Let us examine a typical scenario. A consumer products company engaged an interactive media agency to design a marketing campaign website for consumer engagement. While the site looks flashy, it ran into a lot of usability problems. How do you design a website for marketing that just works?

What went wrong with that website’s usability in this scenario?

First, the site may rely on the current version of Flash, which some users may not have and needed to download. Not many consumers are willing to have to download an updated plugin just to view a website.

Second, the site may have been developed in a manner that was not the most optimized, resulting in hogging the bandwidth and some users would report that they could not interact with the website properly. The result? The users simply gave up.

The most effective website or microsite for marketing campaigns should possess the following:

1. Open standards such as HTML5. The late Mr Steve Jobs was visionary to know that open standards empower end-users and developers alike, for the most collaborative application environment that is good for the whole ecosystem. Therefore, when you are thinking of a microsite or website for marketing campaigns, developing in HTML5 will mean that the content can easily be targeted for the desktop web environment, as well as most modern smartphones as well, especially those that don’t run Flash. It is important to get a web and mobile app developer who understands HTML5 and other open standards so that your marketing campaigns can reach out to the widest audience possible without shutting many others. Adobe announced it will cease development for mobile versions of Flash and focus on their AIR platform instead (source). This has repercussions for developers trying to target multiple platforms. Developing for HTML5 as a primary platform makes sense for small and larger developers alike.

2. Optimize the multimedia content. Videos and audio content are nice to have, and are engaging for end-users. However, dumping large bandwidth-hogging multimedia content onto the users’ computers or smartphones, will only drive them away rather than engage them. After all, not everyone has a fiber optic network to tap on. Get an expert to help you optimize the multimedia down to palatable sizes. There is always a decent compromise on rich audio-visual content and bandwidth. There are also many different audio and video formats that may work on some desktop and mobile platforms, and not on others. Get a developer who is not just someone who converts audio and video for the websites, but someone who knows audio and video production and post-production.

3. Interactivity. Websites for marketing campaigns should be inherently interactive. Again, the method to deliver interactivity should rely on open standards, and perhaps even reusable code for future campaigns. Encasing everything into proprietary formats may be good for developers trying to secure their development, but it is challenging for end-user clients to manage in a rapidly changing world. Using an open standard such as HTML5 and languages such as PHP for interactivity, will mean that should you need to hand off the project to another developer for some good reason, there is a higher chance for your project to enjoy continuity in the future.

Marketing campaigns should be fast-to-market, easily adapted and changed for market and consumer demands, and can retain relevance for a technological landscape that keeps evolving. The technological means to get your campaigns out there, should not be an impediment to your customers, nor to you.