You’re wearing your matching socks and shoes. Your presentation is rehearsed and flawless. You’ve been “guaranteed” the test environment will work, so you can show off your site and impress a big potential client. We’ve all been there. You know what comes next. You open the browser only to discover the test environment is down for maintenance or, even worse, it’s acting buggy. Nothing derails a sales demo more powerfully than showing a site that doesn’t work. You may fumble around until you find a PDF with screen captures. But no amount of sweeping hand gestures and enthusiastic language can replace an actual working demo. In this article, we’ll make a case for abandoning your test environment – and we’ll share what we’ve learned by building complex, behind-the-login, custom website demos for our clients.
Custom Demo vs. Test Environment
Test environments serve an important purpose to IT groups – specifically, testing code with a live data connection. Technically, test environments can be “re-purposed” for your sales demos and training, but they rarely do it well. Instead, you end up with an imperfect imposter of your site that is full of bugs and hiccups. What you need is a self-contained version of the website that looks and behaves exactly like the live site. It works offline and could even be left behind on a portable USB drive. It can showcase new features that have not yet been rolled out. It can even be customized to this specific customer. Most importantly, you know you can trust it 100% of the time, so you can focus your attention on your potential clients.
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The Value of a Custom Website Demo
Custom website demos provide significant value to the business. For starters, they offer flexibility and peace of mind. Why put your trust in a volatile patchwork of systems when presenting to your potential customer? And why rely on IT to provide a login for a given scenario? Instead, you can take control of the situation and tailor the user experience to precisely match your needs. The use of custom demos allows you to modify features and content specific to your customer. Some examples could include removing sections, adding colors and logos, and showcasing functionality and content matching their needs. This opens up many possibilities that include targeting a demo specifically for new business or customizing a training demo to a key customer. All without asking or hiring a development team to alter any code, graphics or content. In our experience, it makes a tremendous impact when your audience sees an effort was made to create a unique experience for them.
Additional benefits of custom site demos include:
- Time: Save time since you wont need to wait for any changes to be deployed into a test environment.
- Confidence: Feel confident that what you are showing your client will actually work the way it is supposed to.
- Internet: Stand-alone HTML can run without a database behind it. This means it can run with no Internet connection and can be shared in ways a live website cannot.
- No Logins: Avoid having shared logins and scenarios that can be remotely locked out or reset at inopportune times.
- New Functionality: Showcase new functionality or design changes that are not yet live to generate excitement or gain approvals from decision makers.
- Privacy: Use realistic but fake content and data to avoid security or privacy concerns if necessary.
- Training: Provide training for tools and processes within a website or application that are otherwise difficult to stage. Provide task-focused demos for internal training.
- Speed: Create a demo quickly instead of waiting for the internal technical resources to have the time to help you. At Crux Collaborative we regularly build custom demos in 3-5 weeks.
Going Further: Demo Creation Platforms
Having a custom demo is great, but what if your non-technical team could create many versions of the same demo – with customized content and features – without involving any developers or IT? A demo creation platform does exactly that. You can turn sections on/off, customize the content, customize the features – then export the demo to show a potential customer exactly what the site would look like for them. We recognized this as a big need for our clients and created a platform that provides this kind of incredible flexibility. It has proved to be very successful for clients who manage large portals that serve many audience types and clients whose sites contain many user scenarios that may be appropriate for some customers and not for others.
Our Custom Demo Builder application enables you to:
- Create multiple versions of a demo for various audiences.
- Turn entire sections of your website or specific pieces of content on or off.
- Add a client’s logo for co-branding or singular brand experiences.
- Change your website’s photography, colors or themes.
- Allow a sales team to create and manage their own collection of custom demos.
- Publish the custom demo directly to a unique public URL without IT intervention.
What Our Clients Say…
At Crux Collaborative, we’ve built custom demos and demo builder applications since our inception in 2005. Our clients absolutely love the demos we create because we value the needs of the person giving the demo as much as the person watching the demo.
Here’s what our clients say about our custom demo work:
“Demos, both video and self-guided, of our various consumer websites and tools have proven greatly successful in driving increased consumer engagement with, and understanding of the resources we make available to them, as well as assisting the sales organization in helping clients see the value we’re providing their employees.”
– Brian, Health Care Industry
“Our demo sites help our members utilize the tools available to them so they can understand and manage their health and health plan.”
– Andy, Health Care Industry
If you are thinking about creating a demo for your website or application, contact us. We’d be happy to walk you through our process and show you how our demo builder application works.
By Mike McClure
Director of Design + Development
Mike has been involved with user experience work since the early nineties. His experience spans the gamut, from strategy to UX development and front-end coding, to accessibility and animated guided tour videos.View Mike's Bio