Check Your Eyesight

What a difference being able to see clearly makes! I have been busy lately. So busy that I didn’t take time to get my glasses polished up. They had several scratches on them and just never quite came clean. Then a few weeks ago I was horsing around with my kids and bent the left wing of the glasses.  Still too busy I dealt with the frustration of bent glasses I couldn’t see well out of for a couple of weeks until two days ago.

Then I took them in and asked if the store could rebend them into the proper angle. They not only did that, they replaced the nose rest pieces and polished the lenses. Needless to say I feel like I have a new pair of glasses. I can see clearly again!

And the same concept applies so clearly to your web site. Have you polished the lens through which you view it?Eyeglasses 1

Here are a few tips that can help you:

  1. Go to a Internet Café or borrow a friends computer and look at your site
  2. Look at your website on a variety of devices: desktop, laptop, tablet, phone.
  3. Sign up for your newsletter
  4. Review your web site statistics (Google Analtyics or  server based program like AWSTATS)
  5. Ask three customers or vendors to use your site (note: I did not say look at it – give them a specific task)

By following one or more of these tips it will help to take you outside of your normal framework and see your web site from a fresh perspective. Ask yourself “how is the web site helping my business grow?” And if the answer is, “it isn’t”, give us a call at 303 268-2245.


Mobile Goes Wild

As we monitor our customer’s sites we are seeing, understandably, a huge increase in traffic from mobile devices. What does that mean for your web site? What does that mean from a design perspective?Mobile Increase 1

First it is important to understand that tablets (iPad, Kindle, Surface, and a variety of Android tablets) are considered mobile devices. So when we’re talking mobile devices, we’re talking everything from a BlackBerry (probably having the smallest screen) to the iPad and larger tablets.

It can be a nightmare trying to make things work across all these platforms. “it can’t be that bad.” You might be thinking. But you’re wrong. One of our sites has had over 350 mobile devices visit their site. 350.

Once upon a time we designed and tested our sites in three to five browsers and at least two different platforms (like Windows and Apple). Now the rules have changed.

If you are changing or updating your site, you’ll want to ask your web firm if your site will be mobile-friendly. But that phrase “mobile-friendly” can mean a lot of different things.

Here is what you should be aware of when planning for mobile:

  1. Often it is fine if your site simply appears small and can be pinched or unpinched to zoom in and out
  2. Navigation is different. If you have drop down menus on your site, test them on mobile. Often dropdowns work with a hover or mouseover. There isn’t a hover or mouseover on mobile.
  3. If you need a look substantially different from the desktop view for mobile devices, be prepared to spend more as you’ll essentially be designing two versions of your web site
  4. Make sure your web firm is using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that detect browser version and can serve up the mobile changes for a mobile device
  5. Be prepared for additional changes in the way people interact with their mobile devices (and therefore your mobile-friendly website) over the next 18 months. The only constant in web site development is change.

Building Websites on WordPress

A few short years ago we built most of our websites on pages that were more or less static. If a customer wanted to try something called blogging, we would add a piece of software into the site that allowed them to do this.

We had also been building sites on Content Management Software (CMS) like Joomla and Drupal. While the romance of users being able to update the content was consistently dangled before us, we found pretty consistently that users didn’t like or simply didn’t get how to use the backend interface.

In the meantime, this blogging software called WordPress was getting more and more powerful and users loved it. It had that elusive trait called “intuitiveness”. Users didn’t have to think. They could just put their content in and save or update it.

Before long we started building more and more of our sites completely on WordPress. It has grown to a very large user base (58.5 MILLION sites) and growing.

There are two great features of WordPress that fit very nicely with how EduCyber builds websites:

  1. EduCyber custom-designs every web site we build. Rather than starting with a template and shoving your content into it, we design the look and optimize it for conversion. Once we’ve got the look established, we create a template based on that look rather than vice-versa. WordPress has a flexible template system that allows us to approach design from this perspective.
  2. EduCyber develops powerful database-driven web sites. WordPress has great database features. We use those features and often add to it our own open-source software – onWord – to create web sites that have a variety of features – membership management, ecommerce, and more.

So if you are in the market for a custom-designed, database-driven website, why not give us a call?


Is Your Site Performing?

Have you looked at the stats for your web site lately? If you haven’t you should. There are two sets of statistics I recommend looking at. One is the stats from your web logs – we like to use AWSTATS as they provide a nice overview of stats but also allows you to drill down to specifics very quickly.

The other set of stats is Google Analytics. By using both GA and AWSTATS, you can get two different looks but also keep in mind that they should be fairly similar. Why two instead of one? Mainly to “keep them honest” in making sure they are indeed close to the same. But also because sometimes one look will give you an insight that you may not notice with the other look.

Some of the stats to look at include:

Webstats 1Unique Visitors – how many unique visitors do you have coming to your site on a monthly basis? The goal is always to keep that number climbing and is the goal of Seach Engine Optimization campaigns.

Pages Viewed – which pages on your site were viewed. If your goal is to get people to complete checkouts, for example, you’ll be happy if the checkout page is getting viewed a lot and if it isn’t that can give you some insight on which pages you need to check on.

Browsers – this stat is increasingly important as the variety of mobile browsers continues to explode. If you see lots of Android or ios views, you’ll want to pay extra attention to how your site looks and performs on mobile platforms

Traffic Sources – this stat helps you see how people get to your site. If you’re running an SEO campaign, you’ll expect to see lots of organic search traffic. If you’re running a paid search campaign like Google AdWords, you’ll be looking to see lots of Google paid visits. And the list goes on through Facebook, and a variety of social media sites as well as direct visits – folks who already know you and your brand.

Search Keywords or Key phrases – this stat shows what your search traffic was actually searching for when they arrived at your site. It is not a bad thing to see lots of search hits for your business name – that means you have built your brand. But it is much better to see more generic key words about your industry or products. That means that people who don’t know you specifically are finding your site as they search for your what you offer.


Web Site Development: A Case Study

In 2010 EduCyber began meeting with representatives from the Lariat Loop regarding a redesign of their web site. We sat down with them for a 90 minute discussion on what their goals were and how the web site could help them meet their goals.

During the discussion, as we brainstormed ways to make the web site more “sticky” – getting people to visit for longer periods of time and, more importantly, how to make the Loop itself more sticky, we realized that a trip planner would be useful.

Lariat LoopBackground – the Lariat Loop is a 46 mile scenic byway that winds through the communities of Golden, Evergreen and Morrison. Some of the coolest sites in Colorado can be found on the loop – Lookout Mountain, Coors Brewery, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Dinosaur Ridge, Evergreen Lake House, Boettcher Mansion and Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum to name just a few.

Each of these attractions has their own web site and we also want to drive visitors from the Lariat Loop web site to the various attractions. The thing that sets apart from the rest though is the trip planner. You can visit the site, add as many different locations as you want to your trip, change the order you’ll visit them and then get turn by turn instructions on how to get to each location.

With sophisticated mapping, the opportunity for each location to have its own page and to link back to their site, along with ways to release press releases and showcase events, has literally taken off.

In the last six months the site has experienced a 94% increase in unique visitors and more than 250% increase in visits from search engines.


Web Site Bridge

I’ve been asked a lot lately what sets us apart from the competition. While we fill a distinct niche, it is often difficult to articulate how what we do is different from others.

Does This Bridge Go Anywhere?Today I’ll use a bridge analogy. This bridge on the right gets me where I’m going. It is very functional. One side of the bridge looks much like the other side. Many web firms can give you a web site. But most of those firms will give you a site that looks both like most of the rest of their web sites and like most of the sites that are out there on the internet.

You’ll notice also that this bridge doesn’t give you much of a view. It just goes from point a to point b. No railings or other features to help you. Notice also that you could probably get by without this bridge. Just a little hop and you’d be across that ditch and on the other side. Other folks design web sites that don’t really help you get anywhere difficult. Those sites have few or no images, and little to spark the imagination. There are no “railings” that you can hold on to and grasp new meaning. And frankly if the site didn’t exist, it probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on business anyway because it isn’t generating leads, interest or new customers.

Now consider the bridge below. This bridge practically invites you to come and stand on it. The path is wide, there’s a pleasant arch to it there are railings. We make web sites like this. First they are visually appealing. They let the visitor know they are welcome to step onboard. Next, and this is the most important part of any bridge, they actually go somewhere. The bridge in the picture crosses a babbling brook that turns into a torrent every spring. Without the bridge, you’d be stuck on your side of the river. With our sites, we help you get where you’re going – each site is designed to help your business grow. We build powerful, data-driven web sites that can streamline processes, attract and retain more customers and offer opportunities to stay connected and build on the relationship.

GoodbridgeAnd just like every bridge has many of the same parts but a good bridge fits in and enhances its surroundings, that is what our websites do. Some firms ask you what template you like best. We never start with a template, instead we spend time listening to you to determine what you need. Then we bring our expertise to bear to build a custom look that not only carries your brand forward but also draws the visitor in.

So the choice, dear reader, is yours. You can choose the plain old bridge (web site) that draws no attention or you can choose a beautifully designed bridge that helps move your company forward. And that is what sets us apart.


Standing Out in a Crowd

2012 04 10 11 32 54 559 E1334356285339Most business owners understand the value of having a Unique Selling Proposition, that special something that sets them apart from the rest of the competition and makes folks choose their company when there are lots of choices.

Only some folks get it better than others. Look at the picture on the left.

The wearer of this tuxedo will definitely stand out in the crowd. But will he leave the impression he desires? Will the ladies think “Wow, I can’t wait until I see that guy again?” or are they more likely to think “Wow, I hope I never see that guy again?”

Are you giving out that kind of an impression to your customers? What is it that sets you apart from the crowd?

We all want to stand out in the right way. Look at the picture of an iPad.

Something about it makes you think “ohh, cool” It looks elegant. If you’ve touched anything techy in the last couple of years and look at one of these, you want to pick it up and start using it. It really is a nifty little contraption that lets you do all manner of cool and useful things.Ipad

That’s how we all want people to interact with our brand. Whether it’s a tagline, a logo, or a product we make exclusively, we want to generate that same good emotional feeling.

Your web site evokes an emotional feeling in visitors. I encourage you to take a look at your site with fresh eyes. What feeling does it evoke? Tired eyes? Get a colleague or customer, someone who hasn’t been to your site (or not in a while) and see what their response is.

For example let’s take an example of whitewater rafts. It’s that time of the year to plan your trip and it just so happens that one of our customers, sells them. Take a look at their site. What emotions do you get?

The idea we are targeting here is that you’re right there on the river. Seasoned rafters will recognize a river map in the background. And yet you can also see the menu and wide range of products available.

Contrast that with this site I just found: They too sell rafts. What emotions does this site bring up? What is memorable about it? What makes them stand out?

Take some time to contrast your site with the competition. Does it stand out? If so, is it in a good way or is it more like the orange tuxedo?

If it seems like you’re not projecting the right image, give us a call and we’ll help you out  – 303 268-2245 ext. 4.



Different Angles

Do you look in the mirror in the morning? Do you look to make sure everything looks fine? How many angles do you look at?

Designing web sites requires that you look at a lot of different angles. Once upon a time, we only had to check two or three “angles” – looking at the sites we develop in browsers like Internet Explorer  and Netscape – then to be replaced by Firefox.

Now we have to check from a wide variety of different angles. While we no longer support IE 6, we do get requests from time to time to make sure the site looks good in IE 7 (if you are using IE 7, you should upgrade as it is less secure than 8 or 9). We also design for Firefox – typically if it looks good in one version it looks good in any version, Chrome – which is biting into both IE and Firefox’s share of the browser market, and Safari which is pretty much holding its own this year with anywhere between 3.6% to 4.2% of the market.

The new angles that we have to consider carefully are all the handheld devices. Android, iPhone, iPad, Xoom, BlackBerry and more.  And much like a fun house mirror makes you look very different, your web site often looks very different on a handheld device.

Handling the different looks takes forethought. Our preferred solution is to give a very different look to the content.  The general example I like to use is Visit their site on a computer and it is very visual with lots of video links – which is very understandable considering it is a TV web site. But visit it on a handheld and you’re taken  to a site that looks much less visual and instead delivers the news in a text format.  I’m not sure whether 9news has two separate sites or just uses cascading style sheets to present two different looks.

This last option, using cascading style sheets, is our preferred method to handle the handheld “angle” because then you only have to develop one web site and simply display it in two different ways. Have you checked out your web site from different angles?


Change Your Perspective

I just took a look at my schedule. Next week I have lunch with Brian DeLaet twice. The problem you see is that I am Brian DeLaet.  Two different colleagues have sent me calendar invitations to have lunch with them. The problem is they didn’t think about it from my perspective.Lunch With Brian

So my calendar now says I’m having lunch with Brian. Not as helpful as I’d like. Now I have to open up the invitation to see who it is that Brian is dining with.

And a lot of businesses treat their customers the same way. They start off with the perspective that if you’ve arrived – either in person or online – then you’re “in” and they skip over foundational parts of the relationship. It becomes all about “us” – the company, rather than being all about “me” – the customer.

We experienced that today with a software company. We received a username and a password for the software we purchased. There was no mention of how or where to use this information. Just the codes. After some not insignificant searching, we discovered that once we had created an account on vendors site, we could use the codes to get access to the software and registration keys. Ooops. No one told us that.

So what is a business to do? Review your process from beginning to end and test it. Make sure it is customer friendly every step of the way. And a lot of businesses take this step. But this is only the first step. Every process gets changed over time. It gets “improved” when a new manager changes one part of the process but when another manager changes a different part of the process, bad things can happen.

What you need to do is build in a continuous review of your process. For example, if you sign up for EduNotes (our newsletter) you’ll likely be told to expect it weekly when in fact it is now only twice a month. Oops. That is a process that we are reviewing (should be fixed by the time you receive this) so that we are creating the correct expectations for people.

Obviously this applies in every aspect of business but here are just a few of the processes you should check on your web site:

  • FirProcessst and foremost, the sales funnel – are you guiding visitors down the best path for them to do business with you? Are calls to action clear and prominent?
  • Is the sign up for your email newsletter smooth, clear, and setting the right expectations?
  • How can I find your contact information?
  • How can I find your physical location?
  • If your site is set up for ecommerce, is it easy to put things in my shopping cart?
  • Is it easy to check out?
  • If your site is generating leads, are the forms easy to fill out? Are you asking for too much information?
  • Are the images on your site appropriate and do they facilitate your processes?
  • If you have complex activity (users in forums, members interacting, data being shared) are the instructions clear?
  • If you want people to engage with you via social media, are the links prominent and working? (I clicked a Twitter link last week that took me to instead of to a user’s page)

Let me close with one last example illustrating the need to review and streamline your processes.

  1. I received an email from a vendor saying I need to renew a service for a client.
  2. I clicked the link they provided in the email and filled out the form.
  3. I received an email saying I filled out the wrong form and directing me to the right form.
  4. The next time I got a similar email, I remembered the link was wrong but couldn’t find the correct link.
  5. I started a chat with the vendor and was directed yet a different form.
  6. Suspecting something was amiss, I did a Google search, and found the form I’d used previously.
  7. I asked the support person about this other form and was told either one would work!
  8. I requested that the correct link be put in my emails moving forward so that I wouldn’t have to go through this again.
  9. I was told that would happen. Stay tuned to find out if it does.

Wheat Ridge Fire Department Web Site

икони на светциThe newer, friendlier Wheat Ridge Fire Department web site is live! The crisp, clean look fits nicely with the way Wheat Ridge citizen’s view the fire department.

New features include an automated ticker showing recent calls so die-hard fans of the fire department can stay up with what is happening and where; instead of having to hunt for key documents from the fire marshall’s office they are now available on the bottom of every page. Also, if you’re trying to find one of the stations, use your smart phone to capture one of the QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) at the bottom and you can get there easily.

Check it out at


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