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Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

You’ve got a website. It’s got some cool graphics and information about your company and maybe even a shopping cart for selling products. You’ve tweaked your copy and checked your tags, yet your visitors don’t seem to do what you want them to do.

It’s time to take a step back and think about why you built a website in the first place.

“We have to have a website — everybody does!” This is the mentality of many business sites.

With that goal, inevitably you’ll end up with someone in upper management complaining that the site isn’t getting enough results to justify the expenses, although no one is sure how many sales or leads are attributed to the website. Or the CEO wants to know why the site’s PageRank is only a four, and traffic patterns don’t match last year’s numbers. Suddenly, everyone’s scrambling around to “fix” something that may not even be a problem. Sound familiar?

The problem is that many sites are built without a clear goal in mind. It sounds silly, but it’s true. It’s time to take two steps back and take a big-picture look at your website and what it can do for your business.

So what’s the goal of your website?

  • To inform?
  • To build a community?
  • To gain valuable market research?
  • To reduce support and customer service costs?
  • To reach a broad audience with a message?
  • To find sales leads?
  • To conduct e-commerce?
  • To entertain?
  • To gain advertising revenue?
  • To brand your company?
  • To brand yourself?
  • To attract attention?
  • To build trust?
  • To reduce paperwork?
  • To reduce printing and mailing costs?
  • To pre-qualify leads?
  • To recruit new employees?
  • To ??????  (insert your need here)

These are just some of the many possibilities. Remember, the Web is not just a marketing tool — it’s a business tool as well. While it is perfectly okay to have an Internet billboard that simply contains contact information, why settle for that when your site can do so much more? Even the smallest local business can utilize the power of the Internet to be more efficient and to build revenue. Once you start thinking about it, it’s easy to get excited about the potential for your site.

Once you have an idea of what you need the site to do, you’ve got to agree on some measurable goals. Too many people think traffic is the goal of a website. But think about it; would you rather have 1,000 people visit your site and do nothing, or have 100 people visit your site and take action? Does a PageRank of 7 mean anything to the real profitability of your company? These abstract, relative numbers don’t make a difference by themselves, and should not be the ultimate goal of any website.

More important are goals like new sales leads, an increase in average consumer satisfaction, decreased support calls, more sales, increased newsletter subscriptions or completed surveys. These are all measurable goals that DO mean something to your company.

Next, identify your target audience. Narrow this definition down to fit your unique customers. It’s time to think like your target audience. What do they need? What problem does your your product or service solve for them? Why are they even visiting your site? If you can’t get into their mindset, organize an informal focus group and ask them what they want. It’s that easy! Let them poke around your current site and give you feedback. Usability issues can be identified during this process as well.

You may find you need a formal usability analysis, a redesign or new content sections. Sometimes it’s even better to scrap the old site and start over from scratch. The important thing is that when you build a great site that keeps your users in mind, it will be easier to get good links, good rankings and all around good results. Your company and your customers will benefit.

If you want success online, contact us for a free 30 min conference call

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The Internet has uncaged the designer in all of us, but don’t forget to follow certain fundamental rules if you want to better your web presence. For example, always keep a consistent theme for your site so that a visitor knows that he/she is still on your site. Creating confusion is the last thing you want to do for your visitors. You have 3 seconds to capture their attention, make sure you are capturing them in the right way.

Developing consistent pages should not put limitations on your creativity. Consistency can be achieved with tasteful graphics, icons, font size, colors, font face and general page layout. It is equally important to know when to, or when not to use certain design elements because clutter sometimes distracts a visitor.

Make sure that you use compatible and complimentary colors across your site design. Using values from the same or similar color can bring consistency and help achieve a positive flow. First impressions are instant and color plays a big part of that first impression, be sure to use it to your advantage.

Here are a few additional tips that should help you in designing consistent pages.

* Use the same page layout and remain consistent
* Try to use similar colors or complimentary colors
* Use a uniform font face for your pages
* When using multiple colors, implement compatible shades or hues.

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SEO Tip (Call-To-Action)

Include a strong “call to action” to trigger a response from the reader/visitor.

Also remember that people get accustomed to the same type of tactics when they are repeated over and over. Practice coming up with new ways to present a “call to action” so that it still packs a punch, but does not get ignored. Give it a different style, use different colors, use bold easy to read fonts and you will see what works and what does not. Every demographic has its core styles that seem to “just” work.

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SEO and New Website Design

SEO (Search engine optimization) is a huge part of the internet world we live in today. Without companies like Google, Yahoo or MSN online businesses would not thrive the way they do nor would they have the chance to compete with millions of companies across the globe.  SEO has become the “MUST DO” things on the web.

In some cases, web sites need more attention on SEO than design/branding. The most important aspect of online success is measured by traffic and stickiness. What is the sites purpose? By knowing the purpose and understanding your demographic, you will be able to put the emphasis on the items that count most.

That brings us to the beginning!  Sounds strange right?  But this is accurate … we must always go back to the beginning, as well thought out plans and strategies that have a clear and concise plan of action will succeed. Part of this beginning plan has to deal with a website being brand new, never indexed, never cached and just flat out never seen to anyone. The biggest misconception is that we build a pretty, effective new site that does exactly what the client needs and will be in the #1 position within 3-4 weeks after launch. <Insert evil laugh as we designers have heard this a million times>

Time, (and I mean allot of it), needs to be factored into the planning of a new website. Search engines need to be notified that a new site exists and is ready for their crawlers to come dig through the code. This simple task of having a spider spend 1.4 seconds on your site takes 6-9 months longer than most clients expect or want to hear. There are some ways to lessen the time to have your new site seeded and cached, but overall a safe assumption is that it will take at least 8 weeks to even have your site crawled for the first time.  So in a nut shell, planning is essential and a well thought out strategic plan of action will prevail. Consider a holding page or pages to alert the engines that you exist. Building up to the day of launch will lighten the load of a fully engaged SEO plan.

Our job as designers/web developers is to make the client understand the SEO aspect of a website is a separate task at hand and normally has its own allocated budget and time constraints.

For more info on SEO and Web Design services visit:  Jtdesigns.com

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  • 2 Comments
  • Filed under: SEO, Web Design
  • What Makes a website a GREAT website!

    20 Rules of Website Design

    You have no choice. If you want to be successful online, you need to develop a website that serves the needs of your visitors in a manner that is both user-friendly and easily understood. This sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately, no one thing is going to make your website a success. You will need to constantly be trying and testing new things, even if you currently have a website that is doing well. Why? Because what works today isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow!

    In order to help you, here are a few rules that you should follow when developing and maintaining your own website:

    1. Fast Loading
    If your home page does not load quickly, your visitors will lose patience and click away. Get out a timer or a watch that registers seconds. Now stare at your screen for 10 seconds. It seems like an eternity, doesn’t it? Web surfers are extremely impatient — if they can’t begin reading or viewing your homepage in less than 10 seconds, they will simply leave.

    2. Focused
    Make sure your offer is immediately apparent! If visitors can’t instantly tell what your site has to offer, they’ll leave. We’ve all arrived at sites, only to leave seconds later because we couldn’t figure out what the site was all about. Your visitors are no different! Be sure that your site has a clear and distinct focus — and that your focus is immediately revealed in your titles or headings. Even a site that sells thousands of products should have a focus. Need an example? Office products — thousands of products, one focus! Or even DVD downloads — thousands of titles, one focus!

    3. Believable
    You need to establish credibility. If your visitors don’t trust you, they’re certainly not going to trust your offer! As a result, developing rapport with your visitors is critical to your success. Don’t make fantastic promises or offers that you can’t back up. Emphasize benefits, but also share information — facts! Use percentages and give real, concrete examples. Use testimonials. The more information you give your visitors, the more secure they’re going to feel about buying from you.

    4. Guarantee
    We’ve all been burned before and every time it happens, it becomes harder for us to trust anyone. Online, it’s worse. Guarantees help to alleviate any anxiety the customer may be feeling about ordering from you. If you are marketing a quality product or service, then you should not be afraid to back it up! Offer a 100%, no hassles, no questions asked, money-back guarantee. Be sure to keep your promises!

    5. Collect Email Addresses
    Do this as quickly as possible, from your home or index page. Give your visitors a reason to give you their email addresses. Offer them a free report, a free newsletter or free updates. Get their addresses and their permission to contact them.

    6. Limit Your Visitor’s Choices
    Don’t give visitors hundreds of choices on your main page. Lead them through your site. If you are selling a product or service, lead visitors towards the “decision to buy.” Don’t leave it to chance that out of a hundred choices on your main page, they might decide to look at and buy your product. In fact, if you give them too many choices, they simply won’t make one. Take control and lead them to your offer!

    7. Simple to Navigate
    Your website should be easy to navigate. Don’t make your visitors wade through dozens of irrelevant pages before you give them the information they need. Make it easy for your visitors to move through your site — they’ll stick around much longer, and will be more likely to visit you again!

    8. Consistent
    Be sure that the look and design of your site is consistent. Choose a background color and stick with it. Choose link and text colors, and use them consistently throughout the site. Always put your navigation buttons in the same place, be it along the side, or across the bottom of the page. Consistency of design will ensure that the experience at your site is a pleasant one. It will also let visitors know that they are still at your site, and haven’t linked off somewhere else!

    9. Be wise when using Colors for text
    Use colored text to indicate links (blue is traditional) and to emphasize important concepts or points. Too many different colors make your text hard to read — and look unprofessional. You are designing a web page, not a circus poster! .

    10. Be careful when choosing Colored Backgrounds
    Don’t get carried away using fancy background textures or colors. While it might look fabulous on your computer, it may look putrid on other computers using different browsers. Be particularly careful about using brightly colored backgrounds in combination with colored text. I’ve come across sites where I could barely read the text because it blended with the background color. Use contrast. Remember that different browsers read colors differently — some folks purposefully set their browsers to read only 16 or 256 color combinations. So be warned! While a white background with black text may seem pretty boring, everyone will be able to read your copy!

    11. Keep Graphics Small
    How big should files be? Should I use GIF’s or JPG’s? 
Graphic size (kilobytes) should be kept to a minimum so that images load quickly. You can control graphic size by reducing the total number of colors used or “crunch” them using any of the popular GIF or JPEG crunching programs available.

    12. Headlines
    Always remember that your headlines are the most important element of your sales copy. Test them extensively to see what attracts and holds your visitor’s attention.

    13. Links
    Your links can be boring, or they can invite people to click on them. They can either detract from your site, or contribute to it. Think creatively when developing your links!

    14. File Names
    Use descriptive and meaningful file names. Your files names not only show up in the search engines, but also at the top of your visitors browser and in their bookmarks! Would you remember why you bookmarked a page that looked like this:

    http://www.neatsite.com/cgi-bin/900wty/f862uz?5331a7qw334

    Or would you be more likely to return to

    http://www.neatsite.com/cgi-bin/Newsletter

    15. Java, Animation and Wild Graphics
    I’m not going to tell you NOT to use them. If, for example, you are a multimedia game designer demonstrating your skills, then it may be appropriate. But if you are selling vitamins, should you create a singing, dancing vitamin troupe? Again, it depends on who your audience is and what you are trying to accomplish. A singing, dancing vitamin troupe might be just the thing to teach children what the various vitamins are for. However, whether or not this kind of animation would help you to effectively sell vitamins to parents is another question. The technology you choose will depend largely on the kind of site you have and who your target audience is.

    16. Let Visitors Know Who You Are
    Make is easy for visitors to contact you — don’t make them hunt through your site for your email address or phone number. Part of building credibility involves letting people know exactly who you are and how they can contact you. Real phone numbers, real names and real addresses make a HUGE difference!

    17. Sales and Site Strategy
    Do you let your visitors wander aimlessly through your site, or do you gently lead them where you want them to go? If you are selling a product or service, you should definitely be leading them through your offer to a purchase. Even if your site is information based, you should still have a strategy. For example, at the end of an article, you could suggest another article that the visitor might be interested in viewing. Remember: Your goal is to keep people at your site!

    18. Taking Money
    Make it easy for people to buy from you. I’m sure this sounds ridiculous but I’ve seen far too many order forms that cause people to leave in frustration. People who make purchases on the web expect your ordering process to be fast and easy.

    19. Fresh Content
    Your website content must be up-to-date and relevant to your audience. If your site is information based, then you need to be sure that you are adding new content on a regular basis. Why would your visitors come back if there is nothing new for them? Plus, you lose credibility when your information is old and out of date. Make regular changes to your site. They do not need to be drastic changes — for example, quote recent web statistics instead of those from 5 years ago, change your testimonials regularly and update your copy.

    20. Keep Your Purpose in Focus at All Times!
    Don’t lose site of why you developed your website in the first place. Every aspect of your site should somehow contribute to your goal — be it to sell, inform, or simply entertain!

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    We strive to be the best internet company, not the biggest. With that said … We have focused our process on doing the 3 things that make a web site successful and profitable. Sure we can do e-commerce, Flash, and the one hundred other things that make up a GREAT website. Every website MUST have these 3 things to be successful.

    Professional Website Design

    Your Website has to look good, and be easy to use; your business depends on it. You have 6 seconds to engage your customer. We focus on creating user-friendly designs that convey your message with a strong call to action. By following industry web standards we also create websites that are accessible to the widest audience. Navigation systems need to be clean and intuitive to allow the user to find the information they seek fast. This means a great looking, easy-to-use website that converts casual browsers into buyers.br>

    Web Development

    Your Web site has to do something, and do it well. Whether selling goods online, or capturing user data for further marketing efforts, your website must have purpose. Our skilled team of in-house web developers specialize in creating systems that seamlessly integrate into any design. E-commerce, Database integration, Email systems, Custom web applications, they all work best when the experience is seamless for the user.

    Search Engine Optimization

    Your web site must have traffic, and lots of it. There are billions of potential customers searching for products and services that you offer. How will they find you? Google, Yahoo, and MSN will deliver those customers to your doorstep as long as you have top rankings for search terms your customers use. We specialize in optimizing websites for top rankings that are relevant to the business.

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