Archive for Solar

One Roof Energy – Solar Power Direct-to-Consumer

One Roof Energy, a residential solar power provider, has a simple yet comprehensive website. The site is relatively well-designed and makes use of some basic SEO concepts, including the following:

  • <title> tags include targeted keywords and phrases, and vary from page to page.
  • <meta name=description> tags also vary from page to page and include targeted keywords and phases.
  • Copy inside the body of pages also leverage keywords.

That being said, there is still room for improvement, including the following:

  • Additional utilization of internal linking. Right now, the navigation is limited to the primary nav bars and footers. Ideally there would be links inside the body copy as well.
  • Site map. Every site should have a site map, it’s really not that hard to put one together. Ideally, an xml site map is also created and submitted.

Beyond SEO, the site could use a refresher in direct marketing basics. Their ‘Contact Us’ form could be made crisper, and we recommend removing the promotion code, the how did you hear about us, along with the drop-down of buying a new home vs. roof. Those should be collected on a second page rather than at the point of registration. This should improve conversion.

The site is also lacking in interactive elements. There should be a way for potential customers to visualize the savings they will achieve after installation, rather than waiting for a response in email. In addition, this is a company that can truly leverage some social media elements.  Testimonials are not nearly as convincing when they are hard-coded html. Why not let consumers, especially existing customers, post comments on a fan page and make it interactive?

One Roof could even have a twitter feed for fan page update every week or month that has a running tally of energy savings, reduction in carbon footprints, etc. They could have this widget personalized for all their customers as well, to place on their own pages. This could enable some viral components as well.

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Solar City continued

Navigation

SolarCity utilizes a number of best practices with respect to navigation:

  1. Provides multiple entry points for various sections. It accomplishes that by incorporating horizontal navigation treatments without appearing too busy and through the use of drop-down menus.
  2. Upon clicking into a section the site then includes a secondary nav bar below the first facilitating navigation, and it also employs breadcrumbs below the secondary nav bar. Given the depth of content available, SolarCity was wise to use this device.

While SolarCity is a strong site, and the design team deserves kudos, there are some areas for improvement. Including:

  1. The left margin including news and photo gallery links inside various sections. This makes the site busier than necessary, and people who arrive at deeper pages, such as the Solar Lease section, will find them distracting rather than helpful. Other components, in particular the social media components (Share This Page, Join Our Community) are logical; however these things must be appropriate rather than seemingly random droppings of content.
  2. The margins and navigation items are large relative to the site. this limits the amount of contact that is available ‘above the fold’. Ideally SolarCity removes the left margin to provide more visibility to the primary content.

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SolarCity

SolarCity utilizes many best practice web optimization techniques, and may be the best-designed site we have reviewed thus far.

It clearly directs its audience, has visible and useful calls-to-action, and provides ample opportunities to increase engagement with its customers and potential customers. It accomplishes all of this while maintaining SEO best practices as well.

We will articulate all the things the site does well as a mold for other to follow and then point out the few areas for improvement (eg remove the large flash unit on the homepage).

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Empower CES — Consumer Marketing

The direct-to-consumer marketing for Empower CES could really use a lot of help.

The design remains amateurish, however we will not focus on that component, which can be easily improved if the right resources are hired.

The messaging, and the lack of calls-to-action, however, need to be addressed. A potential customer arriving to the site has to figure out on their own what the next steps would be if they wanted to purchase anything from Empower. The landing page is simply a side-by-side comparison of installed residential solar systems along with a few bullets highlighting benefits and values of a solar-powered home.

Empower should further highlight the benefits, and have links providing more detail to each of them. In simple terms, how much will the average household save? The finance examples used are too advanced for the average visitor, and can be provided as a deeper link.

What will be the environmental impact? Carbon footprints are becoming a fairly common measure, why not use it? Better yet, why not partner with a non-profit and have them validate the claims? There are many, including Carbon Fund, the Nature Conservancy, or Conservation International.

How will the investment increase property values? Are there studies that prove this? This would be especially interesting, and it is disappointing that more information is not available.

Ultimately, the worst aspect of this portion of the site is the complete absence of any calls to action. In spite of the poorly designed and phrased benefits, if someone wanted to purse Empower further, it is not easy to do so. The only way by which the web site visitor can deepen the relationship with Empower is via the ‘Contact Us’ section. There need to be considerably more call-outs than the one in the navigation bar. Within each section there should be links. For example, ‘Want to learn more how you can save money and increase the value of your home? Send a message to one of our representatives.’

The Contact Us Page is also horribly designed. There needs to be some header text and imaging to spur visitors to complete the form. Typically, this includes a re-affirmation of the company’s privacy policy. The submit button is below the fold for most screen sizes, which sure reduces the conversion rate. Also, the button itself has a staid label ‘Submit Query’. Best practices would have a different label, such as ‘Learn more now!’ or ‘Get Solar Now’.

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Empower CES

Empower CES has a number of areas for improvement. The site is lacking in navigation, discoverability, and most significantly, engagement. The company is relatively young, yet upon arriving at the website you feel as if it was designed in the mid-90s. The homepage, while thankfully not a wasteful landing page a la Sunpower, has too many navigation points, with gigantic buttons, and no mention of what Empower actual does.

Design and architecture of a website such as Empower CES should consider the following questions:

  1. Who will be visiting our site? Typically, prospective clients is one answer, but current customers, partners, suppliers, and even competitors will also be visiting.
  2. What do we want them to do at our site? This will obviously depend on the answer to the first question. For example, we may hope for prospects to join a mailing list or request additional information, while partners may be directed to a special log-in area.
  3. What is the image we want to project? Should the focus be on engineering excellence or ‘green’ marketing? This goes to the core of the company, what are its primary values?

Reviewing the site, it does not appear the EmPower considered these questions when it undertook its design. Navigating deeper, it is clear that the company wants to speak to a wide swathe of customers: residential home owners, commercial property owners and institutions. At the same time, it is promoting the benefits of leveraging solar technology, but does not speak to each of these constituencies in a separate voice. The result is a confused, amateurish site.

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SunPower continued

I have started to take a closer look at the residential section of SunPower. It was one very interesting feature wherein they estimate the savings a residence will receive by switching to solar power. It is an excellent mash-up, pulling in satellite imagery from Google maps. I question their math, because if it were true everyone would sign up for solar! The tool lets you see your lifetime savings, monthly utility cost reduction, along with the reduction of your carbon footprint. It clearly is targeting the ‘green’ consumer and the tool does a fairly good job.

After that however, things fall apart; there is not enough follow-up. I just revealed where I live, and the calls to action after viewing my results are sedated at best. There is a button to get a free solar assessment, but there could be so much more. Creatively, the button is not nearly prominent enough. The link directs someone to a separate section that then re-asks the same questions. Ideally, email should have been collected at this point for follow-up.

There is also an emphasis to call a 1-800 number which is bizarre to say the least. Someone is already engaged, on the website, why direct them to a phone? At a minimum collect email first, ideally have something lick a live chat.

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SunPower

Our next website to review is SunPower, a producer of solar products. We will focus on its residential business.

The landing page is an odd choice.  It is a head shot of an average white guy with the quote “The most powerful solar on the planet is ready”. This is very abstract, in fact so abstract I do no understand it. Is there more than one ‘solar’ on the planet? I am envisioning the two suns shot in Star Wars, but last I checked there is only one ‘solar’ for planet Earth.

The main purpose of the page is to direct the reader to his/her specific region. I now view this as an opportunity to see what, if any, localized marketing they executed. It also gives me a chance to practice my Spanish.

Unfortunately, to achieve this once I select my region I need to erase my cookies and start over. The repeating theme of a head shot of an individual is making a bit more sense, perhaps moreso because we are focusing on the residential business.

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