Subscribe

Archive for the Website Design Category

Clutter: The Ruin of a Great Website

Clutter: The Ruin of a Great Website
The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on www.SiteProNews.com in June of 2013.

chaos-and-orderThanks to TLC’s and A&E’s hit series’ on hoarding, a serious problem that was previously, for the most part, hidden from the world has been revealed: some people live in filth and clutter. Well I’m here to tell you that this problem doesn’t only exist in private homes, hidden away from prying eyes; it runs rampant online as well. Websites also fall victim to clutter. While sometimes amusing to look at, these sites are in reality, no laughing matter. Not only are they hard on the eyes of visitors, but they are also to blame for lost sales and revenues.

I’m not just talking about the neon yellow on black with purple stripes and flashing banners type of website either (although please, for the love of all that is good, if your website looks like that, change it!), I’m talking about perfectly good websites that have WAY too much too say, do and look at. Many of these websites start off with potential and their owners just can’t figure out a way to say all there is to be said and show all there is to show as soon as you hit the home page (or sometimes every page).

As a web designer I’ve seen it happen, and in fact, when possible I’ve attempted  to discourage website owners from doing it. Even some of my designs have fallen victim to such overzealous website owners. What may start out as a beautiful website often times gets destroyed by the website owner’s false belief that all the information they have about their product should be on the home page (or every page), or that adding 14 ads to their site will make them more money, or that flashing banners will gather more attention, or that bolding and highlighting every second line on the site will be more noticeable. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

When a website visitor arrives on a site that has an overabundance of information, one of two things occurs:

  1. they get confused and don’t know what to click or do; or,
  2. they just leave.

It’s really that simple. I do it myself. If I can’t get to the information that I want on a website fast enough because it’s too confusing, I leave and so do most other people. Your website may have many purposes, but it should have one primary and one secondary purpose presented per page.  That is not to say that if getting visitors to purchase a product is your primary purpose and getting them to opt-in to your list is your secondary purpose that you can’t have your social media profiles listed. But it can be done tastefully. It doesn’t have to scream “LIKE ME, FOLLOW ME, ENDORSE ME,” and have images of all your followers and show every post you’ve made to every network in order to be there.  The same goes for ads. If you really want to include ads on your site, then by all means do it, but accept tasteful ads that don’t clash with your site and won’t turn-off your target market. And if you decide to post 14 of them, know that your primary purpose will seem to be selling other peoples products and not your own.

Your website is your business’ face to the world. If it’s clean and has a clear message, you will gain more customers from it. If it is confusing and its message is muddled you will lose business.  What kind of website do you want?

How My Technological Dream Soon Turned Into My Worst Nightmare

By Guest Blogger Belinda Pyle – www.problemsbythedozen.com

Confused woman with laptopI can’t remember a time when I was more excited. The company owner where I was last employed had given me a lovely gift as he kicked me out the door—one year’s salary. Apparently I had done such a great job at developing, launching and running the business that he thought he would give it a try himself. Um, thanks?

So here I was, in the enviable position of actually having the funding and the time to do exactly what I had dreamed. It was wonderful, it was exciting, it was thrilling, it was terrifying. What the hell was I doing, thinking that I actually could be a writer. Gulp.

My dream was to write a book, but you can’t write a book in this marketplace without having an “author’s platform”. If you have done any consulting you know this means that you basically have to be everywhere demonstrating that you can do everything. This means quite simply that you had better be damn good at technology. Since I was pretty good with Word and passable with Excel, I figured developing my own blog would be a snap. After all, I had supervised and hired lots of marketing companies over the years to develop sites for clients so this would be simple, quick, and a no brainer.

The only thing simple about it was that I lost my brain. I learned about Word Press and was enchanted by the idea that I could whip up my own blog as easily as scrambled eggs. Since scrambled eggs are the extent of my cooking ability, this certainly sounded like something even I could do. But I wanted my site to look “just so” and to do that, you need to know about fun things like CSS and HTML (geek speak).

Frightened computer userFinally I gave in and enrolled in training offered by the company hosting my consulting site. They were patient, kind, and helpful, although I am not sure how. I called, and called, and called, and called beyond my pre-determined hours. The more they trained me the less I knew.

Finally, two wasted Word Press themes later, I switched my blog to the theme that they were using and since this was their expertise, things started to smooth out. I got to a place where I was ok with my site but still not thrilled. I realized that if I wanted to be thrilled, have something that was uniquely mine and would stand out from the noise in cyberspace, I would have to get some professional help.

At this point, I was on the technological edge and through friends, found Kelly at Oomph Studios. In one call, I went from despair to delight and confidently stepped away from the ledge. No need to jump now, I had someone watching my back.

So, now I will be working with Kelly on my technology adventures and will be documenting them together in her blog. In the meantime, here’s what I have learned about launching your own site:

1) Time Sucks
Yes, time is sucked away faster than you can say “upload”. My year flew by and there wasn’t a day when I wasn’t learning or working on my blog. If you have a year to learn about technology and all of the marketing that is associated with it (hint: SEO does not stand for send email over) then go for it.

2) Economy of Effort
The army knows best. A friend of mine is an army guy and as we were clearing the table last evening, he explained economy of effort. “You are going to clear this table 1,000 times and make 10,000 trips to the kitchen. Or, you could spend one day making a nice wooden trolley to take the dishes one time thereby reducing 10,000 to 1,000.” (Or, I could get my kids to do it by bribing them with TV time but I digress). For your site this means taking the time and doing it right up front. It will save you tremendous amounts of time later on with the constant tinkering to get it exactly the way you want it.

3) What is your time worth?
This is a very big thing in the non-profit sector. I constantly see Executive Directors doing secretarial jobs or in my case, writers doing technological guru’s jobs (never again Kelly!). As an entrepreneur, your time is the most expensive and most cherished so try to always hire others to do what can be done by others. While they are doing secretarial and marketing support, you are out doing what you do best–getting new clients or producing your product.

4) Know enough to know what you want
I am not advocating that you stay a technological innocent. You need enough training to know: a) what is possible b) what you want and c) if possible and want make sense together. Furthermore, try to know enough to do some of the basic stuff yourself so that your site can be a dynamic living, breathing entity.

Good luck on your technology adventure. We would love to hear about yours!

Your Role in Optimizing Your Website

Web DesignerThe most important part of getting a great looking website is of course, choosing the right designer. But once that designer is found there are things that you can do that will help your designer to create a website that not only fits your needs, but that suits your personal style as well.

Before you approach a designer about working on a site, the vast majority of your site content (i.e. logo, text and photos, if you’ve already selected photos that you’d like to have included) should be ready. “Why,” you ask, “why not just have the site designed first and plunk in the text and other content around that?” Well, that could be done, but there are 2 good reasons not to: 1) If a designer constructs a website without first seeing the logo, he or she may not leave enough space to properly highlight it. If you have a beautiful logo, you want the space it appears in on your site to be the optimal size, shape and color to fit it and display it properly. 2) If the designer has the text, he/she will better know where to insert images, icons, widgets, etc. to break up the text and make it more visually appealing.

Show your website designer samples of several sites you like and sites you hate. Tell them about elements of different sites that appeal to you and components that drive you crazy. Tell them about colors combinations you love and show them examples of these colors being used in a way you like. Doing this will give your designer a better vision of your personal style and will allow them to design a site that you will find irresistible!

Do you want a little bit of your personality infused into the site? Tell your designer about you! Are you fun, goofy, serious, grumpy? If you want your site to reflect a little of you, let your designer know.

While it’s all well and good to design a site that is visually appealing to you, in the end, if you are trying to sell something, you should always have your target audience in mind (along with your own personal preferences of course). No one knows your target audience better than you, so tell your designer about them. What do they like? What don’t they like? Are they young or old? Male or female? Married or single? Any details you can give your designer about your target market will help him/her design a site that will be attractive to that market.

Knowing this information from the beginning of a project should get your designer on the right track to designing the best site for you as an individual, or for your business. While the designer knows design, you know you, your business and your target audience best. So share that information with them and have them create a website you’ll fall in love with.

Considering a Do-It-Yourself Website? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First

The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on www.seo-news.com in June of 2012

Trying to save a little money on your new website isn’t something to be ashamed of. Almost everyone has some sort of budget and for some that budget is just smaller than for others. Lately I’ve been asked by more and more frugal business owners why they should have a website professionally designed when there are so many online “Build your own Website” services available.  It’s true, there are many such services cropping up all over the web, but whether you should settle for such a service depends entirely on what you want in a website. Here are five questions to ask yourself before deciding between a build-it-yourself service and a professional web designer.

  1. Do you want to own your domain? Your answer should be a resounding YES! You should always be able to purchase a domain via a different domain registrar and use it along with the service. If the company requires that your website’s URL be something like www.TheirDomain/YourCompanyName.com, run away! If you want a website that will be found by search engines, do not go with a service that lists their own company name in your domain. You may come away with a decent looking site, but your decent looking site will scarcely by seen by a soul, because the search engines won’t find it.

    Another big thing to watch for here is services that buy your domain for you. You may think that it sounds like a good deal to get your domain purchase included in what you’re already paying, but be very careful, this could be a slippery slope. Read the fine print and be sure that YOU, and not the service provider, will be the owner of your domain. If you fail to do this, you could find yourself in the unenviable position of losing your URL. Imagine owning a company called ABC Florist and having a website on the domain www.ABCFlorist.com, then when you decide you want to change your service provider, you realize you don’t own your domain. Your choices are to a) buy it off the company that owns it (the service provider for your do-it-yourself website) for a ridiculous amount, b) get a new URL and lose most of the repeat business from customers who have previously visited your website, not to mention you’ll have to change the URL on your business cards and all of your marketing material, or c) stay with the same service provider indefinitely. This could be a nightmare, but it does happen and it’s a critical consideration when contemplating these services.
  2. Do you want a specific look, feel or style to your website? If you don’t need anything specific, then maybe a build-it-yourself service would be a good option, but if you are very specific about the way you want your site to look and feel, then one of the cookie cutter templates probably is not going to be a good fit. For most of these services, you are quite limited in the styling changes for each template. You may be able to change the colors and have some layout and font options, but for the majority of cases those options are incredibly limited and will likely provide a website that will be disappointing to the discerning customer. If you need flexibility, you might be better off with a professional designer, despite the cost differences.
  3. Do you want your logo to appear on the site? Again your answer is likely yes, and most of the do-it-yourself services can accommodate this requirement. But, if your logo is irregularly shaped, or must encompass a precisely sized space in order to display correctly, then again, you may have issues with the flexibility of the do-it-yourself sites.
  4. Do you want analytics for your site? In other words, do you want to see how many visitors your site is getting and how they are finding you? If you answered yes (and you really should have answered yes), then you may want to go with a web designer. Some online services may offer you the option of analytics, but if they don’t you will have no way of determining how successful your website is at doing its job – bringing you more business.
  5. Do you want to include payment options, e-zine or newsletter opt-ins, portfolios, or any additional features? If you answered yes and you still choose to go with an online build-it-yourself service, then I would advise you to look carefully at what options are available for each service that you choose. Some will integrate with other services nicely, some will charge you an extra monthly fee for such additions and some won’t integrate at all. You likely don’t want to be stuck with a website that does not provide some or all of these services.

These are just five things to consider when making a decision about how to create your online presence. In reality, there are tons of other points to consider, such as the sometimes hefty monthly price tags, paying for each additional service, being stuck in a yearly contract, what happens if you want to move your website, and the list goes on.  Your goal is to have your business grow, your website should be able to grow with it. If you  can’t afford to have your site professionally designed or if you feel that the cost cannot be justified, then maybe a build-it-yourself service is the right option, but before jumping into anything, be sure to ask yourself the above questions and as with any agreement READ THE FINE PRINT!

Our Latest Press Release Announcing the Introduction of Website Payment Plans!!

Web Design Company Introduces Affordable Payment Plans for Websites

Montreal, QC – Oomph Studios Website Design and Branding has just announced that they will begin offering payment plans to web design clients.

Oomph Studios, a Montreal area website design and branding company has just revealed their latest attempt at making getting online more accessible for individuals and businesses. As of June 1st, 2012, the company is introducing payment plans for all of their website design packages.

Kelly Sims, owner of Oomph Studios explained this move, “My reason for doing this is quite simple: With the economy in the shape it’s been in for the past few years, more and more people who can’t find work are opting to become self-employed. Being self-employed myself, I think that this is a fantastic move, but I also know from past experience that start-up companies struggle financially. Offering payment plans so that these businesses have an easier time getting online means that they’ll struggle less while gaining access to a much larger market than they would without a website.”

The company who previously introduced a low-cost, non-custom design service for businesses on a budget is now looking to monthly payments as a way of assisting business owners to get online and get access to more customers. Oomph Studios currently offers packages ranging from fully customized websites, to their affordable, non-custom Website-in-a-Week package. The new payment plans will apply to all Web Design packages and payments will be taken from their client’s credit cards on a monthly basis.

“We will offer 12, 6, and 3 month plans depending on the web design package chosen and the client’s payment preferences of course. I’m really hoping this will encourage businesses looking to get a web presence, or looking to change their current website to take the plunge and know that it can be done painlessly with installments,” Sims explained. “You can buy just about anything with a monthly payment plan these days, so why not websites?”

Oomph Studios provides website and graphic design services to clients worldwide. To learn more about the company, or to view their portfolio, visit their website at http://oomphwebdesign.ca/.

Take Control of Your Website!

Take control of your website with WordPressIt wasn’t long ago that when an individual or a business purchased a website, they were at the mercy of their Web Designer or Web Master to make any kind of modifications to it. If that Designer wasn’t an employee, you were either extremely lucky to have a Designer that would respond to your requests quickly, or you had one that took weeks to make even the smallest changes to your site. Back then, if you were in the latter situation, your choices were to either find a new designer, or sit and wait until the changes were made. Today, if you are in such a predicament, there is a third option: Have your site re-designed using the WordPress platform and manage it yourself.

This is not a joke, you can actually manage your website yourself, and by that I mean, that you can change pictures, add text and even add entire pages to your own website and you won’t need to learn any new technical skills to do it. WordPress is an extremely user friendly software that enables even those without the technical knowledge to set a PVR timer to add content to their website.

Back in the day of HTML websites, updates, even seemingly tiny ones, were often tedious for designers and impossible for site owners to accomplish themselves without some technical knowhow. This knowhow usually included knowledge of HTML and CSS, not to mention familiarity with FTP software and the need for often expensive programs such as Adobe Dreamweaver to make these changes. In addition, paying a designer to make changes to a website isn’t cheap, causing some business owners to put off making important updates, or not making them at all. The result of not making these changes or updates is often lost revenue. For example, if your business wants to advertise an annual event, or sale, your website is a wonderful place to publicize it, but if your designer is too busy to get the information on to your site on time, or if you opt not to have him post it to “save” money, your website visitors will be unaware of your sale, or your product launch, or your award, or whatever other piece of information would be useful for them to know and you will likely lose money in the long run.

Today, once your WordPress website is set-up by your designer, she just needs to provide you with the login information for your site and you have total control of its content. If you’re not familiar with WordPress’ Dashboard (admin panel), a simple Google search of “Wordpress Dashboard Tutorial” should result in several brief (and I do mean brief) tutorials that will walk you through updating your site step by step.

Your business should not be at the mercy of your designer. Switching to a website on the WordPress platform will save you money on costly updates and give you back control of your business’ online presence.

Ready, Aim, Design! How to Make Your Site Speak to Your Target Market

Website Design for Target MarketBuilding a website without first deciding who you are building it for is a lot like skeet shooting while blindfolded – you’re not very likely to hit your target. While you may have an impressive looking site, that alone won’t lead you to convert visitors into customers. And while your website text plays a very big role in converting clients, so too does your website’s design. So how do you design a website that appeals to your target audience?

First, there are a few givens when designing a website that sells:

  1. Your most important content should be above the fold. Meaning that your most important message should be visible when you land on the page without having to scroll down or click to another part of the site.  After all first impressions are what either gets someone to stay on your site, or leave it.
  2. Your site should be clean and easy to navigate. When a visitor lands on a website that is so busy and jammed packed with content that they don’t know where to look never mind click, they will often just leave the site rather than waste any time trying to figure out what the site owner has to offer.  On a clean site, your message will be more evident to your visitors, “Join my list and you’ll get an incredible free gift,” “Buy my product and it will change your life,” “Look at these great examples of my work and imagine what I can do for you.”  No matter what the offer, visitors need to know what it is without having to wade through tons of ads and content to get it.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty: how do you design a site that speaks to your target market? The first step in this process is of course, to determine who your target market is. You might already know this information, but if you don’t, just think about what you are offering. Who are the people that will love (or already do love) your product. Are they businesses or individuals, women or men, parents or childless couples, young or old? Then, if your product requires it, go even further, is your target health conscious, animal lovers, introverts, sports fanatics? Think of any other specific categories that might characterize someone buying your product or service. For example, if your business is sells hearing aids, you can assume that your target market is women and men who are seniors, or at least approaching their senior years. This market is quite general, they won’t specifically be into animals or cooking, but we can assume that they are either retired, or approaching retirement and since they are interested in a hearing aid we can assume that they are concerned about their quality of life.

Next, think about the things that your target market would like to see in a website. For example, if your company sells women’s jewelry, you probably don’t want a masculine website with lots of pictures of men. You need a site that a woman in your target market can relate to. Going back to our hearing aid example, since you are catering to both men and women, the site should have a gender neutral look. Your audience is older, so your theme should have a mature, professional look. Since your focus is on seniors who are retired, or are approaching retirement and who are concerned about their quality of life, your images can reflect this by portraying happy seniors living well. Additionally along with being a senior comes a reduction in eyesight. An older audience needs text that doesn’t make their head ache. Sitting white text on a dark background makes a site more difficult to read, as does using small text and cursive fonts.

Put yourself in the shoes of your target market and surf the web. Take notes on elements of websites that you think your audience would like. Get creative and have fun! Before you know it you’ll have a website that converts more visitors into buyers.