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A Website for Your Customers

The main purpose of having a website is to provide information to those who aren’t familiar with your business or to provide more information to those who do business with you. We have come across many business owners who design the website with themselves in mind, not the customer. This poses as a problem with the goal to give information to the user in the format that they would like it in. So, the question comes down to, how would we build a website for our customers? Well, here is the information we would go through to make sure your clientele is getting the most from your website:

CONTACT INFORMATION

Make sure to have your contact information in each page. You have a much higher probability to close a sale for your business if customers give you a call. It is a sign that the customer is taking the necessary steps to accomplishing a goal of theirs.

LACK OF GRAMMAR/SPELLING MISTAKES

Nothing drives down credibility of a website faster than grammar and spelling errors. Make sure to go through your website content and correct any errors.

TESTIMONIALS/EXPERIENCE

Be sure to include testimonials on your website! A website built for your customers will have past customers’ stories about how your company did a fantastic job. Also be sure to include what types of experience you have in your particular field. Many customers search for this type of information to see how credible you are for their project.

YOUR COMPANY LOGO

A company logo can be a vital part of a customer’s recognition of your company. A company logo also portrays the level of professionalism that your company has. Making sure that your logo is set prominently on your website can be an important factor in elevating your customers trust.

ABOUT YOUR COMPANY

Having an “About Us” page on your website is another great way to tell customers who you are and what you have done in the past. We have talked to many businesses that love the fact that we are a small family based business. It is little subtleties like this that can have an impact in whether you get the sale or not.

Keep these factors in mind when thinking about what to put into your website. Customers have many reasons why they choose a particular company. It is your job to capitalize on what sets you apart from your competitors and how you can get their job done above their expectations. Also keep in mind that the website is for your customers. Keeping that in mind will help you determine what you should be including on your website.



Website Problems | Frequent problems of building a website yourself

Common Website Hassels

Over the years, many issues have arisen with having a website built. There is no shortage of “web design” companies out there that are super cheap or you can do all of the changes yourself. What they don’t tell you about the other issues that can arise that make the website design process a never ending nightmare. As with many things in life, you will get what you pay for.

HTML EDITOR CODE NIGHTMARES

For the most part, website editors are great if you have a small amount of Microsoft Word experience and HTML code experience, but if you are just starting out, there can be quite a learning curve. There are a large variety of editors, ranging from overly simplistic to very complex.

In theory, Word can be used to create a simple website. The main issue that we run into is the huge amount of style code that gets placed in the background when text is “copy and pasted” from a Word document. It can be a couple hundred lines of relatively useless code that the search engines must crawl through to get to the content on your website.

Taking the time to structure your content properly will benefit website load times, search engines and yourself if you have to go back and change or add more content. If the code behind the scenes in the editor is not clean, formatting in the editor can be a painful process.

BROKEN PAGES/LINKS

Navigation is important so all pages are easy to access from anywhere within the website. When a business wants to build a website quickly and without a professional’s recommendations, often one of the key elements of a website is compromised, the site structure. The site structure is a critical piece of information that often goes overlooked in a quick “throw-it-out-there” website. Pages are not linked consistently and broken navigation leaves potential customers with no choice but to go elsewhere for their information. Making sure the structure of the website is solid will minimize the amount of broken links on your website and will give the user a better overall guide to relevant information. There are tools that check if there are any broken links, such as XENU Link Sleuth.

CORRECTLY OPTIMIZED PAGES

Another often overlooked area when building your own website is correctly optimizing the web page for the search engines. Many times the title, description and “H” tags are left out, because of the time necessary to make a decent summary of the topic of each individual web page. These websites almost never appear at the top of the search engines because the title tag simply says “Welcome!” and nothing about what the page is actually about. A professional web developer will make sure these tags are filled out with information that will tell the search engines and users what the topic of the page is, which will lead them to the page for more relevant information.

CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF PRECIOUS TIME

One of the factors in developing a website is the amount of time it takes to do the job right the first time. Many times it is a better use of the business person’s time to focus on their business instead of focusing on the website. Making sure that the website structure is focused, the pages are built correctly, no broken links, website scalability and the other factors mentioned in this article are key to the successful implementation of a professional website. Many of the successful business people in the world have come to the same conclusion, that in order to make money, it is best to let the professionals do the work so you can focus on growing your business.

IMAGE SIZE/OPTIMIZATION ISSUES

Another drawback of the traditional html-based website editor is the lack of image-sizing compression tools. This as a common mistake when using a website editor. Images that are 2400×1200 pixels in size are “sized” down to 240×120. The result is an image that is dithered and still has to load at the 2400×1200 size. This can be the difference in load times of an image 8 megabytes in size compared to 640 bytes (8,000,000 bytes compared to 640 bytes). Large images can also take a long time to load and with the patience of the everyday user decreasing, by not optimizing your website images you are shooting yourself in the foot. Having many uncompressed images can also increase monthly website bandwidth charges unnecessarily, just by having the website pictures not optimized correctly. Having optimized images on a website can make or break the user experience and possibly “break the bank” in additional bandwidth charges.

CROSS BROWSER COMPATIBILITY

Cross browser compatibility is the process to make sure that your website is being seen the same way on many different browsers such as Microsoft Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, etc. It may sound strange that your website could look different in a different internet browser, but it can definitely be an issue. A recent statistic resource stated that the current market share is:

  • Internet Explorer internet browser market share = 37.5% (shared between IE8, IE7 & IE6)
  • Mozilla Firefox = 47.5%
  • Google Chrome = 8.0%
  • Safari = 3.8%
  • Opera = 2.3%

Internet browser market share statistic from: http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp

This data shows a major split between IE and FF (Internet Explorer and Fire Fox respectively). A judgment can then be made that it is important to make sure that a website appears the same within these 2 browsers in order to make sure that your website is being viewed consistently across the browser platform. This may also require the person in charge of the website to know some of the backend HTML code so that they can make the necessary changes to ensure the website does not have any major flaws across any of the browser platforms. Checking to make sure the website is being seen correctly also takes additional time, but it can definitely be worth it. Sometimes code fragments will appear in one browser and not in the other one. Sometimes whole “div” statement text boxes can overlap, or appear broken on your website which does not look professional and can actually drive customers away. Therefore having a professional that knows the ins and outs of the cross browser compatibility issues can be a major help in getting your website done the right way.

DOMAIN RENEWAL, HOSTING AND WEBSITE BACKUPS

The hosting and domain name renewal has been another issue that has come up. It is very important that dates for the renewal of hosting and domain name are put on a calendar or checked on a regular basis. Often times, renewal dates are forgotten and another company buys the domain name, leaving you with printed materials with an outdated domain name. Or the website hosting is shut off and the business misses a sale from a prospective customer.

It is difficult to see a business that has worked so hard on their website and has their email address @yourbusiness.com on all of there business cards and they forget to renew the domain name and someone takes their domain name. We have seen it happen more than once. For this reason, I would highly recommend a complete website solutions provider to take over this task for your business. The major domain name registrars will send out email alerts, but if they are blocked or never get to the person in charge, the domain name will expire. If you choose to go with a professional web design company though, they will usually try to contact you via phone and make sure that you would like to renew the domain name so that it does not get picked up by someone else.

Hosting is a very important piece of having a professional website and can have a huge effect on the success of the website. Many people we talk to are so concerned about saving a few bucks on the website hosting that they forget what they will not be receiving if they go the cheap route. Usually the cheaper the website hosting, the more people there are on a web server. The more people on a web server the slower the web server. This translates into slower load times for your website along with search engines not being able to crawl your website. Ultimately your website receives a lower search engine ranking, potential customers lose interest from the amount of time it takes to go from page to page on your website and they leave and go to your competitor. Our word of advice, don’t go cheap in the hosting arena. A solid foundation goes a long way for future success. It is also important to know when your website hosting is due. Hosting can also be tied to the company emails; if the hosting is down, so are the emails and the website. This is another reason why it is important that the due date is tracked and made aware of.

Website backups can be critically important if you have databases that run your website, or if you have data that is stored on a server. Once again, it is not a good idea to go cheap on hosting if this data is valuable to your business. The hosting company should have great customer service, get back to you relatively quickly and give you some type of backup option. I know you may be saying, “yeah, yeah, yeah….”, but when push comes to shove and the hosting company decides to go out of business and you are left without backups, you will have wished you had worked with a professional web design company that took care of all of the backups. They could have had your website back online with another hosting company within a matter of minutes, rather than gone forever.

FORGOTTEN USERNAME AND PASSWORDS (FTP, EDITOR AND DOMAIN, ETC)

Forgotten username and passwords to a variety of accounts that are necessary in the web design process can halt a project immediately. Many times, people roll their eyes when told to write the website, username, password and any other data that matters and keep it in a safe place. Then a few weeks later they say that they are having trouble logging in and that their password does not work or they forgot their password. Usually these calls come to us in the middle of an “emergency” and often times, there is nothing the web design company can do. Tracking all of the necessary usernames and passwords for the complete web design process can prove to be an annoyance to any business owner.

WHERE DO YOU GO FOR SUPPORT, OR THE MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION, HOW LONG DO YOU WAIT FOR SUPPORT?

Everyone should know about this trick by now. We are “wow’d” by a company’s ability to offer free support, only to find out that it is necessary to spend 10 minutes pressing buttons and waiting for an additional 10 minutes to talk to someone. Your time is valuable. We have seen many times, that smaller companies provide better support than the larger companies. Especially today, it seems that some of the smaller businesses are a little more “hungry” for the business and will strive to do their best to answer any questions. I would highly recommend asking the average wait time for receptionists to pick up your call in order to save your time.

Another question to ask is “where is the support coming from?” as in the geographic location. We have had support issues, with many large companies that send support calls over-seas and have yet to have a good experience doing so. Language barriers are enough to drive anyone half insane, especially when you are trying to get a project completed.

LACKING SITE STRUCTURE / FUTURE SCALABILITY

The website structure is very important to have in place before the web design process begins. It is also important that the future scalability of the website does not have any large complications to the current website. Many times, websites are rushed onto the internet without thinking about the website structure and future scalability. If web pages are not properly linked; users will lose their way and eventually leave your website. Down the road, it may be important to your business to incorporate a blog, or many additional pages and it may be necessary to scrap the original navigation structure and start another, adding more time to the project. Making sure the website is scalable and is able to incorporate additional pages, a blog, banner ads or other links in appropriate places can save you time and money in the long run.

LACK OF SALES FOCUS

This could be one of the greatest areas that is left behind when a user decides to build a website themselves. The lack of knowing and pushing what the website is for has a dramatic impact on whether the website will drive sales or not. The message you are trying to portray to users should happen within the first 10 seconds of the user coming to your web page and at least a phone number and email address where they can get more information are critical to your website producing sales for your company. The sad thing is that we have talked to many decision makers that have said that they have not done business with certain companies because there was not any contact information readily available on their website, so they went to a competitor that did. Keeping the sales goals of the website in mind, whether it’s to give a phone number, send an email, fill out a form, or inquire today is a key part to having your website be a success for your business.

MORE TO BE DESIRED DESIGN

Many of the design templates that are used today are much better than they were a few years ago, but they can still be a huge pain to users that do not know the nuts and bolts of how the original design was “sliced up”. This often leads to broken elements on the website, or a graphic that was done in Microsoft Paint that does not match the website theme. These are very subtle touches that visitors can pick up on and decide if your business is a professional organization or not. Notice the choice of words. Visitors will judge the BUSINESS as non professional, not just the website. This key observation will make anyone who is building the website for their business want to take a second look to make sure that all of the pieces look top notch and very professional.

These are a few frequent issues that we have heard over the years when a business decides to build a website themselves. Often times, these important details are overlooked and business from prospective customers is lost. We recommend saving yourself the headaches that can be associated with the entire website process and leave it up to the professionals. Let the pros do what they are good at and you can put your efforts toward other areas of growing your business.



Make Your Website Useful to Online Visitors

With the abundance of online visitors finding your website through the search engines, it is important to give them some incentive to come back and use your website. It is important to have useful information that keeps the reader wanting to find out more about what you have to offer. This can be accomplished many ways on your website. Here are a few examples of ideas that we have seen over the years.

Online Newsletter

Offering an online newsletter is a fairly popular way to keep users informed about new happenings with your company and different products and services that you have to offer.

Online Calculators

This is popular with accountants and mortgage lenders. It makes sense to have a calculator in front of a user so they can calculate the expense of certain fees and interest rates.

Offer Email Updates

This differs from the online newsletter by just sending little bits of information rather than a full blown online newsletter. This can also be a more effective use of your time, than to come up with a monthly newsletter.

A Color Wheel

We have seen this used on a few powder coating websites or on websites that deal with picking colors. This can be a great tool to have the user pick their color online rather than explain it over the phone.

Online Coupons

This can prove to be a very popular way to bring users back to your website and make it useful to them. Offers can appear like a coupon and the user can print them out. There are many websites online dedicated to showing coupons for different products and services online.

Links to Other Related Services or Products

If you have a landscaping business, why not have links on your website where a user can get a siding job done on their house? Or a sprinkler system put in that you would recommend. May be a place to buy a fantastic looking concrete statue? These online links will position you as a knowledgeable professional that knows the in’s and out’s of the industry.

Articles and Tips about Your Services

Articles are a great way to showcase your knowledge about your business and make your website useful to online visitors. Writing articles also helps your business show up in the search engines for longer keyword phrases. Writing a quick article can sometimes be the difference between building that little extra piece of credibility for that online visitor to pick up the phone and give your business a call.



Design Your Website for Your Target Audience

Targeted web design

Keeping your target audience in mind when you are planning a website redesign is a critical component of whether or not that website is going to be effective and viewed as a trust worthy source of information in your industry. It is important to review past analytic data from your website to see the different screen resolutions that are used as well as traffic patterns to different topics and the most popular content. It is also a good idea to ask users who fit into your target audience what they like to see in a website and maybe some examples of the way content is presented to them. Keeping your target audience in mind can have a huge effect on whether visitors find your website easy to maneuver through or move on to another website.

Analyze past website visitor data and behavior

Analyzing past data and seeing patterns in user behavior is a great way to dive into how visitors to your website think and act. No matter the website, there are different patterns on how visitors click through the website and different areas they spend more time at. Using this data and analyzing patters can show you how to cater that specific audience for more relevant information. If you see that there is a high rate of traffic that goes to view your contact page and your contact information is solely there, it may be a good idea to place that contact information on every page, so it is directly in front of customers at all times. Another example is if you see patters of users moving from article to article. This can be a sign that you may want to place links to related articles maybe on the side of your website or at the bottom of the article so they can move on to the next article without backing out to an articles page.

Screen resolutions

Another very interesting piece of information you can get from analytics data is the screen resolution that visitors are using to view your website. This can come in handy when redesigning your website so you can keep it in a particular screen resolution. This helps with the amount the user has to horizontally scroll to see all of the content on your website. You may decide that the screen resolution may be large or small and you would like to have a more “fluid” design that stretches to fit the screen of your visitor no matter the screen resolution. Either way, being able to analyze data and see what your visitor is using for hardware can help them have a great user experience on your website.

Ask people in your target audience what they like

What better way to gather information about your new website design than to ask people who are in your target audience? I am always surprised how much detailed information people will give you about what they like about a website and what they find easy and difficult. All of it is good information to gather and sift through for your new website. When we asked people for their input, they are usually very likely to help you out and they like to see some of their ideas incorporated into a design. I have heard different target audiences that like larger text, larger pictures, YouTube videos, blogs, articles, forms, wider designs, contact information are just a few of the features that we have heard people say they like to see on a website. Another great way to have users find your site more useful is to have programs that help them out. For example, if you have a mortgage website, maybe you should place some calculators on your website and some instructions on what they are calculating and how it can affect their mortgage payments. These little programs are a great way for people to bookmark your website and see you as an authority in your field.

Make it easy for your target audience

It is always a pleasure to go though a website that has exactly what you want, relevant information everywhere and fits within your viewing screen. These are the types of websites that we will often bookmark. We have also seen when a website has the features that the target audience is looking for, those website almost always have higher sales because of it. Make it easy for your visitors and hopefully they will make it easier for you to keep your business making money.



Reasons for a Website Redesign

Website Redesign

Every now and then, you run across a website of a company that looks like the last time it was updated was 1997. How much trust does that build with you? I usually think, “Hmmm…if their website is outdated, maybe their business practices are as well.” And then I usually proceed on to their competitor. Having an updated and user friendly design can pay dividends to people searching for your products and services or to your sales team and having them guide prospective clients to the correct area on your website.

Redesign and update your website

It is important to keep your look and feel as fresh and clean as possible. We believe it is also important to maintain a constant look and feel throughout the website. Do yourself and your visitors a favor and don’t have the logo aligned left on one page and then aligned right on another page, with different navigation elements. Keep it consistent. Also make sure your website is in accordance with your other promotional materials. We have helped clients who send out flyers and it is important to have the same logos and colors in order to appear consistent. With customers, it’s critical to build up enough trust so they feel comfortable contacting you.

Make your website redesign more user friendly

  • Make sure your website does not have any broken links. This is a sign to the search engines that some of the content on your website may be outdated.
  • Validate your website. The World Wide Web Consortium has a website validator that you can use to make sure your website is up to code standards.
  • Redo your title and description tags on your website. Make sure it relates to the information you have on the web page. This can help in the search engine results.
  • Make sure your navigation is clear and consistent. This is a huge deal on the web. There is nothing more frustrating than a website that has inconsistent navigation throughout the website. Visitors WILL go to competitors’ websites.
  • Update offers and contact information. Be sure to change and add any phone numbers that need to be replaced. Make sure email addresses go to the proper location. Make sure your address is up to date. Is all of the contact information on each and every page? Is everything spelled right? Is that sale from 1998 over yet on your website?
  • Add new, worthwhile information to your website. Do you have an article about your company that would help other visitors to make a decision to use your products or services? Do you have any testimonials that you could share? Is there any new affiliation that you would like to show off to visitors? Collect as much information that you think would be helpful to a visitor and get it ready to place online.

Taking on a website design project can be a hefty task. If you could use our assistance, please feel free to get in touch with us. We have completed many website redesigns over the years. The owners are usually very excited when they see the effect it can have on the search engine positions and the conversion rates from visitor to customer.