You Have a Website… So, Now What?

October 14, 2010

Congratulations, you have spent the last few weeks/months prepping, and getting your site ready to debut and the time has finally come to unveil your site to the world…. so now what?

For the most part, if you have a website the purpose of it is generating income, whether it be from direct sales of products and services online or simply pushing people to physical places to buy your products. But, generally speaking a websites purpose is usually to either get information out, bring people in or convince people to buy something. With that in mind, please note: just because you have a website, doesn’t mean you will profit from it. Thanks to sites like Angelfire and Lycos in the past and WordPress and Blogspot today anyone can set up a blog/website with little to no costs and attempt to convert internet surfers to customers.  There are billions (under-estimate I’m sure) of websites out there trying to get you to buy their product, so why would people choose yours?

Well if you’re in the business of providing a service, there are three primary reasons that you will get business: 1) Because you’re the best. 2) You are cheap. 3) They know you or have been recommended by someone reputable.  Let’s break that down some more. The best way to get good business is to be the best. To be the best you need to be knowledgeable, respected in your industry, (usually) not a new-comer, provide great customer service and quality work. With that combination, odds are you’ll get the most traffic. The next way to achieve a good conversion rate with your website is being cheap. People are cheap and often want the best quality for the lowest price and also people will often sacrifice quality for a lower price if they can get away with it. Being cheap brings in business, but it also usually reflects in your quality of work produced. The last main reason people will come to you is because they know you or have been referred to you. Personal recommendations have a far greater impact on decision making (especially when it’s quality work) than almost anything you can do on your own… unless you’re a celebrity. And people seem to just buy their stuff simply because they are famous. With that in mind, if you really want to generate leads and sales, first try to be the best. Second, have a good reputation which will generate good recommendations. And if you must, simply be cheap and you should get traffic. But there are no guarantees here.

Having a website doesn’t = sales. You are competing not only with local competition and other businesses that your potential clients have talked to, but now since you are online you are also competing with people all across the globe. A website is a great start to promote your business, but just because you have one doesn’t mean people will come, you need to promote yourself to have that happen. And you also need to be able to produce quality content in a manner that will make people want to hire you. That’s why you need to be the best and stand out from the competition. What makes you better that Joe Somebody down the street? Do you have better prices? Have you been in the industry longer? Are you more knowledgeable  when it comes to (fill in the blank here)?

People want to hire the best candidates. The better the quality content produced the more likely to be hired. Oh, and people like to have specialists. Be great at one thing. It’s not a business plan to be a jack of all trades and master of none. For me, I specialize in web design. Which encompasses graphic design (and branding) and how it all connects between the logo, the website, banners, fliers, newsletters, etc. I’m not great at programming, but I’m learning and the more I work with it the better I’m getting at it.  So on my website, I will say that I can code programming sections of the site, but I am much better at the visual aspect of websites, which is why I’m more of a front-end developer rather than a back-end coder. Therefore I will branch out and focus on the design and aesthetic components of a website more so than the functionality, not that I don’t do it, I just am better at the design.

In conclusion, be the best at what you do. People want to hire a master of a trade rather than jacks of all trades. A website does not make you receive traffic. It also doesn’t automatically generate income. You have to promote your business and work hard to sustain it. Personal recommendations go much farther than you think and being the best at what you do helps a ton.


Dust Bunny Mafia

September 24, 2010

So recently I’ve been working on a new project called Dust Bunny Mafia (Shameless self promotion to follow).

It won’t be officially launching until December 10, 2010 but I figured I’d try and direct you to it before then anyways. The best way to keep up to date on what’s going on with The Dust Bunny Mafia is by Liking it on facebook, click here for that. The other great way to stay in touch is Following on Twitter, @DustBunnyMafia. I will be adding new images, offers, and overall previews of the site weekly on the Facebook fan page; that’s your best bet to find out more about the Dust Bunny Mafia. I’d recommend checking there first for the latest updates.

So here’s a preview of something I’ve been working on. This is part of the earliest sketch of the character “Frankie”

Dust Bunny Mafia: Frankie Early Sketch

That’s all for now, for more information check out Dust Bunny and the links on Facebook and Twitter.

3 Simple Keys for Logo Design

August 18, 2010
  1. Be timeless.
    Take a look at the differences between Coke’s logo and Pepsi logos over the years, see full image here.Pepsi and Coke Logos

    The biggest thing to note is that Coke really hasn’t changed their logos too much from the original design. Pepsi, on the other hand, seems to revamp their entire image every 10 years or so. Coke branded their design with a classic elegance, seen in the consistent design. Yes, Coke’s logo has changed through the years, but most of the changes kept the features from the original design. The only thing that really changes with Coke’s logo designs are the background elements, or making the scripting cleaner. Pepsi’s logo as of 2008 is very different than it’s 1950 logo. And the previous statement can be just as much applied with the derivation of the 1950’s Pepsi logo from the first logo of 1898. Coca-Cola has a classic, elegant feel to it. It started with that feeling and maintained it throughout the years. Pepsi started out with a rougher logo design and when the design didn’t suit the current trends, they would revamp their logo as necessary, and as frequently as every few years if needed.

  2. Have it consistent with your profession.
    One of the biggest mistakes a company can make with their logo design is not having it fit their company. If your logo is the face of your company (both online and off-line) imagine how crucial it is to have it consistent with your profession. If your logo (and website) are not fitting to your profession, it can drastically challenge your credibility. For example, a graphic design company is going to have a logo that shows off their knowledge of design and their website should do the same. On the other hand, a forensic investigator is not going to have the same graphic elements in their logo (or website) than the graphic designer has. This should be logical enough. If a graphic artist has a plain, clip-art looking design for their logo would you trust them with matching your company to a new logo? Or would you more likely go with a graphic designer whose own logo is consistent with design standards and fits their profession?
  3. Make it appropriate to your target audience.
    This point is closely related to the above point, but vital enough to merit it’s own section. One of the biggest things to know about marketing is knowing who your target audience is. This can be as broad as an age category, like we are targeting college students, or it can be as detailed as targeting 20-22 year old, Caucasian males who spend 10+ hours a week playing Modern Warfare. Whatever your demographics and whoever your target audience is, make sure that your logo (and website) design is consistent with appealing to them.

5 More Elements That Kill Your Website’s Credibility

August 11, 2010
  1. Using Google Images as Your “Professional” Images
    Anyone can go to Google images perform a generic search, save the image files and post them back onto their website, but please stop using them as your professional images. If I can find pictures from your site on Google (and the original isn’t from your site), you lose credibility. Here are just two of the many ways to find good images for your website: 1) Use stock photography. It’s cheap and sometimes you can even find free images on these stock sites. Generally, stock photography costs less than having a professional photographer come in and take pictures. Also, the photos on stock websites are of great image quality, which only improves the credibility of your site. 2) Call in a favor with a photographer. It doesn’t have to be a professional photographer, but at least have a friend with a good camera come in and take some real photos of your building, property, people, etc. I would much rather see amateur shots of your company on your site than generic images that people take off Google images any day.
  2. Reusing the Same Set of Images
    This point follows closely with the previous one, but is important enough to merit it’s own bullet point. Now, I am all in favor of using images to their highest potential, but if you only have one image of your customer service staff, then show it once on the site and that is enough. Please do not use the same image over and over (unless its your company’s logo, trademark, etc).
  3. Images of “Visa, Mastercard, AMEX” and “Paypal Payment Methods”
    These images were originally intended to improve credibility on websites during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Now, they just make your site look outdated. Just about every company these days accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and if they don’t they will clearly state it. You don’t need to show it with an overused image. The same thing goes with Paypal Payments image, if you use Paypal, show it. Have a link to Paypal payment methods in the shopping cart checkout section, that’s really all you need to promote your working with Paypal.
  4. Not Including Enough Company Info
    Your website is the primary means of communication online for customers and potential customers to get a hold of you, so why wouldn’t you want to give people several different ways to reach you? A phone number is nice, but in all reality, if all you have is a phone number of your company on your website, you didn’t put enough effort into reaching out and connecting with customers on your site. Generally the more ways for people to contact you the better it is for your image. On a contact page you should at least have: 1) The company’s address; 2) A phone number; 3) email address; and 4) a contact form. If your company is on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) add links on your website to those pages. This way people have a variety of methods to reach you. People want to know about your company and make personal connections with them. Personal connections keep people coming back. That’s another reason to have a company address listed on the site. If you say your company is the number 1 seller of solar panels in Eastern Washington, giving an address (of Eastern Washington) drastically improves your credibility.
  5. Long Pages of Scrolling
    There are certain unstated standards when it comes to web design. One of these has to do with scrolling pages. It is a fact now that scrolling on websites pages is acceptable (which wasn’t true in design standards about 5 years ago) and is frequently used. Some types of pages are more acceptable to have longer scrolling times, such as blogs, tutorials, specific product lists, etc. Others however, should not have long pages of scrolling. Take photo galleries for instance, these should not be long scrolling pages; instead, try using a sample of thumbnail images and when you click on them it pops up with the full size. This will improve credibility and shorten page lengths.

5 Reasons to Have an Updated Website

July 26, 2010

Everybody wants to bring more traffic to their site, whether its a personal blog or a corporate company, but it can be difficult to know exactly what you need to achieve this. In this article, I describe 5 ideas to help you realize why your website needs to be updated consistently.

  1. Your services, rates and content will change over time.
    If you have the same content on your website that you’ve had since you started, it’s probably time to freshen up your website. If your website text only changes when you add a new page, visitors won’t want to return. People want to know when the products and services will change so that they can do what is necessary on their end. If you suddenly increase your rates or add a new service but never tell your customers then you will end up missing out on more business. People can’t utilize your new addition if they don’t know about it. Keep your content updated and your clients will be happier. And it will also be less trouble to update in the future.
  2. Design changes.
    Look at fashion, hair styles and even art from ten years ago. I can guarantee that the styles of then do not match up with the current trends of today, unless they are some of the select that coming back into style for a little while.  Design is no different. The way that websites appealed to people in the 1990’s does not work today. People want to see things change and evolve; your website is no different. It should reflect the look and feel of your company of today, not who you were ten years ago.
  3. More traffic to your site.
    The more you update your site, the better it will be indexed and ranked on search engines. Everyone wants to have better placement and rankings in search engines, so the more you update your site with good content, the more it will be noticed by search engine robots. With better placement and getting your content out there it will further extend your brand’s reach which will in turn open up the possibility for more people to come back to your site.
  4. More relevant keywords = better specific traffic.
    Deriving from the last point, the more you update your content, the more keyword optimization you are able to use. The main thing to keep in mind in here is that you could simply fill all your pages with just keywords, internal links and not have any real content, but that practice is called keyword stuffing and it’s not recommended. Sites that keyword stuff are more likely to be lowered in search engine rankings, flagged as spam sites and then your credibility is shot, which results in lower traffic, if any at all. At that point it is very difficult to gain your credibility back. But if you have fresh content being added to your site consistently there are more keywords added into each page which will bring in more detail-specific traffic; the people are often going to stay longer as well because the content on your site is relevant to their searches.
  5. More links add traffic.
    The more you update your site with fresh content, the more links you create. Each of these links are potential bridges that connect your website to the world. The best way for these new links to receive traffic is to promote them. The most efficient way that I have found to implement your new content is publishing it on other sites, or at least link to them. Some of the most prominent sites for linking your content are: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, DesignBump, etc. On that note, when you are on those sites, share links and contribute to others links. If you are on Twitter and tweeting only your links you won’t get as much traffic (at first) until you start contributing too, respond with your followers, keep it business oriented and follow some of your followers so that you can keep the circle of information going. Find others with the same industry, follow them, learn and give your two cents and you will start receiving more traffic.

In conclusion, there are many different ways to receive more traffic to your website. And ultimately that’s what a website is for. Further, the best way to bring in more traffic is to keep your content updated, your website looking good and keep the people reading interested. Without updating the content and design regularly you are only hurting yourself and your business.

5 Elements That KILL Your Site’s Credibility

July 23, 2010
  1. Not utilizing white-space.

    White space is a crucial element in both print and online graphics. A poorly laid out website will hurt you more than it can help you. White space in the past has often been overlooked. With the current web trends, utilizing your white-space is essential to come across as professional and it will also show that you have worked with a designer that knows their stuff. Look at the image below and tell me if you would trust this website simply based on the design alone.

  2. Using tables over divisions and style sheets.

    Table based layouts in websites are outdated. Tables in websites are perfectly acceptable as long as they are not used to define the structure, layout or positioning of the website. Tables should be used for their intended creation, for representing tabular data, that is it. Division tags and style sheets are the standards when it comes to the positioning, sizing and layout of web sites. If you’re still using a table-based design it’s time to consider having your website redesigned.

  3. Out-dated fonts, colors, and graphics.

    There is a time when all good websites need to be updated or just completely overhauled. The prevalent designs seen throughout the 90’s and anything that resembles MySpace pages should not be used in a website that plans to take itself seriously. Websites need to stay current by knowing what the standards are in the industry (the designer at least should know them). Some of the current standards are clean designs, current pictures (unless your focus is outdated/old images), strong typography and better content writing.

  4. Clip-art in your logo.

    This is another step back into the 90’s, b ut the practice still happens today. If your logo is composed of clip-art that can be found through Microsoft’s clip-art g allery it will reflect poorly on your company as a whole. Having simply your company’s name in regular text is better than clip-art in your logo. The only thing worse that I can think of in this situation would be to have your clip-art logo missing and not having your logo on your website. Your logo is the face of your company/brand. It is not just for the online world, so it is important that your digital presence accurately portrays the face of your company.

  5. Visual over-stimulation.

    I don’t know if the website  is a joke or not, I think it’s was, but it could also just be really old, but having an old website is no excuse for poor visual design; even back in the 90’s there were web standards. A good website should be organized and have certain visual elements that stand out in order to guide the user to the best sources of information. That is why there are different sizes and colors for headings, paragraphs, and everything else. If there are too many visually appealing elements on your site then it is time to rethink your strategy. Too many distractions will cause your reader to lose hope of finding the information they want and will proceed to leave your site very quickly.

8 Things Business Owners Should Know Before Designing Their Website

July 14, 2010
  1. Expect to pay at least 25% of the total cost prior to the designer starting the project.
    From what I have read on many design blogs and through first-hand experience, the industry standard is to charge 50% upfront for graphics work. With 50% of the total cost paid upfront it helps motivate everyone to stay on task and keep deadlines. This will not only motivate you to keep up and respond in a timely manner to the designers requests, but it will also provide insurance for the designer in case the project doesn’t reach an accomplished state with that designer. Problems will arise in any job, this one is no different, and thus 50% payment upfront gives a little insurance for both parties and shows they are interested in seeing the project reach completion in a timely manner.
  2. Most designers will require you to have your content pre-written.
    Website designers and graphic artists are usually not experts in journalism, there are some exceptions out there though. There is a reason why designers are in the field that they are it’s the talent and passion for design. If the designer does not have the content of the website beforehand it is hard to design around it and know how to present it best. There is only so much design work that can be done prior to adding the content to it, sure designers have work-around methods of generating text, but it doesn’t work as well if it’s not your actual site text.  Have your content ready by the time you meet with the designer or have it close to completion so they can have it as early as possible.
  3. Do your research on a designer before hiring them.
    Look at their website, is there website professionally designed; does it have the same quality you would like to see for your website? The designer’s website is the best glimpse you can get into their skills and quality. Designers have total artistic freedom on their own portfolio sites, so if it isn’t designed well, don’t expect better from them on your site. Scope out the designer’s clients, are these sites quality, could you be satisfied with the type of design work done on those designs? Lastly, search for them online and see if they are being talked about. This can be done by checking their social media accounts or by simply plugging their names into Google; Twitter is great for seeing people talk about designers.
  4. Expect a logo to cost more than $50 and a website to be more than $500.
    There are many reasons that designers charge so much for their work. First of all, designers spent time, effort and energy to come up with your unique design. They didn’t just pull a design out of thin air, create it in Photoshop and then send it your way in 15 minutes. Second, designers charge based on work experience and background. Classes, software, and time spent honing their skills are worth something and you are not paying simply for one logo, you are paying for the knowledge and expertise of their years of training. There are always friends or someone’s neighbor’s son who can design an inexpensive logo or website, but most times it won’t be the same quality as what you will receive when you put more money into the project and work with an experienced designer.
  5. If it seems like the price is cheap, expect a poorly designed product in return.
    This point ties in very closely with the previous point. Designers that are worth their salt will charge you accurately according to their skills, experience and expenses. Quality web sites come from qualified designers. Anything less than professional price will return less than professional quality. Also remember that your logo and website are the face of your company. This is what the world sees more than any individual in the company. Logos and brands are remembered far longer than the name recognition of the company’s owner or top executive. Brands have the potential to live on and create a legacy that far surpasses the lifespan of a company’s founder. Don’t cheap out on a design or you will receive a cheap design.
  6. Know why you are designing/redesigning your image.
    This point is the most crucial of the ten, without it you can end up with wasted resources and disappointing results. If your brand looks old and outdated, specify what you think would change your image, make notes about other brands, websites, and logos that are more up to date. Be sure to include these notes for the designer, the more they know about what you are looking for the better they can be at designing a logo to suit your needs. Another thing to keep in mind is also relay the target audience information to the designer, what appeals to female college students is not the same as what appeals to 40 year old business men. A brand that focuses on the target audience can exponentially bring brand recognition.
  7. Simply having a website does not guarantee web traffic.
    According to the Netcraft Web Server Survey, as of December 2009 there are around 233,848,493 websites online. That statistic is now over 6 months old, imagine how many more have been added since. When there are over 233 million websites online not every one of them receives the same amount of web traffic. In order to best receive traffic to your site you need to advertise it. There are all sort of ways to bring in more traffic, print advertising, online ads, fliers, include the link in your email signatures, displaying it on business cards and posting it on social media profiles (Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
  8. Having a website does not guarantee more profit.
    Most times having a website does not hurt your company unless it is outdated or poorly-designed. Therefore, more often than not having a website will serve as a positive tool about your company, which is the point. Traffic does not guarantee profit, but it helps. You have to do more than simply put up a website in order to turn your company’s online profile into a profitable resource.

So there you have it, eight things to keep in mind before you design or redesign your company’s logo, brand, or website.