Normally, I’d be the first to sing the praises of a Web site that takes a minimalist approach to its design. Clean, concise, and simple designs are preferable over fancy graphics, flash demos, and complicated navigation schemes. However, even a minimalist site needs to have certain features to establish a corporate presence. Alchemy Lab, unfortunately, fails to offer visitors even the first glimmer of these user-required features.

Alchemy Lab develops and markets software utilities for network administration and application development. It offers seven products that can be purchased from its Web site. Each product is listed on the home page with a brief abstract describing what the product does and is accompanied by a button that will take potential customers to a secure shopping cart program. If customers desire more information, another button will take them to an expanded explanation of the features of the program. Demos of most of the programs are available for download; so potential customers can try them first before purchase.

So far, this description seems fine. Now the problems start. What if I have a question about one of these products? Who do I ask? The Alchemy Lab Web site has no contact information listed or linked on the home page or on any of the product-specific pages. This is a terrible oversight. The first place any contact information is displayed is on a page linked by a button labeled RegNow! Service, which fails to indicate why a potential customer would even click it. More importantly, it also fails to indicate that this is an ordering service and not part of the Alchemy Lab site. Very tacky.

The products sold by Alchemy Lab may be some of the finest network administration and development software around, but visitors can’t tell that by its Web site. A corporate site, especially one that is marketing a set of products, should always provide company information and easy access to contacts within the company, even if those contacts are salespeople. This is a huge shortcoming, and many IT professionals will be put off by the experience—which is not a good way to build clientele or increase sales.

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