CreditToday.net Website Design Review

Giving credit where it is due: a cornucopia of useful information for industry professionals and an exemplary business-to-business website.

Credit Today is a print newsletter that describes itself as “the premier publication for trade credit professionals.”

For US $279 annually, subscribers receive 12 issues of Credit Today, and (new members only) get a copy of the 2004-2005 Credit Today Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey. Subscribers also get full access to CreditToday.net, its companion website.

The CreditToday.net mission statement is precise: “To give you the tools and insights that will empower you to excel in credit, customer service and business, while providing a forum for the best thinking in the field.”

Using the Mequoda Website Scorecard, CreditToday.net earns an A and, except for one glaring omission and a single graphic design inconsistency, is a good example of a well engineered B-to-B website.

CreditToday.net’s Mequoda Scorecard

Discover how to design a user-friendly website when you download our FREE Website Homepage Ideas white paper.

1. Strategic Intent – A

The top left navigation panel on the homepage, and nearly every other page, makes it crystal clear that the intent of this site is to get the user to subscribe:

“We invite you to join the private, subscribers-only Credit Today community and discussion area. Click here to learn more.”

That hypertext link takes you to a simple, dignified and persuasive landing page that describes in straightforward terms the many benefits and features of membership.

“We invite you to join the private, subscribers-only Credit Today community and discussion area. Click here to learn more.”

2. Content Webification – A

CreditToday.net demonstrates innovative use of interactivity and multimedia technology.

When logged on to the website, subscribers can access searchable, full text archives of all past issues, conference reports and “interviews with industry movers-and-shakers.”

CreditToday.net includes an extensive collection of archived articles on 1) credit management, 2) a section entitled Deductions Solutions, described as a thorny problem and 3) technology resources, “what new applications are out there that will further change the face of credit.

Additionally, the site offers information on 4) collections, 5) human resources, 6) international credit and 7) legal & bankruptcy issues.

Also, dozens of valuable file downloads are available, ranging from collection letters to personnel forms to financial analysis sheets.

3. Relationship Building – C

Curiously, CreditToday.net does not try to capture the casual visit’s email address by offering a free ezine. However, Publisher Rob Lawson uses a generous selection of sample articles and member testimonials to convince prospective subscribers of the value of Credit Today. He also invites article submissions, and makes this reassuring promise to would-be authors: “Would you like to submit an article? We’ll take care of the final polishing!”

Got a tough question? Check with the Doctor! Each month, the Dr. Credit section of CreditToday.net answers a user’s question about something related to credit, accounts receivable or collections management. You need not be a member to ask a question or view the posted reply, but you must submit your email address.

4. Community Building – A

The CreditToday.net site includes a discussion forum, links to a separate job listings site, a news feed, a calendar of events and links to all of the nation’s bankruptcy courts.

An online book store enables members to buy 26 industry specialty items including such titles as The Guide for Career and Professional Development In Business Credit, A Comprehensive Guide to Secured Transactions and Commencing an Involuntary Bankruptcy Petition: The Credit Executive’s Perspective.

There is a convenient Tell A Friend popup script and a monthly survey that even non-members can participate in (and access instantly updated results).

This month’s survey: Does your primary credit group allow the exchange of your terms info in your group reports/clearances? Results to date (Monday, June 20, 2005): 60 percent say Yes, 40 percent say No.

Also on public display is Credit Today‘s editorial advisory board, including 15 distinguished industry professionals, many of them CPAs and attorneys. Having an editorial advisory board is always a smart idea; publishing their names and credentials is even smarter.

An online feedback form invites users comments and rounds out the CreditToday.net offerings.

There is a monthly survey that even non-members can participate in (and access instantly updated results). This month’s survey: Does your primary credit group allow the exchange of your terms info in your group reports/clearances?

5. Persistent Navigation – A

Whether downloading files, reading articles, or buying products, this site does an excellent job at letting the user fulfill goals. Of course, as a subscription website, most of the premiere content is behind a password-protected blocker (login) page. But with a key to the gate (membership), finding your way into and out of CreditToday.net’s nooks and crannies is exceptionally easy with clear “bread crumb” navigation.

6. User Task Depth – A

Whether joining, searching, surfing, shopping, buying or downloading, the user will have no difficulty completing her desired tasks. Major links are top and left, where you expect them.

7. Affordance – B

The links perform as expected. All major links are blue with a red mouseover, but none turn to maroon after being clicked, a minor pet peeve of mine. Strangely, the designer did not consistently use blue for the minor links displayed in the right navigation panel, so I made a deduction in the score.

8. Labeling and Language – A

The CreditToday.net labeling and language seem about right for me. Clearly, this publication is targeted to a narrow niche market. As far as being audience-centric is concerned, only other credit professionals would know for certain. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

9. Readability – A

The designers of CreditToday.net have done a great job of balancing graphics to text. I particularly like the narrow “newspaper” column format. There’s plenty of white space. A 10 percent blue tint behind the left navigation panel is a welcomed visual element that also enhances readability.

A 10 percent blue tint behind the left navigation panel is a welcomed visual element that also enhances readability.

10. Organization – A

The marketing quadrants are appropriately exploited. Major departments are “above the fold.” Lesser information is in the right navigation panel. The site’s design conforms with this user’s expectations of where to find things.

11. Content Freshness – B

Except for the discussion forum, new content is available weekly. This is consistent with the publisher’s business model. Again, CreditToday.net is a companion website to a print publication and as such, doesn’t pretend to be offering daily breaking news. However, if I were an industry professional looking for a new job, I’d return here often because the links to CreditJobsToday.com, another of Mr. Lawson’s websites, appear to be updated daily.

I’d return here often because the links to CreditJobsToday.com, another of Mr. Lawson’s websites, appear to be updated daily.

12. Load Time – A

As measured by the Webpage Analyzer, CreditToday.net clocks in at a lightning fast 11.43 seconds for a 56K connection rate. You can’t beat that time by much, and it’s all the more noteworthy because the homepage employs at least a dozen web-optimized graphics.

13. Aesthetics – A

This is a smart, good-looking site. Use of dark blue as the primary color is ideal for any site having to do with money or fiduciary responsibility. As noted above, using a small percentage of the primary color as a background color against which to place typography is a welcomed design element.

14. Brand Preference – A

CreditToday.net clearly supports and builds brand preference and encourages return visits. The site wisely picks up and reuses the masthead from the Credit Today print newsletter, reinforcing the brand.

Conclusion

There’s plenty to admire about CreditToday.net. It’s attractive, well organized,and brimming with useful content. If I were a credit industry professional, I’m certain I would subscribe and find my membership to be very valuable.

Comments

Leave a Reply