Posts Tagged ‘web design’

Feb 21
2011

Photoshop Tutorial: How to Make Reflections

“Reflections” are a cool, popular Web 2.0 trick that really makes your site look polished – literally. If you’re looking to have an online marketing presence, it’s important that your site looks as contemporary and as professional as possible – and subtle effects like this is what will achieve that image.

Last time you visited a car showroom, I’m sure you realized the floor buffed to a shine – to the point where you could see the cars’ reflections on the showroom floor. In fact, the cars probably were so clean, you could see yourself in them. “Reflections” indicate cleanliness, newness, professionalism and quality. Images, icons, and text on your favorite site designs (and even print/video designs) use this effect to have their brand give this feeling to their audience.

Reflections on the Apple website

If you’re just beginning Photoshop, creating this effect is really simple:

  1. Isolate the image you want to reflect in its own layer. In the example below, I have the “e-nor” logo image in its own layer.
    Reflections in Photoshop - Step 1
  2. Duplicate the layer by right-clicking on it and choosing that option. Rename the new layer to a meaningful name, such as “image reflection”.
    Reflections in Photoshop - Step 2
  3. Select the layer by choosing the “selection tool” and right-click on the image. Choose “Free Transform”.
    Reflections in Photoshop - Step 3
  4. Right-click again and choose “Flip vertical”.
    Reflections in Photoshop - Step 4
  5. Move the reflection just below the original image.
    Reflections in Photoshop - Step 5
  6. Add a layer mask to the reflection layer. Use the “gradient tool” to create a gradual fading mask. For the first gradient, reduce the opacity of the gradient tool to something in the middle, like 50%-75% so you get a light fade. Do that as many times till you get the right transparency.
    Reflections in Photoshop - Step 6
  7. To create a more realistic effect, increase the opacity of the gradient tool back to 100%, then create a layer mask gradient from the bottom of the image till about the middle of the image to fade out the bottom of the reflection.
    Reflections in Photoshop - Step 7

Note: you want to make sure the reflection very subtle and really transparent. An opaque reflection usually looks like a cut, unfinished image and comes out to be gaudy more than anything else.

Jul 29
2010

With the creation of smart phones and since your mobile device is conveniently available anywhere, mobile internet browsing has increased astronomically. As such, users have come to expect better experiences on their phone. Unfortunately, not all sites have a mobile version, which is a problem since there’s a good chance your site will look significantly smaller and possibly illegible on a mobile device.

This should raise a couple questions:

  1. Is your site compatible on all cellular phone platforms?
  2. Is the site being used on a cellular phone the same way it would be used on a desktop?

If you aren’t sure, don’t guess; check your analytics. Here’s a post on how to track mobile traffic.

Issues with Mobile Usability

The answer depends ultimately on the function of your site but of course regardless, browsing a website on your mobile is a much different experience than browsing on your desktop. That said here are some usability issues you may run into while browsing on your mobile:

  • Excessive Scrolling – Phones have been getting smaller and sleeker over the past couple years, which means screens are even smaller. While the width of a standard desktop screen is around 1052px, the standard width for a mobile site is 250px. Unfortunately because of the small screen restriction, viewing a site is very frustrating because of scrolling and/or zooming in. I’ve run into this problem so many times, when I search on my blackberry, I always have to zoom into the site to be able to read, which of course means I have to scroll from right to left to read the content properly.
  • Load Time – Non-mobile-friendly sites could take a long time to load.
  • Page Height – Along with having to zoom, the page could be longer than necessary, causing the user to have to scroll down.
  • Flash – If your site has flash, more than likely it will not be supported by all cell phone browsers.
  • Mobile Location – Another factor affecting mobile browsing is location of the user. While computers are generally stationary, cell phones are used everywhere (hence the world “mobile”). The contrast of the colors and font size on a site may not be legible while using a cell outdoors.

Mobile Design Tips

Here’s a list of guidelines for designing a more-user friendly mobile site:

  1. Screen Size – Design your mobile site to be 250pxE-Nor Mobile
  2. Limited content – Since the width is limited, height may be used to fill in space that is lost with width. However, it’s best to avoid having a long page of content. After all, this is a phone and is still quite small. Whether its touch screen or keys based, it’s much harder to scroll up or down than it is on a desktop.
  3. Clear action buttons – Again, since the screen is small, it’s best to make sure if you do have images to make them clear, and if that means using the whole width that’s okay. Same goes for buttons, if there is a clear action, it will be seen, so the bigger the better. I highly recommend buttons over links; specifically for touch screen users. When trying to click on a link, it’s always so hard to actually click on the correct link. The link will usually be buried within text and other links.
  4. Create a separate mobile environment – administering a site that is optimized for a desktop that is at the same time 100% mobile friendly is very difficult since both natures are completely different. That would mean you’re essentially limited to the parameters of mobile (for example, when choosing the width of images for your desktop site, you’ll be nagged by the limits of your mobile resolution). It’s best to have a separate environment specifically catered to mobile screens allowing you to have freedom in both designs.
  5. Real Estate – Mobile “real estate” is very limited; to maximize the use of space in your design, simplify your site to the very basic functions of your company. For example, if your desktop has three panes; a side menu, content, and news. The side menu may not be completely necessary, especially since the navigation on mobile and desktop is completely different.
  6. Meet the user’s needs quickly – If the South Africa World Cup is the hot topic, and you’re cnn.com, make sure that story is visible above the fold right away.
  7. Clear functions – Make things clear and easy for the user to find. If you want someone to click on a button, make it large and bright to emphasize the action. For example, on a mobile site it would be smart to have a back button rather than a link because it’ll be easier for the user to find the button than a link since a link could easily get hidden through the text.
  8. Ease of use – The user shouldn’t have to waste time scrolling up and down looking for something that should be easy to find. For example, in tip #5, I talked about “real estate.” With a limited width, you lose a lot of space for content, but what you lose in width you can make up in the height. This makes it much easier for the user to read rather than having to scroll from left to right.
  9. Browsing Links – Use only basic browsing links such as home and back, you don’t need to include the whole menu that is on your desktop site. Make sure to add the browsing links at the top and bottom of the page.
  10. Search – For some sites, it is very important to have search because the site is search based for example, Google or Target. Google is search based links, while Target is search based products. If your site is search based, including two search boxes may be really helpful. Some companies have sites that are entirely search based such as Google, their desktop and mobile site is just a search bar. As for Target and Amazon their home pages have a search bar at the top of the page with browsing links below, which is another way to go because you can browse products as well as search for them.
  11. Testing – Lastly, make sure to test the usability of the mobile site on different phone browsers. This, of course, would be a separate checklist from launching your desktop site. Keep in mind, phones can be used in any location, for example, the contrast of a screen in the sunlight, has to be legible.

Having a mobile friendly site, will make it much easier for your customer to navigate, making for a better user experience, in turn, increasing your conversion. If mobile phones make shopping more convenient, you want to make sure your site takes advantage of that trend and make it easy for users to shop for your product as well.

And now that you have a mobile site, few things to keep in mind:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO), here is a link from the Google Webmaster tool on how to Help Google Index Your Mobile Site. Mobile websites are often returned in Google mobile search results (and other search engines too) in preference to non-mobile websites.
  • And once your mobile site is ready for prime time, you might want to drive qualified traffic through paid search (aka Pay-Per-Click) on Mobile, here are some ideas from the Google AdWords blog.
  • Last but not least, you gotta measure! A separate mobile website is easier to track on all devices than an integrated website where the tracking code might not run on all devices. Try Google Analytics for Mobile.

We’re in the process of practicing what we preach, so keep an eye out for the E-Nor Mobile Site! :)

References

For more info on mobile usability check out the following references:

Dec 23
2009
Would you like to increase your sales or number of leads by 10%, 20%, or even more, without increasing your marketing spend? I’m sure most of us wouldn’t mind that extra bit of sales and revenue :) . Well, there is no better time to do it than now. Roll up your sleeves, summon your web designer and your web analyst and then marvel over data available from Google’s new tool: Browser Size, with data from Google Analytics, and then start rockin’ n rollin’.

Google Browser Size

Google has recently introduced a new tool called Browser Size to help web designers “ensure that important parts of a page’s user interface are visible” by a wide audience. You basically type your URL in the tool and it’ll then load your page and show what percentage of users see what sections of the page, without having to scroll i.e. giving us a visual view of what is seen “above the fold”. The idea is if more people have to scroll to find your “calls to action” they are less likely to click and convert. For example, Google applying this method on Google Earth download page layout had an impressive 10% increase in their download rates by moving the download button up by 100 pixels.

So what does the Browser Size look like? Here is how our home page appeared in the Google Browser Size:

Google Browser Size

As you can see, 90%+ of the web population can see our “Optimize Your site” Call-to-Action, the green button (surrounded by a red box for you to see it in this above snapshot, but the home page doesn’t have this ugly red box :) ). Kudos to our creative director and web designer (luckily we recently distributed Nordstrom’s gift certificates for the Holidays, otherwise they both would be asking for a bonus after reading this post:)).

Design Best Practices

Now that you have a visual view of your most important page elements, it’s time to put this useful information into action. We do know that design best practices for usability and conversion teach us that your important information should be immediately visible and easily accessible to users. An example of such an element is a conversion button, such as “Buy Now” for an ecommerce website.

Let’s say you have a “Buy Now” button at the bottom of the page, where only 20% of users can see it. And say your “add to cart” rate is 5% for all the visitors that come to this page – so for 1000 visitors, that’s 50 starting the purchasing process.

If we know that according to design best practices, a visible “Buy Now” button that catches your users’ eyes will entice users to buy, thus, “above the fold” is the way to go – that is, making sure this button is visible to as many users as possible (not requiring them to scroll down) could significantly increase your “add to cart” rate. That is, if 20% of your users seeing the “add to cart” button is leading to a 5% “add to cart” rate, imagine what 90% of your users immediately seeing the button may do. Even if that causes a 5% increase in “add to cart” (the new “add to cart” rate will now be 10%), you’re looking at doubling the number of visitors that start the purchasing process and you are likely to double your sales/revenue.

So with the help of this tool, if your page is being designed for 1280×720 and you realize 20% of your users can see that resolution while 90% can view 800×600 – though you don’t have to change your design to be tailored to fit the smaller size, at least the important elements should take this into account.

It’s worth mentioning that some folks have other views about the benefits of the “above the fold” concept, for example we really shouldn’t be cramming too much information up “above the fold” and we should keep in mind that “less is more”. Nonetheless, the Google Browser Size is still very useful.

Google Analytics offers additional data points & insights

The data in the Google Browser Size is collected based on visitors to Google.com. What you can also do is to use screen resolutions data from Google Analytics on your own site . Here is how to get the data in Google Analytics:

  • Click on the “Visitors” tab
  • Click on “Browser Capabilities”
  • Then click on “Screen Resolutions”

You’ll get a report on screen resolutions that visitors to your own site use. You can then optimize your site based on this information. Here is a look at the report for our site:

So it appears that from our own screen resolutions data, most of the visitors can more or less view the entire page (a very good thing!).

Now, if you had a site that had a different screen resolution distribution, like the one below, you’d want to review the current design/layout of your pages and tailor them to the different visitors’ pattern.

Google Analytics Screen Resolutions 800x600

Segmentation, Segmentation Segmentation

And as always, don’t just look at data in aggregates, use segmentation to your advantage and zoom in on the data segment that is most important to you. Here are some examples of how to slice your data before you start your analysis and fact finding:

  • If your targeted audience is only in US & Canada, then run the Screen Resolutions reports on an Advanced Segment for the US & Canada audience
  • You might want to also segment by buyers and non-buyers and monitor any interesting trends between these two distinct groups of visitors
  • If you have different page layouts on your site, for example, your blog, your home page and category pages, you’d want to run the above analysis on each unique layout and make sure the messaging/calls-to-action are where you want your visitors to see them

Testing with the Google Website Optimizer (GWO)

One last note. If you are used to running tests, whether A/B or Multivariate, then it’s probably a no-brainer to run an experiment before you make massive (or small) changes across your site. If you haven’t tried testing yet, then this is a perfect opportunity to take the data and analysis to your manager and convince them to support you with resources to begin testing and realize site and revenue improvements! You can use the powerful and free testing tool from Google, the Google Website Optimizer (GWO), or another testing tool of your choice, to confirm (or disprove) your hypothesis before your roll out the design and layout changes.

Hope you find this post helpful. Feedback, comments and questions are most welcome!

Related Posts

Jun 09
2009

Web 2.0, THE popular style and standard for contemporary web design, utilizes the use of clean, bright colors, and gradients. A key visual indicator of Web 2.0 design is the use of large, 3D buttons that grab the user’s attention. Buttons can be used to promote a sale, contact, and/or have a slogan such as “Lose Weight!”, while at the same time, tempt the user into clicking and going where you want them to go. You know you couldn’t resist pressing the red button when your mom told you not to!

The impact of having a button is far greater than just having a link on your site. For example, if your site said “Contact Us” at the bottom within the content, the viewer would most likely have to read through the content until they get to the “Contact Us” to even know its there since its buried in text. But a button that clearly states “Contact Us” is more likely to visually attract their attention.

In this post, I’m going to go through how to make web 2.0 buttons that “pop”, even if you’re not that Photoshop savvy.

I just learned how to create web 2.0 buttons a couple months ago. It usually takes me a couple hours to get the right effect and gradient exactly the way I want it to look. Luckily, I stumbled upon an awesome resource for gradients and styles that made making buttons much easier than I could’ve imagined. I was searching around various blogs trying to find a post that was interesting and useful and found this BIG TIME TIME SAVER!!!

After downloading these photoshop styles/button templates, all you really need to do is minor tweaks, and your button is ready to go.

Here’s how:

  1. First thing you have to do is download the zip file from dezinerfolio.com, who shared their styles on their blog.
  2. After you download the zip file on this page, upload it into your Photoshop,
  3. Open up a new Photoshop file and go to Window > Styles to bring “Styles” into your toolbox (shown below).


    Now that you have uploaded the style, you’re ready to create a web 2.0 button in little to no time!

  4. Open a New Layer on your file and find a style you like best.
  5. Once you’ve found a style you like, simply click on the style and the settings of that particular style will automatically be implemented onto the layer.
  6. As you can see in the images below, the image on the left shows the styles in the toolbox and the one on the right shows how the styles effects automatically updated into the layer.

  7. Next, choose a shape for your button; I like using the rounded rectangle tool for a button.
  8. After you’ve chosen a button shape, click and drag the mouse to make the rectangle as big as you want. As you can see in the image below the color of the style/gradient I chose fills in the rectangle.

  9. After you have the button, color, and style you want all that’s left is adding text and layer effects. Below I have an example of the button with text. I have put some layer effects on the text to make it pop out of the button.

  10. After you have stylized the button how you want it, you can trim the white space around the button.

  11. And there you have it, a button! That didn’t take long at all! :)

May 05
2009

A very basic but extremely vital part to web design is understanding your users’ logical thought process and flow. You want to take this into account as early as possible in your design phase so that you create a very familiar flow to the user.  Putting a link or information in the next logical place makes the process intuitive and thus, more likely will lead the user to convert.   The more familiar the flow, the less they have to figure out where to go which betters their chances of getting from their starting point to your ending point.  The your end-point could be them submitting your form or buying your product.

While missing this boat can make you question “Why isn’t my page converting?”, getting it right can change your page from an occasional “hit-or-miss” to a conversion machine.   In some cases, simply changing your design to make a button or link more intuitively available might end-up increasing your conversion rate by 100′s of percentage points.  That small design update just grew your business astronomically.

There are two main aspects when it comes to understanding logical user-flow:

  1. User-interface and page yayout – actual elements of the page that the customer will be interacting with.
  2. Site structure and navigation – how your pages are organized.

In this post, I’d like to go through the first item – UI and page layout.

User-Interface and Page Layout

As I said, it’s important to remember the way your user will interact with your page while designing your page layout.  Take into account your users’ natural reading pattern – which in the U.S.A is left to right, then top to bottom. Thus, the top-left-most content will be the first thing they see then and they’ll be moving in an “F” pattern down your page.

Here’s an example of a login form that does poorly at following user-flow:

Poorly designed Control Center login form.

Can you spot the issue here? ANSWER: The “Login” link is in a bad place (you see it at the top right).

  1. A user will go to the “Customer ID” field and enter their ID.
  2. Moving left to right, they will move on to enter their password.
  3. Resetting now like a type-writer (I don’t know if people still remember those), the user will move to the “Language” field below.
  4. Ok, now were ready to login. When I move down and to the left…where the heck did the “login” button go?

The placement of the login button is not in the next logical place, and not only breaks up the user flow, but is also hard to find (aside from the fact that it is not a clear clickable button).

Now this may not seem like a big deal here cause there’s not much going on in this form. But what happens when the form is longer down the page and they have to scroll back up to search for this login/submit link? Should we assume the user knows to do this?

No. You’ll be surprised the percentage of people clicking such a link decreases or increases based on simple logical placement of this button.  Remember, a as surfers, we do not want to think.  We do not want to search.  It is as easy for us to close the page, and move on to the next site in a blink of an eye.

Worse – let’s say this is a “Checkout Now” button and your site makes $10k a month in revenue on this product. If the placement of this button even affects conversion even  by 10%, that’s enough to make a difference.  Larger sites that make significant online revenue a month would be greatly impacted, where even a small percentage of decrease would hurt (or a small increase could pay-off big time).

In the case that you are a smaller/medium size online business, online conversion may be your businesses only means of survival, so a small design detail like this could even make or break your business.

Apr 08
2009

While here at E-Nor, we are heavy on analytics, data-crunching, and numbers, we do have a fun side :) – an understanding of aesthetics and usability through design. After all, let’s say your landing page bounce rate stinks. It could be the design that’s causing users to be frustrated and just “bounce”. How do we fix that? That’s where the Creative Department comes in! We make sure your site is as usable as possible, getting the visitor comfortable enough to ultimately convert.

Today, let’s talk about a great new usable design for multi-level drop down navigation menus. The “Uber-Menu”.

What the heck is an “Uber-Menu”? I recently attended a webinar given by Hagan Rivers, a UI navigation expert, and she brought up a great concept of “uber menus” which many sites are using today. Uber menus, as they relates to web sites, are basically drop-down or flyout menus that lay out certain levels of your site in one big box – most likely to layout your second and third levels.

a) Often, third level dropdowns or flyouts can be quite annoying (see above). The main problem is that our hands aren’t usually steady enough to go in that perfect “L” shape to perfectly hover over 1st, then 2nd, finally 3rd level drop down or flyout. Most of the time, you slip, and both menus disappear! Freaking annoying! Enough unsuccessful tries, and your user may end up frustrated enough to try your competitor’s menu.

b) Another usability standard to take into account is laying out links versus keeping them an extra move (click or hover) away. Studies show that links are more likely to be clicked if they are explicitly “laid out” as opposed to someone having to hover over their parent or having to click their parent link to get to another navigation page or tab containing the link. (See above).

Also, many sites have recognized the error of including a third level in your drop down menu – you run into the problem outlined in (a).  The usual solution is to cut out the third level completely from the menu. Which is kind of the same thing as saying, “This compass is a little hard to use, I’m just gonna chuck it in the river.”

Uber-menus seem to solve (a) and (b) outlined above, coming up with a nicer navigation layout.

We can see here, the level 1 parent being “Patio and Garden, level 2 and 3 are completely laid out – level 2 in bold and level 3 is indented in normal font, which allows the user to easily differentiate the two. You don’t have to worry about keeping a surgical hand on the path to the third level of the dropdown menu. On top of that, your user at first glance can see all goodies and pages your third level has to offer.  One thing to also notice that you can’t see in the picture is that by clicking on “Patio and Garden” the menu stays open.  A positive of that is moving off the menu wont cause it to vanish.

Interested in advanced web design and navigation techniques? Give us a shout!

Dec 01
2008

Here at E-Nor, we recently completed a project for the The Learning Community (TLC), which happens to be a collection of links to informational websites, articles, and videos based on different subjects that affect child development.  Their mission – to provide that “children’s manual” parents never seem to receive with the baby!

The project initially started in December of 2007 as a conversion of their original pure HTML site to Dotnetnuke (open-source Content Management System), but ended up turning into a significant redesign and restructuring project.

The services we provided were:

  • Basic online marketing consultation
  • Creating a new, brighter aesthetic look.
  • Implementing a different site-structure based on our understanding of their users flow.  (We also took some tips from their more successful and professional competitors, such as the commercial magazine www.parenting.com)
  • Improving their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by cleaning up their meta tags and recommending some content enhancements. Their site is now on the first page of Google for some keywords when previously it was nowhere to be found.
  • Helping promote their videos on Youtube.
  • Cleaning up their Google Analytics setup to properly track where visitors are coming from, which external sites they are going to, and which PDFs they are downloading.

Oh yah, I forgot to mention the project was done PRO BONO. We had a great working relationship with the client, in that any work we recommended, if they could find volunteers to implement, they did, which saved us time.  Any technical implementation we could throw in, we did, and they practically understood that since the work was pro bono, it would take priority accordingly with respect to our other projects.

E-Nor encourages our clients, partners, and blog readers to support non-profits.  Though altruism may already be inline with your corporate and personal values, a year’s worth of pro-bono work may scare even the most giving of companies and people.  However, here are some benefits you may not have considered (in no particular order):

  1. Necessity is the mother of innovation. The nature of non-profits is that their revenue is limited yet they provide great services to the community. Thus, they may require strong functions for their site. You’ll be forced to learn valuable work-arounds when their budget may not cover high end modules or spending, giving you great ideas for options when you need to close a sale with those paying clients who are a little tighter with their money.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Just like anything you do in life, the more you do it the better you will get. You can chalk this pro bono run as practice. For us, TLC being a year project, it strengthened and even expanded our research on techniques, functions, modules, etc, that we can now apply to all our sites!
  3. A non-profit “word-of-mouth” could still lead to profit. We know that as technology evolves, so does marketing. If Google has taught us anything, free services and products actually go a long way in branding and exposure, and could result in lucrative opportunities in the future. Non-profits do have friends that could end up being your paying clients with the right referral. And because your existing relationship had no financial motives, the trust and rapport has already been built.
  4. Had a bad day? They’ll pick you up. For all those clients who didn’t see the extra work you did for them and who complained instead of showing gratitude, you could expect the opposite for your non-profit pro bono clients. They can’t help but see the void you filled for them and be grateful for it.
  5. Testimonials. Along the same lines as the above, a testimonial will virtually be an everyday occurrence if you’re doing your job right.
  6. Pat yourself on the back.  You did a good deed! Because of the site you provided for a parenting non-profit or a domestic violence shelter, a lost parent now has a little bit of direction or a helpless victim is a little bit safer.
  7. Experimentation (with the permission of the client). Since your client doesn’t have dollars riding on this project, they are more likely to allow you to do light experimentation on it, within reason of course. Not only are they more comfortable since no hard earned grant money is at risk, but that also means there’s a more flexible timeline for you to play with the site. For example, if you see a new module you wanted to try or your organization is new to analytics and you need a site to try it on, especially if the end result could possibly benefit your client, non-profit free sites may in fact welcome experimentation. Don’t forget to back up, though!

Jul 11
2007

Over the last three months or so, we have been providing the E-Nor consultant community with a two parallel training/educational series, a web analytics webinar series and a Business Edge webinar series. We have been alternating these series with one topic every other Friday.

The response has been very positive with tens of ICs attending these webinars. We are in the planning phase for the August and September schedule and welcome your input and suggestions on what specific topics you like us to cover. As a matter of fact, if there are other topics in our niche of Internet Marketing, Web Analytics, eCommerce, Business Edge, or large scale project and custom development implementation, we would be happy to look into it as well.

Leave us a comment with your questions and suggestions! Thanks!

Oct 01
2006

Normally for a project that is either being scoped as custom or requires integration, a website development company needs to invest some time into making sure the project and work required is well understood before proceeding to offer a formal quote. We have learned through our experience that bypassing this step is detrimental to the success of the project. We’re looking at this from the client’s perspective and from our own. It helps us to know exactly what we’re committing to and the client also will have a clearer picture of what we’re building so there are no surprises.

Other companies may provide a ballpark figure or estimate based on past integrations they have done but the risk factor in that type of an estimate is very large, and usually results in a strained client/vendor relationship because of additional charges that come up when assumptions are proven incorrect. We prefer to quote based on requirements, not assumptions, and we take the necessary steps to ensure that all possible requirements are documented clearly and understood – this method has proven to work each and every time.

Typically, there are a number of questions especially with the integration part being related to the eCommerce and how that will relate to one another especially with the information being dynamic and transactions dependent upon this information. Some samples of questions related to integration are:

  • What is the nature of the data?
  • In what format can the data be provided?
  • Ensure data maps directly to destination or platform?
  • Within the data set, which items are updated and why?
  • Is the data constant, or are there additions and deletions?
  • How should destination handle additions and deletions?
  • How should destination handle exceptions?
  • What monitoring or notification needs to be in place?

There are a number of other questions that we usually encounter when diving into this a little further. For us at the preliminary stage of scoping, the analysis may reveal that more things to consider or that the work is straightforward. One thing guaranteed is that there will definitely be a more accurate proposal.

For further information on scoping custom or integration projects, feel free to contact one of our internet consultants at www.E-Nor.com.

May 12
2006

Well you’ve finally come to the conclusion that you need a website. Great stuff! A website is an effective marketing tool for your business. Literally millions of people go online now to find what their looking for instead of flipping through the antiquated yellow pages. So where do you begin?

Enter Li’l Johnny, your nephew, aka the computer geek of the family. Li’l Johnny is an exceptionally bright kid, with a very rare talent in “doing computer stuff”, and this makes him the perfect candidate to take on the job of designing your website. The hours and hours he spent fiddling around in Adobe Photoshop zooming into images, resizing them, warping them, and applying all sorts of crazy, sometimes ill-contrived effects serves as the foundation of his knowledge. The skills he honed in scanning your family re-union photos, editing the group image of your family, cutting out old Aunt Beth and replacing her with a tree stump, have most certainly prepared him well.

The trick is to get Li’l Johnny inspired and in the right frame of mind by buying him something he wants… like those cool new Nike shoes, or tickets to a football game for him and his buddies. Once he appreciates you, he’ll be in the right frame of mind to produce the right design for you.

So with a great attitude and a renewed love for his favorite relative, Li’l Johnny will get hard at work and slap together a design that will totally blow you out of the water. Finally the day arrives – It’s everything you ever imagined, the perfect representation of your business…

Or is it?

Perhaps we should look at this from another angle. A professional website design takes into consideration several factors, none of which involve removing annoying relatives from family photos, as enticing as that might sound :)

Li’l Johnny, while sincere in his efforts, isn’t aware that a successful website design takes into account the following factors:

1) Goals and Objectives – Designing a site with loosely defined or no measurable goals is a waste of time. To achieve design success, take the time to identify specific goals and objectives, and ensure a mechanism is in place to test against those benchmarks. Investing in tracking or surveying software to qualitatively and quantitatively monitor the site.

2) Target Audience – This is the most important aspect of website design. A successful user experience will result in repeat visits, referrals, and a positive atmosphere on your site. Even one bad experience, and your customer is lost. Focus on who your target audience is. Identify their likes/dislikes, their background?

3) Web Standards – Ensure that the site is designed to meet the latest level of web standards. Even the smallest mistake can result in alienating a huge percentage of your customer base, because the site won’t function in their browser, or their monitor resolution. To achieve the greatest level of flexibility, make sure the code is streamlined, and effectively employing Cascading StyleSheets that separate content from presentation. Keep an eye out for Usability and Accessibility standards.

4) Usability – Your site may look nice and be technically sound, but is it usable? Information should be easily accessible by a broad base of users, each of their own level of expertise and background. Users should be able to navigate the site with minimum clicks and find the information they are looking for easily.

5) Keywords – Have you done any research on what your target audience is searching for online? Did you make sure that these keywords are prominent on the site and in your content? Did you know that most site visitors, don’t actually read the content…they skim through it. Keeping that in mind, keywords should be placed strategically throughout the site, to achieve maximum visibility. This is a major aspect of implementing an effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program.

6) Marketing - do you have a solid plan in place to market your website once it’s complete? Even with the nicest design, a website is useless unless your customers visit it. How effective would it be to have a beautiful store, without any customers in it? Same principal…

7) Maintenance – A site is only as good as its content, and content should change on a regular basis. How should that happen? Should you hire a web design company each time updates are needed? That doesn’t sound very appealing. Instead, invest in an infrastructure allowing the you to easily update content/information regularly.

Let’s let Li’l Johnny focus on his grades in school, or perhaps he can do a website for your family. Leave your business to the professionals.