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Expert Advice: Three Audiences to Consider When Designing Oil and Gas Websites

Expert Advice: Three Audiences to Consider When Designing Oil and Gas Websites
Websites of smaller oil and gas companies are not known for being slick or modern. The question is, does it even matter? Is it worth it for junior and intermediate producers to update their web presence?

To get a better idea of what’s important in oil and gas web development – and what’s not – I talked to Douglas D. Tatlow. Tatlow has over 35 years of industry experience and runs Tatlow Oilfield Consulting Ltd. out of beautiful Vernon, BC.

“I’ve watched these websites become more and more functional over the years, and most of the industry sites are doing a good enough job – at minimum, they’ve established a presence,” Tatlow says. “But like any company, a producer’s website should reinforce what it’s trying to accomplish, and that depends on who they’re looking to attract.”

Target audiences

Tatlow says there are three main audiences to consider when it comes to oil-and-gas website design: investors, job seekers and service providers. A smaller producer might be interested in attracting any or all of these viewers.

The investors:

Stock prices, dividends, financial reports, information about general meetings – this type of information should be front and centre on a publicly traded producer’s website. Private companies might want to put financial reports behind closed doors, so to speak, which adds a little complexity to a website’s infrastructure. In this case, investors sign in with a username and password to gain access to the hard numbers.

“By and large, most of the industry sites are doing a pretty good job when it comes providing the relevant investment information upfront,” says Tatlow.

The prospects:

Here’s where things can get a little interesting. Whereas investors care about the facts and figures, attracting talent requires you to make your company look, well, attractive. This is where the look and feel of a site can come into play.

Besides getting people to the site itself (which is a whole other can of worms,) how credible it appears and how it communicates the company’s needs to candidates affects how likely they’ll be to apply for a job.

Having a reputable-looking site with easy-to-find company information is pivotal, of course. But where a lot of companies go wrong (this isn’t limited to the industry) is neglecting to post specific job openings. If recruitment is a major goal, then going a step further and posting specific requirements, rather than an open invitation and a simple email link, can help bring in the resumes.

Meador Staffing Services says:

“We’re hiring! Contact us” is unlikely to generate much of an enthusiastic response. The message is too vague and uninformative. Job seekers want more details up-front, the kind of details that accurately reflects your specific hiring needs. They have to see a potential pay-off for their efforts or why bother?

The (oft-forgotten) service providers:

“It has always intrigued me that oil and gas websites don’t communicate information to service providers,” says Tatlow. “When it comes to directing potential vendors, they always fall short.”

He says a producer’s website should communicate what kind of vendors are needed and who within the organization can be contacted about procurement opportunities. This makes for a win-win situation for both the producer and service provider.

“Without clear information saying you aren’t accepting vendors, you’re opening yourself up to having sales people bombarding your organization with unsolicited phone calls,” says Tatlow.

Of course, some companies aren’t even looking to qualify vendors. If that’s the case, saying so can save the company and the vendor a lot of time.

But if a company is looking to qualify service providers and has a form that needs to be filled out to get the ball rolling, why not provide the form on the website?

“It’s going to save time and money,” says Tatlow. “Things have changed since the years you could go into an office in Calgary, meeting people in person. The computer has made it a less personable industry for service providers.”

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