For a long period, there has been a relentless search for methods and strategies that would change the quality of services and products, in addition to offering an overall revolution in the management and performance of organizations and institutions. With the invention of the new modern technology of information technology, many individuals have seen as a breakthrough that would enable most of the organizations to achieve their goals due to increased efficiencies and improvement of the quality of products.
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Having this in mind, many organizations, institutions, and even individuals have tried to embrace neo-technology and integrate it into their businesses. One way which affirms of the importance being attached to these modern technologies is the increased usage and the number of websites in use, or under development. Today, the world’s population is being bombarded and flooded with different sources of information, of which web sites form the greatest number and percent of all the sources (Whitney, 2002, 5).
The numerical values of both the internet users and the websites completed or under the way to completion, depict web sites’ increasingly attached value by different parties as a medium for fostering their functions and performance. However, there is no surety in the achievement of the intended goals for most of the websites, particularly when focusing on the design of the website. Most of the completed websites have been revealed as lacking some of the most crucial parts to deliver and serve the targeted clients with great effectiveness.
The implication is that a good number of the websites in use do not meet the website’s standards required for the attraction of the right website traffics. Therefore, they are a site that is void of the right impressions demanded alluring the targeted audience. In short, the websites which form part of the modern advertising and promotional materials leave out elements that are crucial for the realization of augmented performance of such poorly developed websites (Zeldman and Marcotte, 2009, 76).
It is from this understanding and knowledge that we focus on sample web site, drawing our attention to the different aspects and factors which make a website to be counted as superior. The discussions and all critical work on this paper would be based on http://www.virtualtourist.com/ website, which will be used to assess the suitability and appropriate use of the incorporated design elements to enhance user-friendliness, and satisfaction to achieve high website traffic and performances.
Purpose of the website
Websites are established for different functions and purposes depending on the owners’ objective of its creation. While there is the single most prime function for which a website is established to serve, an array of other functions may be incorporated in the course of the site operations, as it may be deemed necessary with the opening of relevant opportunities that can be handled by the website.
The virtualtourist.com website, which now is an acquired site for Expedia Company has its primary role in offering travel advisory services to its clients. It is a site which is designated to offer visitors of the site travel information, enabling them to have a better knowledge of the place they intend and plan to visit, thus, it helps tourists and other travelers to make an informed decision choice of the place they are interested of paying a visit.
It is a resource for all travel information for people interested or purposing to have travel for leisure or business duties in all parts of the globe. As revealed, the company owning the site has its operations and services being offered internationally including parts of Asia, Europe, the UK, the U.S, and Australia, and others (VirtualTourist, 201, 1).
The website designed is oriented to offer a complex of service in all directions. It is thus set to integrate and the exhibit is business natures in several ways, which makes it show complexity in its business orientation and operations. On one side of business orientation, the website’s business transactions take place between the owner and other businesses. From the information displayed on this site, there are intense and extensive business transactions taking place within the website for those businesses engaged in offering travel and tourism-oriented services. Incorporated in the business-to-business model are those transactions charged for a fee for businesses to be advertised on the site.
This includes an array of hotels, motels, restaurants, and other kinds of places either offering foods and refreshment services, accommodations services, or resting purposes. The site has also several partners drawn from the transportation industry, which complements very well with those companies offering leisure and resting services. It, therefore, offers adequate advertising space to individuals and companies offering travel services of motor vehicles from the points of international destinations to the various resting and accommodation areas.
They do not work closely with companies offering car hire services from the international airports or destinations to the city center resting place, but they also incorporate those business organizations of car hire service which intends take tourist to their designated tourist site, regardless of their locations, may it near or distanced places. Broadly, it serves as the center for advertising and promotional site for the many corporations offering air travel services, which makes connectivity to the international destination, hence forming a link for the companies offering car hire services at the points of an international airport (Nielsen, 2009, 45).
The website provides an environment that allows the business-customer model to take place. This takes place especially when individuals visiting the websites get interested in one of the various advertised businesses on the site. The individuals seeking/ in need of the various services being advertised by the different organizations are prompted to business communication and transaction by clicking on the company’s icon or the link of the organizations.
The connection between the individuals seeking certain services with the company offering the services may take place within the site, or the individual is taken to the company’s website where further business discussions and proceedings take place (Zeldman and Marcotte, 2009, 115). Apart from this, the website is further revealed to be open to other types of business models. With the provision of forum opportunities, it is overt that individuals seeking different services within this site freely communicate with each other.
The freedom provided in this site offers individuals to talk of any of their interests, thus, it is considered that in exercising their freedom, parties who are customers can share their ideas and/or experiences which may end up in striking a business deal between them. The business deal may be aimed at reducing their cost and expenditure for services which are being offered at the different rate under different terms and conditions. For instance, when travel airfare or bus fare are offered cheaply for groups, individuals intending to visit a particular place on the same day may arrange to travel together so that they take advantage of the reduced fare offer.
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Target market and online behavior
As mentioned earlier, the virtualtourist.com website has been developed for advertising and promoting travel and transportation services together with their closely related services at the international levels. There many locations that cover all over the globe, meaning, it draws its customers from all corners of the continents, which is from North, central and south America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
However, a great number of its clients are found in America followed by Europe whereas these two regions have many organizations that are operating and participating in international trade. The regions also have high populations of individuals who are fondly and obsessively engaged in leisure and travel activities. More so, the areas are populated by persons with the knowledge and skills of search information through the neat-technology methods, hence, they have embraced the internet as the major source of information.
Though the other regions are still making part of the market targets, the deployment of technology together with financial stability factors seems to be major impediments for most individuals and organizations that might be interested in using the site services (Nielsen and Loranger, 2006, 82).
At the precise and narrow view of its market, its major part of the market is drawn from those corporations offering tourism services and products. These include those organizations offering taxi services to and from international portals of a nation/state. However, key important partners participating in this website market are organizations offering food and beverages which comprises those companies operating series of hotels and restaurants within the cities or major towns.
The integration of tourism companies as part of the targeted markets has to lead to the drawing in of most motels and restaurants located remotely in the areas acting as centers for tourist attraction. Generally, it appears that there is no much selectivity of the website on the issue of market target; hence it draws its clients from all over regardless of location factor.
On this site, there are pictorial for both females and males some appearing as monographs while others are paired pictures. This sends the message suggesting that it targets to attract both men and women indiscriminate of their gender orientations. The singlet picture and the paired photos are posted to indicate that the services being offered within this site are consumable by an individual or a group of individuals. As matter of fact, traveling has been a universal activity in today’s world, where people whether females or males can make, arrange or plan their travel programs without any interference and disruptions emanating from gender issues. The services being offered through this website are also very basic to both men and women.
Taking another perspective based on the demographic factor of age, it appears that the website does discriminate against individuals or restrain them from accessing information in terms of age. Photos in this site show photo face for which some of them look to be for young individuals of the teenage and adolescent age, while others displayed shows that there are for those nearing the age for retirement. This purely suggests that the site would quite well accommodate young people who might be traveling abroad for schooling, or it is setting the trap to snare those persons who might be going to foreign nations to achieve their professional and job goals.
The site has received a market share of 1.2 billion members who are distributed or drawn worldwide. This number of persons is distributed in 2.2 million locations globally (VirtualTourist, 2011, 1). The traffic of the website appears to have seasonal fluctuations, which appear to coincide with the geographical season of the year at the different parts of the globe. High traffics is realized during the winter seasons, when most of the people from the western region plan to travel out of those cool regions and visit warmer regions including major parts of Asia and Africa where temperatures are moderate but not at their extreme coldness.
Building and maintaining relationships with targets
Several ways have been adopted in this site for the establishment and maintenance of a reputable relationship with their target stakeholders. In this website, the clients/ visitors have attracted the organization of the website pages right from the entry point at the homepage. As one enters the homepage, the top part of it contains the five major sub-pages which enclose the information that visitors might be searching for.
This acts as a guide for visitors, allowing them to quickly extract/retrieve the information that they might be looking for. On the top left corner of the site, there is a flashing portion displaying pictures and names of different places, hence acting as an easy way of reminding the client of the destinations they might have wanted to visit and search for their information. Is that the designer of the website aimed at attracting and keeping the clients by providing them with ease navigations means (Krug, 2006, 27)?
The approach of the plan took two perspectives, one based on subjects and the other on geographical factors. Whether using the geographical approach or the subject ways, one can access any page of the site including returning to the homepage without performing a series of multiple clicks. Therefore, the web designer makes use of time-saving factor to ensure that clients spend less time to view not only the materials but through the proper grouping those which are relevant.
Moreover, the organization ensures that it does not lose its precious clients by first providing those who are interested in the kind of stuff of services and products with an opportunity for a free membership. The process of registration to the site is very simplified, requiring those joining the organization to provide only three items, which are username, password, and email address for full registration. The email address has a special added value to the organization of the website, as it can keep on updating and contacting the client with it as long as the client conceded to such terms. The organization sends updates on new travel prices, destinations changes, and a lot of offers available from different companies.
The third way that the organization has employed to lure new clients and maintain them is through the keeping of updated information on the site. The organization of the website posts travels news and other related information on the message. These attracted a certain group of individuals depending on their fields of interest. Some may be obsessed with reading material on ceremonies held at a different place, while others would like to understand more of the activities their friends are engaged in various occasions/ ceremonies.
In addition to providing members with news from their message boards, the website provides visitors with an opportunity to access and read closely related news to their services they are offering from international press media. Included in this category of press news form are The Sunday Times, The guardian, and Travel plus Leisure Newsweek (Rosenfeld and Morville, 2006, 99).
Finally, the website designer assiduously provided the clients with space and opportunity to hold online forums. During these forums, parties logged in exchange views, opinions, carry out discussions, and do many other activities of their interests. This being the only place they can post and share such materials of their interests, they then keep on coming back to view, edit or add and commented on the materials that have been posted by their friends. In that way, the website owners have been able to catch and retain them as their clients. It has also increased the number of its clients through the use of external links. For instance, the website host several external links including the Twitter icon link and Facebook, which are major social sites.
Recommendations to improve the website
While we have been exploring the virtualtourist.com website, there are numerous positive elements which we have found included in it, making it to be a moderately designed website. That is to say, there are certain areas which been left or they are misplaced in the website design. We, therefore, feel that the website needs to be improved in one way or another for it to attract and maintain a higher number of traffic as well as perform its functions to the fullest (Niederst, 2001, 4). To do so, we make the following recommendations:
Looking at the text, the issue is a problem at the homepage, where much of the texts are using small size fonts. This problem appears to have been created through being wordy which makes it difficult for the visitors to read the messages. We, therefore, feel that there is a need to reduce the amount of word in certain sections especially in the area of VT news where the font seems to be extremely small.
The website should provide the heading of the subject of the whole story in these sections link it to the full text for those interested in more details than those provided in the heading and main points. This will enable clear much of the contents which make the website homepage overcrowded hence giving the website a new appearance and adding its aesthetic value needed for people involving themselves in travel and tourism work/events.
Observed is that most of the texts at the bottom part are hidden from the visitors. This makes them keep on scrolling down the website page to view the messages, and this is likely to cause most of the intended to be left unread. To avoid such issues, we think that the space for the text should be created by reducing the extraordinary size of the visuals at the top part of the website page.
In addition to the efforts of implementing the above-proposed changes, we felt that the bottom list of the link was too large, thus, it did not consume much of the website’s page space, but it also made it hard for individuals to find contents from the site. We, therefore, believe that the website can be streamlined through the grouping of the links for the creation of more space and increase ease of retrieval of information (Wallett, 2001, 2).
Graphics and visuals
We discovered that the left top part has a flashing graphic which is a good idea for enabling the user to remember and unveil more of what is being offered on the website. However, the animated flashing pictures accompanied by some texts are likely to pass unnoticed by most of the visitors as they concentrate on reading and searching for other information found within the site. This being a matter of our concern to ensure users have ease time and benefits full from the efforts in building this website, we found it necessary to recommend for the inclusions of sound alerts that should be integrated with the graphics for full engagement of the reader, whereby all of his five sense will be actively involved (Veen, 2000, 65).
For the daily engagement of the visitors with the site, the organization should also incorporate recent communication and network means. We suggest that the organization should provide a part for social chats, as this has been a major strategy that has been attracting clients to websites, which are now acting as the modern meeting/socials centers. The proposed social chat section would also be supplemented by the production of an e-book that would be made available to all willing visitors for free. The principle applied here is necessary to meet the diverse needs of the many visitors drawn from different backgrounds and interested in different things.
The virtualtourist.com as our current website that we had focused on is partially developed, with the insertion of most of the major web design sections in place. The provision of both graphics and texts has provided the clients with an environment enabling them to retrieve the necessary information and messages according to the designer’s intention. Following the moderate design view of the website, it has drawn a good number of clienteles, which it has maintained through having direct contacts by emails, and indirectly keeps in touch with them through forums.
By the use of such strategies, the website has facilitated the emergence of several business models comprising of business to business, business to customers, and even customer kind of business transactions. As long as the development of the website appears to be aligned for business purposes, there is a need of improving the general appearance of the website to appeal to, attract and sustain more old and new clients. This can be attained through the implementation of the above-proposed improvement comments that address or redresses the flaws and deficiencies of some elements of a standard website.
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Niederst, J. (2001). Learning Web Design: A Beginners Guide to HTML, Graphics and Beyond: CMIT.
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