For most cases, they shouldn't even exist in the first place.
The exceptions are obvious:
- When you don't really have any other content to display, and the splash page IS your website.
- When you are legally required to confirm the user's identity, age, purpose of visit, etc., e.g. over 18 sites.
- When you have one very important message to get across, and the rest of your website is of diminished importance, i.e. business closing notices.
You get the idea: splash pages have very specific purposes. However, for the most part, people have them for absurd reasons:
- Some artists and creative types believe it is the best way to display their creativity - this is kind of reasonable and sort of okay.
- Many believe splash pages are impressive, especially the Flash animated ones - this is not an okay reason to have a splash page.
- Even more believe splash pages will make the user want to engage the website even more - this is simply not true.
You are actively stopping the user from accessing your website
Forget engaging the user - splash pages actually disengage any interested parties. An unnecessary splash page is one extra step that the user has to go through to view your main content:
- It slows the user down by x seconds:
- Where x = y + z
- y is the time it takes for the user's browser to download the splash page - often lengthy, given the size of some impressive-looking, animated splash pages and the lack of speedy internet connection in the developing countries. It can get even longer for the sites that FORCE you to sit through a certain animation or movie before
- And z is the time it takes for the user to figure out what to do after the splash page loads. If you've seen those splash pages with links that took you half a minute to locate, you'd understand that z is a pretty significant variable.
- Oh, and don't forget the additional time that would be necessary to download the appropriate plugins before your splash page can be displayed.
- People just don't have time to go through the above exercise to find out what exactly your site has for them. When was the last time you looked at just one website and waited patiently for it to load? Most people will switch to other websites and forget yours while it is taking its own sweet time loading.
- Since splash pages don't have any content, search engines tend to not index them. This either means they will link directly to your content pages, making your splash page irrelevant, or, worse, if they cannot "reach" the content pages from your fancy all-Flash splash page, they will not link to you at all, making your entire website ineffective.
You can fix your splash page
Splash pages as you know it just don't work - especially if you have no clear reason as to why you have one in the first place. However, there are ways to incorporate one into your site:
- If you HAVE to have a splash page, make it short, succinct, and clear:
- Keep the directions clear, e.g. have a "Click here to enter" link instead of having the user guess where to click to proceed
- Keep the bulk down - both in terms of download size and length. Give users the option of skipping ahead if you have to have an animated sequence on your splash page.
- If you are using Flash / Silverlight / other eye candy technology, offer an accessible alternative, so those without plug-ins (or those on mobile) can still access whatever information your website provides beyond the splash page.
- Splash pages are not the only way to display your creativity: you can feature a highlighted creative while still offering the user the rest of your website, for example by adding navigation. Apple does a good job at this hybrid front page model.
Keep in mind that an impressive website does not comprise of an impressive splash page only. In fact, your impressive website is more likely to be appreciated and read when it is not hidden out of reach behind that impressive, but pointless, splash page.
So I'm Pamela Ramali, MBA now - officially so since June 20, 2009. Kellogg was an amazing ride, and I will never forget the two years I had there. I learned so much, but as any other Kellogg MBAs would tell you, it's the people I got to meet that made the most significant impact on my experience. Not only do you have an amazing mix of nationalities and backgrounds, you also get to spend your whole days with the smartest, most intelligent, most personable bunch.
It wasn't all glitz and glamour obviously - I am significantly poorer, because the MBA didn't come cheap. I'm also significantly closer to developing an uncanny amount of gray hair, given the amount of stress and work over the past 2 years - not the least of which was the application process. Good Lord, even remembering the number of weekends I had to stay in to do essay revisions makes my inner socialite wannabe hurt.
So was it worth it?
I'm sure you can do all kinds of cost-benefit analysis to justify an MBA, and you can decide for yourself whether the financials make sense. If I could choose all over again, I would still do the MBA - yes, even in the current economic conditions.
- It was a two year journey of self discovery. I was unsure what to do next, and where to go - all I knew was that I was getting lost in the daily grind. The process was a time for me to reflect on my life, my career, my relationships, and my person. The many different project teams and activities led me to knowing my strengths and weaknesses better than I ever had - and thus allowing me to work on them. There were things I wouldn't have attempted otherwise, but Kellogg was a safe place for me to experiment, try, and do - being crazy enough to offer up my arse for absolute kicking in Finance II, for example.
- It opened up a whole host of new opportunities. I was feeling restless and - for lack of better word - stuck in my career. I wasn't unhappy, but I was itching to know what else was out there. I had no idea about the options that were available to me, until recruiting started at Kellogg. This is likely not the case for most Americans, but being from a non-metropolitan city in Indonesia, it was an eye-opening experience - I didn't know a single product manager or consultant growing up.
- It granted me an amazing network of incredibly smart, talented, and good people all over the world. I had drinks with people of more nationalities in my first week at Kellogg than I had all my life prior! There are so many countries I want to visit now, especially after the excellent trip to Greece hosted by a dear Greek classmate last month. Talk about a global perspective!
- Then there was the academic learning. I must admit that the quality of teaching wasn't as consistent as I had hoped, but in any educational institution, I guess it is to be expected that some academics are better than others at teaching. The excellent professors were the best I've ever had - the access to such passionate teachers was just invaluable, and it made up for the poorer ones.
A few considerations, however:
- Despite what a lot of people say, b-school probably isn't the best for extreme career switchers. I found that the jobs I was a great fit for had a lot to do with what I'd done before, i.e. tech, project / client management, etc. I attempted interviewing for a healthcare-focused company as I thought it was a good idea at the time, and boy, did I bomb that interview.
- Funds are a great concern - and this is definitely as big an investment as I'd ever want to make in post-grad education. There are intangible benefits that you just can't calculate financially however (see list above), and there are always the loans. Yes, even for international students!
- I'm not sure if it's a good idea to hide under the MBA shell for two years while the economy is not doing so great. The plus side is that hopefully, by the time you graduate, things have fully recovered, and you can go on your merry MBA ways. The danger, though, is that you may be adding a whopping $100k+ of debt onto your already-squeezed financial situation. An MBA is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and as thus doesn't guarantee you - or me, or anyone else - a fat paycheck and a secure management job upon graduation. As with any other path in life, you'll have to work hard for the gain.
I think I want to do an MBA. What do I do?
The biggest help I received during my MBA-exploring process was from alums - specifically this one Kellogg alum, but also alums from other schools I was considering. They gave great insights to the culture and selection process of the schools, and most were very willing to help. It was also very helpful for me to peruse the various rankings to see which schools would suit my personality and career aspirations best, as a lot of them (such as BusinessWeek's) had detailed information about the specific schools, e.g. academics, alumni network, career services, the split of banking vs. consulting vs. tech vs. marketing jobs, etc.
I've often been asked why I chose a US MBA program, instead of one in Asia Pacific, which would have been closer to Melbourne, where I was. The short answer is that the US ones are better. The longer answer is this: even the best rated Asia Pacific MBA program (which was, incidentally, Melbourne Business School when I was applying), was ranked around #40 in the global rankings - and it was dead tough to get into. Now, I'm not saying that rankings are everything - but I could have easily gotten into the US school ranked #39, given the decrease in competition for schools outside the Top 10, yet I would have had no chance whatsoever getting into Melbourne Business School, given its reputation in the area and the competition from the whole of Asia Pacific. It made more sense for me to expend that effort on the US b-schools.
I didn't want this to turn into a "Why an MBA?" or "Which MBA?" post, but since the topic was something I struggled with prior to my b-school application process and starting Kellogg, this is my way to wrap it up, what with the supposedly 20/20 hindsight I now have. I hope this would be helpful to at least one of you
Before I write a long blog post on The Amazing Greece Summer Holiday That Was, or an even longer post on life post-Kellogg graduation (who woulda thought? I'm now an MBA), I'd like to jot down a few things about Greece that I thought were worth noting, during my visit there this past July:
- Illy's or Lavazza espressos can be found ANYWHERE - including at the crappiest airport food joint. Why can't America have this? Airport waits (of which I have had plenty, especially lately!) would be a much more bearable affair
- Iced espresso (or frappe coffees - I didn't know they were the origin of frappucinos!) are also everywhere. It seems to be the drink of choice on a hot summer day. I'm starting to think there must be a reason for this Greek love of great coffee...
- ...which brings me to my next point: the hours are totally whack in Greece. We would wake up at 1PM, head sleepily to the beach, continue our sleep on the beach chairs (which cost plenty of Euros! This is new - in Indonesia, beach chairs are absolutely free), and lunch would be around 4-5PM. We would then head back to our hotel at sunset, take a shower, and head out for dinner around 11PM, followed inevitably by a night out at one of the Mykonos or Santorini bars or hot spots - returning home only after sunrise, usually around 7AM, to sleep in until 1PM. Rinse and repeat. The crazy thing about this is that EVERYONE seems to be doing the same thing - shops would still be open at 5AM, and by 7AM the streets are busy with people headed home. This, I surmised, is why the Greeks drink a lot of coffee - not least because I was downing an inexplicable number of triple espresso shots myself to keep my eyes peeled at 6AM.
- Souvlakis at 6:30AM after a big night out is the best thing ever. Melbourne has this too - why did I ever leave that wonderful city?
- I love Greece. I love the beaches, with its crystal clear water, where you can see fish darting around your ankles even when you're neck deep; I love the beautiful people that adorn the beaches; I love the food; I love the lifestyle; I love the history; I love the architecture. I also went with possibly the best group of people to go on an awesome vacation with, and they definitely made the trip.
That's it for now. Now onto the next big awesome vacation!
Why do we negotiate?
- Obtain favorable terms: you try to win the biggest share of the pie for yourself, e.g. buying a car for below market price, get an increase in salary or a better terms of employment
- Build personal relationships: negotiation isn't always all about winning - it can also create win-win settlements, and develop mutually beneficial relationships
What? Building relationships and "winning" aren't necessarily at odds. This means that you don't have to be a stubborn son of a bitch to come up with an agreeable settlement.
Distribute vs. Integrative Negotiations
- Focus on claiming value. It's usually a zero-sum game: what one party wins, the other party looses
- Typically involve a single issue
- Example: buying a used car: if the market price is $x, and you get it for $x+500, it means the dealer has a $500 surplus (or "win"), and you are stuck with a $500 loss.
- Focus on creating value: enlarge the pie by adding more issues on to the table. Some of the issues may be distributive, but both parties might have similar interests for the rest
- The negotiation as a joint problem-solving task
- Opportunity to trade on issues that are more important to you, and less important to the other party
- Example: job offer negotiation: housing might be a critical issue for you, but for your employer who is a real estate developer, they would actually prefer to have you stay in one of their condos.
The goal is to try and convert all negotiations you care about to integrative - integrative negotiations ensure that both parties maximize their share of wins, while not destroying any relationships. Speaking of wins, there are a few things one needs to keep in mind when negotiating:
BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)
This is your greatest source of power. Your BATNA is your fallback plan: if the negotiation doesn't result in a deal, what alternatives do you have? For example, if you are negotiating a job offer with one employer, you are in a position of power when you have a good BATNA, e.g. a comparable job offer. In this situation, you are able to negotiate compensation, benefits, etc. - whereas without the BATNA that is the other offer, this discussion might not lead to such favorable terms for you. Therefore, while negotiating, it is in your best interest to increase your BATNA. Find other options that you equally like, may it be a second house you'd be willing to purchase, or a hoverboard when negotiating for a car.
Reservation price is your "bottom line". If this price is not met, you do not do a deal - lest you are subjected to the agreement bias, where you go into an agreement just for the sake of reaching a deal, even though you will actually be worse off than you currently are.
Making the first offer
Usually, it's a good idea to make the first offer, because it anchors the other party on YOUR terms: research shows that final agreements are more strongly influenced by initial offers than by subsequent concessionary behavior. An aggressive first offer gives you room to concede and thus appear flexible and cooperative, while also letting you get a better deal. On the other hand, weak first offers tend to make you appear stubborn, as you do not have room to make any concessions.
The only exception to the "always make the first offer" rule is when you know the other party has a lot more information than you do, in which case you might make a misinformed - and hence dumb - first offer.
How aggressive should your first offer be?
- “As high as you can go without embarrassing yourself in front of a respected third party” (Fisher & Ury)
- Use target price to set your first offer
- Use references (past prices, similar products) to rationalize the offer
- Most important: ensure it is reasonable - especially when you want to build a relationship with the other party. An irrational first offer will set a tone of distrust.
Notes: I wrote this as a recap of my Negotiations class at Kellogg, to aid in my exam studies and real world negotiation project. I hope this was as helpful to you as it was to me!
- You and the brands:
- Logo inspiration:
- Great Photoshop brushes @ Brusheezy.
- Search for icons at ICONlook.com.
- 40+ Extremely Beautiful Icon Sets, hand picked from deviantART.
- Fonts, fonts, and more fonts: Better Fonts eases the previewing of fonts.
(Speaking of inspiration - this post was inspired by the prolific John Nack)