Sunday, December 09, 2007

Beauty is only page-deep...

Well, the folks at Cargill got their new website up and running, and my first impression is - Gosh, it's gorgeous! The layout is clean, the navigation straightforward and the integration smooth.

But then you begin to ask, "Is that all there is?"

Like most in-house websites, the lack of advertising spares this site from jarringly discordant imagery and verbiage. To be sure, Cargill services are featured prominently at every screen, but the layout is crisp and clean.

Still, I soon discovered that until the site becomes a place where I can do business with them, it's just another pretty face. My understanding is this site is where I will eventually access my contracts and sell my grain and see load tickets. I hope so. Otherwise it's just one slick commercial.

For example, the grain price quotes shown on every page are too cute by half. One click on the "quotes" link gets me to what I really can read in a hurry - a true multi-contract, high-low-close-time format that we have all become accustomed to reading. The delicately shaded arrows don't add much for this seller.

In fact, the overall feel of this site is similar to a commercial site that needs click-throughs and page views to generate revenues. Cargill should opt for navigation that minimizes both and maximizes commercial transactions.

In fairness, this site merely needs real content, but they have just fired up. Bearing in mind I am a content provider, this could be a self-serving opinion. But for me to make this site my grain marketing center I would appreciate things like:
  • User-defined quote screens. For instance I am now watching Nov 08 beans, Nov 09 beans, Jul 08 corn, and Mar 09 corn. Why can't I design my own screen to show only those quotes?
  • Separate URLs for data formatted for my Blackberry. With autosteer, I have 6 minute windows when I could check prices and news and radar. PocketCargill (dibs on the name!) is my suggestion.
  • News feeds from the same sources their traders are using. All-USDA-all-the-time isn't the most compelling viewing.
  • Something other than in-house opinions and public relations output. After a while, we tend to get the Cargill point of view. [Hint: call me]
However, like all critics I have to find something to carp about or I'll look like a shill. What Cargill has created is an impressive platform that could be very useful to producers everywhere. In their own good time, they doubtless will fulfill many of these possibilities.

But just a suggestion here: the art guys have done their work. Talk to the your grain originators and some customers for how to move beyond pretty.

5 comments:

Jack said...

If you haven't already downloaded it, try the Opera Mini browser (beta version - 4.0) for your Blackberry. Opera makes it much easier to view standard size pages on the smaller screen (until Cargill responds to your request for a handheld-friendly site). Just point your BB browser to http://mini.opera.com/ and download it.

John Phipps said...

Jack:

Thanks for the tip. Actually, I don't have my Blackberry yet - but that's a long story for another post...

From Virginia said...

"All-USDA-all-the-time isn't the most compelling viewing." Say it isn't so!! I thought everything from 1400 Independence Avenue was riveting! My colleagues at USDA will be dismayed to learn this.

Anonymous said...

AgWeb should be so lucky!

John Phipps said...

Anon:

OK, we had that one coming.

But...ow.

Thanks for the zing - keeps me humble.



Naaah...