Monthly Archives: October 2016

Some Ways to Not Screw Up Your Website

Wondering why your website is not attracting more visitors or why your conversion rates are so low? Web developers, designers and customer experience experts explain what you might be doing wrong.
A lot can go wrong when it comes to building a business Website. To find out some of the biggest mistakes companies make when redesigning their website–or launching a new one–CIO.com surveyed Web developers, Web designers and customer experience experts We cite the 12 most often problems, as well as how you can fix or prevent them.

Mistake No. 1: Forgetting who your audience is. Your senior management team is not the audience for your website. Your customers are. But all too often companies forget this, creating content they like instead of content their customers will like–and click on. “Customers need to feel that you relate to them,” says Charlie Claxton, principal and vice president of Creative Strategy at Produxs, a customer experience and design firm. Therefore companies need to “know as much as possible about [their] customers and clients… and deliver a website that accurately and appropriately speaks to [their] audience.” Remember, while you may think your website is about you–your products and/or services–it’s really about your customers.

Mistake No. 2: Not going mobile. “Approximately 20 percent of all Web traffic is via a mobile device,” says Darren Hill, co-founder and CEO of ecommerce provider WebLinc. “If your site forces your customer to fumble through a nonmobile interface, then your customer is likely to leave the site.” The solution: make sure you site is optimized to be viewed on mobile devices. If the platform you use does not include this option, there are plenty of inexpensive tools and services that can help you create a mobile version of your website.

Mistake No. 3: Changing your URLs and not redirecting them. When asked about some of the biggest website mistakes they had encountered, respondents cited this mistake the most often. “During a site rebranding or redesign, companies forget to 301 redirect all of their old pages to the correct new page. This leads to a terrible user experience and it is very bad for search engine optimization (SEO) since the value of those links is not passed to the new URL structure,” says Michael Freeman, senior manager of Search at ShoreTel Sky, which specializes in cloud-based phone systems.

The solution: “Work with IT before the switch to ensure that all URLs redirect properly to the new site. This is done easily using a tool like Xenu’s Link Sleuth. Take a copy of the old XML sitemap and crawl all of those links. Take note of any that do not return a 301.”

Mistake No. 4: Using jargon, empty marketing terms or clichés that don’t tell visitors what it is you actually do or sell. “Tell your audience what you do… in simple language,” advises Kelly Garrett, the president/creative director of Ekcetera Marketing and Design. And “don’t assume everyone knows who you are and what you do.”

Mistake No. 5: Stale or static content. “In today’s search society, organizations want and need to be found,” explains Michael W. Byrnes, Jr., president of Byrnes Consulting, LLC. “The search engines are going to use content as the biggest factor when they rank websites.” So you need to frequently add new, relevant, descriptive (i.e., search-engine-optimized) content to your site.

Mistake No. 6: Not integrating with social media sites. To be successful in today’s social media-driven world, companies need to provide links to their social media channels (e.g., Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) on their websites, on the Home page as well as on product landing pages (if appropriate). “Whether that is as simple as a Twitter feed, integration with Facebook or a full-blown branded community with functions embedded in the content pages, if a company wants its website paid attention to, it must have social elements,” argues Peter Friedman, chairman and CEO of LiveWorld, a user content management company.

Mistake No. 7: Using Flash. “It’s hard to believe companies are still using Flash on their websites,” says David Millili, CEO of web developer Pegasus Solutions. “Flash can and will negatively affect your chances for sales on a retail site. For one, it won’t work on mobile devices, including any Apple mobile products,” he points out. “Secondly, content featured in Flash can’t be crawled by search engines, meaning you cannot easily search engine optimize Flash sites in the same way you would a Java-created site.”

Mistake No. 8: Not including an email marketing signup form on your homepage. “Think of all the lost prospects who aren’t ready to press ‘buy’ but liked what you were saying and would eagerly sign up for your sales funnel (i.e., your email marketing newsletter),” but you don’t have a sign-up button or form, says Liz Lockard, the owner of Liz Lockard Marketing Consulting. “Email marketing is one of the best marketing channels for ROI–the Direct Marketing Association puts email marketing’s ROI for 2011 at $40.56 for every $1 invested.” And if you don’t have an opt-in/email marketing signup on your homepage (or on relevant landing pages), you are losing prospective customers and sales. (For companies looking for an email marketing service provider, Lockard recommends Aweber or MailChimp.)

Mistake No. 9: Not doing UX (or usability/customer experience) testing. “Avoiding UX testing is generally a huge mistake,” says Michael Beck, senior marketing specialist at OpticsPlanet. “Most companies are concerned with cost, but simply asking a co-worker to conduct a few tasks in the new layout can highlight otherwise inconspicuous [and costly] issues.”

Mistake No. 10: Not testing the site in multiple browsers and form factors (i.e., mobile devices) before going live. One of “the biggest mistake we’ve seen, and a mistake we made early on, was to not test our website in all browsers and on different screen sizes,” explains Sandip Singh, the CEO and founder of crowdfunding website Go Get Funding. “Sometimes things simply don’t work in some browsers or the layout might break.” That’s why Singh recommends that all companies view their website on multiple browsers (IE9, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) and on various mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, Android) before going live.

Mistake No. 11: Taking cybersecurity for granted. “Antivirus software will only get you so far,” states Alex Berry, vice president and general manager of Enterprise Services at Neustar, which advises companies about cybersecurity. “Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks — targeted, malicious spikes in Web traffic designed to take out a website — are not only on the rise, they can cripple your sales, lead generation and customer service,” he says. Indeed, “according to our recent survey of IT professionals, 67 percent of retailers who had experienced a DDoS attack said the cost of website outages were more than $100,000 per hour — about $2 million a day.”

The solution: make sure your operating and antivirus software is kept up to date, constantly monitor your site and have a backup/disaster recovery plan in place.

Mistake No. 12: Not monitoring/tracking visitor behavior. The best way to find out what works and what doesn’t on your website — i.e., what your customers like and don’t like — is to measure it, using an analytics program. “Measuring and monitoring analytics is the best way to understand user behavior,” argues Tim Gray, a content strategist at Blue Fountain Media. “Yet so many business neglect to set up even basic monitoring tools, [even though] Google has an excellent and powerful analytics tool that is free and easy to use and install.”

All About jQuery For Your Web Design

Bringing together HTML5 and CSS, the jQuery JavaScript library greatly eases the pains of Web application development. Learn how using jQuery can improve load time, SEO and multimedia on your website. And did we mention it’s free?
The uber-popular JavaScript library known as jQuery makes everything from eye-catching menus to advanced effects much simpler than ever before. It’s being used by some of the biggest and smallest names on the Web alike—Google, Dell, Netflix and NBC, to name a few, use jQuery to create some pretty amazing content. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s free, it’s open source and it lets developers do more in less time. Those seem like some pretty compelling reasons. But wait. There’s more.

Based on the manipulation of the HTML Document Object Model (DOM) and designed to simplify the client-side scripting of HTML, jQuery incorporates parts of HTML and CSS. Thousands of companies are on the jQuery bandwagon—and your company should be, too.

Let’s look at why jQuery is making such an impact on the enterprise level.

1. jQuery Promotes Simplicity.

Developers find jQuery intuitive and easy to learn—this library is built on shorter, simpler code, after all. With simple syntax and open coding standards, developers can shorten the time it takes to deploy an application or site.

In addition, developers don’t have to be experts in programming or Web design to create great styles for your site. Any developer who has spent hours coding and testing CSS files will surely appreciate the simple implementation that jQuery brings to the table. There’s also a set of robust jQuery UI components that developers can plug into their websites.

2. jQuery Elements Display Even When JavaScript is Disabled.

If Adobe Flash isn’t installed on any given browser, certain parts of the page may render incorrectly, if they render at all. This is not only unpleasant for the user; it forces developers to spend extra time “coding” for the browsers that lack the Flash plug-in, which adds to development time.

Not so with jQuery. Manipulating the HTML DOM has become the most widely accepted practice of manipulating a Web page so content will be rendered even if JavaScript is disabled in the browser. Since the HTML DOM is always present, there’s no more worrying about browser settings either.
Furthermore, developing using jQuery can reduce instances of HelpDesk tickets. Your helpdesk will appreciate that your developers are coding proactively to avoid dreaded “browser crashes.”

3. jQuery Easily Integrates With the Visual Studio IDE.

NuGet is a Visual Studio extension that makes it easy to add, remove and update libraries and tools in Visual Studio projects that use the .NET Framework. NuGet has been around for years, and it’s a trusted source for developers to exchange and develop packages for Microsoft Visual Studio.

Visual Studio 2010 supports the integration of the jQuery library via the “Manage NuGet Packages” dialog box. This activates the Intellisense feature of Visual Studio, which gives the developer immediate access to jQuery methods and syntax without having to leave code view to do research. There isn’t a better tool to work in a Microsoft-based .NET environment.

In general, most .NET developers use Visual Studio and are familiar with NuGet. This is part of the reason why jQuery’s popularity continues to grow with .NET developers. With the addition of the jQuery mobile theme for Windows, you now have all the development benefits of the jQuery library available for the Windows Phone platform.

Microsoft is showing that it’s serious about HTML5, which includes a lot of jQuery elements, by promoting the use of jQuery libraries that the HTML5 crowd has adopted. Microsoft is encouraging the use of jQuery—not only in mobile development but also in new Metro-style UI apps.

4. jQuery Makes Animated Applications Just Like Flash.

Flash developers are not cheap. Developing in Flash requires a huge learning curve; for the average developer, it can take years of practice to be able to create the movie-like creations that made Flash famous. On the other hand, jQuery is free and requires only the knowledge of JavaScript and HTML.

Let’s say you can afford your software and your Flash developer. He or she still has to code for browsers and platforms that don’t support Flash and for audiences that will not be able to view your Flash content. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of building a Flash-only website—and one of the biggest advantages of building in HTML 5.

Meanwhile, jQuery uses a combination of CSS, HTML, JavaScript and Ajax. These are all markup-based technologies that are meant to work well together. This means you can apply an optimization strategy to your site without having to make special adjustments for technologies such as Flash. Bottom line: you can achieve great-looking effects that will keep your audience engaged.

For interesting examples of the kind of animation that can be achieved using HTML5 and jQuery, check out the boostinspiration.com feature HTML5 Websites: 10 Flash Killing Examples.

5. jQuery Pages Load Faster.

Google and other search engines using page load time as one of the many factors affecting SEO. (More on that later.) For this, and many other, reasons, every developer should strive to make code as light and concise as possible.

The best way to do this is to reduce the size of your code. If your site is coded with an HTML and CSS base, you can easily make uniform adjustments to your code that will reduce the size. Like CSS, jQuery files are generally stored separately from the Web page itself. This lets developers make modifications across the entire site through one central repository instead of search through folder structures. This is a core benefit of CSS coding—and it is a proven success.

In addition, jQuery gives you the option of loading Div tags only when you need them. If you are taking measures to improve the speed of your website, then you may consider loading only the necessary Div tags needed for your page load event. This way, you can display only what a user needs to see right away and have the rest of your division elements load as they are needed.

6. jQuery Can Be SEO Friendly.

You may have the most appealing site, but is it worth it if you sacrifice style for SEO? The way you code your site greatly affects the way it can be found in Google, Bing and other search engines.

As noted, jQuery can be optimized for search engines, and there are a lot of plug-ins available to aid developers in this task. Embedding your jQuery elements using unordered lists is an SEO friendly practice that works well.

For example— < UL >Render your jQuery output here< /UL >

The unordered list is a classic HTML tag that has been around for years—search engines will pick up or recognize < UL > tags much faster than a custom element or tag—and will still be utilized in HTML5.

Another SEO advantage of the HTML5-jQuery combo that’s worth mentioning is that animations can be loaded with keywords that can be read by search engines.

Why You Need jQuery

Let’s recap some of the advantages to using jQuery in your next Web development project.

The price is right. The jQuery library is free.
It’s light. Since jQuery pushes content to the client, it therefore reduces the wait time for server response. Plus, it’s smaller than Flash, so it results in smoother playbacks and less errors.
It works anywhere. HTML5 is cross-browser compatible—it will work on any browser, mobile phone or tablet, and even on Apple devices.
There’s a low learning curve. Since it’s based on plain old JavaScript, developers can learn jQuery fast.
Finally, jQuery is SEO friendly and CSS3 compliant.

In the future, your company will have to deliver content to a variety of different platforms, including desktops, tablets and smartphones, not to mention the advent of smart TVs and other connected devices. The 1-2 punch of HTML5 and jQuery is one of the best solutions for this type of development.

Since jQuery is a major component of HTML5, it is worth the time, money and effort for your developers to learn jQuery now. This library can deliver stunning effects with little coding—and, with more and more HTML5 integration, it will be a huge part of the future of Web development. If your goal is to build a site or Web app that is engaging and interactive, then jQuery is a necessary tool for your toolbox.

Add Social Media to Your Web Design With These Simple Ways

Web designers, social media experts and marketers discuss the impact of social media on Web design and offer tips on how you can integrate the two to reach more customers and prospects.
“Fewer people are experiencing your brand on your Website,” says Jeremy Dedic, the user experience practice leader at digital agency Rightpoint.

“Many companies think of their Website as being the center of their online brand’s universe. But more and more consumers use social media sites as a starting point for accessing information about products and promotions, gathering customer feedback, voicing opinions and seeking customer service,” he says.

Should you ditch your Website? Not necessarily. But if you want your Web or ecommerce site to truly engage and convert visitors, you should take some lessons from–if not fully embrace–the popular social media sites.

Following are six simple ways to incorporate social media into your Web design and strategy.

1. Let Customers Know What Social Media Sites You’re On

“Make sure visitors [to your Website] are able to see the social networks you are on and can socially share your products and content,” says Erica Tevis, the owner of LittleThingsFavors.com, an online wedding ecommerce site, and LittleThingsBaby.com.

As for where to place social media icons (for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.), “a good rule of thumb is that the more visible your social buttons are, the more users will interact with them,” says Jessie Jenkins, social media and content specialist at Thrive Internet Marketing.

“‘Follow’ icons should be included within the header/footer of your Website, preferably every page, as your social media profiles are an important source of information to users and an easy way to stay connected.” Similarly, Jenkins says, include “‘share’ and ‘like’ icons on every blog post, as well as any Web pages that possess valuable, share-worthy information.”

Also, include a call to action. “Ask your Web visitors to ‘like’ your Facebook page, ‘follow’ your brand on Twitter, or ‘Join the discussion’ on LinkedIn,” says Alessandra Ceresa, director of Marketing and Social Network Management at GreenRope, a developer of business marketing software. Why? “Everyone has social icons on their Websites these days,” she says. But people are more inclined to click on them if you tell them to. In addition, it’s important to “design your social media icons to match the style and feel of your Website. These details catch the eye of the viewer, making it more likely that they will click on your social links.”

2. Allow Social Logins to Make It Easier to Connect With You

With social logins, “now sites don’t have to set up their own individual login unless they want to, but they can have their visitors login with a Facebook or Twitter account,” says John Roa, the CEO of ÄKTA, a product design studio specializing in user experience. “This allows sites to create an internal community–and can be a great opportunity for organizations to share specialized content and connect with their users.”

Moreover, giving people “the option to register/login via Facebook, Twitter, etc. instead of filling out forms shortens the registration process, which tends to lead to an increase in the conversation rate for user registrations,” says Adam Kirkwood, designer/developer, Viralheat, a social media management, publishing and engagement service.

3. Make Your Web Design Social Media Friendly

“Companies and organizations should design Websites, from code to content to commerce, in ways that complement the social media user experience, and vice versa,” says Dino Baskovic, a digital marketing consultant.

For example, on many homepages, “static content has largely been replaced with variable content that feeds from various sources, such as social media feeds, blog feeds, category driven areas of the site, news feeds, etc.,” notes Brian Compton, creative director, Lewis PR. “As a result, homepage layouts–such as this one for Google Ventures–have changed to include somewhat modular panels that can house any given type of variable (feed) content.”

Adds David Carrillo, manager, Earned Media, The Search Agency: “Implementing Facebook Open Graph and Twitter cards on a Website is the best way to control the presentation of your Website on social networks. And it’s a lot easier to implement from the beginning than to have to go back once the site is already built out.”

4. Make Content Shareable

“What good is it if a consumer or prospect finds something they like but it’s too difficult to ‘like’ it or ‘tweet’ it [or ‘pin’ it] right from that page?” asks Daniel K. Lobring, senior director of Public Relations at rEvolution, a sports marketing and media agency. “Embedding the ability to share on all pages of content is now essential.”

“Your product and content pages should have social sharing buttons right by the item picture, making it easier for your customers to instantly share your items,” says Tevis.

5. Incorporate Facebook Reviews Into Your Website.

To increase conversion rates on its Websites, Costa Rican Vacations & Panama Luxury Vacations integrated Facebook customer reviews.

“We created a ‘Testimonials’ tab on Facebook and asked customers after completing our survey if they’d be willing to share their feedback on Facebook,” says Casey Halloran, the cofounder and chief marketing officer. “It worked way better than we’d planned. We received 100 testimonials within four months.”

The only problem: “We got a few negative comments.” But even that, Halloran says, was not a bad thing as it helped the company improve its customer service, “which created more positive feedback, which improved our Website conversion and boosted sales.”

6. Embed YouTube Videos When Appropriate

“Many pages with quality YouTube videos rank better in search engines, especially if there are more video views,” says Brian Coughlin, an SEO specialist at OpticsPlanet.com. “Videos also increase a visitor’s time on page and improve conversion rates.”

The bottom line regarding Web design and social media: “It no longer makes sense to create a Website if it’s not going to be integrated [with your] social networks,” says Marko Z. Muellner, vice president of Marketing, ShopIgniter. “Not only do you increase the challenge of driving awareness and traffic [when you ignore social media], you eliminate the potential for sharing and earned amplification.

“Website designers have become great strategic anthropologists, understanding how and why people use their sites while keeping focused on business needs,” he says. “Now they must understand how their target audiences use social media so that they can incorporate liking, sharing, commenting, pinning, etc. in new ways that meet expectations and surprise and delight.”