I received an email from the VConnect team saying they were testing the new VConnect site which would, upon passing beta stage, be launched as the (all) new and improved directory for Nigerian businesses and retailing hub for buyers. I visited their Marina, Lagos office and met the guys who make things happen there and after being offered a branded (very orange) VConnect notepad and pen, Meher and ‘Gbenga of the Vconnect team were my bff’s for the next hour. They led me to Vconnect.com.
There was a list of experiments I had to carry out as my litmus test for the new and improved website which according to the VConnect founder and General Manager, Deepanker Rustagi is not just a business search engine (anymore); but a discovery and engagement platform. “This redesign is our best attempt yet at making that possible,” he adds.
In no particular order I’m reproducing details of my experiment in said orange journal.
An app they say is in the works. The first and perhaps most important thing I observed about the new site was the home page looked more professional; more search engine-like. It was easy to search for anything from the new search bar set against a sunset-ish background with translucent text that read “search a business”. It screamed “EASY NAVIGATION”. I knew where to go from that point and as you know, that is very paramount in today’s makeup of a functional website; especially one that is aimed at artisans, creative people, the internet savvy and not so computer literate alike, etcetera.
The site gave me the option to draw up a business list; one that catered to my needs as a user depending on what I needed, had searched for and curated and that could be a sort of recommendation for other users and visitors of the site. As exciting as this sounds, I thought the feature could have been more pronounced on the home page UX. Something that would make drawing a business list more fun and a better engagement tool and even more give prominence to businesses thereby creating more value and a personal touch to the platform. I noted that.
Next was the search for a business; whatever business with details. Painter, shoe seller, KFC’s closing time, phone repair in Lagos, florist in Calabar or whatever I could come up with and I literally gave a standing ovation for their reach. Top notch! 100! Every business I could think of was already listed on the Vconnect site with deets; address, phone number (the basics), website address, for those with one, etc. Even more was their SEO. Guys, I cried inside for its accuracy. If I Googled any of those queries, Vconnect appeared on the 1st page; 1st result or 2nd or 3rd. So, whatever product or service you offer, once listed, you will be found. Very reassuring. It works with google maps as well, so you are able to locate the physical address of a business straight away.
Testing out the review section was pretty simple. Login details, whether directly or via Facebook/Google+ were required to rate the business and leave a comment. Attempting to rate the business launched a box for your actual thoughts. Good bait! Top reviewers were also featured on the site which encouraged other users to review businesses frequently and honestly.
Unfortunately, I did not to register as a business owner but I can say categorically that registration is free and on visiting the site as a business owner, there are 3 explicitly stated registration options available to you which you can choose from as best for your business and customer base. I noted however that more prominent elements were incorporated to make registering quite the catch and I saw nods of approval.
Ramanathan Solayappan, VConnect’s Product Manager adds that the redesign doesn’t just provide the best user-experience in the history of VConnect, the new functionalities mean users can access information in an easy, relatable and deeply human way. We’ve stripped away the non-essentials to leave only the most relevant, distraction-free experience for our users.
Totally works! And, between the time I visited their office and my publication, some of my suggestions have been incorporated. Incredibly flattering! With that said, I have one question for you. Are you listed?