Friday, February 29, 2008

Some Affordable Websites Only Become Affordable Websites After the Fact

(Part five of a five part series.)


by Gene Schwerman


Suppose you decide to build a website, and it is not even close to being your first one. Suppose you have done this all before. Of course you would like to get an affordable website. Affordable websites, however difficult to obtain, are the standard that everyone is looking for, right? However, suppose in this case, with eyes open, you spend significantly more than you know it should cost to build your website. Indeed you select the highest bid. If you are an experienced webmaster, and you know how difficult it is to actually make money on the Internet, if you have tried for those really inexpensive websites before, and in the end when you factor in time lost and the cost of your time trying to get things right, at least sometimes the most affordable websites are the ones that get done with the least amount of hassle and start making you money.

No one is suggesting here that you go out looking for the Web designer who is going to charge the most. But if you worked with several different web designers, and you communicate extremely well with one of them who can get things done correctly the first time most of the time, wouldn't it make sense to spend a few dollars more to work with that person rather than trying to save a few dollars by working with someone with whom communication is a definite problem? When you factor your own time into the equation, quite often, spending a few extra dollars to work with the right person or company will actually save you money in the long run. Sometimes in business, we can become so focused on the best price or the lowest price, that we completely lose sight of the big picture. Truly affordable websites, therefore, at least some of the time, become truly affordable websites not because of how inexpensive they were in the first place but how quickly and effectively they are completed and begin functioning and earning their owner money.

In this instance, of course, we are talking about the experienced website owner. On the very first website you ever build, you can get recommendations from other people who built sites, you can check referrals and references and look closely at completed websites the Web designer has built in the past, but in the end, you're going to have to make your decision based upon your accumulated research without the benefit of experience. The more work you have done on your websites over time the easier it should become to select your next Web designer. Even if you are quite aware that each and every website you build with this particular designer is significantly more expensive than the last one you may still be far better off dealing with a known commodity than taking a shot in the dark with someone new.

If indeed you do have to switch web designers, this time when you make your decision based upon the references, other people's recommendations, and your estimation of the web designers ability based upon the sites he has built in the past, you will be doing so from the advantage of having had a lot of experience evaluating all of these things. You may be surprised to find out that experience is actually equally important for the Web owner as it is for the Web designer. You may find it much easier to take into consideration factors like your time involvement in the project, your initial ability to communicate with the Web designer, and the web designer's willingness to communicate back to you and his ability to listen and understand the changes you are requesting. You may even indeed find yourself deciding to pay a little bit more than is necessary in order to have the opportunity to get the site that you want more quickly and with less of a struggle. So therefore, some affordable websites only become affordable websites after the fact.

About the Author

Gene Schwerman is founder and head marketing consultant for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on sites that offer services from office supply to graphic art designs.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Affordable Website Design - What You Need

(Part four of a five part series.)

by Dustin Schwerman

In the cheap web design group of this prolonged series of articles (I'll give myself enough credit to not call it rambling until I get into the custom/unique dichotomy) I asserted that there was indeed a difference between "affordable website design" and "cheap web design". Enough of one, in fact, to warrant writing a separate set of articles for each. In short, the primary difference I described was that the latter option represented the creation of a site that was quantitatively low in cost. An affordable website design, on the other hand, can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars without losing its title - provided, naturally, that you are actually getting a site with a high value for the price you pay. To quote one of my father's articles, affordable website design "may really be getting what you want at a fair and reasonable price."

To that end, you have to know what it is that you want. This is important for several reasons, not the least of which being that it helps you avoid paying too much if you wind up choosing a "value meal" website design. You know the type, the so-called "packages" that all seem to provide the same services, except you get more pages with each increment. Some of them go even further, offering web hosting packages along with their website designs, which all sounds real nice until you realize that they're probably just buying reseller hosting from the bigger, better hosting companies and providing you with inferior services at a higher price. In fact, perhaps one of the most useful things you can get for an affordable website design is a good, inexpensive hosting company. At least that way you aren't wasting extra money on second-hand hosting.

Ideally, though, you'll have not only a good host, but also a web designer who charges by the actual value of the site. Determining this value is a topic best saved for the "what you get" article, but there is something that you can do in these cases to help keep the costs down. Yep, knowing exactly what it is that you want. Many people go into website design without really having any idea what they want their site to accomplish, even what they want it to look like. That's forgivable; after all, they're hiring these professionals to build the site, right? Professionals who presumably have far more experience in creating websites properly. No doubt, if you say, "I have a restaurant and it needs a website," your designer will be able to immediately draw upon its vast understanding and experience to create an attractive, functional site for your restaurant.

And you will be getting an incredibly unaffordable website. Why? Because you aren't taking advantage of your knowledge of your business. It's no secret that I am staunchly opposed to templates, but really, that's just what you're getting in the above scenario. Templates, let's be clear, aren't bad because they're unattractive or poorly-functional sites. Admittedly, some of the WYSIWYG editors leave a bit to be desired, but that's not a problem once you actually managed (possibly with much banging on the keyboard and hopefully with significantly less inserting your fist into your computer screen) to get your site on-line. Templates are bad because they don't take your business into account. A template, in short, is the product of an experienced website designer with absolutely no input from the business. Given that you can get templates for cheap or even free, paying a designer for what amounts to the same thing is always the worse deal.

You don't want a website for a restaurant; you want a website for youralmost smells the food, or as a system of drop-down menus and JavaScript functions that lets the visitor craft the perfect order before ever setting foot into your building. Those are the sorts of things that a skilled website design team can accomplish - and hundreds more beside them - but they're not likely to use them if all you tell them you want is a restaurant site. You'll get a nice-looking website, probably with some reds and yellows because those colors are supposed to stimulate hunger, with a section for your menu and maybe an area for images of your dishes. Probably a picture of the building on the front page. About us and contact somewhere. Perhaps a site map. Starting to sound formulaic? Almost template-like? Then I suppose I've made my point and we're ready to move on. restaurant. Complete with graphics and functions designed to appeal to and improve the experience of your clientele. Only you know if the most useful way to present your menu on the web is in a beautiful graphical format that appears so real that the visitor

A template looks and feels professional, but they remain formulas. They draw upon a web designer's overall learning without bringing its experience to bear on your business. Paying a designer and failing to capitalize on this most advantageous aspect of doing so is like paying for a template, which is not affordable no matter how cheap the design may be. If you want an affordable website design, you have to go to your designer prepared to explain all the cool things you want your website to be able to do. Only with that preparation are you certain to be able to both get a good price and obtain exactly what you need.

About the Author

Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on sites of all varieties, from office supplies to men's designer jewelry.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Affordable Website Design - What You Get

(Part three in a five part series.)

by Dustin Schwerman

The true measure of a website's affordability is its value, not its cost. You can get an affordable website design for a thousand dollars, and if it includes powerful programming, custom graphic design, even some e-commerce and SEO, it is quite a value indeed. On the other hand, its title immediately changes to expensive if you only receive a few web pages, a stylesheet, and a site map. So how do you know how affordable a website really is? How do you decide what you should get to ensure that you are getting what you paid for?

Ever notice how a lot of web designers sell their services in packages? Take a look at the packages they offer. Are they looking suspiciously similar? Are you noticing that the main difference in the package is number of pages or improved hosting services (such as email accounts, bandwidth, and storage)? I've used packages like this as examples in a few of my articles; I like to call them "value meal" web design, not out of any actual value, but because they remind me a lot of a fast food restaurant where you buy for the burger but pay by the french fry.

Now of course, you aren't going to want to limit yourself to only a few pages or a few hundred megs of monthly bandwidth. You have ambitions! And that's how you wind up losing money. It looks impressive, and it's meant to, because you see how it already costs a hundred dollars or so just for a basic ten page site or a hosting plan with 10 MB storage and 100 MB bandwidth and 10 email accounts, so when you see that the $1,000 plan has a thousand pages, a gig of storage, 10 gigs of bandwidth, and unlimited email accounts, well, that's a pretty good value. Ten times the price for a hundred times the stuff.

It's a clever tactic, and it's no doubt a tactic intended to catch people who don't have experience with web design and web hosting and don't realize the actual value of the services being offered. First off, what are the chances that you're actually going to use a thousand web pages? Just so you know, that probably doesn't mean they write a thousand quality pages for your website. It means you can give them a thousand pages of text and they'll format it and link it up and lay it out. Not individually, of course. They're web designers; they have stylesheets and php inclusions and databases to do all that for them. But chances are, by the time you actually have a thousand pages worth of information, you're looking for a database-driven site, which dynamically creates individual pages, so the actual page count is irrelevant.

But what about that storage and bandwidth? A gig of storage and ten gigs of bandwidth may very well be required; you can manage with less, but if you plan for your site to grow, that's a pretty solid amount. The thing is, in the grand scheme of things, that's dinky. Bigger web hosts often offer hosting packages for under ten dollars per month that offer - ready for this? - thousands of gigs of storage and bandwidth. Not to mention unlimited emails, a few add-on domains, and a variety of extras. These small web design companies are offering you something called reseller hosting, where they buy a package from a big host and sell the hosting to their clients. The packages they provide are smaller than those the main hosting company, but will probably cost more, because they need to make a profit. It's a typical middle-man addition that saves you nothing, unless you really want to only pay one company.

So what should you be looking for in an affordable website design? You should be looking for a flexible pricing system that allows you to put what you want into your site, be it graphics or programming or e-commerce. You should look for a designer who has the experience to figure out how to build your site the way you want it and the creativity to show some style while doing so. You should look for companies that don't charge by the page, and you should look for a full-service, dedicated web host to house your final site (if your designer can recommend a good one, all the better!) In short, you shouldn't purchase a website that charges based on a systemic package that you probably won't use to its fullest. You should buy the site with a price based on what you'll use and what you get.

About the Author


Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on sites of all varieties, from office supplies to men's designer jewelry.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Affordable Website Design - The Right Tool

(Part 2 in a five part series.)

by Dustin Schwerman

So you've done it. You found the perfect website designer offering you exactly what you need to get the website that you want. You have a wide range of options to choose from, and best of all, it will be an affordable website design that fits properly into your budget. You know where you will be getting your hosting, you've had your designers do a bit of initial keyword research and you've chosen your domain name. Now you have just one question left to ask.

What is this website supposed to do?

You have the creative freedom of an affordable website design created by an experienced team of skilled professionals. This lends you incredible power, providing the ability to do exactly what you want with your website. However, knowing what it is that you want to do is an important first step. Your website designer is probably willing to make basic changes, updates, and additions, and revise work that doesn't fit your grand design. It may well even mock up a few options to give you some ideas. In the end, though, the best use for a website of this type is to bring your own creative power to bear in creating the site, while your designers handle the technical work. In other words, don't expect your web builders to inspire you; it's your job to inspire them!

But that means knowing what you want your site to accomplish, and where are you supposed to learn the extent of the options you have available? You've never created a website, never read a page on xhtml, css, JavaScript, php, MySQL, or AJAX. If you're like most business owners, you wouldn't know a doctype if you bumped into one in a crowded div (and the fact that you're looking for the doctype in a div only proves it). So how are you supposed to know that there are superglobal arrays that can pass information between pages when you've never even met a global or local array and actually the only variable you've ever encountered was a mean-spirited little i back in high-school algebra who not only ruined your opportunity to write "no solution" and call it a night but who your teacher always told you was imaginary anyway? But then you come into the world of web design and your old foe i is running the show telling a bunch of for loops what to do, and suddenly Mr. Imaginary can let you cycle through an entire array with only a few lines of code. And you've still never met an array! So how exactly are you supposed to figure out what your website is going to be able to do? It's like you need a highly trained professional just to learn where all your limits are, and where is someone supposed to find one of those?

And two plus two, as it did back in high school algebra, makes four.

So you draft an email or pick up the phone, and start asking your website developer what kind of stuff you'll be able to do with this website of yours. You start talking about a Flash intro animation and you start hearing about Internet user impatience and SEO problems, but when the conversation turns to shopping carts your designer just wants to know how detailed a system you'll want. Animations? Sure, as long as they don't distract people. What kind of things can you do with images? Oh, where to begin. Maybe you'll even start getting into sessions and databases and their application for forums and chat rooms. Ever want to have your own personal chat room on your website? Think your clients would like one? Maybe you should have your developer create a feedback form and ask them.

The point I'm trying to make here is that when you have the creative freedom to craft the website you want for a reasonable price, you have a plethora of options available to you. Now, they may not all be in your budget, and they may not all be ideal additions to your site. But that's okay, because you have an experienced professional who is an email or a phone call away who can fill you in on standards and repercussions, letting you know what is and isn't possible and of those things that are, what the limitations of including them will be. So even if you don't have any for loops and i has to stay stranded in your imagination, there's plenty of things that you can do with a creative vision and a skilled technician, and whatever you will be creating, an affordable website design is always the right tool.

About the Author

Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on sites of all varieties, from office supplies to hydronic cooling and heating.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Affordable Website Design - The Right Price

(Part one in a series of five.)

by Dustin Schwerman

The very fact that you are interested in an affordable website design indicates that the price is a key consideration. Qualitative value vs. quantitative cost semantics aside, you have a budget. I've explained in the previous three articles in this set what it takes to get a good value from your website - a design based on actual functions and benefits rather than systematic price increases, a full-service dedicated web host, and an understanding of exactly what you want your website to do. With those advantages, you can be sure that you will only be paying for things that actually improve your website, rather than arbitrary markups designed to exact the greatest cost for the least amount of effort.

Naturally, this means that you are paying for the actual power of the coding, the extent of the design work, and of course, the overall time spent and difficulty encountered in getting your website on-line. Unlike strict pricing packages, these things are going to vary based on the individual site and the individual designer. It is for this reason that it is so critical to have an idea of what you plan to do with your website. If you can discuss everything with your designer on day one, you can be sure that the initial estimate will not be far off from the final price - unless you go and change your mind mid-way through the project, of course.

But no doubt you're sick to death of articles that have great keywords like "affordable" and "price" in the name and only give abstractions and indirect suggestions. So with the understanding that the suggestions below are based on my personal beliefs and not an industry standard (which to the best of this writer's knowledge does not exist), here are the sorts of prices that I think are reasonable to expect and quite affordable to boot:

At the very least, any professionally-designed website should offer an overall site layout, up-to-date xhtml formatting, and a stylesheet and linking structure where necessary. Ideally, the code should also be clean enough that another website designer can go in to make changes if you hire someone else for updates. Such sites might also offer minor additions such as basic programming (such as button images changing on a mouseover or other simple functions), some minor graphic design (a logo, button system, or other simple image), or some initial proofreading and keyword optimization of text (assuming you provide the keywords). Such a site should generally run for around $100-$200.

A more advanced site may include some solid programming, general graphic design, and/or more extensive SEO. It might bring into play a simple admin system or other database work, dynamic or dynamically created content, and the like. It may include a full graphical layout. If you're getting a couple of these things, but there won't be too amazingly much formatting to do, vicinity $500 is a solid value. It may go lower if the code is particularly simple and the graphics sparse, or higher if you need more or more complex systems.

Once you're getting into the realms of highly advanced custom coding and particularly elaborate graphic design, you're usually talking at least a thousand dollars, and maybe several thousand. These would be sites with customized shopping carts, forums, or chat rooms, or sites that require several different graphical layouts for different pages.

In the end, the cost of your site is going to be based on the site you need and the designer you choose. As a final suggestion, prioritize! You want an affordable website design, so it may be wise not to go all-out with the initial site design. Get the important functions up first, make sure the site looks good, start on the SEO. Then drive a few clicks to it, see how people respond, make use of any tracking systems that you can get from your designer, host, or third-party sources. As always, knowing what you want and determining the best people to get it from is key to obtaining the right price.

About the Author

Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on sites of all varieties, from office supplies to hydronic cooling and heating.

Friday, February 22, 2008

11 Checkpoints for Simple Webpage Accessibility

by David Broadhead

Are you a web designer? Would you like to make your websites accessible to everyone, even those who are disabled? In some instances accessibility is a requirement. For example, Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act requires all U.S. Federal agencies to make their websites accessible. But it makes sense for just about any informational or e-commerce site to be useable by as many people as possible.

These checkpoints are what I use, since I find them much more comprehensible than trying to interpret the Section 508 or WCAG (Web Content Accessibility) guidelines. As used here, the word "simple" means that the page has only widely-used features. If you use Flash, for example, you will need to add some new checkpoints of your own. Since this is not a tutorial, I will not offer an explanation for the terms used. Web-searching on "accessibility tutorial" should give you a long list to choose from.

The Checkpoints

1. Validate your HTML and CSS first. Many of the checkpoints will already be taken care of when your page validates.

2. Appearance: Make a visual check of your page. Text should stand out clearly from the background. Text lines should not be too long. The font should be easy to read. Color should not be necessary in order to use the page. (eg. Don't say something like, "Red indicates a required field.")

3. Structure: Heading tags should be in order (h1, h2, h3), and none should be skipped. Paragraph tags should be used so that all text is enclosed by a block element.

4. Menus: Use an unordered list for menus. A skip-navigation link should exist before the menu.

5. Links: Use meaningful link text. Always use a title attribute in the 'a' tag. Use a small icon to indicate off-page links.

6. On-page navigation: Make sure that tab-browsing works properly. Use 'tabindex' only if necessary, and 'accesskey' where appropriate (eg - 1 for Home Page, 2 for Main Content). I try not to use letters, since they could conflict with a text-reader.

7. Text: Use 'em' for italics and 'strong' for boldface. Define acronyms and abbreviations in a 'title' attribute. Use the proper tags also for quotations ('q' for one line, 'blockquote' for more than one line, 'cite' to include a link to the quote).

8. Images: Always use the 'alt' attribute, with meaningful text, unless the image is only for spacing, decoration, or a list-bullet -- then use alt="". In addition, use 'title' if the image is not being used as a link. (This will cause a hover 'tooltip' to appear in Firefox, like the one that appears using 'alt' in Internet Explorer.)

9. Tables: These of course should not be used for markup. Be sure that a description of the table is given, using 'caption', 'title', or 'summary'. Use 'th' tags for clarity.

10. Forms: Use 'fieldset' and 'legend' to group form elements into logical units. Always use the 'label' tag adjacent to all 'input' and 'textarea' tags, and don't forget to correlate the 'for and 'id' attributes. For clarity, all 'button' tags and 'submit' buttons need a 'title' attribute.

11. Scripts: Should be unobtrusive (off-page), backwards-compatible (work with older browsers), and degradable (things work properly without them). Use 'noscript' tags to explain what the script does, and how to set the proper permissions to allow Javascript.

Now it should be easier for you to design a website taking account of a person's sight, mobility, and auditory faculties.

About the Author

David Broadhead, aka "The Professor", is the owner and sole employee of Professional Website Development, based in the US Virgin Islands. He also writes tutorials and code snippets designed for people who understand plain English.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Web Hosting - FTP and Other File Transfer Tools

by Matt R

The Internet as well as computer industry is full of technical jargon and acronyms. The moment you start dealing with web business you are bound to come across the technical side of it. Start building a website and very soon you'll face a new word from computer dictionary, i.e. FTP which stands for File Transfer Protocol. It's a no-brainer that many would prefer using the acronym.

Anyone who has ever developed a website and uploaded it over a remote web server understands why FTP is such an important service that demands its awareness from all web site owners. There has to be a simple and efficient way of getting files transferred to and from a web server and FTP is the solution.

There are two sides to the FTP service: the client-side and the server-side. The working of FTP software is quite analogous to Walkie Talkie. At any one point, the communication takes place from one side to the other. You initiate a request to transfer a file from your computer to the server and the server (listener in this case) performs the necessary action. Only then can the next cycle of communication take place, confirming to our analogy of Walkie Talkie like communication.

The language of FTP is not hard to decipher. In the above communication cycle, you'll generate the PUT command to transfer a web page from your hard disk to the web server that hosts your website. To download a file existing on your web hosting server to your local computer, all you need is generate a GET command.

Many of today's FTP software, also known as FTP clients, make use of graphical interface. This makes it very easy for new web hosting customers to transfer files to the server in a drag & drop environment. They need not bother about the peculiar details of FTP code; however knowing what's going on definitely helps webmasters build their expertise. Being able to work in Command Line Interface, like Windows DOS, is a clear-cut plus and often the key to rescue when diagnosing problems and troubleshooting.

It is interesting to note that using an FTP client is not the only way you transfer files. In fact, file transferring is a process that keeps on going every time you type a URL in browser's address bar or click a hyperlink on a web page. What's happening here is also a file transfer mechanism that translates pages stored on a server to your browser's display area.

Other means of transferring files include a File Manager interface provided by many of today's web hosting companies. This file manager is often a part of the control panel that these hosts provide their customers, which is available online and very user friendly.

Email can also be exploited to transfer files. For advanced webmasters it's possible to email web pages or files stored on their local PC to the remote server and place it in a specific folder via making use of an email client hosted on the server itself.

While one may question the need of these FTP alternatives, redundancy never hurts. In case your FTP software starts acting weird or fails to deliver, you'll find it much more productive to have an alternative path to the same server than simply struggling with the troubling tool. Hence, the more you acquaint yourself with the available tools and jargons, the easier it gets to get things done.

About the Author

If you're looking for Web Hosting Visit The Top Ten Web Hosts today to find out more about the most Reliable Web Hosting companies in the business.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Improve Bounce Rates to Get More Action

by Kenn Schroder

One of the biggest problems on websites, especially coaching websites, is a high bounce rate.

A bounce rate is the rate at which people simply "bounce" off of your website; specifically, your home page. For instance, a person might land on your home page and won't click further to any other pages.

The impact is obvious. When people bounce off of your site, they don't spend time or take any action. They don't subscribe to your email list. They don't ask for a free session. They don't buy a product. Quite simply, it's a waste of your marketing efforts.

The main cause of high bouncing is confusion. Many home pages aren't clear, aren't easy to look at or read, and don't lead visitors to other pages.

A successful home page gets visitors clicking deeper into the website. To do this, the home page needs to ground people and direct them to the next page.

Three things that get visitors engaged are:

1. Pages that download quickly. Slow-loading websites give visitors time to get distracted and/or think your website doesn't work. It must open up in a few seconds.

2. Professional-looking pages. A professional design says you're a serious coach. It says a serious effort has been made to help the client; meaning, there's probably value here. Keep your layout simple. Use easy-to-read fonts; have an easy-to-follow navigation; and use two to three colors that are attractive and appealing.

3. A home page that answers these basic questions: "What is this?", "Is this for me?", and "Why should I be here?" Your tagline, website name, home-page copy, and even the choice of words in the navigation can help answer these questions.

Now that your visitor is grounded, he's ready to continue. Your home page needs to lead the prospect to another page.

The essence of getting people to take action is to know what they want, and what you want. Then devise a next-step plan that'll help achieve both.

Let's say you want visitors to sign up for a free session. And, as you know, your visitors have challenges they want to overcome. To get them to move towards this action, you'll want to lead them onto a page that shows that you understand their situation; that you know where they want to go; that you have a method to do this; and that you've helped others like them.

Another example is to invite people to sign up for your email list and grow a relationship, providing helpful information over time.

Whatever the action you want visitors to take, be sure to make that button or link stand out.

The bottom line: confusion and lack of clarity cause visitors to hit the road before exploring your services. Make sure you ground visitors and lead them into your website to build a relationship that ultimately leads them to hiring you as their coach.

About the Author

Kenn Schroder helps coaches who are struggling to attract clients. He provides web design, web marketing and search engine optimization to help you build a client-attracting coaching website. Get your FREE report and FREE newsletter to help you build a practice full of clients. http://www.CoachingSitesThatWork.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What does your customer want that you're not giving them?

by Todd Schneckloth

This article is an insight into the life of a customer. So first let's put you back into your customers' shoes.

Are you there?

Okay... let's say that you are trying to find a company to handle your child's birthday party. You really don't have time to plan a party, and right now you are in kind of a rush because you need to get the kids to soccer practice.

So you quick, hurry jump on the web and using your favorite search engine you find 3 local companies that do parties.

You click on the first link and you end up on this really hi-tech, flashy website.

You wait patiently for the progress bar to load, ... then... the clown to finish blowing up his balloon, then some music kicks in. Yuck, ice-cream truck music....and finally in a musical burst little symbols pop out all over the screen.

You look them over.. hmmm... none of them say what they do.

Of course you are web savvy so you roll over the top of one and sure enough you are presented with a description and list of more options.

You click on one of the options and the screen explodes in another burst of color and you are presented with another progress bar... you pause for a second, look at your watch and then click the "Back" button.

What did we learn?

  • Users don't like to wait. They have a thousand other places to visit. They want it all and they want it now.
  • Don't make them think. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for.
  • Sound isn't always a good thing. Consider where your customer might be when they hit your site.

You click on the next link, now a little bit less enthusiastic than when you first started this adventure. The page loads faster. No fancy, balloony, clowny things. You sigh in relief. Yay, no music!!

You continue on. Wow, very nice looking site, bet it was expensive. It says here they've been in business 4 years. They have 23 years combined birthday party experience. They have a birthday party certification from Birthday-U. Hmmm... like you would know what that is.

The right hand column is full of bright fancy logos from all their party favor sponsors. Ummm.. okay.

And here's a big story about how they did the birthday party for the governer. Yeah... like you can afford one like that.

And finally "Please call for pricing"...

Back button, click!

What did we learn?

  • Think of your target market. If you are selling to the average consumer talk of big fancy stuff can scare them off.
  • Don't clutter your site with a bunch of logo's and sponsors and titles that won't mean a thing to your customer. It's not about you.
  • Most online customers expect to see pricing. It's possible that is why they are researching your site in the first place.

Now you are at your last link. You are bored, irritated, and pretty much out of time. And 15 minutes later you are no further along than when you started.

But like all well trained search engine users, you click the next link.

Hmmmm... loads very quickly. Not very fancy, definitely home-made.

Headline says to "Sit back and enjoy the party, we'll handle the rest". Yes!

It also states that they will do the cleanup for an extra fee. That would be nice, hadn't thought of that.

They have some testimonials down the side from people that have nothing but good things to say about them. Wow... a LOT of testimonials.

At the top you only see three really large links. Cheesy, but it works. You click on the "What's included with your party" link. You scan through it quickly. Whoa, that's a lot of stuff. But... how much does it cost.

You click on the "Pricing" link and low an behold a list of all the options and their pricing. Also a note they can help with anything you want that's not on the list. Cool.

Finally you click on the "Contact us to setup your party". You get a list of their phone numbers, their business hours, and even after hours number for a party emergency. There's even an email form if you want them to contact you.

You smile, you click print, and off to soccer you go... problem solved.

So in the end was it about the fancy flashy latest and greatest website? How about the certifications, credentials or sponsors?

Not for this customer.

What did we learn?

  • This site got them in and moving fast. It wasn't pretty and they noticed, but a fancy website design wasn't what brought them here.
  • The first thing the customer saw was what the site could do for them. It addressed their pain and provided a solution.
  • It made it really easy to find the "other" things the customer would probably be looking for. Pricing, features, options.
  • They all provided lots of contact options. Make it easy for them to give you money.

One final point here. I'm not saying that big and flashy is bad. I'm not saying a professional, nicely designed site is bad. I'm saying that you need to know "your" audience. Know what "your" customers are looking for.

Give them what they want... then get out of the way.


What does "YOUR" customer want that you aren't giving them?

About the Author

Todd Schneckloth is a commercial software developer specializing in online marketing. After many years of working with big business his interests shifted towards helping individuals and small business owners become successful on the Internet.

His recent project http://dwkickstart.com is dedicated to providing marketing information and web skills to those trying to make it online.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Website Navigation

by Pat L

Importance of a navigation scheme

One of the most important tasks when developing your website is creating a navigation system that is effective and easy to use. People have a tendency to try to include everything in the navigation tree all at once. Instead they should follow the same process as setting up the structure for the site and break it down in levels. This would be information relevant to the homepage that directs visitors to the main sections of the site. From the main sections of the site, the user gains access to the sub sections containing content pertinent to that section only. Remember to always include links back to the main sections and your homepage on every page in your site. While you are creating your navigation setup, try to look through your user's eyes. Remember, you are the one creating the structure, so you are biased in your opinions. If you think about what someone else might say or do, then you are one step ahead of the game.

As you create you website navigation, make sure that links can be added in the future with no difficulty. You must always keep in mind that your site must be flexible and open to change because it is never completed. All links should be clear and to the point. It makes no sense to have your visitor try to figure out where they are going. They should be able to quickly look for what they want and then access it in a timely and efficient method. There is a better chance of a visitor going somewhere else if it takes too long for them to find the information they are looking for. Your navigation scheme should stick out and be located in a common spot on every page of your site. Consistency allows your visitors to focus on the content instead of trying to figure another navigation system for the same site.

Linear navigation

Linear navigation provides the same capabilities as your forward and back button on your browser. With this navigation style, you cannot jump around and skip pages. Reading a book or viewing a PowerPoint presentations are also examples of linear navigation. As you read through the pages, it makes no sense to jump around or you might miss an important piece of information. People who create sites with this style often are directing the visitor from a starting point to a predetermined end in a step by step fashion. Your links will not allow the user to anywhere other than where you want.

Hierarchical navigation

Hierarchical navigation allows the visitor to go from a homepage to the main sections of your site and then to the subsections. Visitors can travel through your site without any restrictions. This type of navigation ties all the areas of your site together so any page can be accessed from another in as few clicks as possible. Hierarchical navigation is best used on sites that are filled with information and to be utilized like a library.

Sitemaps for navigating through your website

Sitemaps provide a list of organized links to the content of your website. The same way a table of contents tells you what is inside a book, a sitemap does the same for your website. Your visitors are given a one page view of the information structure that your site is based on. Sitemaps are not meant to be your websites primary navigation but more as a compliment to it.

Navigation bars

A navigation bar gives your visitors the ability to move between the different sections of your website. It should be placed on every page of your site and should be consistent as well. Placement of the navigation bar is entirely up to you. The navigation bar can go on the left side of your page because most people read from left to right. It can also be placed on the top of your page so it is the first thing your visitors see. Some people place it on the right hand side of the page intentionally making a visitor browse through content to then be able to navigate the rest of the site.

Theme and navigation links

The theme for a website is created with the way you use color, fonts and images. During the theme creation process, remember to not clutter your pages with unnecessary content that will draw your visitor's attention from the main content. There are many ways to create a theme. One example might be a newspaper look consisting of black and white colors with a plain font. Themes give a website character and often leave a strong visual impression on the visitor. Your website theme needs to be used on all your pages which helps tie your site together.

Navigation

Navigation of a website should be an easy process and not require the visitor to take much time in figuring out how to move through your site. Visitors have come to your site looking for information and should be able to find it easily. If a visitor has to waste time figuring out how to get what they want, they will go to another site. Navigation is not just for people, but search engines as well. Set up the navigation to allow search engines to follow the links to index your entire website. Your navigation scheme should appear in the same place on all pages. When a visitor navigates through your site, make sure they can flow through it. Do not set it up so a visitor has to use the back button of the browser to access another page. Through navigation, your visitor will have access to pages in your site, to other sites and to different sections of the pages on your site. You will need to place navigation menus in more than one area on your pages. There are many good ways to help the visitor move through your site. The most simple is a text link. The next is a navigation bar placed on the top or sides. Another is the use of graphic buttons created to help compliment the overall look of your site. It is always good idea is to include links at the bottom of your page in case someone does not feel like scrolling back to the top. Through navigation, your visitor should be able to get where they want quickly, know where they currently are on your site and be able to access other pages on your site for additional information.

About the Author

Pat L. started out creating a few niche sites and during that process gained huge amounts of knowledge in the website development process. You can visit http://www.abundantarticles.com for more information about developing and creating a website.

Friday, February 15, 2008

How to Organize your Website

by Pat L


Organize your website to help both you and your visitor

Your website needs to be organized so you can add content easily and your visitors can spend time absorbing your content rather than trying to figure out the navigation system. Planning and organizing your site in the beginning phases makes the update process easier down the road because you won't have to do as much work when it comes to page linking. The file structure needs to make sense to you since you are most likely going to be the person dealing with adding, subtracting and updating pages.

Steps to organizing your website

There are 3 key areas to address when organizing your website. Your first area of concern is how to set up your file structure. This pertains to the main folder, directories and sub directories. It is commonly known throughout the web that a page should be no more than 3 clicks from each other. The second area is your content. Organize your content in a way that lends itself to be user friendly. The last area of organization is the overall layout of the site. Make sure the layout compliments the content. Another point to make is consistency. The layout and theme should be the same throughout the site. Do not have your index page set up in one format and then change the sub pages format so the visitor needs to waste time figuring out where the navigation bar is again or scrolling all over to get to the content they are looking for.

Website structure

There are a few ways to set up a site structure. Making a sketch of how you are going to do it is advisable. The first place you want to start with is the parent page. This "home" page has a link to every page on the next level down. This second level will contain the categories for your site. A link to these second tier pages will be on every page of your site. Each page that is accessed from a page above it is considered a child. The other way to word this is defining directories and sub directories. Your main directory could contain sub directories named contact, main, about us and links. Inside the main directory you could have sub directories of products. Your second tier topics should be titled to the cover content specific to that section. These sub sections are where you will put your content and should be easily navigated to.

Website content

The content of your site is there to convey a message. It should tell a visitor what the site is about, who the information is for and what is offered. This content can be delivered in many ways. Displaying text and images are your primary methods along with video and audio to help support your delivery. The content you include should provide a visitor with valuable information and sustenance. Your primary goal should be to create a positive impression in as little time as possible. This method will help retain a person that has come to your site instead of clicking to somewhere else. Be sure your information is relevant, concise and clear. It should contain your keywords and help direct a visitor to continue browsing your site. When creating your content, get right to the point in sending your message. Don't beat around the bush with flashy welcome screens or material that is unrelated to what your site is about. Potential visitors want their information quickly or they will go to the next site on the search engine list. Direct your visitor's eyes to specific areas with the placement and layout of your content. Using bold section descriptions and breaking content into chunks will help get your visitor to what they are looking for in a timely fashion.

Website layout

People are going to be judging both your content and layout when they visit your site. An appealing layout will help keep your visitor and can aid in getting them to come back. Your original layout will continually change as you adapt to the preferences of the people who visit your site. When laying out the site, try to keep it as simple as possible. Creating a user friendly navigation system to smoothly move throughout your site should also be considered when developing your layout. During the layout process you are going to determine how to present your content in an optimized and balanced format. It is suggested that you use a pencil and some paper when creating your layout concepts. Make more than one and look for strong and weak points in each sketch. After noting the best qualities from each, incorporate them into a finalized layout. Be sure to take into consideration that this layout will be used throughout your entire site.

About the Author

Pat L. started out creating a few niche sites and during that process gained huge amounts of knowledge in the website development process. You can visit http://www.abundantarticles.com for more information about developing and creating a website.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lovely to Look at, but Rarely Seen

by Pamela Upshur

Intentionally launching a Web site that can't be found by any of the major search engines could hardly be the goal of any Web site owner. That would be akin to opening a mail-order business and not sending out a catalog, or opening a store and not publishing your phone number or address. On the Internet, the major search engines are the equivalent of the Yellow Pages, and the listings on search engines are just as valuable for garnering new business. No matter how pretty and interactive your company's new Web site is, if it can't be found in one or more of the major search engines, then you might as well have put a billboard in the woods.

Pages with frames, scripts, tables, and lots of graphics present special problems to Web site publishers and search engines. With frame-enhanced Web pages, the main document usually contains only references to the files that a browser loads into each frame. With scripts, the code is often located at the top of the code for the Web page in the place of the all-important descriptive text. With graphics-intensive pages, room for text on the page is limited.

Although some search engines are smart enough to understand and properly handle frame-enhanced pages, scripts and graphics-intensive pages, such search engines are more the exception than the rule. Fortunately, you can get your Web page noticed without eliminating frames, scripts, or your wonderful graphics. One way or you to do this is through use of META tags. However, there are a few element-specific tricks that you may want to consider as well, including:

  • Dealing with frame issues

  • Dealing with scripts

  • Managing your tables

  • Keeping graphics under control

  • Handling Problems with Frames

    Frames present a bit of a challenge for many search engines. When you create a Web site based on frames, you define a frameset and frames. The frameset specifies the location and dimension of each frame. However, some search engines are unable to see past the frameset page, meaning that they cannot locate the associate frame pages. At this point, the rest of your Web site become effectively invisible to the search engines.

    One way to deal with frames is to always remember to include a NOFRAMES tag. Using this tag, you can specify text that search engines and visitors with old browsers can see. The NOFRAMES tag allows browsers and search engines that can't understand frames to display other text so the page doesn't become a dead end.

    Working Around Scripts

    Embedding large scripts into your Web pages presents another problem for search engines. Since most people place their scripts at the top of their Web pages, the script pushes the content for the rest of the Web page down. Unfortunately, many search engines don't scan your entire page when indexing your Web site. This can result in the search engines missing out on most of your Web page's content.

    One way to deal with this issue is to move your scripts, when possible, further down in your Web pages. Another option to consider is to externalize your scripts and call them from within your HTML Web pages.

    Preventing Problems with Your Tables

    Tables present search engines with similar obstacle to that presented by scripts. Tables are pushed further down from seach engine's point of view, potentially pushing your content out of view. The best way to deal with this situation is to try and move your tables further down in your pages and make sure that, where possible, your tables include references to your keywords and phrases.

    Working Around Your Graphics and Image Maps

    As if frames, scripts, and tables weren't enough, search engines also have trouble with graphics. From a search engine's point of view, the only thing that matters on your Web pages is text. Graphics are ignored. You can create stunning Web pages that present all sorts of information in the form of graphics and search engines won't see a bit of it.

    Graphics also take time to load. They take even longer for people that visit your Web site using a dial-up connection. Many visitors will leave your Web site if it takes too long for your graphics to load. To prevent this from happening, try keeping the total size of your main page and any other high-level pages below 50KB.

    Consider the importance of balancing presentation with content when you are designing your Web pages, because it is the text-based content that search engines see and use to rate the relevancy of your Web pages. One way to help mitigate the effectiveness of graphics is to always supply a descriptive ALT tag that includes your keyword phrases for every graphic on your Web pages. This way, search engines will be able to read and index alternative information regarding the content of your Web pages.

    If you make use of image maps as a navigation tool for providing access to your Web pages, you are presenting another problem for search engines. Once again, the search engine won't be able to view links that you have established via your image map and therefore will not be able to locate and index your other Web pages. One good way of working around this problem is to provide a text-based set of links to your Web pages at the bottom of each of your Web pages. The text links don't need to be anything fancy. The important thing is to give search engines a way to find your other Web pages.

    One other technique that you may want to consider is to create a site map for your Web site and to submit the site map to each search engine along with your main Web pages. By creating and submitting a site map, you ensure that the search engines will be able to locate every page on your Web site.

    The Bottom Line: Keep It User Friendly

    Search engines are content hungry and hard to impress with awesome graphics. Your Web site will be most search engine friendly if its pages are most user friendly.

    If your site includes enough alternative text that a blind person hearing about your site can understand its content, your site is understandable to search engines.

    With this in mind, make every effort to ensure that your site is easy to navigate and easy to read. If you design a site that is appealing to the eye and accessible on all types of connections, you will find that it is attractive to search engines.

    About the Author

    Pamela Upshur is the owner of Upshur Creative.

    Upshur Creative combines fresh, contemporary, fully functional turnkey websites with the best PHP scripts and databases to create the largest and most comprehensive turnkey collection for entrepreneurs.

    Visit her site at: Turnkey Home Based Business

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Business Website Design - The Right Price

    (Part Four of a four part series. And I will be posting two of these each day.)


    by Dustin Schwerman

    Throughout this set of articles, one point has been central to the discussion: the success of abusiness website design is going to be based on your understanding of your business. Whether providing guidelines for your web designer or writing content for the pages, whether customizing or optimizing, knowing what your business needs from the new site is key to building the best possible site, ranking for the best possible keywords, and getting the best possible result from your visitors. And, as should come as no surprise at this point, it is also quite likely the single most important factor involved in getting the best possible price.

    Website design is a highly technical profession. It requires not only an understanding of the proper codes and syntax, but also how to use those codes to create various desired effects. It requires the patience to hunt through lines of code to find where you used a double quote rather than a single quote, or where you missed a semicolon. Of course, it's the typos like that that are easy to deal with; the real problem comes when you open your brand new custom function for the first time...and nothing works. Add to that an understanding of current web standards, proper SEO practices, and differences in browsers and computers, and it should come as no surprise that designers charge significant rates for their expertise.

    You probably want a powerful and flexible site for your business, not to mention an attractive one, so you don't expect cheap. Affordable, however, isn't out of the question, and reasonable is more likely still. First, naturally, you have to pick the right designer. Shy away from those who charge by the page count, and think carefully before going with set package deals. The former is simply ludicrous; creating new pages for a website is one of the simplest tasks a web designer can perform. The latter is a bit more viable, but often, these packages are simply "by the page" deals disguised as packages by including additional features that don't scale or do so only slowly. The "value meals" of website design, I tend to call them, since the scaling of easily repeatable features for a higher cost rather than adding more complex and dynamic options bears a strong resemblance to buying for the burger and paying by the french fry.

    But bypassing those two options, you come to the types of web designers who charge based on the relative difficulty of the site and complexity of code. This is good in that it allows the prepared businessperson to get exactly the features they want with no wasted expenditure. You don't have to pay for a forum that you never plan to use, or for five graphics that won't have a place on your site. However, in this case, you have to rely on an initial quote to judge the expenditure, and that quote is going to be based on the assumed difficulty of the site. That means providing all the necessary information, because you can't pull a fast one on your web designer. The initial quote is an estimate, and while a good designer will do its utmost to charge only what it said (maybe even less, if the site was particularly easy) additional demands and unforeseen additions will result in a change to the final cost.

    By knowing exactly what you want from your website, you can not only choose the options (or, if it comes to it, the package) that will best suit your business, but it also allows you to get the most accurate initial quote. From there, you can enter into negotiations with a good read on what the final charge will be and what sort of things you can add or remove to match it with your budget. You can also make a much clearer comparison with other designers. These advantages will all go far to helping you get the right price.

    About the Author

    Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on websites for businesses of all varieties, from office supplies to air conditioning filters.

    Business Website Design - The Right Tool

    (Part Three of a four part series. And I will be posting two of these each day.)


    by Dustin Schwerman

    A website can be quite the versatile program. When considering your business website design, you need to know what its goal is, what it exists for. There's more to getting your business a web presence than simply putting some pages up on the web, and the clearer you are on your focus and intent for the site, the better. A vast number of websites abound on the Internet, and many get lost in the crush, trying futilely to compete for a position on the search engines. Of the hundreds of thousands, even millions of sites that might come up for any keyword, only ten are selected for the august position on the first page. Like a magnet that can cling fiercely to metal placed inches away but which cannot even tug at an object a foot distant, the value of a website's ranking decreases exponentially with each successive page. It's a struggle to get to the top, especially for the highly competitive keywords that have the most searches.

    So you fight your way through the millions of undiscovered, unoptimized sites that don't even come up before the engines simply ignore their presence. With skillful SEO tactics and cunning keyword selection, you forge your way into visibility in the top few pages. You tweak, you tinker, and you wait very patiently to finally get onto that top page. And then it's just you and the ten other websites that proved their ability to stay one step ahead of changing algorythms and advancing newcomers. Chances are you all have very similar title tags, since that's the single most important factor of SEO, so it comes down to nothing but those two lines of description to separate you from your nine opponents and the handful of sites that have paid to appear beside you.

    And all that work is absolutely wasted if your site isn't as keenly focused as your keyword optimization campaign.

    A business is about setting and meeting goals. You want to make a certain number of sales, bring in a certain amount of profit, add a certain number of people to your newsletter - whatever. A business website, thus, cannot be haphazard or random. Is your website intended as an advertisement, a way to bring in new leads and new sales? Is it a technological interface, designed to simplify and improve the functioning of your business? Is it an on-line store, allowing your visitors to make their purchase from home? Is it a font of information, providing those with an interest with knowledge of your business and goals? Is it a forum where your clients can communicate with you, your employees, and each other, allowing you to better serve them? Or is it a combination of some or all of the above, with numerous functions and options?

    Knowing what you want your business website design to accomplish is, perhaps, the single most important step in creating your site. Colors pale in comparison, font means nothing, and functions are useless without a decisive focus driving your new program. By knowing what you want your website to accomplish, you can build it to accomplish just that, and then you work in the keywords that will bring people to it. A click on an unfocused site is no more useful to you than a click to a blank page, but whatever your goals and aims, a properly designed business website is almost always the right tool.

    About the Author

    Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on websites for businesses of all varieties, from office supplies to air conditioning filters.


    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Business Website Design - What You Get

    (Part Two of a four part series. And I will be posting two of these each day.)

    by Dustin Schwerman

    As with everything that improves your business, your website is an investment. Chances are, you are putting quite a bit of money and probably no small amount of time into your business website design. This to say nothing for the hosting, marketing, and other expenses that will be required to make your site a success. It's the sort of endeavor that should be taken seriously - both by you and by your designer. As such, you should expect quite a bit from the person or people you hire to get your company on-line.

    Accept no templates! Maybe you want a visually elaborate layout where all the content is precisely positioned into an attractive graphic, augmented by a banner and logo to create instant brand recognition. Maybe you favor a plainer but cleaner look with a focus on functionality and interface. Perhaps you want entertaining audio and video presentations in the vein of the "Web 2.0" movement. Or perhaps you want all of the above with a bit of Flash and fanfare for spice. Whatever the case, the last thing you want is for your site to be filed away in the visitor's mind as just another of the mass-produced botch-it-yourself template sites cluttering the nether-regions of Google. A professional web designer is going to be charging a professional rate, and had better be presenting a professional product designed with your specific business in mind.

    Don't skimp on functionality. I've said it before and I can't repeat it often enough: a website is a program. It is a tool, a potentially incredibly powerful piece of technology. Even as I write this article I have in arm's reach an 1100 or so page book dedicated solely to Javascript - that's before counting the thirty-some bonus chapters. What amuses me is, I've seen a book of about equal size dedicated to AJAX, which is simply a method of using Javascript. Web-based programming can not only create shopping carts, but also payroll and invoicing programs, interactive games, applications for creating whatever custom product you may offer. Don't ignore these useful aspects of your site; they can be used to both improve a customer's experience and simplify the tasks of running a business.

    Above all, you want input and information. You know your business best, but your designer has a handle on web standards, site functionality, possibly even SEO. You want any content you provide to be properly keyword optimized. You should know in advance if your images would work best resized, and how much they might slow the site down. The impact that different browsers and screen sizes might have on your plans is also a critical consideration. Have you ever visited a website that has its text and forms overlapping its images, pushed around in strange directions, and otherwise simply scattered about? Ever wonder where they got such an incompetent web designer? Chances are, they didn't; they just built the site for a different browser than yours. Since you never know what sort of system any given visitor might have, it behooves you to make sure your designer prepares for as many of them as it can.

    A business website design is in and of itself a significant investment, and the various costs for making it a success can be quite significant as well. And even with everything done right, there are numerous factors that can determine a website's success or failure. Don't hinder yourself right from the start by accepting anything less than the highly professional, technologically advanced product that you paid for. If you purchased a highly customized, skillfully optimized website, then that should be exactly what you get.

    About the Author

    Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on websites for businesses of all varieties, from office supplies to air conditioning filters.

    Business Website Design - What You Need

    (Part One of a four part series. And I will be posting two of these each day.)


    by Dustin Schwerman

    Whether you're a small company just starting out or an established corporation aiming to boost sales, it is becoming more and more clear that you need a web presence. And more than that, you need a highly impressive, fully-functional, well-optimized business website design. And if you're serious about your website, it also means you need it to be created by a professional. A template simply won't cut it, because websites today need to offer not only an attractive appearance, but also interactive content, a unique look, and proper SEO practices. And chances are, you're going to want to take advantage of the programming power the Internet offers with a selection of programs and functions custom-made to improve your business.

    But finding the right web designer is only the first part of the job. You have a role to play in the construction of your website as well, a role that is no less important for being less technical. A website created based on the designer's perceptions (and possibly its misconceptions) is barely better than a template. You don't want a site created based solely on the builder's experience creating websites for other businesses of your type; you want a site created for your business.

    Nowhere is this more clear than in the process of search engine optimization, which is going to be one of the main things you have to help with. Naturally, you are not expected to know which keywords have the highest search frequencies and the lowest competition, or what the appropriate ratio of keywords to other text is ideal for a site. Those details fall squarely on your search engine optimizer. However, what you do know are what sorts of words and phrases best describe and define your business, particularly those that set it apart from other businesses. Read any given article on choosing the right keywords, and chances are good that "niche" or "long-tail" will come up. You want to provide the keywords that you know suit your business, the sorts of products you sell, the colloquial terms that are usually used to reference them. Armed with that knowledge, your designer can find the ones that are best for SEO...and probably locate one or two good ones that you might not have considered.

    Likewise, while your optimizer will have the job of editing the content of your site for proper keyword density, actually writing that content is a task best left for you. Even if you aren't the best writer in the world, the mechanics of your articles can be edited along with the keywords, but the actual message is something that no designer can optimize. You are the one who knows your business best, the tricks of the trade and the processes involved. By providing the text copy, you assure that your site and articles are informative and accurate.

    A final tip: don't ignore your site! Once it's up and running, it isn't going to just work on its own. It will require updates as you get new product lines, changes as you expand. Getting and maintaining a business website design is not an immediate thing and not something that can happen without any effort on the part of the business bringing it into being. To make your site a success, input, information, and patience are what you need.

    About the Author

    Dustin Schwerman is the head web designer for Truly Unique - Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique works on websites for businesses of all varieties, from office supplies to air conditioning filters.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Affordable Web Site Design Elements

    by Colin Wood

    The actual design of a website can be very costly or very affordable, if you know what you want then it is more affordable. Affordable web site design is when there will be an obvious return on investment, over a set term. Here are some important elemets that you can have a more affordable web site design development at the initial purchase stage.

    1. Meta Tags They are information inserted into the "head" area of your web pages. Other than the title tag, information in the head area of your web pages is not seen by those viewing your pages in browsers. Instead, meta information in this area is used to communicate information that a human visitor may not be concerned with. Meta tags, for example, can tell a browser what "character set" to use or whether a web page has self-rated itself in terms of adult content. The title tag is crucial for them. The text you use in the title tag is one of the most important factors in how a search engine may decide to rank your web page. In addition, all major crawlers will use the text of your title tag as the text they use for the title of your page in your listings.

    2. Content Content optimization is very important aspect in web site promotion. Well optimized content always drives your web site into top position in search engines. Always your content should look informative and targeted. Best content optimization method is collecting the more detail information about your products or your services. Dig more about your products or your services and publish the new content with that search engine definitely recognize your web site. Content is still king if your goal is to build a robust, high quality web site. That does not mean that content is the only thing. It is content that leads to all those off-site factors being in your favor.

    3. "About Us" and "Contact Us" pages Credibility is fast becoming a key usability issue. If people are going to entrust you with their credit card details or consider you a serious contender for their business, they want to be sure you really exist. We've all come across web sites that don't even have an address, never mind a telephone. That's why it's essential to have an About Us and a Contact Us page - to not only reassure people you're a proper business, but to give them a choice of contact options, including phone, email, directions and a map. An "about us" page of your web site must contains some feedbacks which are necessary to obtain the suggestions of your visitors. "Contact us" page is necessary to establish a relation between you and your visitors. You should provide your email so as visitors should feel that will be given full support.

    4. Traffic Statistic It is important to understand traffic statistic of your web site. The most important of the traffic statistics is likely on how many orders or inquires you could get at the end of the day. In order to understand your site performance, it is critical that you should know some of the facts here. As we all know, visitor traffic statistics are crucial to the success of every web site. If you do not know how many views your pages get, how can you know if anyone is seeing your site, product or service? When you begin marketing your site, you need to know what is working for you and what is wasting your time. Referral link reports help narrow this down and allow you to see what active links on the internet are being used to bring site visitors. This information is invaluable as it spells out exactly what your visitors are looking for, how effective your keywords are, and lets you know what search engines have you listed.

    A high affordable web site design service will provide a variety of services through their web site. Not only will they do web design, but they may even offer something a bit more suiting, like domain name registration, web hosting and search engine optimization. To cover all the bases you should find an affordable web site design service that has been in business for a fair amount of time, that can provide you with references and that offers estimates on the design that you are seeking. An experienced web site design service company may also have examples of web sites that they have created. By examining past projects you will be able to grasp a better understanding as to the style and variety that they will be able to offer.

    About the Author

    RT Design Group is providing affordable web site design and web marketing services in Florida, US. Or call 239 - 913 - 0279.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    New Years Website Health Check

    by Andrew Seidel

    There has never been a better time than right now to give your website a health check. Businesses around the country are using the start of the New Year as a great excuse for redefining goals and setting new targets, so why not include improving your website as one of your New Year's resolutions?

    I'm always amazed by the number of businesses who don't take the opportunity to invest time or effort into developing or improving their websites. The end result being a shabby representation of their business. All too often, websites have been quickly thrown together without much thought or imagination, or the website is years old and out-dated.

    Starting the process can be difficult, so I've put together a checklist:

    Step One - Appealing to the eye

    The first step is to consider whether your website is appealing to most people and whether the design is modern and up-to-date. If you are unsure, you can easily find out by asking staff, colleagues, or friends. I would also recommend that you take a look at your top main competitors to see what they are doing with their websites. And,... if you find yourself apologising to people for how your website looks, this is a definite sign you need to upgrade fast... The simple fact is, if people see a website that doesn't visually appeal to them, they will leave before they even get to see how good your products or services are.

    Step Two - Content

    How up-to-date is your content? Does it accurately reflect all the products or services you offer?

    Do you have content that entices visitors to return to your website at a later stage? This is really important, if on their first visit to your site, they are early in the buying cycle, then you want to make sure they remember you so that when they are closer to making a decision to purchase, you will be number one in mind. Having interesting hints, tips, or features of your website is a good way to bring them back at a later stage.

    And while we are on that note, if they are early on in the buying cycle, what can you introduce to your site to better educate them and bring them closer to making a decision?

    Step Three - Usability

    Is your website easy to navigate, enabling your site visitors to find the information they want quickly? For websites that grow quite quickly, it's easy to lose the right navigation structure, making it difficult for website visitors to get around the site. Take the time to map out the flow of your website on a piece of paper (for smaller sites), or for larger sites Excel can be a good way to setup the flow. Remember, if someone can't quickly find what they are looking for on your site, it is only a couple of clicks back to the search engines to find your competitors.

    Usability and accessibility standards can also be an issue many do not consider. If users with disabilities visit your site, not only could you be losing potential valuable business from them, but did you know that in Australia and many other countries, it's a legal requirement to have your site accessible for disabled users?

    An interesting case back in 2000 proved that these laws can be enforced, as in the case of Bruce Lindsay Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, in which Maguire won.

    Step 4 - Pages being accessible

    Do all of the links in your site work? This can be a problem more frequently than you think, as many website owners are simply unaware. A free tool called Xenu will easily scan through your site and provide you with a report to verify this.

    Step 5 - Your home page

    Does your home page provide a simple, clear message of what your business offers? Many businesses make the mistake of cramming so much information into their home page, because they want their visitors to know everything about them the moment they visit their site. The end result, a home page that looks messy, hard to read, and searchers leave before they find out what you have to offer.

    Step 6 - Your sales message

    Do you have a call to action, or a strong message to "buy now" if applicable? Without reasons to buy, you are likely to see a low conversion rate throughout your site.

    Placing video on your website is also a great way to connect with your site visitors and to convert new business. So if it's in your budget, I would really recommend it.

    Step 7 - Website Reporting

    Last, but definitely not least, what are your website analytics reports telling you about how your website is performing? Chances are, that the majority of people reading this are asking, "website reports?" Most businesses don't look at their reporting, either because they don't understand the information in the reports, or think they don't have the time.

    The information in these reports can be critical to properly, and effectively managing your website. Without this understanding, you won't know how to improve your site, or worse still, you may change a section of your site that is performing really well for you. Small changes to your site, based on this information, can have a big impact on your bottom line, which means more $$$ for you. Isn't that one of the main reasons you're in business?

    Conclusion

    If you've answered 'no' or 'unsure' to any of the questions above, then I encourage you to make improvements to your website a priority. Whether it's your in-house web development team, or an external web development company, making sure your website is brought up to today's standards in design and technology is of vital importance if you want to keep your business moving forward. Think of it like this; if you walked into a shop or office, and it was really shabby, how would you feel about giving them your business? A website is no different... So what are you telling your potential clients about your business?

    About the Author

    Andrew Seidel is the Managing Director of Quantum Web Solutions. Specialising in Web Design in Sydney, as well as a full range of web solutions through the website promotion.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    Generating Targeted Website Traffic

    by Sameep Shah

    I realize how painstaking it can be for a newbie in the field of business to start off a business and then experience a steady growth in it. Starting off a business is hazardous in today's competitive age. You have to invest a truck load of money to promote the services and products that you sell.

    The internet has become a major tool of promotion in today's cyber age, with millions of people surfing the internet everyday.

    As a young entrepreneur, it is your responsibility to catch the attention of these multitudes of people and make them to think about the propositions you put in front of them.

    The recent statistics suggested that an average surfer does not stay put on one site for too long a span of time; the estimated time that the surfer spends at an average site is around 15 seconds. These 15 seconds are like an unearthed treasure to you and you have to use this time to lure the surfer to go through the site and take notice of the details of the items in it.

    Make it big in small time

    For an entrepreneur, 15 seconds would look like too small a span of time; but for the surfer, it is an eternity, especially if the site fails to catch the interest of the person. So, making the person think is the first step for you in the complex procedure of converting a visitor into a customer.

    Decorating your office on the Net

    The first thing that should be taken care of to attract traffic is to make a well-designed and well-informed website. Surfers are not used to waiting for long periods as your webpage gets uploaded, so ensure that the webpage you sent out is quick to respond.

    To increase website load speed you have to make your website shrug of all the excesses like animation, graphics, 3D tools, etc. These are attractive features no doubt, but they will slow down the effectiveness of your website.

    Most successful business websites are those that are simple. Therefore, try and make your website simple, but loaded with facts. The webpage you create on the internet should be targeted to an audience. So, you have to research and know beforehand who your target traffic is. The contents of the webpage should be placed in such a way that they take care of the preferences of these target traffic. The website should have links to the other supporting services or products of the company. The contents of the website should be well organized and logical. You are creating a webpage to sell, so keep the option of online sales in your website.

    Promote the Website even further

    You will always want more and more people visiting your site. In order to get this success, you have to adhere to several steps.

    SEO optimization is one of them, it gives the website a promotion and thus it provides you with a launch pad. There are several search engines you can adhere to like Google, MSN, etc. You can also publicize your website by submitting articles related on the topics about the products that your company caters to the public. These topics can be posted on websites, which specialize in article writing.

    The articles should contain vital links to your company's website. You can also motivate the visitors to your site by offering them free downloads, services and also by organizing contests, giving free tutorials and other attractive offers.

    It's a strenuous experience for many to get stuck in traffic; it's your responsibility to make the experience of the traffic visiting your website into a pleasurable one. And mark my words, this is going to boost your company immensely.

    About the Author

    To find out more information visit Netlyte Houston Web Design. You can also request free information to find out how we can help you build your Website.