The Importance of a Mobile-Responsive Site in 2016

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We’re closer to 2017 than 2015 right now, and at this point, it’s almost a certainty that you know your website needs to be mobile-responsive. If you’ve never heard the term before or simply haven’t had the chance to update your site since this quality became essential about three years ago, this article is for you.

What is a mobile-responsive site? Simply put, it’s a website that looks great and functions well on any device — no matter if you’re viewing it on a large computer monitor, a Samsung Galaxy S7 or an iPhone 4.

Why is having a mobile-responsive site absolutely vital to online success? Read on to make sure your business is prepared for mobile searches.

The Google Change that Sparked a Trend

Back on April 21, 2015, Google released an update to the way they generated results for search queries, giving heavy preference to mobile-friendly sites and penalizing those which did not have a responsive website. This update had such significant impact on search engine rankings that it has been referred to as “Mobilegeddon” and “Mobilepocalypse.”

Even if you don’t get the majority of your traffic from “organic” rankings (non-paid results from Google or another search engine) and you’re not worried about losing traffic from search engines, you’ll still want to ensure your site meets current standards.

The number of people utilizing mobile devices for search has climbing for several years now, and in the last year and a half, it finally beat out desktop traffic. It was predicted to surge to at least 50% of all web traffic in 2016, and as of this February, it was already up to a whopping 56% of all traffic.

Ensuring your users have a great experience on your site is easy — just make sure your site is responsive so they don’t have to utilize the cumbersome navigation techniques that were required a couple of years ago. Remember “pinch and zoom” — the way you used to have to navigate your way around a web page?

Does My Site Pass the Test?

It’s pretty easy to test out if your site is mobile-responsive — just pull it up on your cell phone and take a look around!

  • Is it sized for your mobile device (the particular phone or tablet you’re using)? Do you have to scroll left or right to view the whole site or must you pinch to zoom? Or is the site easily visible on your phone or tablet?

One site that’s nailed this aspect of responsive design is Swiss hotel Badrutt’s Palace: http://www.badruttspalace.com/

  • Does it have a mobile menu — a menu that drops down, with plenty of space between each button, rather than making you try to click a link that is too close to others?

Responsive Website Responsive-Sites-Img-1
A great example of a mobile-friendly menu can be found on https://molekule.com/

If you don’t have your phone to hand, you can also pull up your site on your computer and follow these quick steps:

    1. If the browser (internet) window is in full-screen mode, click the middle of the three sizing buttons (between “close” and “minimize”) on a pc, or click the far right of the three sizing buttons on a Mac to make it smaller than full screen.

 

  1. Drag the edge of the browser window to one side, making the window smaller. As this window gets smaller and smaller, a mobile-responsive site will adapt and change to fit the size of the window, whereas a non-responsive site will not.A non-mobile site will simply begin cutting off once the window becomes smaller than the full site, and you’ll have to scroll left or right to view the entire site.At the beginning of the mobile craze, many businesses simply built two sites — one for computers and one for mobile devices. If the smaller version of the site you’re seeing is quite (or completely) different than the desktop version (what you see on the full-size computer screen), it’s mobile-friendly, just not mobile-responsive.Having a mobile-friendly site is extremely important but it’s usually not enough anymore. Google prefers sites that are fully mobile-responsive. That means that they were built with responsive web design so that the overall design of the site stays the same, no matter what your device or screen size, but the site smoothly adapts to fit your screen size.

    Here’s the final step you can do to tell if your site is mobile-friendly or fully mobile-responsive:

  2. Leaving this first window open, open a second, full-screen window with your site on it. Compare the two versions — the smaller, mobile-sized window and the full-screen window — and determine whether or not they are the same site, sized accordingly, or two separate sites.If you are seeing two different sites, it’s time to get a mobile-responsive site. If you’re unhappy with your site’s design, whether on desktop or mobile, we can help you, too. Call Visual Edge Design for the fresh design you’re looking for.

Google Shifts Online Community to Mobile-Friendly Search Results

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When Google sneezes, the entire worldwide online community says, “Bless you.”

That’s another way of saying that many businesses live and die by their rankings in Google search results. So if Google makes a change in the way they index websites and offers search results, smart webmasters everywhere are quick to catch up. Very often, this has meant many webmasters putting their heads together to decipher the changes that must have been made. That’s because Google often makes these changes without prior announcement – sometimes without any announcement at all.

This time, however, it was different. Google announced a major change months ahead of time. Back in February, Google staff announced that as of the 21st of April, sites would need to be mobile-friendly to compete for top search result placement.

That announcement on the Google Webmaster blog stated:

“We’ve made it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages and we’ve introduced App Indexing to surface useful content from apps.” What does this mean, exactly?

1. As of April 21st, websites configured to display well on smartphones or tablets as well as desktops and laptops will have an advantage. Google wants to serve up results with a good appearance and functionality on all devices so obsolete sites will start to rank lower in mobile search results. (Desktop search results will not change.)

2. Google will also offer search results obtained from “relevant apps.” We’ll explain what that means.

Google scans websites for specific information that tells them what that website is about. Some websites also double as applications that people can use to help them get information, take action or make choices and they may sign into these apps as needed. These website/apps include Pinterest, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, Etsy, Walmart, Yelp, Zillow, Buzzfeed, Twitter, Autotrader or ABC News. Until now, these apps were not scanned to include their information in mobile search results. Now, information from these sites will be given preference over sites that have not been updated to perform as well on a mobile platform.

We’ll give you an example to show you how this will work. Suppose a person has the app TripAdvisor installed on his smartphone and he performs a Google search for restaurants in San Francisco. Among his search results could be a few listings from TripAdvisor. If he clicks on one, he won’t be taken to the restaurant’s site, he’ll be taken to the mobile-friendly Trip Advisor app where he can read reviews for that restaurant.

Google always has its eye on the future. Phones are mutating into slim portable computers, which means that an increasing number of people do their searches on their phones. In fact, in 2014, MORE people are doing mobile searches than desktop searches. Google’s mission is to provide quality relevant content – and now, being mobile-friendly is an essential part of that quality.

Check out this graph to see why this is such an important issue for Google.

CaptureGraphBlog

The days of throwing up some interesting content and some attractive images and expecting them to draw business are long gone – if they ever existed at all. If a website is part of a company’s success, that site must keep pace with the changes the online world goes through. For a website to consistently rank high in Google’s search results, it must be continually updated in appearance and functionality.

This is no small task. Pages must be designed to load quickly on a mobile device. A mobile site must emphasize the functionality that your customers will want on the fly. For example, if your customers will search for products on your site, the search function will probably need to be redesigned to enable easier use on a smartphone. The same with a purchasing function. What you’re looking for is conversions – that’s when visitors to your site “convert” into buyers, subscribers, fans or whatever it is you want them to do. That conversion process looks and acts different on a mobile device and your site must accommodate these roaming visitors.

If you haven’t already done it, you should have your website maintenance company convert your site to a mobile-friendly structure and thoroughly test it for any errors. Google has provided the tools for analysis and guidelines for conversion. If you haven’t tended to this task yet, call Visual Edge Design today to get started.

Graph from http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/

Greater Mobility Means Your Clients Could be Looking at Your Website From Anywhere in Town

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The big news of the moment is the increase in internet use on mobile devices. In 2014, the number of mobile users finally matched the number of desktop users and in 2015, it’s expected to keep climbing steeply. The number of desktop users is only expected to make minor growth in 2015.

In 2014, both these numbers were at roughly 1.6 BILLION users. This is a dramatic change from 2007 when desktop users numbered about 1.1 billion and mobile hovered around 400 million.

So what does this mean to you? It means that location is more important than ever. Not only should potential customers be able to easily locate your business in their geographic area, it becomes even more important if you think of all those mobile people looking for your business while they are away from home. This indicates a need for a special kind of optimization for your existing website.

Research indicates that between 80% and 90% of consumers search the internet before making a purchase. Some of these people will be making these searches while they are sitting in their car, trying to figure out the best place to go get their (haircut, new shoes, dog grooming, car repair, insurance, lawnmower, etc.). Your website not only should show up high in the search results for your category, it should show up even higher in the search results for the area they are in.

A few years ago, did you ever try searching for a local business like a florist or hardware store? You wanted to find a place you could walk into right then and walk out with the bouquet you needed in your hand. Until about two years ago, the top listings in the search results were always national companies. They had the money to invest to beat out smaller local companies. Google realized that people need to find businesses close to them much of the time and changed the way they provided search results. Now, if you search for a florist in Clearwater, Florida, your top search results will actually be local businesses. That’s because Google realizes those are the most relevant search results for most people making that type of search.

So if you have multiple locations for your business, you need to be highly accessible to people searching for vendors in every one of those locations. Say you own a string of auto repair shops located along Route 66. You’ll need to have specialized websites that show up well in the search results for folks in Flagstaff, St. Louis, Amarillo and Tucumcari. What’s more, those websites also need to be designed to show up well on mobile.

So when Jason is sitting in his car on the shoulder of Route 66, trying to figure out where to get a new battery for his car because it just barely started the last time, the website for your auto repair shop should be the first thing he sees on his smartphone when he does a desperate search looking for immediate help.

We can help you keep up with the demands for accurate local search and mobile both. This industry is changing fast and to keep on top, you need to update your site regularly. Just call us for a review of your current site and we’ll let you know what we can do for you to keep you #1.

Four Ways Small Business Websites Often Miss the Mark

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Do you have a brick-and-mortar business? That refers to a business that is housed in a building people can actually walk into to buy products or services, as opposed to an online business where all transactions take place over the internet. Brick-and-mortar businesses may feel that a good website is just an afterthought, something that just provides their business hours, address and phone number. In fact, a strong website can be a valuable addition to the viability of just about any brick-and-mortar business. It may not have been part of the formula that made a business successful over the last two or three decades but it should definitely be part of every business’s future.

When a brick-and-mortar company sets up a website, since this is not their area of expertise, it’s common for some important basics to be overlooked. The owner of a brick-and-mortar company may have someone in the family create a few pages for the website and then call it quits. This company will be missing all the advantages that website could provide.

I looked at the minimal website of a small automotive repair company in my town and found a perfect example of a missed opportunity to create popularity and viability for that company. Here’s what they did that missed the boat:

1. Ignoring Quality
This website isn’t much more than a logo, a picture of the business, some text and some clip art. It doesn’t look like it has been updated in the last decade. You need to remember that every place you appear in public (website, mailings, uniforms, business cards) delivers a message about your product. A simple website with a contemporary design does not have to be expensive but that up-to-date website will assure someone that your diagnostic equipment and knowledge is also up to date.

Not much effort was put into the text. The basic certification of the mechanics was mentioned, which is good, and there’s an Angie’s List logo and a Better Business Bureau logo on the page, which is also good. But there’s no appeal, no effort to engage the reader or to communicate what makes this car repair shop different from all others out there. An article profiling a mechanic AND a customer who have both been with you for ten years might make you stand out from the crowd and convey a message of trustworthiness and stability.

2. Forgetting to Sell
If someone finds this site, right there is a chance turn him (or her) into a customer or to increase his loyalty if he is already a customer. This website makes no effort. There’s no testimonials which are always good for a car repair business. Everyone has a horror story of a ripoff car mechanic. The average person wants to hear from other people about a mechanic they trust. Testimonials are a subtle method of selling your business by getting someone else to sell it for you.

Also, there’s no effort here to show understanding for the problems of an unmechanical person who is looking for a trustworthy car repair shop. The home page could say something fun and different like:
We’re Experts at Diagnosing those Clunks, Squeals or Thuds Your Car is Making! Bring Us the Noise and We’ll Tell You What the Problem is.

It’s a little different and might appeal to someone who really doesn’t quite know where to start in explaining the problem.

There’s a couple more factors that are important for your website to have that this one was missing and I will cover those in the next blog post. Stay tuned for the next post!

On the other hand, if you’re thinking your website might need some tuning up, give us a call and we’ll tell you just how it can be improved. We’ll give you just the plan you need to make it a valuable asset for your business.

Get Ready for the Next Big Thing in Marketing: Conversion Marketing

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This is your chance to be ahead of the curve in understanding a new marketing trend – a trend that is just beginning to make its first waves. I’ll tell you exactly what Conversion Marketing is, but first, let me give you a little background.

Internet marketing basically tracks with the way Google operates. As the automated processes of this gigantic software machine become more and more sophisticated, websites have gone through mutation after mutation, trying to keep up. Google’s purpose is to develop the programming that results in users receiving the most relevant, useful content in response to their search requests. As Google passed through each new phase, web developers scrambled to figure out the latest system being used and then, unfortunately, all too often tried to work out ways to scam the processes. For awhile, the best scammers arrived at the top of the search results and better-quality sites were shut out.

For a few years, we had a lot of websites that people could barely read. But because they were filled with the right keywords, Google offered them at the top of the search results. The problem was that they omitted persuasive sales copy. They might land at the top of the search results, but no one would ever buy anything after landing on that page.

That Was Followed by the Backlink Storm

Then there was the era of buying, trading or otherwise acquiring backlinks. This meant that another site (the more prestigious, the better) placed links on their site that led back to your website. This was supposed to mean that some other site owner found your content relevant and useful. What it ended up meaning, really, was that some sites began to sell backlinks to anyone. “Link farms” sprang up – these were groups of sites that all linked to each other. Well, this practice got so out of hand that finally, Google began penalizing sites with too many backlinks. Penalizing, in Google terms, means that if you would normally have shown up on page two of their search results, now you end up on page 355.

In general, Google is working hard to deliver the goods. Their refinements, while painful at times, have been moving in the right direction. Now, when you search for “Florist, Mobile, Alabama,” you actually get a list of florists in that city, rather than a lot of listings for brokers like FTD Florists who will send your order to a shop in Mobile and take their cut.

Taking a Cue from Google

What Google values now is content that readers find valuable. They advise you to “create a useful, information-rich site.” “Make pages primarily for users, not search engines.” “Think about what makes your site unique, valuable and engaging.”

So now we find ourselves in this this brave new world of content that is valuable and engaging for consumers. The next big wave that is predicted is the business of shaping that content to convert visitors to your site into purchasers, members, subscribers or supporters. In essence, you are activating them. Perhaps you’re a non-profit and you just want them to come carry signs at your next human rights demonstration. But a cosmetics company would want people to become buyers. On the way to becoming buyers, however, their visitors might first be newsletter subscribers or free sample recipients.

So a new type of marketing is now developing, Conversion Marketing. Have you ever started an online purchase and then abandoned the shopping cart because you changed your mind or found a better deal somewhere else? Any company with a shopping cart wants to make sure you make it all the way to “SUBMIT.” So an easy shopping experience, customer feedback after the sale and sharp customer service all contribute to the conversion of as many site visitors as possible into customers. Also, emails telling you your product has been shipped or asking about satisfaction with the sale enhance their ability to build that loyal relationship with you.

Have you ever visited a site and suddenly seen a chat window pop open or a figure appears and begins talking to you? These are some of the conversion marketing techniques being used.

The more a site can scrape up any personalized information to offer you by tracking your path through their site, the more likely you are to stay on the site and buy something. Have you ever noticed when you are thinking of buying something on Amazon, they will tell you what other people bought WITH the item you are considering? And Netflix offers you other movies that are similar to the one you just watched.

A site should also make it completely painless to sign up for newsletters, download free items, find a phone number to call, learn your location, your hours and so on. Once you read an article about restoring vintage cars, you should be offered free tutorial videos relevant to car restoration and oh, by the way, here’s where you can buy parts for your ’57 Chevy or ’67 Mustang.

As internet marketing grows into maturity, it’s a relief to see that marketing methods are being directed at the consumer where they always belonged, not at the automation that is Google’s vast indexing machine. With intelligent Conversion Marketing, people actually find products and services they are interested in. A company has a chance, finally, to build a real relationship with customers because they are talking to the right people and offering them the right products. Everyone benefits. Except the scammers, who have, fortunately, gone to the end of the line where they belong.

Why Many Companies Neglect One of their Most Valuable Business Assets

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There’s a very simple thing any business can do to increase their reach into the right audiences but they toss the assets that would enable them to do it into the garbage. In this day of electronic communication, it’s ludicrous that anyone would mismanage these assets but I still run into companies doing it.

What asset am I talking about? I’m talking about the identities of everyone you come in contact with as you do business.

I was recently consulting a company that provides an expensive but vital service. Because the service is pricey, many people may be interested but don’t financially qualify. So this company has people calling and emailing them all the time but many of these sales cycles don’t go through. After these transactions, all these leads were put in envelopes and stashed in boxes that were shoved in a corner. I spent some time convincing them that every time a person calls or emails, that identity must be carefully retained in a form that makes it easy to contact them in the future. A person who does not qualify now may qualify in a year or two. Or they may run into someone who does qualify and if you have been contacting them regularly – say with an emailed newsletter or helpful information – they will remember you and mention you to other people.

Awhile back, I used to take my car to a little out-of-the-way garage. The guys who worked there were like my uncles. Completely reliable, excellent mechanics. One day I noticed their records of their past sales. They were credit card slips spilling out of boxes in the back room. I’ve also seen this kind of record keeping in more sophisticated businesses – vital information on customers and the results of their service kept stored in boxes in the garage.

The identities of the people who have purchased from you or indicated that they were interested in your products or services are invaluable assets. They should be collected and maintained in some kind of useable form – database, spreadsheet – even sorted into file folders is better than nothing. You’d eventually have to get them into a form that enables them to be emailed, phoned or mailed to but at least that is a start at preserving them.

Once you have collected and preserved these assets, you should next work out ways to communicate with them regularly. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have to get fancy. And you don’t have to use every outreach effort to push your product hard. The primary thing is to keep yourself alive in their minds.

Do you sell patio furniture? Look for the most delicious grilling recipes you can find and send them along to your former or potential customers one month. Next month, send them tips on how to keep gnats and mosquitoes away while they are enjoying the backyard. Now, if you’re sending a postcard or an email, you can tuck a special offer or a discount in the margins. This business could really pour the coals on in the spring, sending out splashy advertising on all their new shipments or special pre-summer sales events. Because they have been helpful and interesting all year round, their former or potential customers are more likely to have a favorable impression of the company and will be more likely to give that pre-summer sales event some thought.

You can operate in a similar manner in the online and social media worlds. Give people a good reason to be interested in you and then collect those identities. On Facebook, this means getting people to “like” your page. On your website, it means offering something valuable that just requires providing an email address to receive. You don’t even have to think about whether or not you should contact them later – just do it! You must also be sure to give them an easy way to unsubscribe or opt out of your messages so you can keep your list clean.

 

So why do people ignore this valuable asset? Simply because they didn’t know that these identities could be turned into future sales. Some companies rely on word of mouth or referrals from other businesses but they are losing all the potential of these people who have already expressed an interest or who purchased from them in the past. You don’t have to put a lot of money into each name but keep the relationship alive by being helpful and interesting.

 

Above all, just be sure you are collecting and preserving the identities of everyone who contacts you with an interest in your product or service, along with at least one method of reaching them. If it takes you a little while to work out what to do with them, you will have collected a resource pool of identities to work with when you’re ready.

 

And of course, if you need to know what to do with them, we certainly know how to help you with that. Call us any time for our expert advice.

The Google-Mandated Migration to HTTPS: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

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Most people know that Google is the biggest search engine in the world. More people use Google to locate the data they want than any other browser – by far! What this means, then, is that businesses are dependent on the way Google offers search results. When Google shifts the way their programming selects and offers results – called their algorithm – businesses had better pay attention and keep up with those changes. They risk falling in the search results if they don’t. 

To give you a little background before I explain what HTTPS is, in the past four years or so, Google has made a number of significant changes. Sometimes they explain what has changed and sometimes they don’t.

You may or may not know that you can use a service called Google Analytics to watch how many people visit your site, how many pages they visit, which pages perform better than others and similar data. When Google makes these shifts, you can very quickly see if your site is performing better or worse.

Here’s an example of how Google’s modifications can change a company’s result. In August 2013, a site I’ve been working with saw its results decline severely. We all studied the changes and made some changes and the site began to climb slowly. In May of this year, Google made another change and the company saw the number of visitors to the site jump up considerably, back to the prior year’s level.

Now, Google is encouraging all site owners to switch to a different website technology – HTTPS. As motivation for this change, sites that use this more secure system will rank higher in the search results that Google offers up.

HTTP refers to the language used for building websites. It’s this language that enables you to place live links on your web pages that carry you instantly to a new page. When you add the S to HTTP, this refers to Secure Socket Layer, an encryption process. When you send information across the internet on an HTTPS site, your data is encrypted and is unavailable to whoever might be snagging information from this traffic. If you have an HTTP site, the data is freely available to anyone who can trap these bits of data.

Shopping and banking sites are normally HTTPS. You might be browsing on HTTP pages and then when you go to buy something, that new page is HTTPS.

To see this in action, go to Amazon.com. Find a book you might like to buy. The address at the top of the browser window will start with “www.amazon.com.” Add the book to your shopping cart and then move on to checkout. Now the web address starts with HTTPS.

So shopping carts and confidential reports to government or law enforcement agencies (for example) use this more secure foundation for their sites. Google wants ALL sites to shift over to this system.

When preparing your site for this change, your content and design remain exactly the same. Some of the settings of your site will change and you’ll need the the service of a company that offers this security protocol. The good news is that we can handle this for you. All you need to do is tell us that you’re ready for this shift.

Remember, this change should make your site rise in the Google rankings and that is valuable. A better position in Google search result enables you to put more dollars in your pocket. And your customers who know about the increased security offered by HTTPS know you are offering them a more secure browsing experience. In these days of hacked websites, that’s valuable.

By making this change now, you will have an advantage that millions of other sites do not yet have. Call us any time and we’ll let you know exactly what will be involved in updating your site to HTTPS.

Getting Business From Your Blog

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If you’ve got a blog, you should be getting something from it. It could be traffic to your website, or people walking in your store or business or phone calls asking about your products or services. Hopefully you’re contributing to your blog, adding regular content to it – at least once a week. So how do you convert people from readers to something more useful?

There’s a number of things you should be doing.

1. Write in a casual, friendly voice. Nearly all blogs are written in a personal voice, not a corporate one. Use conversational tone and a simple vocabulary. Even a little slang is fine, and humor is great if it’s appropriate to the subject. Really, it should sound like you would if you were chatting with a customer.

2. Don’t be complex. If your subject is really complicated, try tackling just one aspect of it. A blog post is not something most people really concentrate on so don’t make your readers work too hard. If you take one point and explain it thoroughly, you’re likely to be appreciated more than if you tried to explain everything about your products or services in one blog post.

3. Be useful. Help your customers. Give them tips, helpful advice or useful information. But don’t always expect to make money from the help. Just provide useful information. A company that makes healthy makeup wrote a blog post explaining the problem with some of the ingredients that other companies used and mentioned that they didn’t use any of those ingredients. There was no sales pitch for the products. They started getting calls from readers, asking for more information about their ingredients.

4. Keep things brief. Make your sentences short and to the point. Use simple sentence structure. Remember your English lessons from school!

5. Don’t wander! Stay on the point. When you are done writing your post, let it sit for a little while and then take a look at it and make sure you stuck closely to the point you intended to make. Trim out anything that’s unneeded.

6. Don’t emphasize sales in your blog posts. Blogs are not sales brochures. It is better to be informative about some aspect of your products, services or even your industry and let people make up their own minds. For example, if you sell fine wood flooring, don’t be afraid to discuss carpets or other home decor items or color schemes to create different moods. Your customers will see you as helpful and are more likely to tune back in to your blog at another time.

It’s okay to “curate” information from other sources. By this is meant to sift through other information from your industry and select out the best information you would like your customers to have. Just make it your own, give it your spin and personal interpretation.

Now, that being said – it would be natural to mention your products or services from time to time. Just remember that this isn’t the place to pitch them hard.

And in line with our own advice, we can provide you with great blogs on a regular basis! (See how that works?) Call us for more information.

The Simplicity of Good Web Design

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Web design is a constantly evolving subject which means that websites need to be constantly evolving along with new design principles. These new principles may include new technical capabilities that have been developed or they may just be new styles of designing websites that people quickly become accustomed to. Either way, if you don’t take advantage of new technology or new styles, your website is going to start looking stale and old-fashioned.

Naturally, the fundamental rules for creating good, effective websites may stay in effect for a long time. But the way they are applied may change year by year. When you have your website created, don’t then ignore it and assume it will continue to compete with your competitors’ sites. In addition to adding valuable content to your site on a weekly basis, instruct the company that maintains it to inspect it for timeliness.

Here are some specific suggestions. You can use these when you visit your website to evaluate its effectiveness in comparison to others.

1. Visit the websites of your primary competitors. Pretend you are a customer. See if you are led into a desire for the product/service being sold. Then visit your own. Does your website do at least as good a job of creating desire for the product/service?
2. Look at how bright and attractive your competitors’ sites look. Do the illustrations look contemporary? Are the photos obviously from some online photo store or do they look exclusive to that website? Then look at your own.
3. Check navigational elements on your site. Are the buttons on your website easy to find? Clearly marked? Do they seem to be where they should be – in other words, as soon as you (pretending to be a potential customer of your products) start feeling like your website is selling something you might be interested in, is there a button that enables you to ask for more product information or contact a salesperson?
4. Step back a little and look at the colors and the lettering. Do they give the right impression that matches the kind of product/service you offer? A lawyer’s office should obviously have a more dignified, understated website than one selling children’s clothes.

Another Test to Make of Your Website

One of the primary actions a website should accomplish is to keep a person interested while the product/service information is relayed. There should be no clutter that gets in the way. No confusing navigation that causes a person to get frustrated and leave. If you really want to test your existing website, try this little exercise.

Find a friend who is not also a customer. Sit down with him (or her) and open up your webpage. Ask him to pretend he is in the market for your product and have him navigate through your website, finding out about your product and even approaching the ordering process, if your product can be ordered online. Or alternately, asking for product information if that can be done. NOTE WHERE HE HANGS UP IN THIS PROCESS. Actually write any of these points down. Where does he get confused or frustrated? You’ll need to go over this list with your web maintenance company.

If your website does not pass all these tests that either you or a friend put your site through, it is probably time for an update. Even when the update is done, your review should be an annual event.

The other way to approach this is to establish a schedule with your web maintenance company. Tell them you want to review your site with a designer once a year to ensure it is keeping up with changing standards. This practice will help you maintain a clean look and optimum functionality.

Morgan Fagerman

Good WordPress Hunting

If you haven’t heard the news, WordPress just beat out Joomla and Drupal for this years’ Open Source CMS Hall Of Fame award. As a matter of fact, those two runners up are in reverse order of finish line crossings, Drupal was second and Joomla was third.

WordPress didn’t win by a landslide as a swing vote had to decide the tie between them and Drupal. But WordPress won all the same, and we think decidedly so.

WordPress is continuing to move forward with their marketing position shift from weblog to a full on bonafide Content Management System (CMS).

Ok, so that isn’t news. But there is a difference between people knowing that somebody is a genius and the person actually admitting to themselves they are a genius.

I mean come on, it took Will Hunting losing the love of his life and a threat of bodily harm from his best friend for him to finally admit to his potential and do something about it instead of mopping floors and clandestinely solving unsolvable mathematic equations.

Of course having a famous stand-up comedian as a shrink probably didn’t help. But I digress.

Our lead designer, Ian Phoenix, has discovered evidence that WordPress is finally laying aside their hardhat for bigger and better things despite their own self proclaimed stealth campaign to hide it.

WordPress is one of the main CMS platforms we employ for our clients here at Visual Edge Design when designing. It allows us to design amazing websites and still make them affordable for small to medium businesses.

Well, in his travels across the various dashboards, Ian noted that WordPress has changed the familiar

“Just another WordPress weblog” to “Just another WordPress site”.

Now that is attention to detail folks.

Hmmm… Good Ian Hunting perhaps?

By Michael Graves