Sunday, 20 January 2013

Best Practice: Hissy fits and SEO

A few weeks ago, I was at work, sat at my desk, and I bellowed out to the unsuspecting office: "if I hear or read the phrase best practice one more time, I'm gunna," now, how I meant to finish this sentence was by saying, "type a passive aggressive blogpost about my frustrations and tweet up a bitching storm," what I actually said was probably a little different and less eloquent.

Anywho, my work colleagues seemed uninterested and slightly pissed that I had disrupted their discussion of the Zara SALE, and I did inevitably hear/read the phrase, not once, but several more times that week and every day since and so here we are, passive aggressive town. 

But wait, I'm not going to get all bloggy on your bad self. I'm not going to post vague political cartoon illustrations in an attempt to make my piece all Newsnightesque and Broadsheet witty. No, its a Sunday evening and I've got scented candles burning. I've had time to reflect, relax and re-type. 

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OK, just one.

Before we get stuck in, the phrase best practice is one many will have heard and said for varying different reasons both in professional and perhaps even personal situations: "Dear, pop the milk in the refrigerator door, it's best practice... Oh, I always make my own pastry, it's best practice." 

However, the context of the phrase I refer to here is the context in which best practice is used to describe mechanisms, systems and protocol within the e-commerce industry. This, in turn, spans two paradigms, A) how Google wants the internet to look, or rather, how SEO professionals think Google wants the internet to look, and B) What techies think will make clicking 'add to basket' easier and more likely (perhaps without even having to click!). 

Now, I'm not a radical, I understand money makes the web go round and I understand Google owns the internet, my beef isn't with all that top level stuff, it's with the fact that creativity might be stunted and suppressed in favour of SEO/e-com best practice, resulting in a mediocre web-scape that just looks like a cheap version of Amazon.

Don't get me wrong. I adore Amazon. Just like I adore my local ASDA WalMart Supercentre and Tesco Extra, but sometimes I want to pop to the corner shop and pay double for some organic 'happy cow' milk and I want the experience to reflect my choice to go all indie. Sometimes I want to wander around the eclectic independent stores of a city centre and forego the flashy chain-stores. Sometimes, I just want my internet to look a little different.

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Rootin' Tootin' ASDA WalMart SuperDooperHugeCentre PLUS 24/7 .com

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Ye Olde Corner Shop . com

Now. Back to the scented candles. I did want to just type furiously about the importance of art in all that we do and strive to achieve as human beings and how commerce is without a soul if it is without creativity. But, the hypnotic scents of my Ocean Blossom candle have calmed me some-what and instead I believe the future is a balancing act. To achieve inner-peace/e-commerce harmony, we need to strike a balance between allowing websites to be searchable and easily navigable and allowing room to make a statement, excite people and make our mark on the market. 

Par Example look at the website for downtown LA based culty fashion brand, Free City.

Free City is a cult-brand based on the ideals of the Woodstock generation. Championing free spirits and free speech the brand, and the name, come from the commune Freetown Christiania in Denmark, a "free city" within Copenhagen. Now, a brand with a history and statement as rich and as interesting as Free City needs a website that best reflects this, their www. needs to be a "free city" within the web world. 

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Free City's website is a kaleidoscope of colour, as are the brand's garments. Our device screen transforms from a restrictive platform to multifaceted canvas, scroll any which way you want for content, movement and flashy loveliness. 

Before you get excited, I understand this website is a little more creative than it is practical and whilst I'm not one to dowse creativity, I wouldn't really know where to begin if I wanted to purchase from this site.

Whilst we can't all prance around the internet with daisy chains in our hair, it would also be wrong to line up next to ASOS and copy their wireframes. Why? because how boring would that be? What would the internet become, the new media for human evolution or as plain and straight-forward as your till receipt? 

My conclusion? Best practise is all well and good when coupled with creative and exciting communication. Why follow suit when all your doing is diluting good work done by someone else? Understand the basic principles of SEO and e-com, understand that the customer needs to be able to make informed choices with ease, but also understand that the internet is our biggest and most amazing blank canvas and to forget that is to forget why we all got interested in it in the first place.