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 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?

Create an e-Course and Put Your Website on Autopilot

The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on in August of 2012.

Put Your Website on Autopilot with an e-courseI see it every day; entrepreneurs fighting to balance work, family and time for themselves while struggling to maintain a sustainable income. In fact, many entrepreneurs find themselves working 7 days a week in order to keep up. They work harder and harder telling themselves that one day it will pay off. You’ve heard the saying, “work smarter, not harder.” But how? How do you work less and still make enough to pay your bills and grow your business? Some will say outsourcing is the trick and they would be right to a certain extent. Outsourcing is a great way to put some balance back into your life. But outsourcing requires the income to hire someone to help – and what if you’re simply not there yet? There is another way. Put your website to work for you!

I’m not talking about just having a great website (although that is a definite bonus). I’m talking about literally making your website do your work for you by creating an automated educational product around your offerings. It will require some work from you to set it up, but once completed, you will be able to sell your own unique e-course without spending more than a few minutes from time to time working on it.

The first step is to determine what part of your services can in-fact be converted to educational material, or what kind of material your target market could benefit from and then create that material. Do you coach, counsel, educate, or sell a product? What service(s) do you offer that can be made into either educational written material, or videos? If you sell a product, look at your target market and determine what they might like to learn about. For example, if your company sells pet products, they might benefit from some dog training videos. If you sell food products, perhaps your target would be interested in a healthy living e-course, or a cooking e-course. If your business coaches entrepreneurs, create an e-course that will automate the coaching process with instructional emails, or videos, or both and offer it to entrepreneurs who can’t afford personalized coaching.

Next, install a membership program on your website. If you are using a platform such as WordPress this can be as easy as installing a simple plugin. If not, you may require someone with technical skills to help with this step, but paying for help with setup will pay off in the long run. Membership software will enable you to create areas of your website that are only assessable to members. You may consider creating a page for each chapter, or level of your e-course and the content can include, text, audio, e-books for download and/or videos. You can also make your membership program more enticing by adding forums or social networking groups so that the people that register can network and communicate with like-minded individuals.

Consider carefully which program you would like to use. Create a check list of what you would like your program to have – for example, you’ll likely need it to integrate with your payment processor or shopping cart and if you’d like to automate email deliveries, along with your e-course, you should be certain that it integrates nicely with the email marketing service of your choice.  Also consider your payment structure. Will people pay a monthly fee or a onetime fee to access your material? Will they pay per chapter, or per level?

Once completed, your program will act as a silent business partner working in the background increasing your income while you focus on other areas of your business. And guess what? You’ll be working smarter, not harder.

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.

My First Blog Post on my First Day of Operating Oomph Studios…

In this, my first blog post on the first day of operating my new business, I’m going to address the question that everyone and their mother has been asking me leading up to the big launch, “Why Oomph Studios?” When I chose this name, I honestly thought it was fairly obvious why I named it as I did, but according to my husband, my colleagues, my family, some friends, and the strange lady making small talk with me at the bank,  the name is not as understandable as I first though.

First, deciding on a business name isn’t an easy thing. There are lots of other businesses out there and often your first choice for a business name is already taken and the URL not available. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case. My first choice actually was Oomph! (the ‘Studios’ was added later).  I wanted my new businesses name to be punchy (read short) and memorable, both of which are traits that the name Oomph Studios happily possesses, but I also wanted it to reflect what my clients ask me for. So here was my line of thinking: What are the most common things that a client asks me for when I design a website? Are you ready? Here they are, the 3 most common things I hear from clients who have hired me to design their website:

  1. It has to be beautiful
  2. It has to look clean
  3. It has to have….OOMPH!

And voila! There is the reason for my business name. It’s because of my very extraordinary clients requesting outstanding websites with “OOMPH!”  So, on my first blog post on the first day of operating Oomph Studios, I’d like to thank my clients for inspiring me to give my own company “OOMPH!”