At first sight the design looks nice and clear. The Home Page is a little crowded with plenty of information left below the fold, but then I don't envy anyone trying to organise a home page any more. Members can log in. Its in the top blue bar on the left. If you are a member you have been sent a user name (Joe.bloggs format) and your password set to your membership number. You can change that when you find the place to edit your profile. Once you log in there are exciting green bar messages that tell you false information, such as that you have not paid fees or the like. The profile itself allows a certain amount of editing. I have managed to show you a picture and change my title to Solicitor Advocate just for fun. I may change it again to something else next week. After all I have apparently only been a member for 3 weeks. I tried to give myself some skills but it was too smart for that. The nice thing about the profile (if anyone other than me was looking at it) is that it contains my twitter feed, which on the day I made the screen shot was quite relevant. You can enlarge the picture in this post by clicking on it.
So who will see this profile. An important aspect of any website like this is to allow the potential client to find an adviser. so I logged out. The link to do that doesn't work so I had to restart the browser to masquerade as a member of the public. I clicked on the prominent purple find an expert box. it shows me a lot of text and suggests I try the Public Search Tool . I then click that. I decided I would look for an expert in Windermere. Readers of this blog may be aware of a prominent trade mark expert who has moved to that neck of the woods. I get a really nice enlargeable map showing where in the UK Windermere is, but there are no experts there. The map shows Leeds too but that is barren of experts apparently. I zoom the map for fun a few times and decide to look in London. Ah much better.
There are lots of little pins and a long list of firms below the fold that I almost miss. I can click on a pin and see who lives in that office. The map is too clever and zooms around and ceases to be fun. The list, if you can escape the maw of the map, shows a list of members and you can sort by the various headings. At the side of each name in the List their is a link to view their profile. I chose one at random from my London search and discovered he had an address in Weybridge. I could not work out the criteria for display. If I limit the search to "member" I could find myself but the Filemot pin was almost as shy as the Sally Cooper one so neither of us will getting much business from our ITMA membership as a a result of this website any time soon.
The database aspects feel to me like a work in progress. By contrast the information is presented clearly and its easy to find out how difficult it is to qualify as an agent and that I could expect to earn more than £40k when qualified. The Events come displayed in another whizzy database tool - an interactive calendar.
Professional bodies now need and are expected to have quality websites, both well designed and functional. It is commendable that ITMA want to improve their offer. The design is nice but it wasn't that bad before, but so far I am not impressed by the database tools. You can hear how well the salesman sold them, but the finished product is incomplete. Maybe like our beloved OHIM site it will be an improving work in progess. Lets hope