Authors Writing For the Web

September 8, 2010

From CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to the Average Joe from the Starbucks down the street, more and more people nowadays are finding their voices online through the use of blogs. This post is dedicated specifically to the authors of the world, but also provides useful information for everyone else writing for the web. Without any more introductions, here we go.

Balance the lengths of your articles. Not every post to your website/blog needs to be a chapter of a book. There are certain lengths of articles that are more acceptable for about 75% of the articles you’ll produce; most of these are less than a standard typed page. You will have some longer articles, but for the most part, know that even the most dedicated of audiences aren’t willing to read pages and pages of the same article on the web. For me, if the website doesn’t offer a “view entire article” option and has more than say 3 pages, I will skip the article altogether. When writing for the web, keep in mind the attention span of your audience. Shorter, concise, and straight to the point articles keep audiences happier and make you look like a better author.

Write it like you mean it. Everything that you post to your site should have intention to it. Whether it’s intended to promote an upcoming event where you’ll be at, a press release detailing a new product or simply a light-hearted post about something intriguing that happened this week to you, have a purpose for everything that you post online. If you want people to take you seriously as an author, show that you know what you’re doing. I’m not saying that you can’t write rants or show your personality online, you need to do that to set yourself apart from the rest, but what I am saying is have a purpose behind everything that you publish online.

The last thing to keep in mind when writing for the web is making sure to write it well. Whether or not you have journalism training, keep in mind that a poorly written article can kill your credibility even amidst a sea of well written articles. The simple techniques and practices to writing that you learned back in school still apply today and should be used effectively in your writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King with thousands of followers hanging on your every word, to a random journalist with a free blog and a handful of friends who sometimes follow your posts. Well written articles sell your credibility.

In conclusion, keep it short, make it meaningful and write well. Writing for the web is different than writing in print. Sure, there are overlapping features in both settings, but in general they are different and need to be treated that way.


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.

What Do You Want to Read About?

August 12, 2010

Does anyone have any suggestions for new articles? Is there something you’ve been waiting for a blog to cover, but it hasn’t shown up yet? The best way to have a topic written about (or more in depth) is to share it. Leave me a comment with topic suggestions if you want to see an article written about it.

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.

Follow Me on Twitter

July 15, 2010

This is a shameless plug. I started a twitter account recently, @JulianoWebpages, for the sole purpose of providing useful business, freelance and design tips and tricks. If you’re on twitter, come follow me.