Does Your Website Reflect Your Brand?

How do customers remember your brand? What jumps out to your consumers and sets your company apart from your competitors? What are the benefits that set your brand apart from others? These are the types of questions people responsible for positioning brands focus on.

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Strathcom at Dreamforce 2015!

What do you get when you take 160,000 people and stuff them into San Francisco for a week? One of the largest software and technology conferences in the world: Dreamforce!Strathcom was proud to attend Dreamforce '15

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5 Key Findings in Google's Digital Drives Auto Shopping Study

In November 2013, Google Think Insights released Digital Drives Auto Shopping, a new research study for the auto industry made to answer the following question: “How does digital drive auto research and purchasing decisions?” (See the original PDF of the study here.)

As a side note, if you’ve never explored Google Think Insights, then you’ve been missing out. (The site has an entire section of studies and articles dedicated to the auto industry.)

Why should you care? Digital Drives Auto Shopping brings forward five key findings that can help you understand what your customers will be doing in 2014:

  1. Today’s auto shoppers are open to influence.
    72% of search sessions involve cross shopping. For you, that is an opportunity to steal leads straight from the competition’s mouth.
  2. In-market shoppers are researching more than ever before.
    Today’s car shoppers access 24 research touch points on average including things like:

    • Dealer websites
    • OEM websites
    • Comparing models
    • Watching a video
    • Search Engines
    • Social Media Sharing
    • Consumer Review Websites

  3. Connected devices are driving greater research activity.
    Over 35% of purchasers are looking for information on their mobile devices. No surprise here. Mobile usage is increasing, so you need to be sure you’re giving your consumer a great mobile experience when they’re searching on the go. Check out Our Mobile Website Service
  4. Video influences auto brand discovery and consideration.
    Like mobile, video is on the rise. Over 34% of customers were prompted to start researching by a video ad. How are you taking advantage of video and using it to engage your consumers? Here at Strathcom, we take video seriously. Check out how we made the Dodge Caravan even cooler for one dealer.
  5. Dealer interaction and post-purchase experiences matter.
    62% of vehicle owners said customer service could influence future purchases.

Cool Stats You Can Use

Time is of the essence:
• 82% of purchasers are in-market for three months or less.

Online presence is essential:
When asked what online resources and devices they used to look for information on cars and trucks, responses indicated customers used the following:



  • Consumers have a ton of information at their disposal online. You need to be giving them what they want right away, or they will be forming relationships with the competition.
  • Of all the online influences, a car dealership’s individual website has the biggest impact – more than manufacturer’s websites or even search engines.
  • This is all happening on your lot. The next time you see a potential buyer on your lot and he or she is on their phone, they’re probably not texting. They could be looking at reviews or checking the price elsewhere.

Consumers are researching more. They’re doing it quicker, in more places and from a larger variety of devices. As a dealer, you need to provide consumers with the information they’re looking for: that includes great pictures, descriptions and up-to-date pricing and offers.

Can they access all this information from their phone or tablet? Are you filming engaging videos? Do you offer free Wi-Fi? Do you have a plan for a great post-purchase experience?
If you’re not asking yourself these questions, start right now—or start thinking about retirement.

Web Design from the 90's to the year 2013.

We’ve come a long way baby!

Have you ever browsed your Facebook timeline, right back to the beginning, and looked at some of your old posts? If you’ve been on Facebook for a while, then you’ll probably find some pretty embarrassing material – things that your wiser and older self would never be caught saying to the general public. Well, the Internet archive is a bit like Facebook’s timeline & the WayBack Machine takes snapshots of what your website looked like in the past. That’s right — nothing is ever completely deleted once it’s posted online. We thought we’d take a look at Strathcom’s website way back when we got started and oh, the fossils we dug up. Don’t hold it against us – we were all young and naïve once just like the Internet! But let’s just say some of our early designs might remind you of your teenager’s Facebook timeline!

The Beginning – 1998 Web Design

In the beginning, there was Netscape 3.0 (and Internet Explorer): brace yourself for state-of-the art web browsing technology! Here’s a snapshot of what looked like in June, 1998:

Strathcom as of June, 1998


  • Minimal text and an a-typical navigation were a product of the times. Back in 1998, websites didn’t have much consideration for SEO or usability; all that mattered was having a presence on the web.
  • Unlike many other sites at the time, we did have important SEO keywords in our title and description. Even today, 15 years later, many people don’t even know what Search Engine Optimization is.
  • That being said, we have been in the SEO industry for 15 years. Not many web design or even SEO agencies can say that!

Strathcom at the Speed of Flash – Web Design in the year 2000

The year was 2000, and the millennium bug was still in people’s minds. So was the idea that a Flash-powered website was the bee’s knees. While 2000 passed without a hiccup, Flash websites are definitely still around. Strathcom has since advanced to a more effective and faster web design, leaving old flash websites in the dust. Strathcom Media in 2000Notes:

  • At the time, Flash had only been around for a few years (it was first adopted by MSN in 1996) and it was still one of the best ways to deliver a rich web experience across platforms. In many cases, Flash is now being replaced by HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.
  • Once again, the primary purpose of our website was to establish our online presence. Not much was taken into consideration when it came to SEO; as long as we had a website explaining what we did, it was just dandy.
  • As not everyone had Flash installed, we had to inform our visitors how the website was built and in what resolution, as well as provide a no-flash portal.

The Elevator Music Blues – Web Design in the year 2003

What would make our website really cool? I know – let’s add soothing background music and a blue background so our visitors can chill out to our subliminal tones. Elevator music: it’s what all the cool kids are listening to these days! Here’s our site in 2003 (the bars in the lower right move – neat, right?). Oh – that speech bubble – I might have added that.

Strathcom Media in 2003


  • Boy oh boy was music a fad at one point! Now canned music tends to annoy anyone surfing the internet.
  • On top of animated graphics and a stylized image of Edmonton, we also incorporated a more modern navigation layout which has a page to match each of our concepts.
  • When you visit the one-click-deep pages, you can see that there still isn’t much unique text written for SEO purposes.

It’s Psychedelic Baby! – Web design in 2004

It might not have been the 60s, but our intro video in 2004 looks like a real flashback. Detractors might describe it as a combination between a techno dance party and what happens when you give a squirrel a caffeine tablet and tell it to make a music video. But it does tell something else: the internet is moving quickly, and Strathcom has been there to help you catch up with the trend. Speed (the attribute, not the drug!) is something you need to successfully adapt online. Oh, and doesn’t the music scream “this is the future”! Notes:

  • In 2004 we were still pushing strong to convince businesses to start marketing on the internet, as many companies still hadn’t jumped on board yet.
  • That was too bad, because the longer your domain name has been live on the internet, the more authority your website has, and the better its rankings in search engines. Strathcom already had a well-established domain name by this time.
  • This year we also switched to a side navigation. Although it might not look as pleasing to the eye, it did leave more room for the main attraction: the flashing techno dance party!

A Step in a New Direction – Web design in 2005

The year 2005 ushered in a new look for Strathcom. Gone was the background music, and in was a new streamlined look. If you look close, you can see our lot management tool being displayed on a state-of-the-art Palm handheld. You won’t see those around anymore.

Strathcom Media in 2005


  • In 2005 we were really getting serious about the automotive industry. We started focusing just on the online automotive industry and moving away from building websites for any type of business.
  • We finally introduced a modern page navigation that actually looks like what one would see on a modern, optimized website.  We also included a “testimonials” and “news” section to keep users interested.

The EasyLoaderMobile Revolution – Web design in 2007

In 2007, we focused our website on our offering of the Easy Loader VMS, or Vehicle Management System, a tool that remains an essential part of our business. Our innovative Mobile Lot management system was also available for PDA devices.

Strathcom Media in 2007


  • Who else can say that they were focusing on mobile in 2007? Even in the  year 2013, mobile is still a new idea for many businesses.
  • By now our website had a lot more unique content for SEO purposes, as well as some great calls-to-action. All of our services are structured out into individual pages for usability and SEO purposes.
  • By 2007, web design wasn’t about just having a web page up and available anymore. There was much more to creating a website that worked for your users, and usability became an important consideration.

Where We Are Today: Web Design in 2013

If you’ve been to our homepage you’ve probably noticed that Strathcom has a new look. It’s a change that we’ve made to reflect our new ownership, and our vision of where we are going in the future. While not every single one of our website designs through history has been fantastic, we have been growing step-by-step to where we are today. We were one of the pioneers in automotive website design when we started, and we continue to be to this day. The web has changed, and so have we. Google was founded in 1998. Facebook was launched in 2004. Just think how far the web universe has come in the past ten to fifteen years. You can see why a website isn’t a one-time investment. It’s an ongoing process that will evolve as the web environment and your business changes. And over time you will be able to take advantage all of the new features that technology has to offer.

— Michael Fisher & Samantha Goettel

Form Validation: Avoid Frustration for You and Your Customers

Without functional and clear client-side validation, an online form becomes next to useless. Client-side validation checks the form when the user presses the submit button and does not allow it to go through until it passes all validation checks. Some of the simplest checks see if the user has filled out all the fields, but increasing your validation clarity and scope beyond the basics can make a form easier for a customer to fill out properly.

Red fields are immediately recognizable as required.

Form Error Messages

The previously popular method of showing errors for a form was with an alert box, a method that has become outdated with the easy-to-use jQuery library. An error message should always be shown next to or below the field it represents, to make things easy for your customers. Using traditional stop-slow-go colours can make a design a less visually appealing, but can simplify error recognition. A user can easily distinguish a red field as being bad, and a green one as being good. Don’t ever leave the user hunting for the problem – show them exactly where it is. One nice addition you can add to your form is to animate the page to the first error message by using the jQuery animate and scrollTop function. Error messages should always say exactly what format the field is looking for. Telling the customer that their entry is simply invalid is not enough and can easily become frustrating when the required format is not clear.

Keyup validation gives immediate results.

Keyup Validation

A nice addition to your forms is validating on keyup rather than only on submit for text fields. This means the field a user is working on is checked as they type, giving them immediate feedback. A simple way to do this is turn a field green when it validates, or red until it does.

Don’t make phone numbers a hassle for customers.

Validating Phone Numbers

Online forms often require a certain format, often shown in the label or error message as something similar to XXX-XXX-XXXX. This can be aggravating to the user, especially if they are trying to enter a normally valid format such as (XXX) XXX-XXXX, which would produce an error. Luckily, there’s a great way to avoid this problem. The first step is to not ask for a format at all! Once a customer has typed in a value, use a jQuery replace function to delete all symbols, letters and spaces so the field is only left with numbers. After you’ve done that, simply check if there is at least 10 characters left in the field.

Validating Email Addresses

Email addresses can be tricky to validate because they’re more complicated than a simple text field. The way to check if a customer has entered an email address is by using the jQuery filter function to see if they have entered an @ symbol sometime after the first character, a period sometime after the characters after the @ symbol, and at least two characters after the period. Phew! A very handy premade filter for this formula is /^([a-zA-Z0-9_.-])+@(([a-zA-Z0-9-])+.)+([a-zA-Z0-9]{2,4})+$/.


Could you please ship it to 18500 111st Select a Country?

Validating Dropdowns

Make sure a customer cannot choose an identifier as a valid option (for example, don’t let them choose “Choose an Option” from the dropdown). This can be done by checking the dropdown value against any identifier values.

Less guessing equals more successfully filled out forms.

Reduce Guessing and Increase Conversions

Although server-side validation can be important for security, proper client-side validation is more responsive and more useful to the customer. By using all the tips above you will wind up with a form that is both clear and easy to fill out and submit. The key to a good form is to keep things simple as well as obvious – from the general layout to the final validation.

Calls to Action: Getting a Customer Past the Homepage

There are hundreds of ways to get customers to your site, from excellent SEO to interactive social marketing. The next step to get your conversion rates up is to show your customers exactly what they can do on your site straight from the homepage.

The most effective way to lead a customer deeper into your site is by using calls to action. There are quite a few ways to work calls to action into your site, from prominent buttons to subtle embedded links within the copy text.

Calls to Action

Calls to action are short phrases written to sound like a personal request made to the customer. They should be short and sweet, and easily found and read when scanning a page. A call to action should lead a customer to a page where they can either commit an action (often filling out a form) or access important information.

Some of the common calls to action we use on our auto sites include:

  • Find a Car
  • Book a Service
  • Apply for Financing
  • Get a Quote
  • Appraise Your Trade-In
  • Request More Information
  • Book a Test Drive

Sliders are a highly graphical call to action.


They’re big, bold and in-your-facesliders are here to stay. Modern sliders take advantage of fast loading speeds and large screen real-estate by providing an animated rotation of images or text. They are often used to display photos of the product, but since the slider is often the first thing a customer will see on the site, it’s the ideal place for a call to action. A slider can contain multiple calls to action, each slide displaying a different prompt.

Call to action buttons should stand out – there’s no such thing as too big or too bold!

Call to Action Buttons

It can be easy to get lost on a homepage because it is usually one of the most text-rich pages on an entire site. If a customer can’t easily get to what they want, or simply don’t know where to go next, there’s a good chance they’ll simply leave.

One of the ways of preventing this is by providing prominent call to action buttons. These buttons should stand out highly from the copy text, the main menu, and any imagery on the site. A large site might have 4-5 call to action buttons, but the best option is to draw the customer’s focus to a single, featured call to action.

With and without a call to action.

View More Buttons

If you’re supplying teaser information about a product or an article, show the user that they can actually click the image to get to the full item by adding a “view more” call-to-action button to the teaser.

Call to action links are simple way to interconnect the pages of your site.

Embedded Links

A subtle way to allow a user to navigate your site is by providing them with simple links embedded within the copy text. If the user comes across one on a topic they are interested in, it saves them the step of having to search for the page in the main navigation.

Simple, Prominent & Compelling

Keeping things simple with your calls to action is the easiest way to catch your customer’s attention, especially on a large or crowded site. Use a lot of whitespace around buttons, large, simplified text for your copy and make sure your calls never get overwhelmed by the rest of the content on your site. Once you’ve set up your calls to action, make sure to start tracking them in Google Analytics to see just how effective they can be!

Victoria Gramlich