There were a total of 84 responses – 78 corresponded to posters from the LSE with significant and verifiable posting history. 5 more were verified with proof of a BMN holding and 1 was verified by other means. There were no instances of anyone trying to subvert the survey with a false response.
The information has been anonymised and randomised and is available for download as a spreadsheet complete with all respondent comments.
How often do existing PIs visit the company website ? Almost 60% stated that they visit it at least once a week – that would seem to be quite a high percentage – they are evidently not doing this because there is a strong element of contemporaneous industry information (for example like Vanadium Corp) – but are presumably doing this because they purely want company specific information. Many of the comments refer to lack of updates (eg with respect to Vametco) on the company site so some of these may be visiting simply to see if things have been updated yet – not a positive experience to discover that they have not.
Existing Website Content
The current website top level menu structure has the following structure (Corporate / Project / Vanadium / Investor Relations / Media) – thus the questions in this section are designed to probe the PIs experience of the website content in the first 4 existing website sections (Media seems to only have some fairly dull press releases in it so has been ignored for this survey). In the results below 1 is poor, 5 is excellent.
On the whole existing PIs seem to be roughly satisfied with the explanation of the corporate structure and the company projects. This might seem to run counter to the sometime cited claim that investors find the company structure hard to understand (eg Vametco holdings and multiple partners) and the more often cited claim that the website is out of date – eg Vametco not even mentioned on the website. It may of course be that existing PIs have got used to these failings but that new investors might not and would thus be turned off of BMN because of them – finding potential investors willing enough to survey is a much harder job though.
PIs seem unimpressed with the company news and topical industry comment, and are somewhat less than satisfied with the reference material made available for investors. The subsequent question on possible future developments – to “Operate a Vanadium/Tin industry newsletter”, clearly split our community – roughly half think that commentating on the rest of the industry is worthwhile whilst the other half not. Further discussion is given below.
The current website does have a front page with a number of the most recent interviews given by FM and NM but these are not repeated or consolidated anywhere – eg under ‘Investor Relations’ or ‘Media’, or as a pressroom section – where press or industrial commentators may find all relevant media resources. There is little evidence of a well thought out social media profile for the company – whilst there have been some attempts to introduce more personalised blog articles (CEO’s blog) it seems that these have dried up recently, maybe because of pressure of work following the Vametco completion. It may be better to remove those than have them hanging around looking out of date.
Existing Website Presentation
Survey respondents report generally acceptable levels of navigation and usability but clearly improvements can be made and some of the survey comments have been quite explicit in suggesting ways to restructure the information to make it easier to navigate through. Such a corporate website must appeal to many different audiences – new potential investors, existing investors, media correspondents, institutional investors, and possibly even customers. What works for one audience may not for another – the optimal solution must consider all potential audiences and find the best balance.
Respondents are generally more satisfied by the general layout and look of the website but the comments of those who scored the lowest (1 & 2) are worth looking at in case they have identified specific technical operating problems:
Website seems clunky and very dated, some of the pictures and diagrams were not readable and seem distorted.
Website too dull and a total revamp
Fully responsive HTML 5 code. A rebrand. … Considered UX design considered UI design. Capture and contact forms for mailing lists and database building.
The current website has links that don’t go anywhere and isn’t finished.
So there are maybe a few specific technical issues there that could be addressed – however the comments are also rather general in nature – which ties in with the results of the next question that imply a root and branch redesign is probably required.
Whilst it seems that most people view on a laptop/desktop it is interesting to note that the over half (30/57 – see the full spreadsheet) of those in this category also visit the BMN site on a device with a small screen. Putting it another way only 27 out of 84 (32%) respondents use only the larger screens of laptop/desktop. Having a design which only works well on wide screen displays perhaps then only indulges a minority of visitors. There is reasonable evidence (see the full spreadsheet) that visitors who only used Mobile or Tablet found the general ‘look and feel’ of the website to be worse than those who viewed on larger displays.
Whilst the website appears somewhat responsive it does not appear that a ‘mobile first’ design methodology has been used – and maybe this needs to be considered giving the viewing profiles uncovered in this survey. Such ‘mobile first’ design has sometimes been criticised in the past as it does not look ‘corporate enough’ – and that it is not appropriate for anything but the most minimal of websites – however this attitude is no longer valid – examples such as glencore’s website (mentioned by one of the respondents) show what can be achieved that has both corporate credibility and a reliable user experience (UX) on all screen sizes.
Future Website Features
This list, of course, is not exhaustive, but it is also not too exhausting – and gives a useful flavour of some of the things that PIs might have considered would be useful, or necessary, to have in the website of a mining company / vertically integrated Vanadium/VRFB business. Clearly, of all the options, option 2 – “Direct comparisons with other V/Sn/Coal producers” is the one that seems most popular of all these. The company has occasionally done this in investors presentations (eg see the last proactive presentation) – and could probably do so again on the website, were it not for the subtle issue of not incurring the displeasure of other businesses who may not take kindly to their key metrics being identified and potentially undermined quite so publicly. This is most apparent for the commodity Vanadium, where BMN and BE are trying to work closely with other Vanadium producers as part of Vanitec Energy Storage committee. It may seem prudent to avoid ill-will around this issue, though of course that is no reason why these kinds of comparisons could not be made on the Bushveld Perspective.
Approximately half of the sample population are enthusiastic about option 6 – the idea of a Vanadium or Tin industry newsletter, perhaps having seen and envied the daily postings by VanadiumCorp – whilst the other half are quite strongly against it – maybe due to perceived BoD effort involved. There seems to be similar disagreement about option 1 – the visualisation of in ground resources using 3d renderings, as has become popular with quite a few other junior explorers. Perhaps we have got beyond that stage and to go back and to start producing these types of images might send the wrong messages. It’s not what’s in the ground any more – it may now be more what is being driven out of the Vametco gates and delivered worldwide.
There is perhaps less disagreement about option 4 – the provision of on-site video for some of the mining assets – one respondent even wished for live webcams – however it, like option 3 – a gallery of mine/processing operations, are not considered a significant priority – so maybe a nice to have rather than a must have. Option 5 – Greater explanation of properties and usage of Vanadium – again some like the idea, some hate it and some think it is just ok – no doubt much of this information can be found on other websites, such as Vanitec, or VRFB manufacturing companies, but if BMN wishes to portray itself as an integrated Vanadium platform then it probably needs to given more guidance to new and potential investors as to all the varied, and important, uses of this relatively unknown metal, and exactly how BMN intends to monetise its position.
These judgements of course need to be made in the context of the overall future brand that the company is trying to establish – during the early days of AIM listing a company may be keenest on trying to establish credibility in the minds of PIs using its website and so may deliberately go for a very corporate look. When better established the company may feel more empowered to use its website to establish a brand that assists with other management goals (eg establishing market position with its customers). The answers to such questions will also strongly inform how the company wishes to use social media and other forms of marketing that complement the website – does it wish to connect with customers, industry pundits, or its shareholders – and is it prepared to put in the required resources to meet those goals ?