Responsive Web Design: An Evolving Trend

Actually Responsive Web Design is not a trend of any kind – evolving or otherwise. It is a standard practice for web sites today.

The challenge the designers face is making their site look good on every device imaginable, from a 42 inch monitor to an iPad to a mobile phone like a Samsung 7 or the latest iPhone. That is a tall order.

There are several key things designers use, chief of which is the ViewPort meta tag to define what how the page should respond to different devices. But this article is not about the arcane things developers and designers do.

What do you – a business owner or manager need to know?

  • You shouldn’t have to ask for responsive design. It has been a few years since some of the basic rules were laid down. But still verify that a new or existing site is or will be responsive. And take Ronald Reagan’s advice – Trust but Verify. Use family and friend’s (or coworker’s) devices to view your site to make sure it looks right.
  • Responsive doesn’t just happen, it can be planned. For example, a restaurant web site may display its succulent fare on the front page and even have the menu right on the front page. But the mobile display should make location and phone number prominent. If you’re out and about and looking for a restaurant, you either want to know where it is or call to make reservations.
  • What happens to the menu? Believe it or not it is called a hamburger menu – it looks sort of like a bun on top of a burger on top of a bun. While it is fairly ubiquitous, tests show that instead of those three little lines, putting the word MENU in the same place in the same size gets far more clicks. I know what a navigation menu is. I might not know, or notice, those three little lines. Try it with your site and see what happens. The key is to be user-friendly.
  • Many sites (and business owners) are taking a mobile-first attitude. This turns on its head the idea of building a full desktop viewable site and then determining how it should look on mobile. First you design the site so it will rock the mobile look and then scale it up from there to determine how it will look on tablets and desktops.
  • A basic tenet of web design that has become even more important with the growth of responsive web design is to have a clean design that focuses the user on key actions. Remove all distractions from what the goal of your site is. If I have to stop to think about whether to click a link going to a vendor’s site or click the buy now button, you’ve probably lost a sale. So remove links or information that distract your visitors from moving deeper into the site or from doing business with you.

If you need assistance with your site – or know of someone who needs assistance – would you take the time to introduce us? We will make you look good by helping someone in need.

 

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Making Connections

Your web site is a networking tool. For most organizations, whether you make stuff, sell stuff, offer services or perform some kind of service for the community (as in non-profits), your standing in the community and your connections to your community are what makes business work.

Often I talk with prospects who see their website as a completely separate entity that is somehow disconnected from their organization. This is wrong. Often it is sadly wrong.

Your website is an integral part of making connections with your community. Depending on what you do and who your market is, your web site might:

  • Reinforce your reputation: If you’ve been around for a while and you do good work, your website can reinforce that by describing jobs you’ve done (case studies), share testimonials from happy customers or even show work visually that you have done with video and pictures. These all reinforce your reputation so that as potential clients check out your website either before or after a meeting, they can get a feel for your experience
  • Generate leads: We see so many service based websites that simply describe their offerings. There is no call to action. There is no next step for the interested visitor to take. But it is often a straightforward process to add or integrate a call to action right in. We built a web site for a private school that generated, over four years, 240 concrete leads – potential students making inquiries. What would you do if you had an additional 240 customers over the last four years?
  • Communicate with customers: On the flip side, we have some customers who are so focused on using their site to generate new leads, they forget about existing leads and customers. But your web site can be a great way to communicate with people. Whether you post new information or events regularly or have logins for your customers, there are myriads of options to engage your existing customers and leads via your website.
  • Close the deal: A great way to do business. You can set it so that potential customers, as the last step in the sales process, fill out an evaluation or other form on your site and then close the deal. Closing can be as simple as filling out a form, as rewarding as collecting payment online, or as complex as creating a profile.
  • Selling stuff: Nearly identical to closing the deal, selling stuff is great. If you have a service or product that can be purchased online, handling it that way is great. Sometimes it might be as simple as putting something in your cart and checking out. Other times it might be clicking the pay invoice link in your email and going to your online payment form. Whatever works for you is great as long as you have planned your site to do this step.

So take some time today, if you haven’t already, to integrate your site into your network so it helps you grow.

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Channeling your Efforts

How can you stand out in an increasingly cluttered advertising space like the Internet? Paid search campaigns like AdWords can generate great, qualified traffic to your website. But because it works, the competition can be fierce and expensive.

Ads on other sites might seem like a good idea but the increasing frustration of users with ads, and these users increasing sophistication with web use, is leading to an increase in the use and sophistication of ad blockers. What if your precisely targeted market is blocking the very ad you created just for them?

Newsletters can be a great way to get in front of folks. And if you have existing customers, simply by the fact of them being your customer, you can add them to your email list. But you can’t necessarily keep them! We have a newsletter that goes out just to our hosting clients. This newsletter tells them about our service and any changes / additions / or maintenance they should be aware of. But several have unsubscribed. Even when you consciously opt in to a newsletter, do you read each one thoroughly? Yet each time I send a newsletter, I get feedback from happy customers. So it is a valuable channel.

So is it a lost cause? Should you throw in the towel and accept defeat?

NO.

But as technology matures and becomes more sophisticated, you need to as well. First, remember that nothing beats old-fashioned marketing. It takes more time but that is what makes it more effective. Visit your leads. Or give them a call. Or send a note via the United States Postal Service.

But of course you can use new media and use it effectively. Now you need to consider and use the right channels for your business. A brief overview of some of the main channels available and how you might use them:

Website: This is the channel you have the most control over. Make it the centerpiece of your marketing. I might click a link from LinkedIn or Facebook that takes me to your site where I learn that you not only do what the link was about but that you also provide another service or product I need.

Facebook: We recommend this for all kinds of businesses but it is essential if you are in the B2C world. Have an active account. Provide useful information AND links back to your site with further details on the issue.

Twitter: Lots of folks tell us gruffly “We don’t tweet” or “We don’t twitter” as a matter of pride. That is not a particularly helpful approach to marketing though. Do you know if your client base is on Twitter? If they are then you ought to be. Even if they aren’t, having an active Twitter account can help in myriads of ways, foremost of which is providing additional links regarding your brand – useful for SEO purposes.

LinkedIn: If you are in the B2B world, a fully built out LI profile and regularly updating , connecting with others is critical. More and more, when I talk with people and especially when I meet with them, they check out my profile and I check out theirs prior to meeting. Finding useful connections is a great way to grow.

Instagram: If what you do is visual, you should have an Instagram account and update it. This is particularly true of B2C companies. It is just another great way to get your product in front of people. Using Instagram purposefully can be immensely beneficial.

YouTube: Whether you are in the B2B or B2C realm, a video can go a long way towards getting you more sales. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, just imagine what a video is worth. Demonstrate a technique, show how to use a product, have a customer give a video testimonial, show people interacting with you, your product, or your service.

We have, over the years, repeatedly heard “We tried <Enter your favorite channel or social media> and it didn’t work.” When I counter that with “What was your strategy?” I ALWAYS get a blank stare. The key is to use these channels with a strategy. Understand how you want each channel to interact. Done well, it will get you more customers; show a better, more unified brand to the world; and get your better search rankings.

If you need help getting your digital channels lined up, we can help. If you need help getting your whole marketing plan going, give us a call as well. We partner with some of the best firms in Colorado to get your message out there.

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Letting the Client Discover the Answer

We’ve been designing sites for years and while we’re quite good at what we do, it always amazes me when we let the client discover the answer because it often isn’t the answer we thought of.

A couple of years ago we were working with a private school. We asked them how their site fit into their overall marketing plan. After several moments of silence, the answer was “We don’t know.”

So we asked them when students (or actually the parents) decide that this is the right school for them and sign up. They answered “Almost without exception when a family tours our campus, they sign up.” So I asked how their web site could help get more tours. And the “Schedule a Tour” app was born.

Families scheduling a tour were actually taking the first step in the enrollment process, giving the school a next step to engage families in.

Does your site have a next step?

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Becoming a Customer (Part 1)

Have you ever thought about how you interact with web sites?

When we speak with potential clients, they rarely have stopped to think about how they want visitors to interact with their site. But what does it mean to become a customer? That, ultimately is what every business owner wants from their website.

Social media websites have it easy – some would say too easy. To become a customer all you have to do is create a free account and start sharing. A cousin of mine just joined Facebook last week. Within minutes of joining, he was able to be posting and sharing. Facebook had just acquired another customer that they can then sell ads to – and make money.

If you aren’t clear on your goals, neither is your customer

But what about a service company? How do you want visitors to interact with you? Too often I look at a web site and it has a pleasant enough look and it displays information. And when I talk to the business owner and ask “What is your goal for your web site?” the answer is “I want to educate (or inform) the visitor.”

But isn’t it really more than that? Very rarely, unless we’re talking to a school, is the goal to educate. Almost always, even for the schools, the goal of the site is to acquire more customers. For social media sites, that can be as simple as having a new person with an account. For ecommerce sites, the goal is pretty obvious, successfully complete the checkout process after putting “stuff” in your shopping cart.

But there are many other very good goals. If you have a long sales cycle, you might be getting a huge win every time someone signs up for your newsletter. If you are a consultant, your goal may be for someone to fill out a form before downloading a white paper or other document. If you are in the trades like a plumber or electrician, having someone schedule an appointment online could mean you just got another customer. For many businesses, simply getting the phone to ring is a win. If that’s the case, make sure you have a clear call to action focused on why calling you is a great idea.

EduCyber can help you get a clear call to action – why not work with us?

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Privacy, Apps and You

What’s App?

That was a lame heading but this is not a lame topic.

Do you have a mobile phone? I think by now everyone (but the pastor at my church who still uses a flip phone) has a mobile phone with a data plan.

And you have apps on it.

Have you read the permissions you agree to when you install an app? It might actually be worth reviewing. Here are just a few that I have agreed to (without really paying attention):

Facebook can:

  • Read my calendar events plus confidential information (hmmm. Why does FB need access to confidential info about my events?)
  • Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owner’s knowledge (what?)
  • Modify my contacts
  • Read the contents of my usb storage

Why in the world does FB need to do any of these things? But if I say no, no Facebook.

That’s fine. FB is social. You might decide to do without. Not needed. But what about that map app you use? In getting great directions, what are you giving up?

Google Maps can:

  • Add or remove accounts on my device (why?)
  • Directly call phone numbers (without my knowledge?)
  • Modify or DELETE the contents of my USB storage (what happens if my pictures go missing?)
  • And then of course it always knows my precise location.

Pause and consider that for just a moment. I keep my phone in my breast pocket almost all the time. Google knows not only the address of where I work but the exact location of my desk in my building. That might not sound too bad. Are you one of those who tweets, facebooks and other mobile activities while in the bathroom? Google not only knows what you’re doing in the bathroom (if they know where my desk is, they know where your bathroom is), it also therefore knows how often you go there. It also knows how long you’re there. Creeped out yet?

These and other app makers are private companies and you have an agreement with them as to how they will handle your data.

But then there is our government demanding access to your data to these companies. And in some cases our government is actually demanding encryption that is below a level it should be so they can snoop. Which then makes our (your) data accessible not only to the company you agree to share it with, but probably with the government and even potentially with hackers that take advantage of this lower level of encryption.

Do I sound like a lunatic? Read the story about how our government insisted on a backdoor that caused problems last week for a lot of folks.

Normally I end these articles with a “Need help? Give us a call” plug but there really isn’t much that can be done unless you’re ready to unplug. If you do, let me know before you go – I’d like to learn if folks really are unplugging.

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Artistic Design

Today I was asked to describe visually what I do. The other participants in this exercise came up with interesting depictions of what they do. The estate planner started with a tombstone, for example.

Me? I was terrified. We design such beautiful websites but since I am not the designer, I was at a loss on how to depict what we do. How can I show, with a color marker, how awesome our work is? And when I fall short, how bad will my company look (even though it was just a small group exercise with people I know and trust).

Then I paused to think about what we do. And it hit me.

My drawing, though crude, was about like this:

We take web sites that look like the one done in red and make them more like the one in green. Yes it is a gross oversimplification but it conveys the message.

We take web sites that have too much happening and work with the company or organization to clarify their goals. In many ways, having a good website is akin to having a good strategic plan. If your plan is to go where the wind blows today and then go in a different direction tomorrow because the wind has shifted, your business and your web site will likely be like the image on the left. Lots and lots of things are happening – many calls to action – but there are so many that it isn’t clear which one is for me.

When you have a clear goal (or two or three) instead of 9 or more, then your business can move forward better and your web site can be more effective. Think about it. If you have two or three things to do today, you can do them and you’ll know when they’re done. If you have nine or ten, you might get most of them done but will it be the important ones? Or will you do the easy ones and say to yourself “I got most of my list done!”? The same thing happens with your web site. You give lots of actions for people take and they may very well take some of them. But are they the ones that will help your business grow? Will they be the kind of lead that makes someone call you or click the buy button?

At first blush it may seem counter-intuitive but actually removing items from your web site, removing calls to action that aren’t central to its purpose, can help you get more customers. They have fewer choices so it is easier for them to take the right one.

Really it boils down to two related questions:

  1. What are your goals for your website?
  2. What do you want people to do on your website?

A good example of an answer is: I want 10 new customers a year through my website. On the site I want prospective customers to fill out an information form telling me what their pain is – what problem they are trying to solve – and submit it.

Oh, and just to be clear, there would be more on the redesigned page than one button. Although there needn’t be. Have you checked out Google’s landing page lately?

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Transition Points

This morning our little part of the world was recovering from a brief snowstorm. As I left the building for a client meeting and again as I returned to my office, there were people (different folks each time) standing at the door talking. I noticed it because the atrium was getting cold as they stood there, door ajar, discussing whatever it was they were discussing.

Transition to a new website!

But it got me thinking about transition points. When you leave a room or a building, it is a transition point. And something catches your attention which is why folks often stop to talk right then. Visiting a web site is a transition point. For most of us, we’ve been engaged in a different activity but now we are suddenly looking at a web site – perhaps it is your web site.

This is the opportunity for us, as web site owners, to have a conversation with the visitor. To engage them and help them understand what is in store for them as they move deeper into the site. In my experience above, the change in temperature was something that caught the attention of folks and made them stop to talk.  What is your site doing or what should it be doing at this key Transition Point?

One mistake that many website owners make at this point is to show lots of pretty pictures without asking the visitor to step deeper into the site. These are the “sliders” or rotating images that make up the top part of so many web sites. Site owners love them because it is such a great way to showcase all the great features of their product or service. The only problem is visitors are usually not looking for features, they’re looking for benefits.

Transitions present opportunities. To take full advantage of the opportunities presented, we, as website owners, need to carefully consider what our visitors want. No matter what your business is, a great way to understand what your web site visitors are looking for is to ask your existing customers. What benefit do you get from our service / our product / working with us? Use what you learn to redo your front page and possibly to redo your site structure.

The conversation need to continue to change (your front page needs to change over time) in order to keep engaging people as they come through your door (enter your site). We have a customer whose site brought in 45% more revenue the first year we redid it. But as we have continued to make changes, it has averaged more than 20% increase in revenue each year. The key to success is to grab the visitor at the transition point and engage them. Then just keep moving them along until you’ve successfully won their business.

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10 Reasons You Don’t Need a New Website

That’s right. I’m not here to talk you INTO buying a new web site. I’m here to tell you why you don’t really need one:

  1. You paid for a whole new web site five years ago
  2. Websites don’t generate new customers, good salespeople do that
  3. Somebody told me I’d have to write something called a blog. Regularly. Not going to happen. Don’t need it.
  4. You’re not Amazon or eBay – you’re not selling products, you offer a service
  5. I had someone give me a quote for a site. $20,000 sounds like an awful lot. Especially when I get emails everyday telling me I can get a site for $100.
  6. You’ve been in business for more than 10 years and you haven’t needed one yet, why should you get one now?
  7. Your competitors have all had web sites for many years. You’d just be spending time and money trying to catch up to them.
  8. You’re only open 40 hours a week. If you had a web site it could give the appearance that you’re open 24/7.
  9. You’re too small for a brand. You don’t really have a brand so there is nothing to “put out there” for the world to see.
  10. People in your area need your product, not people far away so why give them an opportunity to buy it online?
  11. BONUS: Everyone else has a web site – you can stand out by not having one.

Have you heard these? Have you heard them coming out of your own mouth? If one or more of these reasons belongs to you, then I say, “Welcome to 1995”.

The reality is you do need a web site. A good one. One that is less than five years old, reflects who you are as a company or business, shows to all visitors that you are legitimate, builds up your brand – whatever your brand is, and what about those $100 websites or even the free ones? You’ll end up looking cheap. Is that your brand?

So if after reading this you decide you really do want a web site despite all these great reasons to the contrary, give us a call at 303 268-2245.

 

 

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Economics of Conversion Optimization

I spend a lot of time every day explaining Conversion Optimization because it is such an important part of what we do.

The general idea is to get more of your visitors to perform a specific task – a task that will help your company grow. It may be as simple as signing up for your newsletter or sharing on Facebook something about your site. Or it could be as significant as buying something online or calling you up, ready to do business.

First you have to determine what you want visitors to do, then start working on the process. But why? Is it really useful?

Let’s say you have a web site that sells widgets. Each widget is $10. During a typical month you get 10,000 visitors to your website and you sell 100 widgets, one to a customer. You have a 1% conversion rate:

100 (customer)/10,000 (visitors) = 0.01 or 1%

So you set to work on improving the conversion process and after much work you go from a 1% conversion rate to a 1.5% conversion rate. What? Only a .5% increase?

No. Not a .5% increase. Look again. That is a 50% increase. Now instead of making $1000 for every 10,000 visitors, you make $1500.

Stop and think about that. If you had not conversion optimized your site, and instead run an SEO campaign to increase traffic to 100,000 visitors a month you would make $10,000. But if you first optimize your site for conversion and then do the SEO campaign, you are suddenly making $15,000 month.

Spend time optimizing your site before you optimize your search! If you spend the resources to improve your conversion rate from 1% to 2%, you will double the money you get from your site.

Well that makes sense for ecommerce but what about a lead generating site? The same principle applies. If you get 1000 visitors a month, ten of which call and one of which becomes a customer, you now have a formula. First look over your site and see what you can do to optimize the conversion process. Then make some changes. It is actually better to make small incremental changes so you can determine which changes are working.

On the web site itself you can’t change the conversion rate of 10 calls to 1 customer. That is an internal process you can (and should) work on. But you can work to get more people calling. Again, get 15 or 20 calls a month and you have a 50 – 100% increase in conversions, leading to more revenue for you.

So invest the time and resources to make your site better. It will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

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