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Posts Tagged ‘Web Design’


How To Set Up A Website – The Basics

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

زوار مدونتي اربعون زائر يوميا
Creative Commons License photo credit: علي – ali

With the internet being such a major factor in our lives, every business striving for success may want to consider getting an online presence.  But just what does that involve?  If you don’t know what you need to do to set a website up, then read on for some basic guidelines.

Domain name

Before you’ve even got your website together, you’ll need to think of a domain name, ie, the name of the website.  Important consideration should be given to deciding your domain name, because it should be one that is effective and memorable.  It can help with your marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO).  You’ll also need to decide on the suffix of the domain name. .com is the most popular.  Once you’ve found a name that doesn’t already exist, you’ll need to register it, with one of the many domain registers.  You’ll need to pay an annual fee for this.

Hosting

Once you’ve registered your domain name, you may then decide to look into web hosting.  A host is a company that has many computers linked to the internet, and will enable your website to be viewed by others when surfing online.  You’ll need to sign up for an account with your web host.  Choosing a web host can be a minefield, especially if you are new to setting up a website.  There are lots of factors and considerations worth bearing in mind.  Some web hosting is free, but they may not be able to offer all of the services you require.  Ask around for recommendations, do some research and pick what’s right for you.  Once you’ve got your web hosting sorted, you’ll need to point your domain to your web hosting account.

Designing the website

The next stage you’ll be looking at is the actual design of your website.  You have two options here.  Either you do it yourself, or you get someone else to do it for you.  There are a number of factors involved.

If your site is likely to be complex, and you require a content management system (CMS), and you have no prior experience, then you may call in the services of a professional website designer to assist you.  Ask around for recommendations.  Or, look at websites you particularly like and source the designer or agency.  Get a few quotes in, play around with ideas of what you want until you settle on the right person for the job.

However, many people with no design or web-building experience develop sites themselves, so there are lots of tools and resources available to guide you through the process.

Many people use WordPress to design their site, as it is a free CMS.  It is easy to use, allowing you to create a website even if you have no knowledge of HTML.  There is a lot of information on the internet how to use WordPress and install it.  You’ll also need to configure your site.

You can also select free themes, using tools such as Themes to make your site look professional.  This is also useful if you want to add plugins to your site, particularly those that can help with SEO. Getting your website indexed on search engines is important so that people can find your site.

Website testing

As you go along building your website, make sure that you test how it looks in all of the major browsers, so you can check that it works in the way that you want it to.

Crispin Jones is a self-confessed super geek and works for CWCS. He writes about all things that even remotely related to tech. CWCS offer managed hosting solutions with an emphasis on support.


Freelance Web Design: Not For The Faint Of Heart

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

After so many years as a full-time employee working for “the man”, there comes a time for many of us where we just decide to take the plunge.  No, not directly off a bridge, although this decision can sometimes feel just as scary.  Despite the allure of working for yourself, the world of freelance web design – when it finally becomes your reality – can be a daunting one!

Flying Ninja Man
Creative Commons License photo credit: Zach Dischner

It’s not that one day you were working for a company and the next day you decided not to.  You’ve been thinking about it for a long time.  By the time you’re ready to officially start the journey, you’ve already put in a lot of thought and planning.  You’re actually more ready than you may realize. There just may be some things you still need to work out. That’s why you’re reading this article right now.

Get just enough of a really good website up

Before you start contacting potential clients, you obviously need a place to send them.  But you don’t need everything. Being a designer, you may want to try to set everything up perfectly, but it’s really not that necessary.  At the start, all you need is just enough.

It may seem too simple, but that’s the point for the beginning.  All you really need is a way to show your potential clients what you do, a few samples, and a way to get in touch with you.  Everything else can come later.  The reason you don’t need more than that is that it’ll really only stop you from moving forward. It feels like work, so in a way you feel productive, but you’ll spend a lot of time and lose a lot of potential income if you do more to your site up front.

Find a few services to take advantage of

When you worked for a company, you didn’t necessarily have to find your own workflow utility, resolution system, or inbound call center.  All of that was paid for and provided by your company. As a freelancer, though, you may find as you start to grow that you need more of these things.

You won’t need them at first, but if you plan to scale your business you will, so start looking around at options now while you have the extra time.  A way for customers to send in help tickets so you can keep track of them and notify them of fixes is probably one of the first tools.  If you don’t have an invoice system, one where you can track payments would be really useful as well.

Develop a self-help system

As you get going and start taking on more clients, a way for them to find the help they need, especially when it’s something they can handle on their own, will be golden.  You can use it to build out content on your site too.  They’ll start contacting you with the same questions over and over. Those are perfect for a FAQ page.  When you have one of those, you won’t spend your time crafting the same answer over and over. Instead, you can send them to your FAQ.  After a while, that can become the first line of defense for your clients before they start looking for email responses from you.

The freelance world can be scary, but it can also be extremely rewarding.  You don’t need to think about everything ahead of time; you’re probably not looking to start a multi-million dollar business tomorrow.  With a little forethought and planning, though, you’ll have a really solid footing once you do step out into this great unknown and start.  It’s totally worth it!

Jess Holmes is a web designer and avid blogger.


Do Design Right (From DFWWP)

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

p>Today RD2 did a presentation at the DFW Wordpress monthly meet-up. I was very excited once they started talking because we feel very similar about design and approach as they did. So instead of doing a review of them, I’m mostly going to summarize their presentation with a few of my own thoughts interjected.? This presentation was given either for people planning to work with a design team, or someone who creates blog/website design.

What is the biggest challenge of design?

Design is subjective, its personal. Most people have trouble explaining why they pick a color scheme. What needs to happen is you need to move to an objective place. Colors, for example, maybe they support the mood of the pace, exemplify a fundamental change in the company, convey the message, or just support their branding colors.

Why?

The best way to be objective is to apply the “why” filter. With every design, color, piece of content, we need to ask why? The answer to the question why should line up with one of the following:

  • Overarching reason or purpose
  • Mission
  • Key Summary
  • Core Value System

You need to keep an overall goal in mind. What is the purpose of the website? Is it to put out information, leverage your clients or customers, share knowledge, network or maybe just establish yourself as an expert? Get this well defined.

Steps

  1. Know your goals

We talked a little bit about the why up above. Spend a lot of time defining the goals. Again, just apply the “why” over and over again. Without goals you won’t be able to get anywhere.

2. Identify Your Audience:

Its so important to KNOW your audience. RD2 suggested actually doing full profiles of possible users of the website, including slice of life descriptions. (AKA, how old is the user, where do they live, why are they on the site, what do they do, activities, family, etc.) User profiles can be real people. Feel free to interview the kinds of people who would actually visit the site.

3. Know your competitor.

Visit competitor sites. Pick what you like and don’t like on those sites. What can you use? What can you improve on? Take those elements and decide what would make someone come to this site instead.

4. Research some Inspiration.

Inspiration can be about content or design, it can be cause by competitors or outside influences.

5. Plan Your Content

Its important to know your content before your design Layout pages, text, what you know you want. Have it written down in a flow sheet. Start a layout and plan as much as you can before you ever design anything.

6. Plan Your Features

After you know what you want on the pages and all the content you expect, try to decide what you want the site to do. (Again, looking at competitors might help here.) Do you want to connect to social media? Do you need a contact page? Interaction? Write all those down. Even brainstorm without the web (aka, “if your website could do anything, what would you have it do?”)

7.Outline Your Needs

Once you’ve got your content and features decided on, start wireframing the site. Decide exactly where you want everything to go before you ever start with the art.

But we want to end up on the importance of “Why”. Everything you do must go back to the goals, values and needs of the site itself. Make that your foundation and everything else will fall into place.


Social Media Workshop Series

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I’m doing a series of workshops for the Center for Spanish Language Media at UNT.

Register

WORKSHOPS
March 9, 2010  Web Page basics  9am-11am
*Creating a website and how to get started
*Elements of an effective website
*Increase your online presence through web development
March 25, 2010   Blogging/SEO 9am-11am
*Basic approaches to SEO and Google standards
*How blogging fits into SEO
*Blogging as the foundation to all social media
April 8, 2010    LinkedIn/Facebook 9am-11am
*Social media marketing, what, why, and how
*How to use major online communities: Facebook & LinkedIn
*Networking strategies to increase your visibility
April 29, 2010   Twitter  9am-11am
*How to use Twitter, a growing online community
*Benefits of using Twitter for your business
*Networking strategies to increase your visibility
May 6, 2010 Going Viral  9am-11am
*What is Viral Marketing
*Is Viral Marketing a Solution for you?
*How to Get Started with Viral Marketing
*How Social Media fits into Viral Marketing
May 19, 2010 How Hispanics use Social Media 9am-11am
*Importance of social media for Hispanic consumers
*Difference in approaches for social media marketing toward Hispanics
*How social media fits into other marketing strategies

Facebook Event
Linked-In Events
CSLM Facebook Page

Contact Denisse Olivas (denisse.olivas@unt.edu) to attend multiple sessions.


Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Home Page

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Impression

I’m going to be doing a Top Ways to Ruin Your Website series. We’re going to go through some of the more common aspects of a webpage and point out the best ways to screw them up. Mainly so you can avoid them.

Today I want to deal with the most basic of pages: HOME. I’ll discuss some over-arching themes too (like design). I’m going to deal with them here because your homepage is most likely to be your landing page–the one people see first. So things like over-all design matter more.

In no particular order:

1. Too much text:

Within two seconds my mind will be made up. I’ll decide if I like your website, or if I hate it. I’m not the only one. That’s the average time span for viewing a site. A decision must be made, and fast. If you bog me down with a page and half of text, I’m overwhelmed. There is an appropriate place for superfluous text: your blog. Your landing page is your elevator speech. Don’t put more than two (short) paragraphs there. It should detail very simply, what you do, the purpose of your site and why I need to be on it.

2. Unclear navigation:

Think of your homepage as a gateway. It should read like the back cover synopsis of a good novel. Give just enough hints to get your reader hooked. Then let them read the book! They should never search for the next page. If someone likes your site make it easy, like my-ignuana-climbed-on-my-keyboard-and-I-ended-up-at-this-awesome-website easy to get to the rest of your site. Navigation needs to be easy to read, easy to use, easy to get to.

3. Clutter:

Clutter comes in so many forms: ads, text boxes, design elements, links… Be careful with all of them! The most important parts of your homepage: logo, navigation, welcome. That’s pretty much it. Consider anything else “extra”. Remember any extras need to remain secondary. Narrow your focus. Your homepage is the appetizer: tasty, pretty and short.

4. Screaming Colors:

Consider for a moment, the palette of colors: so many choices, so many variations. Why then do I regularly see all three primary colors in their purest brightest forms on websites? Is that painful for anyone besides me? Remember art class in fourth grade? Remember secondary colors? Use them. Test your color scheme on a varied audience if you have doubts. Also, what you see on paper and what you see on a screen are not always the same thing. Check the screen.

5. Forgetting the bottom line:

I must stress again, narrow your aim. Be a  marketing sniper. Your home page exists for one purpose, to snag the reader. Make sure you snag them for the right reasons! Make your purpose clear from beginning to end. Don’t write a beautiful intro and forget the key points like, what your company sells.

6. No logo or branding:

Your website is an extension of your branding. It needs to tie in to your print material and other marketing material. If you distilled all your branding to its most essential form, it would be your logo. Make it the centerpiece of your home page, or at least draw attention to it.

7. Flash:

Don’t do it. Don’t put a flash intro on your home page. If anyone viewing your sight has less than high speed internet it will slow them down. Its also annoying. It will probably play unnecessary sound, and probably skip over heart of your information. I know it looks cool, but save it for another section. Put it on Youtube. Anywhere but auto-playing on your front page. I’m not even going to get into the SEO ramifications. Stay away from flash.

8. Too much scrolling:

This ties in with #1 too much text. Everything important on your home page should be visible without clicking. Other pages may require scrolling, your home page should not. If you need more room for text cut out designs or images that eat up screen space.

9. Ads taking up the top half of your site:

This is just tacky. Example: I read a certain blog but refuse visit their site. I get each post via RSS forward only. If ever click on a post I just see a wall of ads and have to scroll down to get to any content. I don’t mean one pretty banner ad at the top, I mean a wall of advertisement preventing me from even seeing text. If I didn’t already know a blog post hid down at the bottom I’d just click back thinking I found a fake site. Don’t let that be you.

10. Skimping in the design department:

Really consider the design of your homepage. It probably won’t look the same as every other page. Hire a professional, or at least a consultant to give you feedback. Your design is much more than colors (which I mentioned above). It should invoke an emotion or at least a perception of what kind of company you are. Be sure the feeling your site creates matches your values. Also consider what your target market expects/likes to see in design as well. This is your first date with your perfect client, make the best impression.

Worried that your site may fall into one of the top ten? Veribatim offers free site reviews. Send an email and let us share our professional opinion of your site.

What other ways can someone ruin their homepage?


“Less but Better”

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

min·i·mal·ism: [Art] that emphasizes
extreme simplification of form, as by the use of basic shapes and
monochromatic palettes of primary colors, objectivity, and anonymity of
style. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Minimalism is an art form that has only been around the last 50 years or so. However its been embraced by web design artists across the world. As we continue to discuss design, I want to touch on minimalism as a direction to take the art on your site. I’m going to give you the quick pros and cons of minimalism as well as why I recommend it.

Pros:

  • Not distracting: Your message is simplified and more powerful.
  • Tailored to text: Minimalistic design will amplify any text on the page.
  • Let the words shine through: Even though design can make or break your site; it should always compliment your text. The content of your site is what the customers are really there for. Minimalism makes sure your words take center stage.
  • The Zen of simplicty: The last post I wrote goes right in-line with why minimalism can keep your clients happy.

Cons:

  • Too bland: Too much minimalism can make a site seem boring.
  • Minimizing the wrong aspects: Like any art, minimalism is subjective; but downplaying the important features can hurt your overall goal.
  • Art is art: Hey, not every kind of art style will make your clients happy. Its art. Everyone likes something different. Minimalism is “modern” and therefore might turn some people off.
  • Trying too hard: Going over-the-top with any design can make it look like you’re just trying to be fashionable instead of really matching your design and message.

Why I suggest it:

Not only do I think minimalism is beautiful for its own sake, but it makes a statement. In the end, we want our website to make an impression. The art and text should be complimentary and leave your readers with a sense of knowing—knowing you and your company better. Minimalism is all about the final impact.

Here are some more examples of Minimalism. What do you think? Do you like it?

Image by Delcio G. P. Filho


Dallas Internet Marketing

Monday, March 9th, 2009

We’re excited to share that we’ve been mentioned in an article as one of the top 10 Internet Marketing companies in Dallas.

Neil Lemons at Level Ten Web Design wrote an article last Thursday discussing the popularity of internet marketing. There are thousands of searches being done every day using the key term “internet marketing”. So obviously, someone is looking for our services. We’re just happy that a huge company like LevelTen thinks that we’re doing all right. Thanks Neil!

Image by eecue


Top 100 Internet Blunders Committed by Businesses

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I started thinking about some of the common mistakes I see businesses make with their online presence. So I asked some of my social networks what their biggest pet-peeves were. Together we came up with a list of 100 blunders that businesses make with their online presence. (To make things simpler, I quoted people with their twitter or plurk alias and linked to the site on their profile.) Normally I don’t point to myself in my blog posts but today I’ll say if you see one of these errors on your site or the site of a loved one, feel free to contact Veribatim and we can help you out!

Now, without further ado, a really long list:

1. I typ gud: Typos happen. Make sure to have more than one person comb your site (or newsletter!) for errors. If someone emails you about an error: fix it!

not sure it counts, but we decided against one local school for our son based on multiple spelling errors on the website.” -etherjammer

2. The Sleeper: It you’re just posting flat facts, don’t expect people to follow you hungry for more. If your business is +100 people, either find or hire someone to write your blog.

“BORING!!! damn.. how do people actually stay awake reading them???? you need CREATIVE WRITERS writing CREATIVELY. blogging is like sex- not everyone can do it right but everyone thinks they ROCK.” -reneguerrero

3. The “Duh” Moment: List your obvious important facts.

“Business sites tend to leave out the simple, important bits of info. LOTS of sites don’t list hours of operation, WTF?” -UnholyKnight

4. Ghost Town Blog: If you’re going to bother starting a blog, don’t post twice and then give up. Have a littler persistence.

“…lack of content.” -Tarliman

5. The Song that Never Ends: Back ground music can cause issues, especially without an obvious off button. A business site should never interrupt or annoy a client. Random midi files playing on repeat are the number one reason for me to leave a site.

6. Who’s There?: Why have a website if no one can call or email you? List relevant contact information.

7. Who’s There? Part 2: Contact forms: It doesn’t work, goes to an unchecked email… whatever. Its almost worse than not having information up.

“…there’s no excuse for no contact form.” -ablereach

8. Flash Intro Fail: A flash intro can be a total waste of time, but if you’re going to put one in, at least add a skip button.

“Flash intros that have nothing to offer about the company, and then including a SKIP button. If you have a skip button, obviously it’s not all that important of a feature on the site.” -Glyphrunner

9. Nose to the Screen: Text that’s too small to read. 12 pt. font is the smallest you should go. I always have my parents tell me if they need their reading glasses for a frame of reference.

10. Dating Yourself: Make sure your site updates regularly, your information is current.

11. Imaginary Friends: If your company has changed staff, make sure you update the email address. This also applies to general info@ or contact@ emails. They aren’t much use to your client if no one actually checks them.

12. Rainbow Bright: Hot pink, neon green, brown… use normal conservative colors for your sites basics. If you desperately need an outrageous design, pick a bright accent color. But, seriously, your website shouldn’t look like a tye-dye T-shirt.

13. Ad-tastic: If you spam your readers with so many ads they can’t find your content, they may miss your site all together.

“Pop-ups and in addition too many adds squeezed into every corner of a website especially when all the ads have animation.” -williamedia

14. Home Run: Sometimes, basics are key. Have a home button or make your logo link back to your main page.

15. Treasure Hunt: Make information on your site easy to find. If one thing draws people to your site, put it front and center. Don’t bury info just to keep people around longer.

“Deliberately making contact info hard to find. Or deliberately hiding your phone number to encourage ppl to e-mail instead.” -Ginkgo

16. Disappearing Act: Don’t forget to keep current with your domain and hosting. Losing a domain to a squatter can hurt your business. Not to mention the cost of reprinting anything with your website on it.

17. Gophers: Many people put some kind of blocker on for pop-up ads, but even knowing they are there can hurt your reputation. Advertise some other way!

18. You’ve Got Mail: If you put your email somewhere on your site… Check it! Don’t leave a possible sale hanging!

19. The Nullifyer: The navigation on any website should be intuitive. Links should correspond logically and clearly.

“Biggest issue I run into, actually is Nav[igation]. If you can’t find or make your way around the site the content is meaningless.” -Big Poppa

20. Bad Spy: Stay far away from Tracking Cookies. It should be obvious why.

21. Private Club: Some sites require a log-in to access certain features. That’s great, but don’t make your entire site log-in protected, at least have an about section or some reasons why they should give you their email!

22. UnHooked: So what if someone comes to your site, checks out your blog, thinks everything looks cool but then they can’t “opt-in” for more information. Make sure your RSS feed is highly visible, that its simple to register for your newsletter, ect. If you’ve hooked ‘em, make sure to reel ‘em in!

23. Not-So-Invisible Cloak: Never, ever put “invisible” keywords on your webpage. Its tacky when someone scrolls down and Google will penalize you for trying to outsmart their bots.

24. Doesn’t Play Nice With Others: Occasionally a website won’t be tested for multiple browsers before going live, and even worse is when its meant for an obsolete version of Internet Explore. (Sidenote: Please update to your latest version if you haven’t!)

25. Twitchy: Be careful in using excessive animation on your site. Sure, it looks cool, but it can be distracting or take forever to load.

26. Impossible to Decode: Ever seen a captcha that was impossible to read? If you don’t know, good captchas look like this:

27. Dead-ended: Internal links that don’t work can be frustrating to a client. Make sure everything in your site goes where its supposed to.

28. Webslave: I can’t tell you the number of horror stories I’ve heard in the past from business owners who didn’t keep copies of all their information (logins, passwords, hosting company info), they just trusted their webmaster to take care of it all. Then one day the guy disappears, so suddenly they can’t change or fix anything. Or better yet, he does something to piss them off, and then decides to hold their site for ransom when they hire a new developer.

29. 3rd Grade Reading Level: Basic grammar, get some.

30. Write On: This goes with #29, but its more specific. If English is not your first language, please find someone to write your content. I have friends fluent in Spanish but they say they still have trouble writing complex documents. It’s just harder. Lots of great companies started outside of America, but I bet they hired English-speaking residents to make their site. Be professional, do it right.

31. Name Dropping: A few companies assume no one actually reads their site. So instead of writing understandable content, they write simply for SEO. Usually the site has a loose sentence structure and repeats keywords throughout: This Crocs sentence Nike is a Microsoft example.

32. But Mom Said I Could!: Remember when you were little and wanted to go out to a late movie? You asked your dad, and he said no. You ask your mom and she said yes. Then your mom and dad talked (they always did!). They find out you got a no but kept asking. Clients will do this too. So make sure all your internet verbage matches. If you write an email about a sale, make sure your website and store reflect that, and vice-vera. Keep all your literature consistent.

33. Subject to Change: If any information on your website has the risk of changing, at least put a visible notice somewhere on your site. Arguments over this just aren’t worth it.

34. Show me the Money: Be very careful about listing prices for products or services on your site. In fact, if you are not sure you can maintain the prices you list don’t list them at all.

35. The Rabbit Hole: Make sure the directions and map you put on your site are accurate. There is nothing more frustrating then getting lost even when you take the correct turn.

36. Dead Men Tell No Tales: Every once in a while check links you’ve created to external sites, even on your blog.

37. Unworthy Relationships: Some websites allow advertising on their site that undercuts what they are offering (aka adult material on a family site, or advertising someone who does the same thing as your site, etc.) These kinds of ads won’t sit well with possible clients.

38. Unworthy Relationships (Part II): The same thing but backwards: Advertising on sites that are unrelated to yours, it has the same result and probably won’t earn you much traffic.

39. UnProfessional Professional: I hate to be the one to say it, but most people think they can design and can’t. It’s something about the arts, people think they can sing (when they can’t) and do it anyhow, or write creatively… design is the same. Leave the designing to the pros. The same goes for coding, in truth, you can tell pretty quickly if a site was created by a web tutorial. Buckle down and find a pro if your business is important to you.

40. The Broken Watch: Some websites are technical wonders but force you to wait twenty minutes before you can see it. Your front page should load as close to “instant” as possible. Check in other browser and slower connections.

41. Mirror, Mirror, on the wall: If you must have a website built in flash, pay the extra money to put up an html mirror site. That way all your information remains searchable and Google friendly.

42. Attack of the PPC: If your company does “pay per click” advertising, spend the time and money researching the company. Don’t get scammed.

43. But it’s Pretty: Design and content should compliment each other. Don’t put a design on your site that’s unconnected to the subject. Certain designs make people think of certain things and you want the right emotions and images to be portrayed by your site. If you’re unsure get a professional (See #39). i.e. No fluffy bunnies on your business management consulting firm.

44. Mr. Personality: Be careful about crossing the line between personal and business information. If you are a one-man show your business may be directly connected with your personality and that’s fine, but make sure there’s still a space between the two. If you really want to share, keep a personal website that’s separate.

Pet Peeve: “personal stuff (not informed opinion but memes) on business sites” -classicalgeek

45. Seizure-Site: Keep bright flashing graphics to a minimum on your site. You’ve seen the painfully red to white transitions… it’s not a joke that these can cause seizures for some people. Image the lawsuits possible there.

46. Super-Sized: Your screen should never have more than one scroll bar. If you have supersized your text or images, or not left room for advertising… And if you do have it, please consider getting a real web designer who can fix this easily.

47. Framed: Frames, don’t do it. This makes your site look cheap (and it probably is).

48. No Way Home: Be careful about links that take your clients away from your site. Make sure it is obvious that they are not an internal link.

49. Window-Happy: Its one thing to have links open in a new tab, but new windows can take too much time to load and be distracting. Be care not to have your links open up with too many “pop-up windows”.

50. Naked Code: Ever open a page that looks like this:

This means no one actually looked at their pages before publishing them. Review your site!

51. Chain Links: It’s not very hard to create a hyper link. You know where there is underlined text describing the link instead of http://…. First, it looks cleaner and has more description. And it keeps you from having a link three lines long.

52. Opps, I meant to do that: Possibly worse than a dead link is a link that’s wrong. Though it is funny.

53. My eyes; they burn! Be careful about making your site too busy. Too much text, graphics and random clip art crammed into one page can make your client’s eyes bleed. Spread your concepts over multiple pages, it will keep them reading and stop them from stabbing out their own eyes with a spork.

54. Split Ends: Some sites cater to more than one audience, as in they have clients they want to sell to and vendors they want to carry products for. Trying to structure a site for more than one type of reader can be tricky at best, often this calls for having multiple sites, or splitting sites into portals. If you market to more than one audience make sure you aren’t confusing both groups and selling to none.

55. Under Construction: This blunder speaks for itself. Under construction should not be confused with “coming soon” or placement pages. Under construction pages are best withheld until they are completed. Putting up a “sign” with under construction on it and then leaving it for a year just promotes your company as having an inability to follow-through.

56. Shape-Shifter: It happens, you hire a company to build a website and you are unhappy with the results. Be careful though, not to hop through multiple companies and constantly change the design of your website. This can be disorienting. If you give your site a face-lift be sure to commit fully instead of flip-flopping to another company or template every month.

57. Text-Morph: Like the Shape-shifter, but with your content. If you completely change the information on your site regularly, reader will become confused and might even think the company or its owner ship has changed. If you like variety, get a blog.

58. Cheap: A word about templates. They look cheap. They aren’t good for your SEO. If you are going to bother paying for a website for your company, make sure to do it right.

59. TMI: TMI stands for “too much information”. No one needs to know the entire story of your company, every project and your financial history. Also, leave your audience wanting more, it helps start a conversation. Don’t over-indulge and scare people away.

60. The Single-Hitter: Don’t try to fit all your information in a single page. A page that scrolls down forever can be irritating to read. Space things out and keep people on your site. If you’re going to bother paying for a site, take time to have an about page, a contact page and a home page at least.

61. One of these things is not like the others: Navigation bars are a blessing. They can help organize your site and information in a way that makes sense to potential clients. So don’t screw it up! One of the more disorienting things on a website is when you click on the “products” page and end up at the map. Make sure your links go where they need to.

62. And now, for our feature presentation: Intro pages might be the most useless thing I’ve seen besides initial flash sequences. You’ve seen them: Click here to enter this site! Don’t make your reader click a second time to get to the meat of your site, make it the first thing they see.

63. WTF?: This should never be a reaction from a potential client. If someone spends a minute on your site, sixty seconds, they should be able to tell what it’s about. A confusing site does not result in sales. It might look artistic, or modern, or have a creative lead-in but if you can’t tell what the point is… you probably lost the sale.

64. Noise Violation: Don’t put instant start videos on your site. Having someone “walk” onto the screen and talk about your product is annoying. It’s also hard to turn off, so usually results in the immediate click of the back button. Most people multi-task while online, and interrupting their music, or podcast or news on TV will just irritate them. If you must have video, let the reader push “play”.

65. Here’s Your Sign: Don’t treat your potential client like an idiot. Sure, there are people out there who don’t understand a shopping cart, or how to use their credit card online, but that number continues to dwindle. Assume your reader has average intelligence and don’t belittle them. (Especially with emails that have questions-I’m looking at you tech companies! I already made sure my computer was plugged in!)

66. Legalese: Quite a few sites out there require some kind of legal jargon to use the site or download a product. If your site requires this go to a lawyer. Don’t download some agreement off the internet, get something real and specific to your company. If you ever have to fall back on the legal stuff, you want it to stand on its own.

67. Multiple Person-ality: It’s great to put testimonials on your site. Even better if you can get clients to write positive review on other sites (Google, forums, and so on). Not great if you do it yourself, pretending to be a customer. Even less, if you get caught.

68. Look! Its ME!: This one relates to #44. Just like you don’t want to intertwine business and personal information, be careful what kind of links you post on your site. Social media can get you in trouble this way. It’s fine to post these links, just make sure you keep them business friendly if you want to mix the two.

69. Bad User!: Sometimes, sarcasm bites. Check out a whole post about it from Chris aka etherjammer. This story made me cringe and laugh at the same time so I’m just linking to it instead of quoting Chris.

70. Selling Air: Many companies have an e-commerce part of their site. If you sell products online, be sure you have them in stock. It sounds like common sense but nothing is more frustrating than being told days later that what you ordered isn’t available anymore.

71. Gotcha: This happens on and off the internet: hidden fees. However, now hidden fees are synonymous with “shipping costs”. Be up front about them, make sure they appear on in your cart early on.

72. Wait a minute Mr. Postman: Don’t keep your clients waiting, if your company is small and not doing bulk shipping, you still need to ship on time. And if you do have any issues, send your client a friendly email explaining what’s up. This prevents angry phone calls later demanding where the product is.

73. Opt-In to Spam!: Most companies have learned to ask clients to opt-in instead of sending emails without asking. However, now, some companies think that by opting-in, clients have asked to be spammed. Be courteous with the private emails your subscribers give. Even if they “opt-in” they don’t want to hear from you every single day about the newest sale. Opt-in does not = free-for-all.

74. Help!: Once money gets on the table, people change. They become defensive, argumentative and snippy. That’s why if your site has an e-commerce section, make sure to have help specifically for that. Unfortunately, not all e-carts are simple to use, and if an error happens a client can become particularly frustrated since it involves their checkbook. Help stop internet anger at the source; link to FAQs.

75. Hi I’m -Insert Name Here-: Once, I interacted with a political party website. I emailed them though their contact page and got an auto-response. It said something along the lines of “thank you for emailing the — party of Texas, your email is important to us” and such. But at the end it said “Sincerely, Insert Signature and emblem here“. Obviously no one had read their auto-response. But I got a good laugh out of it.

76. The Doctor Will See You Now: I think “appointment” software is really cool. I love the idea of seeing when my doctor is available without ever being put on hold. But, if you’re going to use calendar software like that on your website, make sure it works! I have in the past month walked into an online appointment only to be told they didn’t have that in their books (even after I got an auto-confirmation email). So I ended up wasting over an hour and I won’t be using them again.

77. Stupid: I can’t think of anything better to call this one. It’s funnier when big companies do it, but I see small companies make this mistake all the time, too. Think before you say things about the internet. Don’t make generalities about the kinds of people who blog (when you have a company blog on your site) or about social media (when that’s where your target audience is) or other stupid technology comments that are just waiting to come back and bite you. You never know who’s listening.

78. Prove It: The internet is full of passwords, and that makes it easy to forget one or two. It happens. But some sites seem to ignore the fact that we’re human and require you to jump through a hundred hoops, list your social security, your mom’s maiden name, your address, the name of your dog who died ten years ago, your bank account and your high-school locker combination… and then you end up having to call tech-support to beg for your account back.

79. OCD: Don’t require every single detail of a person’s life before they can use your service or contact you. People often don’t want to share that much, it makes them nervous. People are also lazy and easily distracted, if you waste too much of their time they won’t bother.

80. Internet Killed the Video Star: It may just be a personal pet-peeve but I hate “dead” youtube links. That’s when you can see the embedded video, get all excited about watching it and then: This video is no longer available.

81. Cheating: Don’t cheat the system. Don’t put keywords in your code for popular search terms that don’t actually have anything to do with your site. Like “Paris Hilton” for your Rugby tips. Google will find you-and then you will pay!

82. Asymmetry: Make sure the graphics and designs on your website match the rest of your branding.

83. Comment Hate: Don’t misuse other people’s blogs as a place to spam your link. Create a link back to your site be leaving legitimate comments that others will read and click on.

84. Permission-Based Posting: Never put client information or comments on your website without seeking their permission first.

85. Rage on the Machine: If you have a blog or a comment form on your website, chances are you will get spam. You may also get “trolled”, where some one intentionally tries to make you angry for the fun of it. Never lose your temper in response to these things. Take a few minutes, breathe and let it go or just delete it.

86. Status Quo: Wait, you really don’t want to change? Shunning improvements will only hurt your company in the long run.

“Non-profits not willing to change to grow and improve only so that they can control things and keep them ‘average’.” -Clay_Harrison

87. Stock it to me: Ever clicked on the help or contact us section of a website and seen that stock picture of a woman on a headset, smiling? Yeah, it’s not original or reassuring.

That stock photo of a woman call center employee. That screams cheesy!” -UnholyKnight

88. Spam your Friends!: Facebook apps are notorious for this. “You can only use this widget or service if you email it to ten friends!”

89. Frequently Unanswered Questions: If your site involves anything other than static information, you probably need an FAQ or help file. People get frustrated having to email you a question and wait for a response. By the time you get back to them they may have found another site.

90. The Ridiculous Question: Possibly the worst thing to hear when calling Customer Service is, “Have you been to our website?” I usually reply, “Yes, I’ve been on your website… that’s where I got this number.” If someone took the time to call, they want to talk to a person, not search for the answer on your site. Or better yet they already spent twenty minutes on your site and finally gave up.

91. Outsource Hell: If your site requires tech support or customer service, employee your own people there. Outsourcing has any number of issues. You can’t understand their accent, they don’t actually know anything about the company so they just give general answers, the client assumes you’re cheap… Hire people to answer your phones if you ever want repeat business.

“I don’t have any problems with people in India having a job, but quite honestly American companies need to use American call centers. If anything, it’ll improve the ability to understand the person on the other end.” -Glyphrunner

92. Download-n-Play: Avoid forcing your potential clients to download plug-ins. Shock-wave, Flash and other non-necessary space-eaters can deter traffic. If you do put valuable information in a plug-in make sure to put the same content in text form elsewhere.

93. 90s Retro: Keep away from anything on your site that screams “I was made in the 90s!” This includes hit counters, rotating icons, obviously tiled backgrounds and the pointless “guest” books.

94. www.thisisthecoolestwebsiteevah.com: The domain for yourcompany.com is not always available. And sometimes a short, quirky title can be even more effective, but make sure your domain is still related to your business.

95. Fonts R Fun: Business sites should have clear, easily readable text. Use special fonts, bolds, all caps, italics and underlining sparingly. Special Note: readers will assume underlined text is a link.

96. The Right side of the Line: Along with funny fonts, try to keep the alignment of your text the same through the site. If you center your text, do so everywhere. If you use quotes, do it the same everywhere on your site.

97. You are a Pirate!: Give credit where credit’s due. The internet is not like high school, failing to link or properly cite someone’s idea will not get you kicked out of school, but its still a form of plagerism. Link back to concepts that aren’t yours.

98. Turn off the Lights: If your company happens to go under, or you change your domain name, take down your site. Out-dated, abandoned sites are everywhere (which means someone is still paying for hosting… which confuses me). If you still have a site like this, take it down, make a note or forward the domain. If no one’s home, don’t leave the lights on.

99. I’m Cool: Despite all the things I’ve mentioned about keeping up with the times and talking to real internet professionals, you don’t have to be on the cutting edge of technology to have a great business presence online. Some companies try so hard to relate to the younger generations that they just end up looking silly (aka, Lolspeak does not automatically endear you to teenagers, nor does a Myspace page with lots of bling). A professional, informative website that comes across as earnest and approachable can be far more effective than poking everyone on Facebook.

100. Who needs good advice?: I actually got a lot of responses from my social media questions saying things like: “It irritates me when I try to help a company with <insert internet presence need here> and they won’t listen.” Not all of these people were professionals, some were just making suggestions. I know I’ve given free advice to companies last year who aren’t around this year. If someone offers you a suggestion or feedback, take it, or at least listen respectfully.

Bonus Blunder: After I wrote this list, I found one from Rammi, she hates “companies that aren’t friendly internationally. Not just the US has an Internet connection… lack of customer service overseas. I hate phoning premium-rate US numbers.” To which Glyphrunner replied: “Ahh. The amusing thing about that is that your call will just be routed to a center in India!”

Hope you enjoyed this list (laughed, cried, bothered reading all the way to the end). Have one to add? Feel free.


When a website’s worth a thousand words

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

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In college I had this great idea. I wanted to build a tea house. I was going to call it Tea-Neek (Like unique… cute right?). I had three friends who all thought a tea house was something our college town could use. We talked about buying one of the historical building and renovating it. Unfortunately, I was the only serious person in the group and despite all my great ideas we never got farther than scratch paper. (Though my plan is still to retire with to a little tea shop.)

So why do I tell you this? The tea house was a great idea but because I had trouble expressing some of my concrete concepts to my friends and to the bank, it never got off the ground. Sometimes businesses have this same problem when they are in the market for a website. They have a beautiful image in their head but can’t express it in words. This can lead to frustration on the part of the designer and the client.

Examples are by far the best way to keep both parties on the same page. I’ve talked a little bit about it before. By examples I do not mean just copying someone else’s site and adding your own images/text. I mean finding other websites that have the same look, feel or general design. Examples of websites you like or think are professional can be a huge help for your designer, especially if you are having trouble verbalizing your ideas.

I’d like to use today’s post to show off some websites I think are beautiful for different reasons. Pick some of your favorites too and keep them in mind when you are ready to create your own site.

Chocolate Secrets: This site has wonderful rich colors, good enough to eat! This was a site that a client sent to me as one of her personal favorites.

Mercy: Wine bar with great atmosphere. This website is full of personality. The images, the flow, everything about this site is a unique form of branding.

Pictures for Sad Children: This offbeat webcomic has a simple design, but tons of character. All the buttons and banners are hand-drawn by the artist.

YouNoodle: Website in Beta for start-up companies. Not a lot to look out but the design and navigation is clean and simple.

Underwood Law Library: Law Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Lovely home page. Right to the point!

Young Gallery: Great example of a minimalist website. Gallery for photographers in multiple languages with great images of the art. (Even with the intro which I am not a fan of.)

And finally Sabon NYC: High fashion beauty products. Everything about this site has a distinct flavor, you know that even the borders were hand-picked to enhance ambiance. It certainly makes you want to try their stuff.

What are some of your favorite sites, and why?


Flashers

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

p>You know exactly the kind of site I’m talking about: 5 minute intro, loud repetitive music, no where to click through to the information you are doing a quick web search for: Flasher sites. Over all, there is nothing wrong with flash, it can be a beautiful addition to a website but like all things, moderation is the key.

Flash is one of those things many businesses want on their site because “it looks cool”. But flash has reputation for being inappropriate to the website’s content and annoying to its viewers. Also, flash was impossible to optimize. So if you had any text built into your website that you wanted search engines to find, it was a nightmare to program.

However, in July, Adobe released a product that should make Flash websites searchable. This is good news for Flashers but many web designers are less than thrilled. So my small warning is, Flash is the spice of a website but its your content and overall presentation that make your sale. Keep this in mind when you’re designing your site and remember, no one likes a Flasher.