This week Lip-sticking is fortunate to share some insight into how the web works from a woman's point of view. Our Smart Woman Online this week is Barbara Snyderman, a technology professional who knows the ins and outs of networking, software, hardware, the web, and more. She was kind enough to step in at the last moment after our scheduled interview was unable to participate. Barb is a Mom, a business-owner, and a friend. She is truly a smart woman, and we think she's been online even longer than we have! Lip-sticking thanks you, Barb, for rescuing us. Now, let's see what she has to say about being a woman in a man's world...
Lip-sticking: We notice that your website [Business Information Technology Solutions] has a clean, uncluttered look with few graphics. While Lip-sticking is all for an uncluttered look, we're curious about why you have so few graphics when the web is such a visual medium. Was this a conscious choice or the result of your professional training?
Barb: Last week I spoke to Brighton Chamber of Commerce members (in Rochester, NY) about "The Top 10 Reasons Web Sites Fail and What to Do About It," and one of the areas we discussed was graphics. I've always followed the adage that "less is more." Graphics should add appeal, warmth, and professionalism to a site. Graphics should not detract from a site. When designing graphics for a web site, site owners and designers need to think of their audience. If your audience connects via a dial-up modem, the site graphics should support such a connection—they should be small and fast loading. High-speed connections are increasingly popular, but not every household has one.
People come to the Internet seeking to accomplish a task (send email, research a product or service, or make an online purchase) and they do not want anything to get in their way. If slow loading, blinking, or flashing graphics, or animations slow down the ability to complete the task at hand at a given web site, then most likely the visitor will move on to the next web site that meets his or her needs. At this point, the original site owner has lost a sale. People look at a web site and decide within 3 seconds if it is professional, within 30 seconds if they will stay, and, on average, their first visit lasts only 3 minutes.
My visitors often tell me they like the clean look and feel of my site. They can easily find the information they are looking for, which is a refreshing change from the normal clutter and movement on the web. Multiple graphics on a page may distract and confuse a visitor about how to find the information they are looking for. One clear graphic used repeatedly grabs the eye. The one graphic I have chosen is my logo, a simple softly drawn computer sketch. It reflects the nature of how I do business – friendly and inviting.
Lip-sticking: As a woman in the world of technology, which is dominated -- still! -- by men, what's your biggest challenge with clients?
Barb: I view being a woman in a male dominated field as an advantage. My clients appreciate my softer touch to an intimidating industry. This works especially well with clients who are new to the Internet and building a web presence.
I aim to present technical matters in a simplified, non-threatening manner. No question is a dumb question. People appreciate my one-on-one assistance. Often, if they already have a site developed by another designer, they still have questions about how to maintain the site or how to make sure the site provides the return on investment they expect. Personalized service is a key benefit that my clients receive from a smaller company like BITS LLC. Larger web design firms can often seem impersonal and distant to those not well versed in Internet technology.
I apply the same philosophy whether I’m working one-on-one with a client, presenting a seminar, or teaching a web design course. I have only done my job well when a person walks away with knowledge that they are able to use to further grow their business through use of the Internet.
Lip-sticking: Way back when you were just a kid, in high school, did you imagine yourself as the owner of a technology company? When you first began BITS, LLC, did you do it in response to an epiphany or did the idea creep up on you?
Barb: From 7th grade on, I knew I wanted to work with computers in some way for my career. After high school, I attended St. Bonaventure University, in Olean, NY, and received a BS in Computer Science. It was not until I had spent 6 years in the work force that I started thinking about running my own technology company.
I spent 5 years providing computer support, training, and web design services to Fortune 500 companies in St. Louis, MO through 6 to 12 month contracts setup by the consulting firm I was working for at the time. I had seen enough of the corporate environment and decided that I wanted to be my own boss. I would be a happier and I could give my clients the kind of service they deserve at prices they could afford instead of playing the games of consultants.
Now I’m working to inspire other young girls to pursue careers in computer science. Once a year I return to my alma mater in order to assist with the annual St. Bonaventure University Girls’ Day. During this annual event, 7th and 8th grade girls from local schools come and spend a Saturday getting hands on exposure to several areas of computer science. This year they will gain experience in image processing, web page development, programming and robots. I’ve also given talks to junior and senior computer science majors at St. Bonaventure about what it is like to own your own business.
Lip-sticking: We notice you aren't blogging. Hmmm...is that something you plan to do in the future, or do you think blogging is just a passing fad?
Barb: I think blogging is here to stay. It is very important for BITS LLC to keep our name in front of potential and existing clients so that the next time someone needs a service I provide, they will call me before calling my competition. My marketing team and I are currently looking into the best way to keep my name in front of my target market. The key is to find a way that meets my needs and my clients’ needs. Blogs are a great online way to market one’s business. But companies need to make sure they are reaching their potential and existing clients successfully. Before I add a blog to my site, I need to determine how it makes the best business sense for me.
Lip-sticking: Here's the shopping online question we promised you we'd ask: Will you be doing any, or all, of your holiday shopping online this year? If so, what is it about shopping online that attracts you -- or doesn't attract you, as the case may be? Are there certain items you would NEVER buy online? Are there items you wish you could buy online, but can't?
Barb: I will be doing some of my holiday shopping online. The ease of online shopping is definitely a plus. Online shopping is a lot easier than dragging our two small children to the mall and weaving our way in and out of a dozen stores. However, some of my shopping will continue to be done at the mall because I like having the ability to look at the items up close and get a real feel if they would be the ideal gift for someone on my holiday list. Also I just enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holiday shoppers. It helps me get into the spirit of the season.
More importantly, I really enjoy shopping at some of the smaller local stores—crafters, boutiques, and the like. They have some of the most interesting and special gifts you can find. Of course, more and more of these stores and individuals are going online, too—I know because I’m helping them do it every day!
I think big-ticket items are something I would never buy online. I have to feel confident that online purchases will be exactly what I’m looking for so I do not have to return them. I think once you have to start returning online purchases, then you start to loose some of the overall convenience of online shopping.
Lip-sticking: If the web went away tomorrow, how would that impact your life; both personally and professionally? What would you do, instead of being immersed in technology?
Barb: If the web went away tomorrow, I would feel like I was in a communication void personally and professionally. I typically feel that way after only being without cable modem service for even short periods!
What would I do, instead? I would say I would probably have more time to complete all of my unfinished craft projects in the basement and start putting all of our photos into scrapbooks. As for a profession, I would be come a teacher. I love helping people.
We hope Barb's last line speaks loudly and clearly to you, dear readers. She "loves helping people." Lip-sticking has been telling you this about women for many months now. We care; we care about our families, about our friends, about our colleagues, and we care about you. If you make friends with us, show us you care, too, we will buy from you.
What's not to like about that?