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Fastest Way to Ruin a New Web Site?

planning websitePlanning WebsiteI’ve been asked, “How do I design a successful Website?”

I often respond, “Do you know the fastest way to ruin a new Web site design?” As you might suspect, the answer is, “Lack of proper planning beforehand.”

Let's put it another way. In programming, there's an old axiom, which states: "The sooner you start your coding the longer it takes to finish."

Planning out your Website before you build it is essential. To borrow a technique from the film industry, I recommend that you create a storyboard, which is a type of a flow chart of your new Web site design. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to draw out your idea, but it’s essential to create it on paper first.

On each piece of paper, the goal is to have room for an image at the top, plus space underneath for writing down information. As you might suspect, the first page to start with is your home (or welcome) page, which will typically have the most information as it will contain the page the people visit before they enter your site and as people go through your site, the will encounter more information (in tiers) as they go down.web design planningWeb Design PlanningTypically, the home page links to 5-15 pages below that, which we could refer to as Tier 2. Each of those pages links to another 5-15 pages, which you could call Tier 3

If you use all of these pages, you’ll wind up with an extensive Web site design, of at least 226 pages (including the home page).

It's during this process that all sorts of problems will crop up. But it's much easier to solve them on paper than in the middle of coding rather than when you are finished.. If you don’t, you might run into a major problem along the way that would require a “back to the drawing board” complete site re-design.

Working things out on paper will give you a much better idea of how things will work and how to fix problems. And, if you have knowledgeable friends, get a second opinion.

Once you've completed the on-paper process, and you or your web designer is satisfied with the results, you’re ready to translate it into code. Unless you or your programmer is a pro, I would recommend using a “template”. These are ready-made Web site design formats. You can choose from several templates by typing “template source” in most search engines. Many of them are free.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: For a Website, do I have to employ a pro, or can I call the guidance counselor at my local high school and ask for the names of some computer whiz kids that I could call to help me out (for a fee)?

A: It really depends on what you want to do. If all you want is 1-2 pages , you can learn how to build the Web site yourself. If it’s an intensive site with many pages, I’d recommend student or a pro (if you have the budget).

website planningWebsite PlanningQ: I see a lot of photo-oriented web sites that have a black background. Is this the best color to use?

A: Not necessarily. It’s a matter of opinion and personal taste. White can work just as well. I don’t recommend the use of other colors as they can compete with your images.

Q: Is “Flash” or audio acceptable?

A: If you absolutely need Flash to demonstrate an animation, then by all means use it. If it’s for a fancy trick, I recommend leaving it out. It’s similar with sound. Unless it adds to your site, don’t use it. And if you do use sound, give users an option to turn it off. If you don’t, you’re likely to lose visitors.

If you would like a free quotation, or more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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What an Automated Web Site Can Do for Your Business

newsletterNewsletterAs your Internet business grows, your free time will dwindle. Site changes will become time consuming and stressful. Automate your site and you can use your time for better purposes.

Automating

Automating a web site can cut out tedious tasks such as updating HTML, FTPing pages and changing site designs. Advanced automated web sites can send follow-up emails, send out newsletters, manage sales, do invoicing, track users visits and more. There is practically no function that can’t be accomplished.

There are many different types of automated web sites. Typically, the platforms break down into two categories, prepackaged or made to order. Automated web sites can range in complexity from simply using server side includes to full database driven sites. Server side includes are little snippets of code that allow content from one file to show on many pages. A database driven site, on the other hand pulls content from an online database.

PlatformPlatformWeb site information stored in an online database can be quickly and seamlessly inserted into many different types of templates. This becomes a huge time saver when you need to make a universal change to a web site. Depending on the system, the change can be made as a snippet of code or input directly into the database. Once entered, the regenerated site will carry the changes throughout the pages. In contrast, a non-automated site would require you to make changes to each individual page, a time wasting task. Let’s look at any example.

Assume you have a database driven, automated site. After testing the site, you discover the font appears very small in certain common monitor settings. Making an executive decision, you decide to change it throughout the site. With a manual system, you must pull up each page file for the site and change the html. If your site has 100 pages, you better break out the coffee! If your site is automated, however, you can simply address the font change in the database ONE TIME and generate the changes on all the pages. We are talking about saving days of your time.

If you are creating a site, make sure you use an automated platform. Don’t waste days of your life making manual changes.

For a free quotation, please contact us.

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What a Website Needs to Succeed!

designing websiteA Proven Formula for All Websites Designing a WebsiteEvery business needs a website. It is an absolute MUST! Nowadays, it’s like not being in the phone book. The In//ternet is a digitally-indexed database that is searchable. Whenever anyone wants to know more about anything, they look it up on the Internet, in their own time, 24/7, without the pressure of a sales person. With search engines, such as Gogle.com or Yahoo.com, the information they are looking for can be f/ound in seconds.

If you aren’t where people are looking, you CAN’T get the sale.

Even if you aren’t planning on selling anything online, you still need to have an Internet presence, telling your story and being a 24/7 sales person for you. The Internet is information. So, even if you just have an informational website, people can find out more about you, your company, what you have to offer, and why they should choose you over your competition. A website gives you the opportunity to get all of that across to your potential customer.

Following, are proven components of a website and why you will need them in yours.

A Home Page is the window into your website and should be short, sweat, and to the point. Statistically, it has been proven that you get about 3 seconds, once a person arrives at your website, to get them interested enough to click for more information. If you can get them to click, then you have them! If you try to give them all of the information at once, then you will lose them.

website pagesWebsite PagesSome websites try to give you their inventory on the home page, or write a story that scrolls forever. This is not good. A home page should not scroll. This is a big “No No”. When people get to a home page and see paragraphs, trust me, they go on to the next website. It needs graphics that represent the services, happy pictures, happy customers, and a quick sales pitch. Remember, people are lazy and won’t read large amounts of text, unless they have a need to. And included on the home page, needs to be quickly gotten across, why someone should use you over your competitor.

The About Us page sometimes gets left off, in favor of making the home page the About Us page. You will want to have an About Us page that explains in detail what you have to offer, your history, your mission statement, and a good reason that a potential customer should use buy from you over your competitor. This can be seen as the detailed version of the home page. However, it is a mistake to forgo the About Us page in exchange for a detailed home page. Again, this will just push people away who do not want to read all of the details to find out who you are and what you have to offer. This information should be available for those who wish to see more information after they are intrigued by the home page.

Design rules. For uniformity and good design, websites (any marketing piece) should have rules for graphic elements and text. For example, all headings should be the same size/style/color, etc. All subheads should have their own size/style/color, etc. This helps the eye make sense of what it is looking at. Guide your visitor with well-placed graphics and text.

navigation buttonsNavigation ButtonsMake sure that your website has good navigation, with buttons/links for all main sections of your website. And be sure to keep these navigation buttons/links visible on ANY page. There is nothing more frustrating than to not be able to find your way while browsing a website. People will leave before becoming too frustrated. Don’t let this happen on your website!

The constant, flashing email (or other) button/advertisement is a "No No" these days. In the old days, flashing and blinking graphics were used. As websites became more graphically sophisticated, these types of elements were not used any more. It can be annoying to see something flashing just off your vision, when you are trying to read the web page.

Text links at the bottom are rarely used any more. They were implemented back in the day of the text-based websites, when they were just starting out. This was for the dial-up users who had the option to turn off graphics for faster web page loading. When this happened, there were no links for navigation, unless a webmaster placed text links at the bottom. Nowadays, most people have broadband connections, and this just isn't necessary any more.

The biggest problem I see with websites these days is that a person has to read quite a bit to see what, exactly, a website is selling. When people show up at your website, you get about 3 seconds to peak their interest. Get it across very quickly, with icons/graphics/bullet points that are easy to understand. Tell them why they should choose you over your competition. And then tell them where to go to get started.

customer testimonialsCustomer TestimonialsAnother very important element is testimonials. More important than telling them why a potential customer should use your services over your competitions’, is a customer of yours saying the same thing. Not only is a testimonial someone who used your services, but they can say "how" you were able to help them. This gives new potential customers ideas on how your services will help “them”. Testimonials are also sales pitches from your happy customers, people just like them. They are people who were in the same position as they are right now and they got through it, so they can too. They also build credibility. When you are endorsed by other people, you have credibility and that you can do what you say you can do. And even though they may be saying the same thing that you are saying, it is coming from someone just like them, and not someone who is trying to sell them anything. They have nothing to gain by saying this. You do. So they need to hear from them. You absolutely MUST have endorsements for your business; otherwise, you are just blowing your own horn!

The next best thing to a testimonial page is an FAQ page. An FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page answers questions for your company 24/7, when you can't be at the phone to answer, and for people who would rather look over your information than speak to someone who might try to sell them something. FAQs also help to give scenarios of how they can be helped, by answering questions that other potential customers have asked, and they might not have thought of themselves. This gets them thinking and gives them answers in a risk-free environment. It is VERY important to have an FAQ working for you 24/7. It's like having a free sales person working for you around the clock, fielding all questions that might come up! It's a MUST-have for ANY website!

call to action iconsCall to Action IconsYour website should also have a clear "call to action". A lot of websites say that “we are here and we do this”, but You should sprinkle testimonials throughout, as well, leading them back to the full testimonials and then to the call to action, which should be placed on the testimonials page, as well. You could offer a FREE Consultation by calling right now… or click HERE now to email us 24/7 for a FREE Consultation… something that tells them where to go from here and a reason to get started right now and how.

There also needs to be graphics to help tell the story; high-end icons that help draw the eye to the item of interest, to get them to read it. Having a text-only page usually does not get read. People are lazy and will not usually read paragraphs of information in hopes of getting the information they are looking for. They would have to first be extremely interested before reading the “fine print”. And to get them interested, it should be broken up with graphics that represent each section. They will see the related graphic first, and then move to that area if interested. But to give them a page of information usually doesn't work.

You also need meta tags. This is very important to search engines. These are hidden key words and phrases that describe what you offer, but also your location, etc. Search engines rely heavily on key words and phrases in order to give your website as a result in a search done for your type of business. In fact, it is also good to have misspelled keywords that people might type in order to find you. Obviously, you won’t want to have misspelled words or phrases on your page, since this will give the wrong impression of who you are. With meta tags, misspelled words are hidden in the code of the website, but can be used to bring people to your website who may not be able to correctly spell some your services. Even putting your competitions’ names and products in your meta tags can help get traffic to your site, so that they can compare your products and services to your competitors’.

website articlesWebsite ArticlesAnother item that puts you high on the search engine results listing is having articles about your type of business, both on your website, and other websites that link back to yours for more information on the subject. Offering free information makes you an authority on the subject, not just someone trying to sell their wares. This plays heavily in search results, along with one-way links back to your website. When you get one-way links back to your site for more information, this gives you much credibility and definitely helps to make you an authority that other sites rely on. So when someone looks up your type of product or service for more information, obviously the search engine will give a site that has the most helpful and free information (and one that other sites rely on for more information on this subject) a higher rating and puts them higher on the search results list.

A FREE Tips & Tricks or Hints page is also a good way to get relevant traffic. People are always looking for How-To's and DIY information on all types of subjects. On my site I have FREE Tech Tips that get hits all the time, which pertain to my services. Again, a percentage of these hits click on my services. And the only way I got them there was because of the FREE How-To's that I offer. So, you have to entice people to your site, by offering more than your competitor's website. This is where these types of pages come in handy.

It is also good to have a Privacy Policy page. This shows integrity and also builds credibility and a higher ranking in the search engines. This is one item that search engines look for, in particular. Websites with a page dedicated to a Privacy Policy get a higher ranking and your site will show up higher in the search results.

more info buttonMore Info ButtonA Guarantee page is also a good idea. Again, this gives credibility and will give you an edge over your competitor, who may not offer a guarantee. A website that has a guarantee, but is hard to find, makes a potential customer feel like they have something to hide and may not purchase from that website. However, if you have an easy-to-find Guarantee that you put right in their face (whether you dedicate a page to it, or you put it right on the Home page), it eases potential customers into a buying position.

You may want to have a form that allows a customer to request more information about your product or service, and which also lets the customer type in their personal information and what they are looking for. This not only helps you by getting their contact information, it also helps by prompting the potential customer into thinking about other aspects. By doing it this way, you will also get all of the information needed to correctly quote a product or service more effectively, without having to make additional phone calls to the customer. The more common way of requesting information is just by posting an INFO email address and hope that the person requesting the info knows enough about what he is looking for to provide all of the info to get a good quote. This is not usually the case. Most of the time they need a form to fill out. In most cases, there is info that is left out. A form ensures that you get everything needed to quote the product or service accurately. And, also, by offering a form to request more info, leads will be generating 24-7 for you. All you have to do is the quote and give them a call. This reduces the need for cold-calling, and gives you an excuse to call and close the deal.

search engine optimizationSearch Engine OptimizationIf you incorporate all of the above pages, along with the “way” these pages should be shown, your website will have a higher ranking in the search engines, which puts your website higher in the search results, thus significantly increasing the traffic to your website!

The above categories aren't the only things you can do to increase traffic to your website. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should also be done, as well as swapping links with relevant websites, and posting articles and links back to your website from online article and content websites.

Please contact us for a free quotation

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What Could Be Worse ?

What Could Be Worse Than Your Viewers Not Seeing Your Site Display Properly?

correct htmlCorrect HTML

What if they never get to your site to see it?

If you want your site listed on search engines then make sure that you have correct HTML code. Many search engines cannot properly catalog or index a site that has HTML errors. This can greatly reduce the amount of traffic your web site receives from search engines.

The lowest form of "browser" out there is the search engine. The search engine is about the equivalent of a version 2 browser. It can't read flash, DHTML, JavaScript, dynamic pages, - even having trouble at times with frames. Search engines may have difficulty crawling, indexing, and extracting the content of your site if you have broken HTML.

Search engines score a page by looking for relevant terms in key HTML components in specific places within a document. These key components are titles, descriptions, visible text, alt image tags etc. If they don't find them because of typos or other mistakes, the spiders may leave without reading the content of the page.

Poor document structure like a META tag placed in the BODY section of the page instead of the HEAD section - can cause the spider to ignore the tag and cost you a good ranking.

search engine optimization conceptSearch Engine Optimization ConceptWhat if you were tired and under deadline to get a new page up, (Not at my job!) you might type TILTE instead of TITLE for your TITLE tag. TITLE tags are very important to search engines. If you made this one little error the search engine will ignore all of the content of the title tag.

If you create the page properly and have content that contains your keywords it "should" get read and picked up by the search engines. (off page factors like inbound links excluded) However if you have a simple error like an open tag

seo processS.E.O. ProcessInternet Explorer is very forgiving of mistakes in code. By building only for IE you are creating for the most error forgiving browser ever. Thinking that a search engine will "browse" your site like Internet Explorer 6 is a dream. If the site won't display right in Netscape, Firefox, Opera or an old version of IE chances are good the search engines can't read it either.

So next time you get frustrated with having to design for Netscape, Firefox, Opera and IE, just bust out your favorite HTML editor and settle in for a long night of code checking.

Your marketing department will thank you!

Contact us for a free quotation today

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What Does Your Website Say About You?

realtors screenRealters ScreenThe internet has completely changed the way that people do business, and their most important purchases are no exception. Just having a website to promote your real estate business is a vital first step, but having the right website will show those undecided buyers and sellers that you are the agent for them!

Being Featured On Your Company Website

Being listed on your company's or office's website is certainly important. However, ask your broker or IT person if you are allowed to link your personal site from the office site. If you are, make sure you take advantage! Steering the traffic from the company's site to your own site will allow you to promote yourself as the agent for the job.

Make Your Website Simple And Easy To Use

Once the potential client is looking at the main page of your website, what is going to convince them to choose you? Having the flashiest site with all the bells and whistles may seem like a great idea, but most serious clients are looking for content, not gimmicks. Flashy animations, long introductions, and fancy transitions all make your site run slowly.

find a homeFind a HomeMake sure that your site is easy to navigate. It may seem cute that your phone number pops up when the user scrolls over your picture, but that can be hard for some to notice. Also, many professionals use the web at work, so sites that play music or sounds get closed immediately. No one wants to be caught surfing for a new home on company time!

Show Them That You Are The One

Although you should have a short biography page on your site, don't go on and on about yourself. Instead, get right to the point - you are the Realtor for them! Having a neat, simple design that is concise, easy to navigate, and speedy to use shows your would-be clients that you are organized, efficient, and easy to work with. These are exactly the things that clients are looking for in a Realtor!

Contact us for a free quotation, or to discuss your website needs

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