Using Customer Questions

Customer questions

There’s a range of benefits of asking your customers questions.

For example, you can use feedback to further improve your customer experience and product development. But you can also ask your customers questions online and monitor their feedback, to improve your lead generation.

Google has recently launched a Questions & Answers feature that integrates with Google My Business (you have setup Google My Business haven’t you?). If you haven’t noticed it before, try it out on your mobile phone. Do a normal search for your own business. You should see the usual business listing including a map, business address, trading hours and any reviews that have been submitted. You should also see a box labelled “Questions & Answers”.

This provides the searcher with the chance to ask a question of your business and community. It’s crowd-sourcing for answers if your community is engaged but it’s worthwhile getting ahead of the crowd. As the business owner, you want to control the answers in your own words at least to some degree. Former customer answers are a great signpost of trust (if they are of a positive nature) but they do take time to filter back.  You can post answers to frequently asked questions upfront so searchers get answers immediately. Maybe you already have FAQs on your website so why not re-use the most relevant ones for Google Questions & Answers.

Need customer questions?

If you have a physical shop, you are probably having customer conversations every day. These are extremely valuable to gain insight on what they are asking.

Although a lot less personal, online insights can be found on social media platforms. You can monitor conversations and ask questions yourself. If you have been capturing customer email addresses you could create a survey and send it out asking for responses. Here are 4 benefits of asking your customers questions.

1. Get content for blog ideas and FAQs section.

If your customers are frequently asking you questions, whether face-to-face or via social media, then you can guarantee that they’re searching for these very answers both on your website and through Google. So, if you don’t already have one, create an FAQ page on your site and continue to build its list of questions by monitoring what you’re often being asked. That will make your site experience better for your customers and it should also help you to attract more visits from search engines.

Finding relevant content is a big pain-point for small businesses. You could write a blog post that covers the best questions you’ve received in detail.

2. Web development considerations.

For small businesses, the traditional web development process involves a business owner preparing a briefing document for a web developer. The developer then builds the site and after tweaking and testing it goes live. Hopefully the designer asks relevant questions about your goals and provides good advice. The website visitors don’t have any influence on the site’s user experience (UX) it delivers. You could engage a UX professional and conduct testing, but why not ask your customers what they want to achieve from visiting your site?

3. Website copy generation.

Writing good online copy is an art form and it’s critical to achieving your website goals. Excellent copy can demonstrate trust, improve the customer experience and generate more leads. Take what you learn from your customers to help guide your copywriter if you don’t believe you can do it yourself. Writing for the web is different from print as people tend to scan online text rather than read everything.  This makes it critical that the copy is crafted well for online consumption.

4. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Understanding what your customers are looking for when visiting your business site will help you write your SEO copy as well. You should review existing content and fine tune your page and post meta titles and descriptions. When potential customers are searching for your product or service, this content dictates their choice to follow through with you or look elsewhere. This relates to what searchers see in Google results. The blue heading, the green URL and grey meta description are all under your control so use them wisely based on the questions your potential clients are looking to have answered.

Need help getting feedback from your customers?  Contact us to schedule a quick consultation.

Responsive Design Basics

Responsive design

Responsive design for business websites.

Mobile device usage continues to grow therefore people are increasing using them to access websites. This means that it’s never been more important to make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

Responsive web design is an overall approach to building websites. It encompasses web specification standards and flexible design models. The philosophy behind it stems from the wish to make the web accessible to as many devices as possible.

Responsive design ensures that a website displays properly on desktops, mobile phones an tablets. This simple concept has generated many design tools that make creation easier for designers and people who want to do-it-themselves.We use WordPress for most of our site build projects and the first thing we tick off is to choose a theme that has responsiveness built-in.

Mobile responsiveness is now a ranking reason

Several months ago Google announced that the user-friendliness of sites on mobile devices will become a ranking factor. This is why this issue has recently become a focus of attention online.

I recommend reading Brenda Barron’s comprehensive article about responsive web design at digital.com.

WHAT IS RESPONSIVE DESIGN?

Web designers faced new challenges when smartphones began to dominate the quantity of online browsing. Staring with Apples first iPhone we saw a major burst of devices hit the market. Regular upgrades resulted in the need to design for a range of screen sizes and for all the popular we browsers.

In response to this problem, the open source community of software engineers and designers got together to create a set of standards to achieve better cross compatibility. Those standards helped shaped best industry practices, which include responsive design. Collectively, these methods and specifications are known as responsive web design.

The actual term “responsive web design” was coined by Ethan Marcotte on his blog, A List Apart, in 2010. He was more than just a PR spokesman for the movement, however; he also played a major role in developing the best practices for it.

Brenda’s article is targeted at people looking for technical insights so here’s a summary of 3 key points of her post:

  • You don’t need to use Javascript in a responsive web design.
  • Responsive web design consists of fluid grids, flexible media and media queries.
  • Responsive design improves site accessibility.

How does your business website stack up?

After you’ve read Brenda’s excellent article have a think about how it relates to your business website. Hopefully your site doesn’t need attention but there’s a good chance there will be at least a couple of things to fix. We offer a free review of business websites with a report outlining the top things that need more focus. Get in touch with us now to order your review.

7 Mobile Website Design tips

Mobile website design tips

Mobile website design is crucial for business.

The percentage of internet users with mobile devices is at 80% and climbing. So that’s millions of people looking for products and services online with small screens. In order to satisfy potential customers, every business must make their site easy to navigate on mobile devices.

Besides being findable and fast, mobile-friendly sites should offer visitors an enjoyable experience. This is ideally done at the initially design stage but with site changes over time things can get out of hand. Perhaps it’s time to step back and look critically at your business website and make some improvements.

Many sites that have been online since before the advent of smart devices just won’t work with small screens. In your review focus on removing all obstacles and make sure users can reach their goals quickly. This is not a complete list of things you can consider but they will help to bring your mobile website up to modern-day standards.

7 mobile website design tips

  1. Don’t make site visitors have to zoom in on your content. Also ensure landscape and portrait orientation works well.
  2. Optimise the size of your typography. Use a modern easy-to-read font family and don’t use too many different fonts and sizes. The ideally font size for smaller screens is 14px.
  3. Add some space between elements on your pages. White space usage is a clever aesthetic design tactic but it is also important for functionality.  You must have good space between elements especially clickable buttons.
  4. While we are on buttons – make sure you get the sizes right. People have different sized fingers and thumbs so going large is generally ideal as long as it still suits the overall design.
  5. Ensure your navigation buttons are clear, easily activated and lead to the correct content.  If you have sub-menus that must be clickable (touchable) and behave in a way that makes selection easy. Also make sure there is a simple way for users to get back to your home page.
  6. One huge advantage mobile site users have over desktop user is the click to call function. Display your business phone number and make it clickable.
  7. Online forms work very differently on desktops and smart devices. Time spent testing and tweaking on tablets and mobiles phones will reap good rewards. Mobile users don’t have access to a traditional keyboard or mouse. Restrict the need for them to have to type by adding drop-down selections wherever possible.

How does your business website stack up?

So there’s 7 design tips for mobile devices – hopefully your business website doesn’t need attention to all of them. However there’s a good chance there will be at least a couple of things to fix. We offer a free review of business websites with a report outlining the top things that need more focus. Get in touch with us now to order your review.

3 Reasons Why You Need a Contact Form

Contact Forms

Okay so you have your website setup and are open for online business.  

Use a Contact Form to fulfill your site goal.  You have decided you key goal is to have site visitors contact you.  You spent a lot of time, energy and money getting potential customers on your page so achieving a completion is crucial.

You need to make it clear what you want them to do.  Giving people options is great but if your business doesn’t have someone to answer the phone then don’t feature your phone number so prominently.  Include the number on the page of course but you decide how you want to be contacted.

If you want to be engaged via email it’s crucial to feature an online contact form that interested potential clients can fill in.

  1. Make it easy to find on your website.
  2. Don’t ask for too much information.
  3. Include an enticing call to action.

A sad but common scenario.

A family member or friend has referred an interested prospective customer to your business.  Like everyone, this prospective client visits your website to learn more about who you are and what products and services you offer.

They like what they see however they don’t call for an appointment or send an email.  Why?  There are many possible reasons but one is that they don’t see how they should engage with you.  You have images sliding in and out.  There are testimonials from other customers extolling your service levels. There are pop-up windows begging people join up for a newsletter they don’t need.  Where is the easy way for them to ask a question?

Rather than giving them the confidence that you know what you’re doing and you can help them, your website did the opposite. It created doubt, uncertainty and a general feeling of confusion about you and your business.

So they go to their search engine to look somewhere else. More than likely they land on your main competitor’s site who will provide what they need – a clear method of contact. Getting clients is hard enough – don’t make it even harder by ignoring a basic website function.

Other things to get right on your website

  • Absolutely proof-read your content to make sure it’s free of errors and typos. Nothing screams amateur like misspellings and grammatical errors.  Have someone else read it all as well if you are not 100% confident.
  • Have your website professionally designed. It shouldn’t look like it was built by a teenager between playing computer games.
  • Make sure your content is organised and easy to navigate.
  • Remove superfluous content and other distractions that don’t lead your site visitor towards your goal.
  • Keep your site’s content relevant and up-to-date.
  • Personalise your content by including images of your staff (for goodness sake don’t use stock images of random people).  Also include a short profile of them.

Responsive Website – What It Is, Why You Need It

Responsive Website

Everyone expects a responsive website whenever they are online.

A ‘responsive website’ is one that delivers the visitor a pleasant visual and functional experience regardless of whether they are using a desktop, laptop, tablet or modern mobile phone.  Any web designer worth hiring has the knowledge, skills and tools to produce a fully functional site to make sure users aren’t immediately horrified by skewed text and images or pages that are oversized or super small.

Why is a responsive website import to your business?

Having a website designed with responsiveness in mind has the following advantages:

  • Avoid frustrating or scaring your potential customers away.
  • Ensuring you protect your brand and prove you are a modern business.
  • Provide a consistent user experience when clients use multiple devices.
  • Your customers are more likely to buy or contact you (or whatever your site goal is).

How do you make sure you get a responsive website for your business ?

Was your current website built before the relatively recent boom in the smart phones? This means that it is not going to look great on iPhones and Android devices.  Internet usage on mobile phones has overtaken the desktop and there’s no sign of reversal.  It’s going to grow so your business has to get with the times if your website hasn’t been upgraded for a while.  While creating responsive website is not as hard as it used to be it can still be time-consuming.  There is more development and testing required but you must make it clear to your developer that responsiveness is a must-have.

How does responsive web design work?

I won’t go into too much detail as you probably don’t care about the technical aspects but  it’s important to have a basic understanding when talking with your web designer.  The 3 key components are:

Having a fluid layout.

This allows the web page to contract and expand with the browser owing to being percentage based.  In the past, page columns had hard-coded widths (in pixels) which would be rendered as such regardless of the size of the screen in use.  In fluid layout a page set to 100% would show a scaled full screen on any device.

Images have to responsive.

Responsive Images shrink and grow according to a user’s browser which best fits the web page. While not always easy to do, web designers will try images at various sizes to optimise performance.  This is also important for search engine visibility.  When using very large images it will take a long time to load on devices that have a slower internet connection.  Most people won’t wait long these days before giving up and trying your competitor’s site.  Sometimes Javascript can used to display a lower resolution on slow connections.

Media queries need to be considered.

These allow device specific rules to be applied.  This could include hiding, increasing, moving or showing content to allow for a better end-user experience.  This is used to make sure specific devices display properly.  For example an image that looks great on a big screen is coded to not show on an iPhone.

Have an older site that doesn’t look great on modern smart devices? Perhaps it’s time for a Homepage Reno.  Get in touch soon and we’ll take a look for you and advise on the opportunities open to you.

 

Brand Logo Ideas for 2017

Brand Logo trends 2017

Your logo is a key asset for your business.

They may only take up a small piece of your online real estate but your logo plays a big role in your business. The team over at Wix.com have put together a great article that outlines the main considerations and goals for online branding. The main goal is to serve as a visual mark of your brand while transmitting your company’s message. Yet, the million dollar question remains: what makes a good logo? A great logo should embody your brand and be instantly recognisable. For example, if we say Nike we bet you can imagine the logo right away. It pops up in all kinds of places from your business cards to your PowerPoint presentations, and of course, on your very own business website. Since your logo is a key part of your brand, it’s crucial that it shines above the rest.

Before we dive into the trends, here are some golden principles to keep in mind of what makes a great logo:

Simple: Great logos feature unique elements without too much detail.
Versatile: Aim for one that will look good across all different platforms and devices.
Appropriate: The font, colors and design of your logo should be a true representation of your brand.
Unique: You want your logo to sparkle in a sea of competitors.

When you think about it, logos are not too different from fashion, coffee and websites. They all have a classic version, but trends allow them to really stand out. To help you achieve just that, wix.com have compiled a list of the best logo trends of 2017.

1. Simplification

This trend seems to be telling of the general forecast for 2017 where the phrase ‘less is more’ has never been more fitting. Simplification is the big sister of the rest of the trends, which all focus on streamlining and tightening up design elements. Busy and intricate items have been switched out for sleek and simple, yet still creative works of art. The best part of it all? This trend is suitable for all types of businesses! If your logo is way overdue for a new look, it may just need to be taken back to the basics in order to be ready for 2017.

The surge of mobile users is reason enough to start streamlining. More than 1 out of 2 Internet visitors today are from smartphones and tablets. Small screens equal small design items, so keep this in mind when designing your logo.

2. Geometric lines and shapes

Speaking of simplicity, there’s nothing quite as effortless and elegant as clean lines. What if the rush of emotions you feel when gazing at a majestic skyline could be conveyed through your logo? Simple, yet strikingly beautiful! The trend lends itself to using geometric shapes (think middle school math class: triangles, squares, polygons) as well as lines of symmetry to create distinct and unusual formations.

This simplification could serve as a creative solution to reviving an old but respected brand, putting it back in the spotlight where it belongs!

3. Negative space

With this specific design trend there is definitely more than meets the eye. The style tries to ease complexity by melting various elements together in an innovative way. Using only black and white or solid colors and white, an optical illusion is created by using both negative and positive space. The foreground is designed to create a supplementary image within the background. As the elements within the logo have the possibility to be multi-dimensional, these logos often give a deeper (possibly double) message or can offer more information about the brand – such as location.

A very particular type of skill and level of creativity is needed to produce such a magical work of art. That being said, this trend is most fitting to professions such as: web designers, ad agencies, artists and photographers.

4. Letter stacking

In keeping with the theme of simplicity, letter stacking is a great way to present text in a clear and concise way. Rather than simply writing out your businesses name, letter stacking strategically places the letters above, below and side by side of each other. Imagine your company’s name fitting into a square.The unique layout of the letters creates a more visual logo.

When the letters are stacked, the font essentially becomes your logo. Due to the nature of the logo, it requires the reader to pay a bit more attention than usual as it may not be “in your face” obvious what the letters spell out. This is the beauty of this trend, the unique layout is sure to create a lasting impression! If your existing logo is your company’s name, like a lawyer’s office or a hotel, just spelled out, consider spicing things up with some stacking.

5. Cropping

This is a well known technique that pushes the envelope by showing as little as possible while still communicating a strong message. Again, the trend continues to show that less is more. The style here is to “hide” certain elements of letters but leaving just enough so that you are still able to read the word. For example: How much of the letter “J” do you really need to show in order for your audience to recognise the letter? The answer: much less than you thought! The design style definitely gives off an edgier look, so any young, trendy or contemporary business will work.

6. Hand drawn

These days, our lives are so geared towards technology that a handwritten note seems to be something of the past. However, when you do discover that box under your bed full of birthday cards and mail from across the sea, it gives you a comforting sense of nostalgia. That same cozy and personal feeling can be transmitted to your brand by creating a logo that looks hand drawn. These designs emanate a variety of senses including: quirky playfulness, fresh, grounded and casual – something that typed letters are restricted by. Warning: make sure your logo remains legible (avoid the family doctor syndrome).

Best for: Restaurants, ad agencies and mostly shops/retail. Handwriting is about signature and personality. Basically, any brand aiming to add more personality into their logo.

7. Vintage

Since we’re already reminiscing about the past let’s talk: vintage logos! The trend uses a combination of designs elements such as black, white and gold writing, a stylized yet simple image and lines and geometric shapes. When used correctly, this trend can give your brand the sense of an established, trustworthy business. The trend plays on evoking emotions of nostalgia, much like the handwritten trend, within the customer. Be warned though: you’ll need to find the right balance between looking hipstery or just plain old. You don’t want your brand to look as if it’s stuck in the past.

The general vibe of this trend leans towards a more masculine businesses, such as: barbers, whisky bars or cigar lounges.

8. Black and White

As simple as the name suggests, it’s all about using black and white colors. Don’t be too quick to judge these seemingly straightforward colors. When used correctly they exude a sense of power and class (think of Chanel and those famous Cs) It’s back to the basics. It can fit anywhere, any design and suit an array of color schemes.

The black and white trend can be combined with the negative space trend for a real wow factor. It can also serve as a variation of your current, coloured logo. You don’t have to apply it to every single platform but the idea is to have an assortment of different versions of your logo to be used on an array of platforms.

9. Ombre

Gone are the days of using one dimensional and standard colors. Instead, welcome cool, subtle gradients. This trend uses softer hues to allow for dimension that’s presented in a delicate way. The style plays on blending an array of shades and tones of one color starting with the darker tones and gradually fading out.

Let’s take everyone’s favourite photo sharing app, Instagram, as a prime example. The retro – looking camera logo was swapped out for a gradient of warm, sunset colours and a simple white outline of a camera.

Why does it work? It’s intriguing to the eyes. Since you’re presented with a variation of colours, you’re more likely to pay attention. Since the creative possibilities are endless you can use shades and tones that best suit your business’s personality. The whimsical, slightly more feminine trend is great for any artistic based business such as a beauty blogger, a wedding photographer or a fashion stylist.

10. Moving parts

The latest trend on the horizon creatively combines print material and web – based animated GIF’s forming a moving logo. Similar to the concept of the cinemagraph the moving parts logo surprises with an eye catching element into something that you would expect to be still. How could that not be catchy? An added element of surprise can benefit virtually anybody. So get moving in 2017!

I highly recommend taking a look at the original Wix.con blog article that includes real-world examples of logos that use any of the 10 trending aspects.

 

6 Elements of Attractive Web Design and Why it’s Important

Attractive Web Design

Attractive Web Design Tips.

A Digital Influence Index report from 2012 revealed that 89% of customers searched online ahead of making a purchasing decision (Digital Influence Index 2012). Fast-forward 5 years and you can expect that percentage to be even higher.

How does your website stack up in the beauty stakes?

Often your website is the first impression your potential customers get of your company and its products and services. How a site looks is a primary driver of those first impressions. No-one who surfs the web would find this surprising but maybe some would be stunned to learn how quickly site visitors decide whether they like a site or not. In fact, it takes just a split-second to form an opinion about your website and not much longer to click the back button.

Stats to Ponder.

• 94% of first impressions are design-related (even if the content is above average)

• 75% of users admit that they judge a business based on their website design (Stanford Web Credibility Research).

• A 2103 Harvard University study revealed that business sites that are perceived as looking good are also perceived as usable and trustworthy.

So with all this in mind here’s a list of site elements that are important to get right when you are creating a new website or renovating an existing one.

Elements of Attractive Web Design.

  1. Images and Graphics – Regardless of your business or industry choose images and graphics that showcase your company appropriately. Be mindful of community/social considerations at all times to avoid offending any individual or group. Top-quality images are available from online services such as shutterstock.com. If your business is personal or hyper-local then contracting a photographer for bespoke imagery could be a good option.
  2. Simplicity – Remove as much complexity as you can from your design. Keeping things simple by excluding unnecessary components that confuse or distract will give you the best chance of moving your visitors towards your goal.
  3. Usability – Whatever you do make sure you don’t make it hard for site visitors to find their way around your website. Give careful consideration to your navigation and be brutal in deciding to remove links that either confuse or distract from your goals. Less is more in most cases and make sure you know what you want your visitors to do and then make it as easy as possible for them to do it.
  4. Colours – Most businesses have a logo or branding which consists of at least one colour. This colour should feature on your site but refrain from overdoing it if impacts the look and feel of your site. Just because your logo is pink doesn’t mean your homepage background needs to be pink as well. Your site’s colours should convey your personality or brand so be aware of what mood you want to convey. Also be aware that some colours have emotional links that you may want to avoid.
  5. Fonts – As with colours, a company’s text style or font should also reflect branding used elsewhere such as print advertising or premises signage. However the most important factor is readability online. Some fonts that are ornate of based on handwriting don’t present well on a web page and should be avoided. Google fonts have become popular and are available for use by most modern professional WordPress themes.
  6. Consistency – For sites that have multiple pages make sure you maintain design styling across all pages. The use of elements including heading and paragraph style, navigation, images, fonts, colours and call-to-action buttons should be consistent site-wide.

Where To From Here?

Getting all this right on your own website can be a challenge when running your business takes up all your time.  Fixing things doesn’t need to take too long when you know what to do and how to achieve it.  When we launch into one of our Homepage Reno’s  the work is generally complete inside two working days based on the current content on a site.  We fix up all issues and produce a modern professional-looking website ready to entice site visitors to spend more time on a page and get them to ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Contact Us’ actions.  Learn more about our Homepage Reno product – we’d love to help you modernise your business website.

2 Options for Serving Video Content

Video for your website

It’s no surprise that video content is continuing to grow in popularity.

The YouTube video platform is the second most used search engine after Google. Creating video content and publishing it on YouTube will assist your website to gain traction with your target audience.  Here are two ways to integrate video on your site so let’s explore which method is better and why. 

Video Embedding Method #1 – Hosted on your own website.

Depending on duration, videos files can be very large particularly if they are High Definition (which they should be).  Large files place a heavy drain on your server which can negatively impact the performance of your site.

Uploading video files to your website will take up a great deal of storage space.  There are bandwidth issues too and will take longer to load than a YouTube video even if optimised.

Be aware of how to maintain the minimum acceptable standard of video hosting on your website site. You must manage and resolve technical issues including software updates and media player idiosyncrasies.

Delays in a video playback or even worse a non-functioning player will annoy your site visitors and prompt them to leave and seek what they need elsewhere.

Video Embedding Method #2 – Embed from YouTube server.

Rather than uploading your video to your own server upload it to YouTube (or other video hosts such as Vimeo).  It’s very easy to create your own channel so that people can see all your clips in a single place. However this article is about adding a single video to your website.  

Important.

Prevent “Related Videos” offer. Once people finish your video they (by default) are presented with other video suggestions.  These could include links to competitors or less-desirable content so you need to deal with it. It’s a simple matter to add &rel=0 to the end of your embedded YouTube URL to disable this feature.

Once you have the video uploaded YouTube will present you with a unique URL.  It won’t have an easy-to-read name but rather a string of seemingly random letters, numbers and special characters following the standard https://www.youtube.com prefix. All you need to do is copy and paste the Youtube url into a line in WordPress and it will present the video with a preview image that you set when uploading. 

I always recommend the YouTube method but there are some tweaks required on your site to make sure the clip performs appropriately.

Make sure you set a maximum size.

 YouTube videos are embedded with a default size across all WordPress sites.  You need to make sure this is suitable for your page size and/or blog by changing the width or height.

Using video on websites is becoming even more popular as it is with social media sites such as Facebook. So consider including some on your business site.  But be careful to stick to relevant and engaging content and keep the durations short (less than 3 minutes).  If you have longer content break them up into 3 minute videos rather than an extra large single clip – your site visitors will thank you.

If you’d like some advice about this topic or anything to do with getting more from your existing business website – ask for a free review and we’ll get back to you soon.

Ensure Your Images Suit your Purpose

Ensure Your Images Suit your Purpose

The use or imagery adds information along with interest and should convey to the site visitor an overall feeling that they are in the right place for what they are seeking to achieve.  You have no doubt spent a considerable amount of effort, time and perhaps money to attract people to your page so make sure the images don’t offend, distract, bore or convey a general ‘fish-out-of-water’ feeling (as with the doctor outside a graveyard used as this blog’s picture). Expressing an idea or the way forward to your conversion goal via images is far more effective than by just using text.  People don’t want to read paragraphs of information.  Make it easy for people to continue on your site.

Top 5 Rules for effective use of images on your site

  1. Images should fit the purpose, organisation, and style of the page. They should enhance the design, structure, or informative content of the web page without distracting attention. 
  2. Make sure you have optimised the images to cut their file size. Excessive “page weight” caused by poor image use can result in slow load times for pages. Also make sure that you have enough white space on your page.  Too much graphical content is very tiring on the eye.
  3. Images should aid in guiding the page visitor’s’ focus to the important content on the page. Using visually strong graphic elements on a page is useful in directing visitor’s attention and providing structure for the page but be careful to distract with brightly coloured animated GIFs or image sliders.
  4. At all costs avoid images that may cause offence to any person on things like race, religion, disability.  Something that you may think is funny may not appeal to everyone.  Humour is extremely difficult to get right so leave that to the professionals especially if your site is a business.
  5. Don’t use a picture to convey text. This avoid a myriad of potential problems including file size, resizing issues, non search-ability etc.  While on the subject of text make sure you include a description of the image using the Alternative Text tag for accessibility reasons (and to meet best practice standards).

Challenge – take a look at your site and look at the images you are presenting.  Are you on track with the 5 guidelines?

If you would like a free independent review of your site please let me know and I’d be happy to help out with suggestions on how to improve the effectiveness of your images.

Towards Mobility

The Internet is abuzz with facts and figures purporting that the world is moving inexorably towards mobility.  So what is the real story?

Well if you believe Google’s mobile path to purchase report which surveyed 950 consumers in the USA across 9 different verticals then the statement is true.

The study included Apparel & Beauty, Restaurants, Food & Cooking, Travel, Finance, Travel, Electronics, Automotive and Health & Nutrition verticals to assess how they researched purchases via mobile or smart devices. A major finding was the breakdown of where searches originated from. 

The question asked of respondents was – ‘thinking back to the last time you researched information about <your category> on your smartphone on which type of website/app did you begin your search?’

No surprise that Google Search (as well as other search engines) was the most common starting point, but the result was lower than for desktop which clearly demonstrates the dominance of branded websites and branded apps.

Search Engine – 48%

Branded Websites – 33%

Branded Apps – 26%

The message is clear that even if your site visitors still mostly land on your site via the desktop the day will come when they switch over so make sure your site is geared up for mobile access now.  If you’d like an independent assessment of your website please reach out.

Testimonial Tactics

Social proof helps build business – Testimonial feedback is one way to go.

Ever landed on a page and been presented with comments from random people about how good the website products or services are?  Sure you have – ‘testimonials’ are as ubiquitous today as search boxes and pop-ups but can they be trusted?

Some claims seem too good to be genuine so you need to make up your own mind but often the lack of such proof can be more of a concern.  If your business is new on the block it’s likely you are building your customer base and don’t have real-person feedback to share.  Try providing a service or two for free and seek a comment in return for use as a testimonial.  This will suffice until you have some additional feedback from paying customers but get something on your site as soon as you can.

Never make up your own feedback or invent people as the impact of being found out could wreck the reputation you are trying to build.  It takes time and effort so recognise that and keep it real.

Other effective types of social proof are:

  1. Ratings and Reviews.
  2. Figures showing approval ratings or quality scores.
  3. Endorsement by people of influence.
  4. Display of brand logos (often clients).
  5. Accreditation badges.
  6. Social Media follower numbers.

As with testimonials all these elements are designed to give site visitors the confidence to proceed to their goal so use them judiciously and honestly.

If you are interested in more insight on social proof check Barry Feldman’s great article on kissmetrics.com.

 

5 Tips for Mobility Success

How to ensure your site performs well on the mobility front.

SmartInsights.com recently delivered a report that showed that 80% of internet users access content via a smartphone and 47% via tablets (in addition to PC/Laptops). These figures are growing every day so it’s crucial to have mobility in mind when developing your web content.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind:

  1. If you are using WordPress make sure you choose a Theme that has Mobile versioning built-in. This will ensure you get the best chance of developing a site that works well on the desktop as well as on smart devices.
  2. Be mindful of your image sizes and avoid overuse of modern-day sliders that include animations. Mobile devices are prone to the vagaries of differing connectivity challenges so keep file sizes as low as possible.
  3. Test, test, test. Simulators are great but there’s no substitute for the real thing. Ads and Video files are sometimes blocked on smart devices and image file size can be a killer on mobile devices.
  4. Avoid separate URLs for mobile sites. Separating can have adverse impacts on your search engine ranking as Google for instance will index them as discreet entities effectively splitting your scores.
  5. Don’t just develop for the desktop only and assume that it works well on smart devices. Give serious thought about the layout of your pages with both desktop and mobile in mind and don’t just leave all the work to your theme.

The graphic used here has been re-worked from Dave Chaffey’s article on SmartInsights.com.

Freshen Your Content

5 Tips to Freshen Your Content

Using the ‘set-and-forget’ method for your homepage is a recipe for poor performance. Enticing visitors back to your site should be a key conversion goal so make sure you keep your content fresh.

Tips for keeping it fresh on your homepage:

  1. Showcase your latest blog post or even better create a carousel displaying you last 4-5 posts.
  2. Switch from showing your static homepage to your blog every now and then.
  3. Add an offer or giveaway periodically to gauge interest.
  4. Step back and make sure what you are offering is still clear and accessible.
  5. Assess the type and style of images you are using. Make sure they images add interest but no detract from your message.

Search box location Review

Current trend for positioning Search box.

Styles come and go on the Internet but there are several key elements that always take pride of place and don’t generally get meddled with.  One of those is the ubiquitous Search Box.

In this review I’ve done a whip around the Alexa Top sites (English language only) and visually displayed where these sites currently locate their search boxes.  There is a degree of variation but the top-left remains the the go-to place.

Design vs. Analysis

Remember when web design was just about the design?

Wes McDowell posted a great article on uxmastery.com outlining common web design problems and solutions.

“We used whatever rudimentary tools we had to create a mostly informational, brochureware site, and just hoped people would find it. We had no analytics — no way of knowing if people were visiting, how long they were sticking around, and we certainly couldn’t track conversions. We just focused on making it pretty.”

Read Wes’ full article that covers email capture, one-pager formats and blog platforms.

8 Things that Distract Your Site Visitors

Are elements on the page distracting away from your conversion goal?

8 things that distract site visitors

  1. Auto-playing videos or audio. Don’t make your site visitor’s first action to mute or worse still hit the back arrow. Let them be in control of what plays and when.
  2. Pop-ups done wrong – timing is everything so don’t schedule them to load after 5 seconds. Give your visitors some time to get to know you before you try to kiss them. And do testing to ascertain how they are working and then fine-tune.
  3. Slow loading pages – people are very quick to give up on sites that take longer than expected to load. Use testing to understand why your pages are slow.
  4. Animations – a trend in modern websites is to display a sequence of very large images with text that sweeps in and fades out which often simply looks like showing off. If you have to do it be thoughtful and make sure it’s consistent with your goal pathway.
  5. Headlines that don’t match content – don’t mislead and disappoint your visitors with empty promises or deliver something they didn’t really want.
  6. Obvious use of stock images. Everyone understands that not all images on a site are originals. Be careful not to overuse ones that are likely to be popular. Be particularly careful with images of people who obviously don’t work for your company. Get real ones and put names on them as this helps with trust as well.
  7. Advertising – you are running a business of your own so why have ads for other companies on your site? You may have an affiliate relationship with some advertisers or perhaps your income is generated via advertising but make sure it is well balanced with your core content.
  8. Sponsored content – Avoid over-selling the benefits of other companies products in the guise of editorial content. This comes across as too-salesy especially for products not related to your own business.

Watch Your Text Limits

Question – Am I asking my site visitors to churn through too much text?

There are two key considerations that need to be balanced when finalising the textual content on your webpage. The first is to provide appropriate information for your site visitor and the second is to ensure that the search engines are kept happy. Here’s a tip to satisfy your site visitors.

TIP – be brutal with your content and reduce the words by 50%. Take a look at what online news sites do. They show an attention-grabbing headline and succinct explanation of the topic.

Generally people arrive on your page with a specific goal in mind. They may be there to find information or purchase a product/service. Either way, they will make very quick decisions about whether to proceed based on the information you provide. People ‘scan’ content so presenting them with lines and lines of text will make this difficult.

Using the preceding paragraph as an example, I’ll show how to sharpen up text content. The paragraph consists of 57 words – 344 characters – 5 lines:

Paragraph re-written with 50% target in mind:

Website visitors are goal-oriented. They crave information or purchase opportunities and make fast decisions so make it quick and easy. They ‘scan’ text so limit to essential information. (28 words – 216 characters – 3 lines).

Give it a try on your current content and ask me for help if you need it.

Top 10 Website Colour Selection Tips

Have you thought about how to use colour on your site?

Before you decide on the visual style for your website take some time to review how some of the most popular sites are currently using imagery and the other key visual element of colour. Big companies spend a load of cash on market research including finding out which visuals encourage site visitors to fulfill their goals. This could be to buy, join, learn or take some other action.

Colour schemes popularity can be prone to flavour-of-the-month syndrome and change according to the times but there are tried-and-true palettes that will always work. Find a few sites that have the same call to action as yours and implement similar styling without copying it exactly. Do some A/B testing by changing the scheme from time-to-time and see what works best for your site.

Here are the Top 10 reasons to think about colour on your site as outlined on Understanding Graphics.com who provide great explanations of each of the listed reasons:

  1. Speed-up visual search.
  2. Improve object recognition.
  3. Enhance meaning.
  4. Convey Structure.
  5. Establish Identity.
  6. Convey symbolism.
  7. Improve usability.
  8. Communicate mood.
  9. Show associations.
  10. Express metaphors.

 

Professional graphic designers don’t just pick colours randomly – there are reasons behind every style decision so study their methods and take a lead from them to use on your site.

An assessment of the use of colour is one the elements included in my Full Service Package which is a screenflow movie as well as a PDF report on how your site is functioning and what may need to be fixed.

Consistency is King

Don’t try to change the internet by presenting a new style of webpage – Consistency is King.

Let’s face the facts:

  1. It’s likely that your site is not the first one visited by customers.
  2. Visitors to your site will spend more of their time on other sites.
  3. People leave sites fast if they are confused.

All this means that you should make sure your site is consistent across all pages but also that it conforms to standards set across the internet. This doesn’t mean that your site has to look exactly like every other site but visitors will be looking for certain modules that gives them comfort and confidence that yours is up to snuff. This includes having a logical and well-sited Navigation Bar, modern elements such as drop-down boxes, clean forms, modern search boxes, date-pickers where applicable and features such as videos and image galleries set out in easy-on-the-eye frames.

Including something funky may lead to sub-optimal performance if any of the major browsers have problems displaying them correctly.

A large proportion of small business websites are developed on platforms such as WordPress and Squarespace using pre-tested themes and plugins, which removes a chunk of risk. They also offer regular updates, which makes adding new functionality much easier.

A great example of what is possible from a great WordPress theme can be found on the Mojo Marketplace.

Navigation ‘No-No’s’

Navigation No No's

Navigation ‘No-No’s’ – Presenting site visitors with an effective navigation menu instantly provides them with a guide to the type of content they can expect. Generally they see a Blog, Shop or Products page, About Us, Contact mechanism, perhaps a Search facility and others depending on the type of site. These are all standard navigation elements, which put a site visitor’s mind at ease.

However even with just a standard set of top-level menu items many people muddy the water by adding sub-level complexity and mouse-control issues.

Avoid these scenarios:

  • Menu placement in the middle of a page. Don’t try to set a new paradigm for web navigation – stick to placing your menu at the top or side of the page.
  • Sub-level menu options that don’t relate to the top-level topic.
  • Long lists of sub-level options such as product codes which are meaningless to customers.
  • Allowing ‘hover over’ instead of ‘click’ to action a selection often means people are sent to links they didn’t intend to choose.
  • Collapsing-Menu-Syndrome when you have to be extremely dexterous with the mouse to click down, then hover over and move to the next level down. Making your visitor do this once is one time too many.

 

If limited screen real estate for a wide list of top-level menu items is an issue there are other ways that you can present a deeper selection without frustrating and potentially losing your site visitor. Make icons or images into to menu items or take advantage of the ‘mega menu’ option in most modern themes.

 

8 Questions to Ask about your Website

Just Pack What You Need

Imagine it’s vacation time and you are off on a family road-trip. There’s 3 of you with stuff to pack and limited space in the trunk of the car. It won’t all fit so something’s gotta give. It might end up being a compromise with the family but with a business website prioritisation is essential. How do you decide what to keep?

If you are maintaining your own site it’s easy to make changes on the fly.  If you have a web developer it may be trickier but it’s your site so make sure you get what you want.  Sure, take advice from the professionals but don’t be a slave to the latest shiny objects if they aren’t furthering your brand, achieving your goals and providing good value to your visitors.

Try this. Push your chair away from the desk and take a look at your current homepage and ask yourself:

  • Where am I going with the site?
  • Who am I expecting to come along for the ride?
  • Do I clearly understand what visitors are looking for from the site?
  • Does the navigation help or hinder?
  • Is the imagery consistent with the site visitor’s goals?
  • Am I asking visitors to churn through too much text?
  • Are elements on the page distracting away from my conversion goal?
  • Have I made it clear what action I want the visitor to take?

Your online business is hopefully going to be a long road-trip and there will certainly be stop signs, detours, roundabouts, a bingle or two and some back seat spats to negotiate but having a clear roadmap will keep you moving towards your destination.

If you are yet to start I recommend Bluehost for domain hosting.  I use them for this site and can vouch for their uptime and support when needed.

Everyone Sees My Homepage Don’t They?

No – don’t expect everyone to see your homepage first (if at all)

Search engines index all your pages independently, which means that if a keyword entered by a user matches to one of your sub-pages they will go directly to that page. This should be a good thing as your sub-page should provide a quicker pathway to conversion (visitor’s goal fulfilled).  As links from sites, pages, blog articles and social media shares are very dynamic you can’t completely control where your site visitors will first enter your website.  This makes it crucial that you have a well planned site with efficient navigation and well thought-out elements that move visitors towards your goal.

Whether you love or loathe search engines the reality is that you have to understand and know how to take advantage of the results of their algorithms.  This changes from time to time so seek help from SEO experts if you think you need to (and you probably do).  Contact me via the form below if you’d like an SEO expert referral.

To make sure all your pages, not just your homepage are findable make sure the metadata includes:

  • Site name and tagline.
  • What the page is about (should be unique for each page).
  • Headings (especially Heading 1) as the search engines take particular notice.
  • All images with alternative text (alt text).
  • Content includes keywords and keyword phrases.

This will ensure your site visitor is not surprised by what they see when landing on your page and more likely to either purchase from you now or return again when they are ready to follow through.

Everyone is an individual right?

Everyone is an individual right? – Not when it comes to browsing on the Internet.

The phrase ‘surfing the web’ was prevalent in the early days when there were a limited number of sites and search engines were just getting started.

People clicked on a link on a gardening site that took them to a hardware store site where more links were offered – after an hour they forget where they started and hadn’t achieved a thing. Today we are far more goal-oriented which is why the vast majority of visitors to your site will arrive there via a search engine.

What terms, or phrases or keywords people enter into their search box are key to understanding how people find you and there is a massive industry based on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Algorithms are constantly changing so professional help may be required but general advice is to simply make the text and images on your pages relevant to what you are promoting.

People often don’t spend very long on a site to determine if their goal is likely to be served so it’s crucial to match your page content to their goals as quickly as possible. Make sure you are signed up for Google Analytics and have the code added to each page on your site.

Who Have You Designed Your Website For?

Know your Audience.

Building a website is a very personal thing and that means there are many traps you can fall into. A couple of potential problems are either developing the site for yourself or perhaps even worse is to develop it for everybody.  Who have you designed your site for?

The most important consideration is to identify who your audience is and seek to understand their motives and behaviour. This will deliver the following advantages:

  1. A clear framework from the outset enabling you to avoid developing the wrong features.
  2. Understanding if additional or alternative features need to be provided if there are more than one site audience (e.g. female + male, teenagers + retirees).
  3. Understanding of how much detail is required to best suit the site audience.
  4. Understanding of how much content you need to have before promoting the site (Minimal Viable Product).
  5. Indication of where on the web your target audience are already hanging out.

Depending on the nature of your online business you may have a highly specialised audience but in general, most site visitors will behave in a similar way and that makes it easier to predict their actions.

Heat-map testing can be a valuable indication of what your visitors are most interested on your site, which will enable some optimisation.

TIP
Design an audience model that outlines their attributes (e.g. goals, values, demographic, social status, barriers to purchasing from you etc.). This is often referred to as the customer ‘avatar’ or ‘persona’. Whatever you want to call them it’s crucial to understand who they are, what they are after and how to reach them. Keep this in mind when you add anything to your site – make sure you know why you are adding it and who is it for.