10 Years Later – OH C’MON! Did You Not Get the Memo??

As an AV pro and a social media enthusiast, I tend to keep an eye on the Twitterverse throughout my day. We’ve developed quite the community of AV professionals on that platform, and you never know when something profound, beneficial or earth-shattering will come across the Twitterfeed that can impact our businesses – a link to an article, research, video or even just a statement that resonates. A couple of weeks ago, one such statement came across my Twitterfeed and it utterly stunned me. With permission from the author, here goes:“Why do so many AV companies make it hard to find product brochures online that I can print for a client? Don’t they want business?” lamented TEHANtechguy (aka consultant Daniel Tehan.) That seems pretty darned straightforward, so why did this tweet stop me in my tracks? Because I’ve been saying the SAME DARNED THING for over TEN YEARS now! Seriously, manufacturers, did you not get the memo?Back in 2001, I was still fairly new to the AV world, having joined from the world of advertising and web design (back in the pre-WYSIWYG days of hand-coded HTML). This was an era when “Acrobat” more likely referred to a nimble gymnast than a piece of software; when PDF was still a proprietary format of Adobe Systems – a full seven years before it became the open standard we all know and love today. Still, however, PDFs were beginning to creep their way onto web sites and proving their worth as a convenient way to share specs and brochures online.

In this era, K-News (an early ancestor of rAVe Publications) ran an article called “Six Tips for Improving Your Websites.” One of the points of the article advised that manufacturers should avoid PDFs on their sites because “…pdf turns product photos to mush. If you want to show off how good your product looks, or If you want the reader to see details, pdf is a bad choice.” The author goes on to recommend that you format your site to replicate your brochures and spec sheets. While PDF was a new format then and it was possible that not every customer had Acrobat Reader on their computers (another of the author’s “con” points), this was flat out bad advice… so I had to address it! I wrote a rather lengthy letter to the editor.

Thus, in my very first published “article” in the AV industry, K-News printed “To PDF or Not to PDF,Readers Respond: One Expert’s Point of View as to Why PDFs are Needed on Your Website.” If you are interested in reading this piece of AVDawn history (ha!) an archived version can be found here: http://www.ibcnews.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=5579-0 The gist of it is this, however: As far back as 2001, I (and others who chimed in on the issue) have been begging and pleading for manufacturers to 1. create PDF versions of all their spec sheets and brochures and 2. publish those PDFs where we can find them on their websites.

Today, with the widespread usage of PDFs and the ease of creating them, there is no excuse NOT to have PDF versions of anything you’d hand out at a trade show or to a dealer, accessible on your site! I mean, your graphics department (or marketing or even Timmy-the-intern-who-makes-pretty-ads) just has to click “Print to PDF” from almost every major (and most minor) pieces of software today and it’s DONE. No time spent, no extra dollars, nada. Quick, easy and infinitely useful to your consultants, reps, distributors, dealers and end-users.

Sadly, even if manufacturers *do* have their marketing collaterals in PDF format, they often bury those downloadable links deep in their sites causing aggravation, angst and even sometimes fury in the supply-chain folks looking for them. It’s less problematic for reps who only have to remember a few manufacturers, but think of your dealers and consultants! We have sometimes HUNDREDS of manufacturers to keep track of in our day-to-day business, each with their own quirky websites. Now, who do you think we’re going to use more often in our designs and sales? The company that has brochures, spec sheets, manuals and even engineering drawings quickly accessible via a “Download Library” link on the home page or easily located product pages (like those found via Extron’s pull-down Product Quicklinks)? Or do you think we’ll use the company that makes us try to remember, “Click to the Products Page, then to the Subcategory Page, then to the Series Page, then look to the far right of the screen and click the Library link for that series and then…” Um, I think the first one, don’t you?

In short, it’s 2011. The Internet has been here for AGES now, as have PDFs. I don’t care how much you paid your designers for the ‘cutting-edge,’ ‘innovative,’ or just plain ‘cute’ site design. It is utterly USELESS when customers cannot find what they need, quickly and easily. Usability should be the number one concern when building your site, then overall branding and slick graphics, not the other way around. C’mon people. Pay attention this time, READ the memo, and build those manufacturer sites accordingly. I don’t want to come back here in 2021 and yell at you again!

P.S. Kudos to those of you who do it right… and to those of you using rep firms, distributors or third-party applications (like EZ-Binder, Digi-Binder or even Infocomm IQ) that do it right. We absolutely LOVE you guys! ^_^

One thought on “10 Years Later – OH C’MON! Did You Not Get the Memo??

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