The New Manda Hill Mall Website

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

by Silumesii Maboshe

Advertising in public toilets could be an effective way to reach people, I think. With meticulous attention paid to exactly what message you are trying to get across one could, I imagine, design some pretty innovative and tasteful campaigns. Why does this matter to you? Well, in reality it doesn’t. It does, however, matter to me and here’s why …

The larger-than-life poster of Salma belting an inaudible verse into a shiny, vintage Shure microphone outside a men’s restroom at Manda Hill Mall is how I learned about their new website. “What an unusual place to advertise a website”, I thought. It might be difficult to do my business and visit their site at the same time. I let the thought pass. About a week later I remembered the poster and decided to visit the site. I couldn’t remember the URL. Typing “manda hill mall” in Google turned up some unexpected results. After a few clicks, I finally found what I was looking for.

To make sure I was really on the official Manda Hill Mall website, I checked what I was looking at against the details on their Facebook page. The link on the Facebook page was different and I was now even more confused. This was not going anywhere good. Perhaps it was to be expected since it all started in a lavatory.

Image

Salma Sings into a shiny, vintage Shure microphone

I commend Manda Hill Mall for the choice of photograph and for using it consistently. It’s a lovely photograph. Salma is gorgeous in it and one can almost hear her singing just by looking at it. That said, what has her singing got to do with Manda Hill Mall? Surely, Salma shopping, eating, watching a movie, banking, working-out or doing some other Manda Hill Mall-related activity would hit closer to the mark.

The photograph of Salma is the only photo on the site. Given how rich Manda Hill Mall is for stores, locations, events and overall activity, this is an opportunity missed. An image is worth a thousand words and this would have been the perfect platform for a few million.

URLs

Organisations in Zambia don’t use Zambian domains (like example.co.zm or example.org.zm). It seems to be the fashionable thing to do. I took the plunge and bought my first Zambian domain this year and have had a great experience using it. The management tools leave much to be desired but, once you are setup, a Zambian domain works as well as any other domain in the world.

Since Manda Hill Mall email addresses use the domain mandahill.co.zm, it would make sense to use the same domain for their website. The reality is that mandahill.co.zm does not go anywhere and the mall uses shopmandahill.com as its “new” website address. To add to the confusion, their Facebook page says their website is mandahillshoppingcentre.com.

The top hit for “manda hill mall” on Google leads, strangely, to a Japanese site. Given the link spaghetti, it’s no wonder that the search engine results aren’t accurate. Well, at least mandahillshoppingcentre.com redirects to www.shopmandahill.com.

As an aside, the URL with a “www” (www.shopmandahill.com) is setup essentially as an identical but separate site from the version without the “www” (shopmandahill.com). This could have been redirected to one or the other so that only one URL functions as the address for the mall.

Part of the Manda Hill Mall Facebook page

Is this a good use of a website?

After completing the mission of getting to the site, my question became, “is the information presented useful for me as a client of the shopping mall?”. In broad terms, I get what I need; a directory of phone numbers to contact the different stores, directions to the mall itself, hours of operation and contact details of various managers. Why, then, do I feel that there is a disconnect? I think the proverbial devil is in the details.

Icons to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Starting at the top of the page and working our way down, you’ll notice that icons to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are clearly displayed. Unfortunately, only the link to the Facebook page works. What are the other two social media icons doing there if they don’t link to their respective sites?

Below the social media icons is the address to the mall. I think that should have been left out, particularly because of the word “Cnr”. It likely is an abbreviation for “corner”. Evidently, we live in a country where a mall cannot have a decent address and needs to be identified by a street intersection. Where are we heading?

The phone number is also misleading. I think they actually have two land-line numbers namely 255 549 and 255 550. Rather than abbreviate them as 255549 50 it would probably be more readable to list a single number or both in full.


The opening copy is interesting, “One Nation, One Mall”. It sounds patriotic, triumphant and emphatic but it’s also not true. East Park Mall and Arcades Shopping Center are within walking distance and there are malls springing up nationwide and even within Lusaka itself.

One Nation, One Mall

After that is the line, “THE NEW MANDA HILL IS SET TO BE A WORLD CLASS MALL, RIGHT IN THE HEART OF ZAMBIA!”. Will they be building a new Manda Hill Mall?

The hours of operation for the mall could be displayed a bit more consistently. The missing “hrs” unit is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I think it’s important to be clear that you are talking about time and not weights or distances.


The “Store Listing” looks useful at first glance. Taking a closer look, though, is there any order to the way the stores are listed? Is it by store name, location or perhaps phone number? Part of the reason a phone directory is so useful is because listings in it are ordered in some regular fashion. It would be useful to have a sorting order here. Consistency in the phone number formatting would be useful as well. Two phone numbers formatted differently gives the impression that one might not actually be a phone number.

Manda Hill Mall Store Listing

Unrelated, I find it hilarious that the mobile network operators Airtel and MTN do not have phone numbers listed!


The “Events and Promotions” section is a great idea. The offers listed expired a month ago.

Under the “Contacts” section, since all the phone numbers are the same, it might be a good idea to simply list it once and indicate that it is to a switchboard (which it seems to be). I find it curious that “parking” is listed in this section.

In the footer of the page, it would be useful to have hyperlinks to Manda Hill Mall and to ICADS Digital, the site creators.

View Source

Having seen the face of the site, I was curious to know how it was put together and by whom but I was not able to find any information on ICADS Digital mentioned in the credits at the footer of the site.

The site is not responsive. This is a shame given the large and growing number of people in Zambia who access the Internet from a mobile device. Responsive design allows a website to format itself to make optimal use of the screen it is being viewed on. Several frameworks are available to help developers build responsive sites. Among the popular ones are Bootstrap and Foundation.

With all these issues coming to light, I just had to look at the source. As soon as I did, it all made sense.

The document type declaration for the site is XHTML 1.0 Transitional which is a definition from nearly 15 years ago. Current website development is done using the HTML5 standard. HTML5 presents a simpler document declaration format and adds modern features for current browsers, today’s browsing requirements and up-to-date development practices. The site does not take advantage of meta tags to enhance its search engine visibility. The CSS used is embedded in the HTML document when it is more common practice to break CSS and HTML into separate documents.

None of the images on the site have alt or title attributes which means selling the site short on search engine optimisation (SEO) yet again.

Most telling was finding out that the layout of the site was done using tables. That has been frowned-upon for more than a decade.

This is a website that would have been on-trend when Akon was topping the charts with “Lonely”. While not necessarily a bad thing, it is inconsistent with the image Manda Hill Mall is trying to create of being forward thinking and in tune with current trends; “hip”, “cool” and “now”. I hope they did not have to pay lots of money for the “upgrade”.

The Manda Hill Mall website document type definition

Re-branding?

The word “brand” is used often in marketing. It has become one of those words that everybody uses but whose meaning nobody really understands. I don’t particularly like the word and am ashamed to say I use it to make me feel like I fit in. At its core though, I believe a brand is the sum of everything an organisation does (deliberately or by accident) that affects its customers. In this case, this includes toilet-posters, inconsistent URLs and a dated website. Is Manda Hill Mall trying to re-brand with this new website? It leaves me confused about what they are trying to achieve.