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Characteristics of A Successful Website

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    How important is a website for a business? The answer is VERY important! Think about it. A website introduces a business to the world wide web in which we live in. We live in a generation where search engines are our “yellow pages.” We no longer browse our phone books when searching for a place to order pizza or to find a landscaper to mow our lawns.  Nope, those days are behind us. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I opened a phone book. Do they still print those?

    Yesterday, I was in desperate need of a sprinkler company to fix a leak in my sprinkler system so of course I did what all social media-lites do; I opened Google in my internet browser and I “googled” sprinkler companies in my area. Guess what happened next? Pages of website results appeared at my fingertips, reminding me how much I love technology! However, when browsing company websites, it does not take long to realize that not all websites are created equally. Some are awful, some are just okay, and some make you want to scream, “Nailed it!”

    Inevitably, our experience on a company’s website contributes to the likelihood of us pursuing business with them. This is why it is crucial for companies to take their web design very serious. For most businesses, their websites are the first customer contact they will have. A poorly designed website that is disorganized, confusing, and not easily accessible may lead to your company losing business before any human contact  has even been made.

    There are several characteristics that contribute to a successful company website and they can be categorized into five categories; Appearance, Functionality, Usability, Accessibility, and Content. When a company’s web design executes these characteristics properly, then the business has succeeded in making a great first impression to all those who visit their website.

    Appearance: Obviously, the appearance of a website is crucial to the success of the website! For a company website, it is very important to make a good first impression on the potential customers that visit their site.

    • The design should look professional, polished, and most of all, unique!
    • The font must be easy-to-read
    • There must be variation in the design that includes relevant images, headers, and  links.

    Have you ever visited a website with no variation or  pictures, only pages of wording? I have, and all I have to say about that is if I wanted to read a book, I would have opened my kindle!

    A professional website layout

    Functionality: It is important that the website has a focus and that the visitor knows what that focus is.

    • The purpose of the website should be completely obvious and the website should help guide you toward it.
    • Well-organized, visible headers, and internal or external links help the website function successfully.
    • All external and internal links should work! You would think this would be obvious, but I know we have all clicked on a link at some point and have seen the error message, “The page that you are looking for does not exist!”

    An example of a 404 error - page not found

    Usability: Users, like me, want to be able to actually use a company’s website. How awesome is it when you can actually order a pizza online or set up an appointment right there on their website?!

    • The website should be consistent, organized, and easy to navigate.
    • Visitors should not be confused or have to scroll through the page to find what they are looking for.
    • Of course, the website should also load as quickly as possible!

    An example of a good call to action

    Accessibility: Is it too much to ask that we can access the website from our device of choice? Absolutely not! Sometimes I’m on my laptop, other times I’m using my iPad, and I’m always using my phone! Another side of accessibility is making it easy for all to access despite any hearing and visual impairments.

    • Add text scripts to Podcasts and other forms of audio.
    • Add description to the images in case someone is using a screen-reader.
    • The website must look relatively the same on all major internet browsers.
    • Make it accessible on any device of choice!

    Three sizes of screens to show how responsive design works

    Content: This is the most important part because it showcases the company’s purpose, explains the company’s services, and provides the answers that the visitor is searching the web for!

    • The content should appear right when the website is opened.
    • It should be spelled correctly and be written with the proper grammar. How could anyone take a company seriously if they can’t read the information?
    • Content should be short, sweet, and to the point!
    • Content should also highlight the company’s services and attributes.

     

     

     

4 Reasons Why You Need a Responsive Web Design

Three Dimensional Flowers

Having a responsive website design has become more and more necessary in the digital world than ever before. Many people are still on the fence about taking the plunge and redesigning their site so that it can be accessed on different technology platforms. Rather than building separate sites for each device, responsive design uses a single website that intelligently adjusts its layout and features based on how it is being viewed.

For some businesses however this change does not need to be, but how does a person know if it is right for their business? Below are the top 4 reason for someone to build a responsive site.

1. Flexibility

Two interesting things are happening with web browsing.  Phones are becoming smaller and more useful for web browsing, and desktops and TV screens are getting larger and it seems to be happening at a rapid pace. With a responsive design this will allow you to easily adapt to changing screen sizes. People are even using TV screens to browse the web and this will help adapt to the ever evolving screen sizes that you see whether it be on a tablet, TV, desktop, or phone.

With responsive design it’s much easier to go in and change what is shown on different screen sizes. Without responsive design, when a new screen size comes out, you have to go and build a new site. That means new design, new production chances are more money as well.

You will know when flexibility is beginning to become important to your business by looking at the amount of traffic you have coming in. When mobile or tablet traffic reaches more than 40% of your site’s traffic, it’s time to flexible.

2. Regularity

With responsive designs the look and feel of your desktop site is the same throughout each platform, particularly your mobile device. That means the header and other content on the sites are the same fonts, the color scheme matches, and all of the other minor details are the exact same throughout, no matter what device your customer decides to use.

3. Search Engine Optimization

Google is obviously a very reliable source and one of the top search engines on the web. Google stated recently, “Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.” If Google is saying it, then it must be important.

It’s hard to argue with the company that provides most of the search traffic to your site. From this information we can assume that in the future, responsive sites will be easier to optimize for Google. Plus it’s less work than attempting to optimize a desktop site, a mobile site, and a tablet site. Responsive Design

4. Fast Changes

As the internet constantly is undergoing new changes, so should your site. It is important to evolve with the internet and technology and test your website with the different developments in order to make your site the best it can be, regardless of what the goal of your site is. That being said, would you rather have to make those changes once or multiple times?  It is much less work to make those changes once and have them reflect on multiple different devices, rather than having to make a the changes separately from your site on a desktop, then update your mobile site, then go back and update your tablet. And let’s not forget about the future, as screen sizes change rapidly, it’s easy to think you could have 3 or 4 different sites out there, or to make it easier you could just have site that responds to all devices.

Considering getting a responsive web design is important and can help your business attract more viewers to your site, even while on the go. Make sure you look at advantages of having a website that can respond across all platforms and understand how effective it just may be.

 

Characteristics of a User-Friendly Website

User friendly site

Sometimes, companies ignore or forget how user friendly their website needs to be. Usability is crucial for the achievements of any web page and should never be neglected. Good functionality can enhance the performance of your web page and improve your possibilities of success. It can also improve sales and income for your business.

For your website to be successful, not only should it look professional, but it should also provide the visitor with an easy user experience. If you want your website to be effective, it has to be user friendly. This is why efficient functionality is essential. This will help your website stand out against your competitors.

A good website with user-friendly usability is about making it easy for visitors to find the information they need quickly and effortlessly and including a design that appeals to your customer.

There are many ways to improve the usability of your website. These characteristics can make your site more appealing and help with your online success. Below are a few essential characteristics of a user-friendly website.

1. Accessible for Anyone

Having a user-friendly website means that it should be accessible to anyone. There are simple web design techniques that can be applied to make sure your website can be accessed easily on-screen readers, making your website available to a larger audience.

2. Mobile Friendly

Mobile friendly
Today, more and more people use their mobile phones to access the Internet, so creating a mobile optimized website has become a necessity.

The first step is to check how your existing website appears on mobile. If your website cannot currently be accessed on mobile, then it is important to invest in finding a way to do this, especially with the number of people who use their mobile devices to access websites.

3. Well Planned Layout

How information is organized and presented on your website is vital for good usability. However, it is often neglected. It has become even more important today as websites offer a wide range of information and resources to attract their target market. Plan your website sections and categories carefully and present information in a way that it is easy for users to find. Thinking from the perspective of your users will help. This is particularly important if you offer a lot of content on your company’s website.

It has become even more important these days as sites provide a variety of details, content, and resources to attract the focus of their target audience. Plan your web page segments and categories properly in a way that it is easy for customers to find.

4.  Fast Load Times

If a website takes too long to load then chances are most people will not stick around to wait. Nothing is more annoying for website visitors than a website that takes long to load. Slow speed is one of the main reasons visitors leave a website.

It is important to make sure that your backgrounds, plug-ins, and widgets are all used correctly to ensure fast load times. These factors are just a few that affect website speed. Try to limit their use and only use the ones that are absolutely necessary.

People are becoming less patient, especially nowadays with the advanced technology. A typical customer will only wait for a few seconds for your page to load, after which they will most likely navigate away to a competitor’s site never to visit again. You want to make sure that your backgrounds, plug-ins, and widgets are all used correctly to ensure fast load times. These factors are just a few that affect website speed. Try to limit their use and only use the ones that are absolutely necessary.

5. Browser Consistency

Browser compatibility can be easily overlooked. This is bad for branding and has a negative effect on website usability.

Although modern browsers have evolved and become more efficient, some inconsistencies may still exist in how a website looks in different browsers. It is important to ensure your website appears and behaves consistently across all major browsers such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.

6. Effective Navigation

Good navigation is one of the most important aspects of website usability. It is important for the navigation to be organized, simple to use, and clutter-free. Try to limit the number of menu items as much as possible. A drop-down menu or sub-navigation may work better on large site with many sections and pages.

7. Good Color Scheme

The right contrast between the background of the website and content is one of the most basic yet most important web design principles that should never be overlooked. Good contrast between background and text color makes your content easy to read and lack of contrast, makes it very difficult for visitors to read your content. Make sure it is also a color that appeals to your visitors. If it does not work to flatter your business, or is a color that makes no sense then it can create a significant first impression, and not a good one.
User friendly site

The success of your website depends on its user friendly capabilities. This is one factor that will set you apart from your competitors. Good usability helps to provide a seamless experience for visitors and improves your chances of success.

Important Principles to Base Your Web Design On

Sky at dusk

Having a website is crucial to your online success. Like many people, they don’t usually know where to begin or what they should put on their website. It may seem like a daunting task, but taking it step by step can help.  If you don’t currently have one, then these principles will be a great way to get you started.

Focus on User Navigation and Usability:

The first step to determining how your website should be designed is determining what will attract your target audience. It doesn’t matter if your website will be used just to get information about your business across or if people will use it to make purchases, the design must make it easy for your viewer to achieve their goal. The layout of your pages and how your audience can access these pages must be designed so that at any point during their search through your website they don’t find themselves lost and become frustrated.

The design should be easy to use and should transition smoothly from page to page.  Focusing on your menu items at the top can help with this. If you have a lot of information you want to put on the site using a drop down navigation can be very useful and make your website look clean and organized.

Know What Your Short and Long Term Goals of the Company Are:

The main base of a websites design is the goal the company wants to achieve. The most effective design is the one which is going to help the company achieve its goals. The goals may start off in one direction and as the time goes on and as you become more popular the goals may shift. The design must always bring that out and reflect that to the customer.

Create a Call to Action:

Another very important principle to focus your design around is the call to action you are using on your site. This can be a subscribe button, a contact us form to receive a quote, etc. If you are a business that provides a service, having a place with for people to give their name, number and questions can help you get business and make it easy for your customers to contact you.

The design of your site must push people to use these calls of action and it must be extremely user friendly. Your call to action must be very simple with a set number of options which they can choose from. If using the call to action is complex and requires a lot of input then chances are people will avoid using it.

Color and Uniqueness of the Site:

Every site that you build should be unique in some way. By doing research into different sites within your industry, you can save a lot of hassle when it comes to being able to differentiate yourself from the competition. Don’t go overboard and make the site complex and hard to use because that will just defeat the whole purpose. Make it unique and recognizable to your visitors, so that they know they are visiting your site.web design

Also, the color schemes can be tricky if you have nothing to base it off of. Don’t copy other companies’ sites in your industry if those colors don’t fit your business. If you have an existing store or a logo then the best thing to do is to just use that color scheme, so existing and future customers don’t get confused.

Simple is Better:

The saying “the simpler the better,” is usually always true and in this instance that definitely pertains. Content on the site must be easy on the eyes and nicely spaced out so that each piece of info is easy to go through. Your viewer doesn’t want to sift through loads and loads of information to find what they are looking for. Making good use of read more links and using your web pages effectively can help a lot.

These principles will help you get started and will make it a smoother and easier process. Having a company that specializes in website design and development will also make building and creating your website much less stressful.

Is Your Lack Of A Mobile Website Turning Away Customers?

Coastal Sunset

53% of American cell phone owners have a Smartphone, and since 88% of all US adults are now cell phone owners, that means nearly half (46%) of all American adults own a Smartphone, according to recent findings by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Moreover, 90% percent of those smartphone owners say they use the device to check email and surf the web. Therefore, with mobile Internet traffic on the rise, you may be turning away potential customers if you lack a mobile-friendly version of your website.

With numbers like these, developing a mobile-friendly website may seem like a no brainer. However, in this case common sense doesn’t translate into common practice among small business owners. Only 26 percent of small businesses have a mobile website – which can be detrimental, especially for local businesses.

It is pivotal that business owners consider how their website displays on a smartphone or tablet. If content isn’t easy to read or access on a smaller screen, it may cause potential customers to seek your products/services elsewhere.

In addition to making information easy to read on a smaller screen, there are several things you should consider when designing a mobile-friendly website:

  1. Less is more. Keep it simple with a one touch “Call Us/Contact Us” button, along with prominently displayed “Hours of Operation” and “GPS Directions” links. Customers don’t care about you; they want to know how you can benefit them. So it’s important display information a customer may be searching for at the top of your site and in plain text.
  2. Avoid flash players. Flash isn’t ideal for mobile sites due to loading time and small screen resolutions.
  3. Don’t make users download PDF’s and try to avoid making them navigate across several pages. Your mobile-friendly website should be straightforward and easy to quickly use.

Facebook Introduces Changes to the News Feed

Dock overlooking ocean
March 7th has finally arrived, the Facebook press conference is over, and the new changes to the social media site have just been announced. Here is a quick recap of some of the new changes, and what the casual Facebook user should expect:

Richer content:

Your News Feed on Facebook will be a lot more visually oriented. Meaning, bigger photos and better quality. Your profile picture and cover photo will be bigger, and your photos and albums will allow you to post your descriptions within the picture. Pushing the visual content to the front, and eliminating “clutter,” as they put it.

All of the presenters at the conference seemed to tip their hat to Instagram and Pinterest, and acknowledged that visual content is the way social media is headed. The result, as the presenters said, will “get Facebook out of the way” and present the content and media you love in the forefront.

Topics:

CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that he wanted to make Facebook more like an “interactive newspaper.” Meaning, not only are storytelling photos coming to the forefront, but your content will also be presented in a more topic-oriented format. Allowing you the choice of viewing posts from friends, or selecting topics (music, sports, health etc.) and reading about what’s happening in those areas.

In addition to topic selections, your News Feed will also show you trending articles based on the pages, people, and issues you “like.” For instance, if you “like” Justin Timberlake, then your feed will post trending articles about him.

Also, for those of you who have complained about Facebook’s news selecting algorithm, EdgeRank, Facebook will be adding an “all friends” option to the News Feed. Meaning, if you select this option, you will be able to see ALL of your friend’s posts in chronological order. Just like the old times.

Mobile Consistency:

In the last portion of the conference, Facebook’s Tech Lead, Chris Struhar, announced that the look and feel of Facebook will now be more consistent across all devices. Meaning, the site will look and operate the same way whether you are browsing on a phone, computer, or tablet. Allowing the user to easily transition from one platform to the next and not have to “relearn” how to use Facebook.

The new changes will be rolling out on the web as soon as today, March 7th, for certain users, with the tablet and phone changes to be announced in the near future.

What are your opinions on all the new News Feed changes announced at the Facebook press conference? Leave a comment below and let me know if you think this will enhance your Facebook using experience or not.

(Examiner: Steven Neville)

Americans Spending More Time On Facebook Mobile

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May 16, 2012

53 percent of American cell phone owners have a Smartphone, and since 88 percent of US adults are now cell phone owners, that means nearly half (46%) of all American adults own a Smartphone. One key feature of smartphones is the ability to download applications. Facebook’s popular mobile app is the most active among Smartphone owners 18-24 and 25-34, who both hover at around an 80 percent active reach. Therefore, with stats like this, it should come as no surprise that Facebook’s mobile app has now passed its website in popularity. According to a recent report from Comscore, time spent on Facebook’s mobile site and apps per month (441 minutes) has finally surpassed usage of its classic website (391 minutes) — for Americans who use both Facebook interfaces. However, this presents a big problem for Facebook.

With Facebook’s impending IPO (set for Friday), it seems the forces of the universe are working against Facebook this week. First GM publicly pulls its $10 million Facebook ad campaigns, citing that Facebook ads don’t work. Then, Facebook had to warn potential investors in its IPO that the more people who access it from mobile instead of the web, the worse its business is doing. Thus, accessing Facebook through your Smartphone is bad for business, because Facebook only shows a few ads per day in the mobile newsfeed – as opposed to displaying four to seven ads per page on its website (maybe that’s why people prefer Facebook mobile?). Consequentially, Facebook makes a lot less money when you visit from your phone.

Now there’s 78 million Americans age eighteen and older who use Facebook mobile, and they spend 7.3 hours per month there on average, compared to the total 160 million Americans who use Facebook and spend an average of 6.5 hours on its website per month. That’s a big shift from when the web was king.

Therefore, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, in order to make money (and support their sky-high valuation), Facebook needs to start making – and selling – more mobile ads. However, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want annoying banners that took up most of your Facebook screen. so Facebook’s solution was mobile Sponsored Stories. These sponsored stories first started showing up in March and, while seeing them occasionally isn’t bad, showing too many could make people angry and less likely to visit.

Now Facebook must walk the tightrope. Inject too many ads in the mobile news feed and people will stop visiting, inject too few and it will lose money. No pressure, there’s just a half a billion mobile users watching. (TechCrunch)

 

Half of the World’s Social Media Users Visit Sites Via Their Phones

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The increasing ubiquity of cell phones, particularly the rise of smartphones, has made social networking just a finger tap away. In a previous blog post we talked about how Americans are now spending more time on Facebook mobile than the website. This finding didn’t come as much of a surprise, since nearly half (46%) of all American adults now own a Smartphone. However, this mobile revolution doesn’t stop in America. Now, according to Nielsen’s upcoming ‘State of Social Media Report,’ half of the world’s social network users visit sites via their phones. Furthermore, the report found that the trend is most prevalent in Asia Pacific.
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