Is Page Speed Important?

Not long ago I wrote an article on Page Speed. Since then, page speed has continued to climb in importance.  How Google’s algorithm for ranking pages works is the secret sauce that makes them who they are. But we do know that pages that load fast are moving up in importance in the algorithm.

So what can be done?

There are a few things you can do that can have a dramatic impact on your web page loading time.

  • Optimize your images. Nearly every site we test has images that can be better optimized for display on the web. Remember, more and more people are using mobile devices as their sole connection to the internet. So having big images will slow them down and often not display as well as images that are optimized for mobile.
  • Tell your site to use browser caching. While there are different ways of doing this from the technical – like manually editing your .htaccess file – to much simpler – like installing  a caching plugin, this one change can score you points with page speed and ultimately provide a better user experience.
  • Make sure you are displaying the proper size of images. Together with point # 1, you can become the ace of images by making sure that you are displaying an image at 300 pixels wide by 400 pixels tall, that your image is 300 pixels X 400 pixels. If you’re loading an image that is 600 X 800 and then displaying it at 300 X 400, you can get a 50% reduction by resizing that image. This is pretty easy to do. I sometimes do this in Windows using the Paint program and it can be done in seconds, not minutes.
  • Deliver your files with compression. Windows users will be familiar with zipped files. That is pretty much the same concept here. Telling your web server to deliver files using gzip usually improves your page speed a bit.

Why do you want to have a fast site? There are two main reasons. First comes the user experience. If people visiting your site are met with spinning icons as your page slowly loads, they’ll likely feel like they’re spinning their wheels and go elsewhere.  Second is search engines. Having a fast-loading web page is one of the “search signals”. A search signal is a factor that Google or other search engine uses to determine how to rank a page for different key words.  While it is but one of many signals, since it also fits with a better user experience, we HIGHLY recommend optimizing your site for speed using one of the tools in the previous article

SHARE THIS:

Page Speed: How Fast is Your Site?

Does your site load on people’s computers quickly? If it doesn’t, does it matter?

The answers to those two questions are “It better be fast” and “It absolutely matters”.   There are two main reasons:

  1. User Interface. If users are waiting and watching the spinning circle or other indicators that the page is loading but it hasn’t finished, they leave.
  2. Google rewards fast web sites with better, higher rankings. Not just Google of course but since Google accounts for 75% of searches, we’ll just say “Google”.

So what can you do to tell if your site is fast? We have two answers for that as well:

  1. Google actually tells you how fast your site is and gives tips on how to make it faster. Visit https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ and enter your domain and see what Google says about your site.  It is a good idea to visit on a regular basis – monthly or quarterly to make sure that nothing has changed either on your site or how Google views your site.
  2. There is another great, free tool https://gtmetrix.com/ that lets you see the speed and uses several other tools to help you understand what is happening on your web page. One of the biggest issues we see with this tool is that images aren’t optimized well. The cool part of it is the tool provides you with the optimized version of the image in question. No more trying to guess what it means.

So take some time to check out your website today. Use both of the tools above to check not just the homepage but also other key pages on your site. Just because you get the home page to load quickly doesn’t automatically mean other pages will.

Just as I wrote this article I found that one of the plugins we were using had “gone rogue” and was lowering our score for page speed. That plugin is gone and we’re back to fast loading pages.

The tools will help you measure the speed and once the tools say your pages are loading fast, you can go back and work through your site from a customer perspective and verify that they are indeed going smoothly and quickly.

And of course, if you would like assistance in speeding up your page or pages, call us at 303-268-2245 ext 4 and we’ll get the ball rolling.

SHARE THIS:

A New Question for your Website

Free or low cost services to get you a web site abound. Why should you choose a firm like EduCyber and pay them a lot more instead of getting your free web site?

But there is a new question you should consider when it comes to your website:

What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your website?

Let’s break this down into the two basic parts:

  1. What are the resources needed (your investment)?
  2. What is the return you expect or need from that investment?

The answer to the first question seems clear: For a Wix or SquareSpace or PageCloud site, your cash investment is very small. Or is it? The resources needed to navigate these DIY sites are both time and expertise. Do you have the time to devote? If so, do you have the technical expertise to understand design, layout, html, site flow, integration with 3rd party applications, and conversion optimization to name just a few of the areas you need to understand to create an effective web site? If so, then good for you but might I also suggest you start (or come to work for) a website design company?

If you don’t have this key resource – expertise – then you can of course hire an outside company to do your site for you on one of these platforms. But honestly, if you are going to hire someone anyway, why not hire a firm that can build you a web site that you own? Did you know that? You can of course build your site on one of these platforms but then when your time is tied up in your business and you want to move your site somewhere else, what happens? Oh, you are stuck with that platform and service. Or you get to start over again.

One of these platforms brags that you can “layer, resize, rotate, stretch and more” but what happens when you have no idea what layer means? Or if you don’t understand the importance of resizing your images? Another of these platforms has its own app market. Hmm. A free web site that has a market? Sounds like the ole’ bait and switch scheme to me. Sure it is free. Until it isn’t.

So yeah, for a low low price you get your own website. But then we need to answer the second question, what is the ROI?

At its base level, the question is “Would you prefer to pay $240 / year for a web site that brings in no new clients or would you prefer to pay $7500 for a web site that generates $75,000 / year in sales?” If you view your web site as an expense, then by all means, go with one of the free or low cost firms. Interestingly, I don’t see any information on any of the low cost sites on ROI. A firm like EduCyber on the other hand will walk you through, from the design process on, understanding what your expectations are (and helping you set them if you haven’t considered it) as far as how your site fits into your business model and how it can help you grow.

We have in depth conversations with each of our website design clients about how we can help them grow – attract and retain more customers – via their website. And we design them accordingly. Would you like a 300% return on your investment in one year? We have done that for a client. Would you like to increase your subscriber rate two-fold or five-fold? We help you determine what makes sense and then build your site to do that.

So what is the total cost of ownership for your site? How much time and how much expertise do you or your staff have? When you want to move your site somewhere else, what will it cost? How do you integrate your CRM into your website using your free platform? What will you do when your designated web person on staff leaves? How can your business grow via your website? What actions do you want people to take on your website?

Answering these questions are important in adding up the total cost of ownership and while the free or low-cost alternatives look attractive from the start, make sure you are prepared for the costs on the backend.

I am often asked how what we do compares to these services. My short answer is “it doesn’t”. If you get the value you want from one of these services, I actively encourage you to go for it. But if you want to be freed up to focus on your business and doing what you do best, I encourage you to consider EduCyber for your web site design.

SHARE THIS:

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?

SHARE THIS:

Becoming a Customer (Part 3)

There should always be a next step! And if that step is up to you, you had better carry through! A well-known Hollywood director said “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Successful businesses often take that one step further – showing up is 90% of success. Our first two articles on Becoming a Customer examined how a well thought out call to action is important and how good design should focus attention on that call to action. In this article we’re going to look at the next step.

You should ALWAYS have a next step

We all have heard or experienced the customer service story from hell – whether it be some kind of bait and switch story, a firm just completely dropping the ball, or endless promises of satisfaction that never materialize. But what about the delightful stories of promises not only kept but surpassed?

Probably the most important aspect of “becoming a customer” is to always, every time, without fail, provide a next step. That is the showing up part. And much of it can be automated or semi-automated. When a customer schedules an appointment online you can have an automated email thanking them and confirming the time. Or you can have a staff person actually confirm the scheduled appointment time works and then click to send the automated reply.

If you have people sign up for your newsletter. You kind of need to send out a newsletter. Otherwise you’ve just alienated folks. The idea situation is that, on confirmation of a subscription, the customer is sent the last newsletter automatically. But the other part of this is setting the proper expectation. How frequently will you be sending your newsletter? Adding that into the subscription process and sticking to it will make your subscribers happier.

We worked with a private school to build their website. After much discussion we set the call to action to be “Schedule a Tour” but we didn’t stop there. If you visit that school’s website and schedule a tour, you have just taken the first step in the enrollment process. And the follow up email lets you know that if you have already decided to enroll, you can click the link to continue the process. You always need to have a next step.

And if your site doesn’t have a next step, you should contact EduCyber today to remedy this situation! Call Brian at 303 268-2245 ext. 4.

SHARE THIS:

Becoming a Customer (Part 2)

Can your web site design (not the content) help you get more customers?

In our first article on <becoming a customer>, we discussed the content aspect – having a clear call to action on your site. In this article, we are going to investigate whether the visual design elements of a site can help your visitors become customers.

You should always have a clear call to action

I remember the very first user testing we did years ago. We identified a person who would be a great potential customer for our new client and had him go through their existing website, sharing his stream of consciousness as he navigated the site through the tasks we gave him. The web site’s “clear call to action” was a flashing red button in the right column. Our tester mentioned it only briefly – “I’m not looking at the ads in the right column”.

Ouch.

That customer learned a good lesson that day. People were ignoring their call to action. Think about how ads work today on many websites, especially news sites. They used to have banner ads and right column (and left column) ads. Now most of them use inline ads. You read a paragraph. You are interested. You want to read more. As you scroll down the page, you see the inline ad and then your content. You have just interacted with the ad – an ad you may have skipped had it not been right in line with the content.

This is actually one of the exciting parts of what we do in this business. Design matters! Sometimes (often times) it is a subtle change that makes all the difference. Change a button from blue to green and suddenly people start filling out your form. Move the secure transaction logo next to the complete transaction button and suddenly people start buying your products. Move your call to action from a side column to inline with your content and the phone starts ringing.

Suddenly becoming a customer is easier for people on your website. And if you’d like help making your design work FOR you, you should work with us.

SHARE THIS:

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?

SHARE THIS:

Responsive Design is Now a Requirement

The way we interact with web sites continues to change at a startling pace. And the way web sites interact with us does too.

One big change coming very rapidly is mobile friendliness. Until now it has been a nicety. Some folks have chosen to implement it and others have chosen not to – feeling their sites are best viewed on desktop computers.

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Responsive design is the key term here. That means making your website look nice on a variety of devices. Notice how the look gets smaller and then on a phone instead of getting smaller, it actually changes.  That is what some organizations have said “Thanks, but no thanks” to.

Google is changing that. And they have even announced the day. Beginning April 21 of THIS YEAR they will begin to penalize sites that are not responsive or mobile-friendly. Yes, you read that right. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it will not rank as well as sites that are.

We have a new hosting client with over 6000 products shown on their web site. Google says none of the pages are mobile friendly. Now they will have to invest in a way to get all these products to be mobile friendly so they can continue to get the same great search results they have been getting.

If you have a site built partly or completely in Flash, forget about it. It is time to start work on your new site that will be search and mobile friendly.

If you are not sure if your site is mobile friendly or not, visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and enter a link to your site. Google will not only tell you if you pass or fail, but give you tips on how to fix or improve your site to make it more mobile friendly.

And then, if you need help, be sure to call EduCyber at 303 268-2245 ext 4!

SHARE THIS:

Formed for Success

A pixel? A color? Or More?

For going too far we have the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  In a similar vein, bridges often have a sign announcing their load limit which conjures up interesting mental images about what testing they performed to determine those limits.

But in a positive vein could it be that your web site is one pixel away from a break through? What if the color of your button was the barrier between you and a lot more customers? It sounds too easy to be real. But what if?

Look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Garish Buttons Don't Help Conversions

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Color

Which do you like better? Why?

Sometimes choosing the right color of button is the difference between no one ever signing up and getting lots of new subscribers. Users often report skipping over the bright red stuff as it simply is too bright or doesn’t fit with the color scheme. The important take away is that it should fit within your color scheme. A good example of this in action can be seen at www.gslcs.org where the Schedule your tour button clearly grabs your attention but the color fits within the scheme.

Now look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Color

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Text

Which one do you like better? Why?

If you don’t think about it – and many folks don’t – submit either is very bland or some kind of kinky command, but neither really tells folks what is next. Sign up for Free on the other hand tells folks exactly what is going to happen if they click on the button. It is very important to help folks understand what happens when you click the button. One newsletter  provider users the same button “Proceed to Send” for the first two steps in preparing to send an email. The first time through this is a scary undertaking because the only way I can get to the next step is to click a button that suggests I’ll actually be sending the message instead of going to the next step. Then when I’m actually ready to send it, my choices are clear – Deliver Immediately or Schedule Delivery. If it were up to me, I would rename the first button “Choose Who to Send it To” and the second could be as simple as “Next” or “Proceed to Last Step” so I know I won’t be  actually sending the message yet.

And finally, look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Text

First Name:

Email:

Button Optimized for Conversion

Which of these are you most likely to fill out? Why?

Having a friendly button can make a big difference in whether folks will click the button so they can “click” with you. Using beveled edges and drop shadow, especially fitting it within the look of your web site, can make all the difference in the world.  If you’re experiencing problems getting folks to do what you want them to do on your site, give us a call (303 268-2245) to discuss it. You could be just a button away from success.

SHARE THIS:

Testing Your Web Site

Do you like to take tests? How about give tests? For many of us testing is something we did a long time ago when we were in school.

But it shouldn’t be. We should be testing things on our web sites all the time. There are two powerful reasons why:

  1. Testing your web site leads to a better site and a better understanding of how it works (in other words, it helps you make more money).
  2. Testing your web site doesn’t have to be a big, expensive endeavor and neither does it have to be time consuming.

We all have opinions about what works best visually but when we test these opinions, surprises abound. I came across a test that surprised me on the Which Test Won web site this week: http://whichtestwon.com/archives/18744. Breaking up the visual monotony by alternating photos from left to right seems like a no-brainer.  Only that isn’t what actually engaged people. Having all the photos down the right side is what worked – even with the right column having other images.

If your site doesn’t get a ton of visitors, you can still do testing – the tests just need to go a bit longer. You can test simple things like does making the button green instead of blue get better results. You can test whether your call to action should be to fill out a form or to call you. You can test different copy. Take a look at your site or better yet get a colleague to look at your site and see what is clear for them and what isn’t. Then create a test based on that.

And it doesn’t have to cost you anything. Simply create the two versions you want to test and use a free tool like Google Analytics to set your test up. The more traffic you have to your site, the sooner you’ll get results that are valid but if your traffic is low, you can simply run the test for a bit longer.

Sometimes the answers you uncover will surprise you. But isn’t it better to be surprised and understand what not to do than to just sail along, never quite understanding what is working and what isn’t?

SHARE THIS: