A DecoNetwork Nightmare

Update (3-3-14)

Since people don’t read the entire post, to see that this was a case of misunderstanding/ miscommunication, where DecoNetwork subsequently stepped up and made things right, I thought I’d better clarify things at the BEGINNING. In the words of the supposed “victim” in this event, “DecoNetwork has gone from zero to hero in this matter.”

 
Update (11-25-12)

As promised, my SEO Dojo buddy’s comments on the DecoNetwork Happy Ending:

 

This matter didn’t originate from vindictiveness, it was just born of frustration and a feeling that customer service and an amicable resolution was not going to be forthcoming. I run my online operations not to be a unit-shifter with a faceless identity, but concentrate on conversing with customers when problems arise, as a good experience is a lasting one.

To this extent, I am happy to report that my opinion of DecoNetwork has been turned around, thanks to the efforts of Brenden and Doc, with some lessons learned on all sides. My concerns have been taken on board and I also hold my hands up and admit that some of my grievances were misplaced.

DecoNetwork’s product is a good one but like all software, it can always be improved and I feel confident that they always look to make their product move forward with the requirements of the printing industry. I look forward to having my business back on board with them and hopefully letting phone owner’s design their own smartphone covers, not only for this Christmas period but for years to come, until we eventually become wired into ‘The Matrix’.

I would like to thank Brenden for taking the time to listen to my concerns and addressing them and Doc Sheldon for being a great mediator and reliable member of the SEO community I belong to, where I continue to be amused and educated.

A company can offer a product that does the job but if they don’t back it up, they won’t garner a long term relationship with their customers. I’m happy to say that DecoNetwork has gone from zero to hero in this matter.

***

Update (11-22-12):agreement handshake

Okay, another update to this saga, which I consider to be a happy ending.

Brenden Prazner and my friend have put their heads together and discussed all the issues, and have reached a resolution that seems quite reasonable for both.

Give that, and the manner in which Brenden handled matters, I think it’s only fair to address several points I made in the original post:

  • “A DecoNetwork Nightmare”

 The title now seems to be harsh. It’s certainly turned out to be anything but a nightmare. In fact, the manner in which the company has responded has had the opposite effect, in my opinion. How about “A DecoNetwork Happy Ending”?

  • “it seemed to be what I call a hostage site”

I mentioned in the original post that it seemed a bit better than that. In all fairness, it’s quite a bit better. The typical “hostage site” I referred to usually requires that the users utilize the site as offered, allowing them no opportunity to customize. That is definitely not the case with DecoNetwork. They offer pre-designed sites, but with no strings attached to customization. In fact, they offer technical assistance in modification.

  • “it did seem as though the developers had gone to great lengths to ensure that none of those sites could ever out rank their company”

This, quite frankly, was a little over-the-top on my part. While I saw some design aspects that I felt were very counterproductive, I’m convinced that not only was there no intention to limit the sites’ “rankability”, there was actually some solid logic for their structure. I might do it differently, but there are many ways to accomplish things, and often, no method is more correct than another.

  • “a site that is unlikely to climb above page 20 or so of the SERPs doesn’t equate to a great ROI”

As I already mentioned, the most serious coding issue has already been taken care of. It appears to have occurred because of an update, and was immediately remedied when I pointed it out.

  • “as a warning to others that might consider falling into a similar trap”

This is the thrust of what we do here… find potential traps and warn people away from them. As it turns out, DecoNetwork doesn’t fit that description at all. I’d even go so far as to say that if someone is considering such a marketing approach, DecoNetwork is certainly one they should consider, based upon their philosophy.

  • “Is he lucky they didn’t charge him extra for the 78K extra pages?”

Thousands of extra pages were created by the many different options offered for all the products on the site, which isn’t uncommon. During my crawl, about 4-1/2 hours in, I discovered that the site was actually generating additional pages at a faster rate than the crawler could digest them. That issue will be fixed, but there will still logically be a lot of extra pages, which we’ll handle appropriately.

  • “I think DecoNetwork has thus earned a nomination for a place of dishonor on our Wall of Shame”

In short, my friend and I have agreed that this nomination should be withdrawn. In fact, given the way they’ve handled things, I think they might instead deserve an “attaboy” for excellent handling of an awkward situation.

  • “beyond their capabilities to design or maintain”

This, as it turns out, is totally inaccurate. While their sites are certainly not ready to run, “out of the box”, they do have the technical know-how to assist, where desired. As already mentioned, one serious flaw was inadvertently caused by a recent update.

  • “willfully pushing a sub-standard product on their customers”

I think the above explanations cover this… “sub-standard” isn’t fair. Any desired customization requires a small amount of development knowledge to accomplish that, or the use of DecoNetworks technical assistance. This would be true of any out of the box product.

When all is said and done, DecoNetwork has aggressively worked to make things right for their customer. They didn’t do that because of this post, I’m convinced. They did it because it was the right thing to do. When you come right down to it, that’s about as far from “nightmare” as you can get.

Well done, Brenden!
My friend will be providing his own update remarks, which I’ll add here as soon as I receive them.

***

Update (11-21-12):

While the situation described below has not yet been reconciled, it seems only fair to make mention of a few things in the interim:

Shortly after this post went live, Brenden Prazner, Product Marketing Manager and Evangelist for DecoNetwork, reached out to me on Twitter, in order to initiate a dialogue. We have subsequently communicated numerous times via Skype, telephone and email, in an effort to clarify the problem and find a resolution. They have indicated that they are reviewing the situation, to see if an adjustment is appropriate.

Mr. Prazner has been proactive and very professional in discussing the situation and the technical aspects that were the basis of the problem, and at this point, I am thoroughly convinced that DecoNetwork is not trying to rip off its users or deliberately mislead them. I do still see technical concerns, which I’ve pointed out to Mr. Prazner, and the company has already implemented a fix on one of the most serious issues.

That said, I think it’s appropriate to wait and see what is worked out between them. As I said in the post below, the real measure of a company is in seeing how they make things right when they go awry. DecoNetwork seems to be working diligently toward a solution, which says something in their favor.

***

 

A buddy of mine in the SEO Dojo got involved a couple of months ago with DecoNetwork, and he recently asked us to take a look at his site and make any recommendations for improvement that we would offer to give it a better chance of showing up in the SERPs. A few of us responded with some ideas, but some major problems showed up in the process – an extra 78,000 pages, for instance, that I discovered with a crawl that I finally aborted after more than four hours.

Held hostageWhat I found when I checked his site in some depth, was that at first glance, it seemed to be what I call a hostage site. A company provides a cookie-cutter website, and you essentially act as their affiliate, so that they make some money off every sale you make through the site.

As it turned out, the situation wasn’t quite that bad. But it did seem as though the developers had gone to great lengths to ensure that none of those sites could ever out rank their company.

And if you’re paying £129 per month, a site that is unlikely to climb above page 20 or so of the SERPs doesn’t equate to a great ROI.

So I invited my friend to do a write-up on his issues with this company, as a warning to others that might consider falling into a similar trap. Here’s his story:

***

A DecoNetwork Nightmare

 

‘For every solution there will always be a problem’ is a mantra worth repeating when you’re looking for a software solution for your business. Our business was looking for a design option that would give website visitors the opportunity to add their designs to items such as t shirts etc, place an order and have a custom-printed item sent to them.

We were approached and offered a solution called Deconetwork. The solution offers such a design function enclosed in a complete e-commerce solution where you could sell pre-designed products as well as offer the custom design solution. For £129 a month you could have this on your website and hand over 1.8% of transactions to them. Like any e-commerce solution like this, you don’t mind paying the money if it will do what you want it to and achieve good turnover for your expenditure.

Having parted with the first month’s payment, we were confronted with a product catalog geared for the US market and lacking in a number of products we print such as Phone cases, coasters and clothing items from UK brands. So we were faced with a large amount of time being spent on setting up products we could actually sell, as well as tackling the site design to get a look that had some semblance of our business and a degree of usability.

Now into the second payment of £129 before we had anything ready to try and make start making money back, we had a look at the SEO side of the site. After all there’s no point in opening a store, taking a lot of time and care over it but placing it in the middle of a desert with no roads.

We started with an analysis of the site and bear in mind there was not a significant amount of pages at this time, the crawl was still running after 4 ½ hours before we stopped it and declared ‘Houston, we have a problem!”. We came to the conclusion that Google wouldn’t like re-crawling this site anytime soon due to the coding and any products would have a hard time getting the slightest piece of attention in search results.  URL structure was also not engine friendly –

We set-up an pre-designed product and the structure read as follows –

www.domain.com/shop?ma=5&pn=1

We brought our issues up with Deconetwork, whose responses didn’t fill us with confidence that we would be able to carry on with this system without a real overhaul of coding, something we had no access to. And even if we did, why would we invest time and money into something that would be making someone else’s product better with no incentive or return?

Being EU based, there was also no provision for the EU cookie law which means that any businesses based under this remit would effectively be breaking the law. We have yet to see major fines being issued by not adhering to this law, but a small addition would be preferential from the outset rather than being left open to fines by the time Deconetwork gets around to it.

Needless to say, having a site that would cause real problems in having its products found by people was not something that got our e-commerce juices flowing. As a result, we had it acknowledged that the SEO side of things was going to be addressed in 2013 and could we hold on. No business wants to hold on, especially when approaching the end of the year when turnover is boosted by the holiday period before the bleak early year months set it. But we’ve come up against a ‘No Refund’ policy for something that doesn’t do the job of even your most basic open source ecommerce site.

***

So, there you have it, folks. Is DecoNetwork a ripoff? Should they bite the bullet and make things right for our hero? Is he lucky they didn’t charge him extra for the 78K extra pages?  I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.

I think DecoNetwork has thus earned a nomination for a place of dishonor on our Wall of Shame. Selling such a service that is either:

(a) beyond their capabilities to design or maintain, or;

(b) willfully pushing a sub-standard product on their customers

are both deserving of a little e-thrashing, in our opinion. If they want to step up and do the right thing, and return our friend’s money, since he never received the value promised, that would certainly change things. Any business can make a mistake… the business’ real character will be shown in how they make things right.

DecoNetwork's time is shortThe clock’s ticking, though…

About Doc Sheldon

Retired business management consultant and publisher, turned SEO. 35+ years as a copywriter and content strategist, 9 years of it on-line.

Comments

  1. Hi Doc,

    Thank you for the update and assistance while we worked through the concerns. I’m glad we were able to put all the concerns to rest but it shows patience, persistence and an open mind always wins in the end.

    Cheers,
    Brenden

    • It was a good learning experience for us all, I think, Brenden. Although it probably should have started out differently, it had a happy ending. I appreciate your efforts toward that end.

  2. Alan Brightmoore says:

    Any updates on this article? We’ve had no success getting deconetwork to rank and can’t see any other stores on page 1 either.

  3. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the
    blog. Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

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