one minute job you start wondering about priorities.
GNOME has taken a lot of work and efforts to start the new website with the Plone CMS: I have no idea when it will land. Right now http://www.gnome.org is not accessible. Maybe this means its already there? On the central development page in the GNOME wiki GnomeWeb you are told the new website is coming in September 2009. So so much about updated information if you really try to track down the progress and you care about the website.
Third example was the GNOME Office website, which was outdated for many years and to just resolbe this issue it tool about a year.
I could go on and on, but these are just two examples that show how NOT to do marketing on the internet – even if its “just” free software. No smart person will ever try to test GNOME again if what he finds looks so crappy.
How to do it?
Really, really simple: Provide the information the user needs – and if it is hard to find or moved either forward to a new place. Keep information update. You do not want to discourage a user from trying out your application, desktop or whatever.
This is just my small view of the whole “marketing in internet” problem which results from my experience and after witnessing what has happened and especially not happened with the GNOME website.
I write this down, so that things change. Things do not change because you get a great new CMS. You might get it someday – but what do you do in the five years between now and then. Sure, nobody wants to see five years of stagnation, but what you can learn is that fixing the small things often still makes sense. Nobody likes to fix small things, especially men dont like it. Men like to think big. And maybe thats part of the problem: They do a lot of heavylifting and much too often find out too late that it is too often. That said I have also seen women falling in love with Plone; no idea why …
Help people find what they are looking for. Most web users have simple desires on their mind like find some essential information or download a live cd. Even if you can not provide this, you can say that you do not and why. And deal with users that come to your site like something worthful that should not be wasted easily!