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Your Company's Website – Design, Development & Marketing Aspects

planning a websitePlanning a Website This is the last part of a three part series dealing with guidelines on how to plan, present and develop your company’s website. In part one we explored the importance of having a professional website to represent your company online. In part two, we identified the quality approach of planning your company’s website.

Now in our last part of this series, we will take a quick look into the website design, development/and marketing aspects and your Company’s image.

Company Brand

First step when looking into website design, development and marketing, is concentrating on your company's logo. Your company logo should be the focus point of your website – remember: it is all about your company. Your marketing material should all look similar – business cards, printing materials, online PDF’s – all should deliver the same message and have the same connection.

The main objective of your website design, development and marketing, is to connect prospective clients with your company. They are all alone there, without any sales person to guide them, and explain how the company works, so make sure it can stands on its own merit. Your website must present your company well, as there will be no human factor once a visitor comes around.

build search engine friendly websiteBuild Search Engine Friendly WebsiteEngine and User Friendly

A website is not a brochure! When concentrating on your company's website design, development and marketing, all materials should be created according to using online marketing. The copyright for a website is not the same as used on your printing materials, images have a special format and size, colours should be wisely used, and navigation should be easy, with absolutely no dead ends.

Building a search engine friendly website is not a task that every website design and development company can manage, so make sure you do your homework before hiring a web site design, development and marketing expert. To create a website that is search engine friendly, the team of professionals working on your website, need to have the knowledge and expertise on search engines; how they work and index websites. If a website is not built taking into consideration how search engines work, and the criteria used to index sites in their database, it will probably be invisible to search engine robots. They will not be able to index your site properly, or maybe not to index it at all.

Another common mistake is to hire a website design and development company without enough knowledge on search engine algorithms and might put your website at a great risk using spamming techniques. With the incredible growth of websites being indexed -- about 11.5 billion websites indexed with search engines -- you want to make sure the company working on your website has the expertise to build it to be seen.

crawling and indexingCrawling and IndexingSearch Engine Optimization [SEO] & Search Engine Marketing [SEM]

If you offer products or services that Internet users are searching for, you certainly should look into having your web site indexed with search engines. Building a search engine friendly website is just the beginning; you need to make sure the website will be found by potential users searching for the products and services you offer.

Potential customers are more and more using the Internet and search engines to look for products and services they need and want, and having a website that no potential customer can find, is a waste of time and money. Use your website as a marketing and online sales tool.

Over the past few years of the web’s evolution as a key business tool, shows that an effective website mines prospects that other vehicles do not reach, shortens the sales cycle – in many cases dramatically so – and delivers early and consistent ROI.

seo analysisS.E.O. AnalysisMonitoring and Measurement of the Product

The capability of being able to evaluate, validate and verify if the effectiveness of your SEO campaign is critical. Reputable Search Engine Optimization [SEO] & Search Engine Marketing [SEM] companies will provide you monthly reports showing your current status and suggestions for areas that need improvement (number of visitors per page, time spent, referrals, exit pages, high traffic pages, keywords being used, etc).

Happy manHappy ManUse the information above as guide lines and always use common sense. Your website should be an extension of your company’s image online, and present the same standards of quality and customer appreciation.

Now that you are ready to start, don’t forget that creating a website has lots of work involved, but also lots of excitement. In the process of building your website, you are also expanding your company, and giving it new form and shape.

You must be full of enthusiasm to start, or redesign your website now.

For more information, or to request a free quotation, please contact us

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Do's and Dont's Guide to Great Web Design

Web Design ProcessWeb Design ProcessWhen followed, this guide will prove to be quite a valuable web design resource. From the inexperienced to the experienced, this guide has something for everyone.

The Process of Great Web Design
Just to make sure we are all on the same page, lets begin with the basic definition for “web design”. According to Wikipedia, web design is:

“a process of conceptualization, planning, modeling, and execution of electronic media delivery via Internet in the form of Markup language suitable for interpretation by Web browser and display as Graphical user interface”.

The process of web design can be compared to the process of writing a research paper. In the conceptualization/planning stage, flowcharts (the outline) are created which illustrate the navigational structure of your website. In the modeling stage, static wireframes are created (the rough draft) which illustrate the skeletal layout for each section of your website. After the wire frames are created, graphics, colors and text are used to create the design of your web pages based on the layout of the wire frames. In the execution stage, your design is converted into a format supported by web browsers, text and content are added, and finally, your website is published live to the Internet for the world to see (final draft).

All three stages of the design process are equally important. Many web designers skip a stage in order to save time or because they don’t think that is is necessary. However, all three stages are necessary if your goal is to create a successful design and respectable website. Even if the three stages are used, there are many mistakes that web designers can make that will lead to poor-quality, non user-friendly websites. It’s time to clean out the cabinet of bad web design practices and restock it with the good ones.

web designingWeb DesigningStage 1: Conceptualization and planning

This stage is skipped more often than the other two stages. Most writers don’t enjoy creating outlines for research papers, and most web designers don’t like creating flowcharts either. Don’t be lazy. If you put forth the effort and plan out your website, then you will find the web design process to go smoothly with fewer mistakes made along the way.

There are a few things that you will need in order to effectively conceptualize and plan your website:

  • a brain
  • a pen and paper
  • (optional) flowchart software
  • a general idea of the different sections of your website

To begin, grab your pen and paper or launch your favorite flowchart software. I use OmniGraffle Professional for Mac OS X which costs $150 per license but is well worth it if you create websites on a regular basis. If you’re on a PC, then SmartDraw is a great FREE piece of flowchart software that you can use. A pen and paper work just fine, though.

There are many methods to creating flowcharts. We are going to show you the most basic way to do it for the sake of time and the length of this article. If you want to learn more about flowcharts visit flowcharts on Wikipedia.

Directly below is a sample flowchart that we created when conceptualizing Chromatic Sites. (1) At the top of the flowchart we list the name of our website. (2) Next, we include each primary section of our website: Home, About, and Services. These sections are the main navigation for your website. What the names of each section will be is entirely dependent on the content of your website. Try to use as few sections as possible so that your visitors are not overwhelmed when navigating through your website.

(3) Next, add all of the secondary pages (subsections) that will be listed on each of the primary pages. For Home, we have included Professional Web Design, Web Development, and Search Engine Optimization. The secondary navigation needs to be more descriptive than the primary navigation. The deeper your websites’ navigational hierarchy goes, the more descriptive each label should be.

The Do's

  • Less is more; keep the number of primary sections to a minimum. We use 6 sections on our website which is more than enough
  • Whether you use a pen and paper or flowchart software, keep things as clean and organized as possible. Although you (and anyone working with you) are the only ones that will be using the flowchart, it still needs to make sense
  • Your primary sections should use broader terms, while secondary and tertiary terms should be more descriptive

The Don'ts

Creating a flowchart is pretty straight forward; however, there are a few mistakes that can easily be made:

  • Don’t use very descriptive terms in your primary navigation unless your entire website focuses on one narrow topic
  • Don’t try and lump multiple topics on the same page. Create a general section for these topics and from that section create subsections. This will make the subsection (descriptive) web pages more likely to have better rankings in the search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask)

Once you have created a concise and descriptive flowchart, you’re ready to move on to the second stage of the web design process: modeling.

difference between wireframe and mockupWireframe and MockupStage 2: Modeling

In the modeling stage, static “wireframe” mockups are created. Each mockup illustrates a bare-bones skeleton of the layout for each of the web pages that will be included in your website. This stage is important because it gives us an idea of where different elements will be placed in our design. Some of these elements are:

  • logo
  • navigational menu
  • content
  • images, videos

To create these mockups, you can use a pen and paper or your preferred mockup software. In the past we have used Photoshop, but lately we have been using OmniGraffle Professional. OmniGraffle is not as resource intensive as Photoshop is and it allows us to assemble our wireframe mockups much quicker.

In addition, make sure that you have the flowchart(s) that you created nearby as you will need to reference these from time to time to make sure that you are mocking up all of the pages that will appear on your website.

To the right is an example of how a wireframe mockup should look. As you can see, there are no colors or graphics included. This is exactly how a wireframe mockup should be - a skeletal layout of your design. The purpose is to be able to have a general idea of where each of the web page’s elements will be placed.

We usually begin from the top left and work our way down to the bottom. There is no specific way that a wireframe should look. Use your imagination. However, make sure that when creating your wireframes you don’t forget to include the most important elements of a website (logo, navigational menu, content placement, images/video placement).

If some of your pages will be using the same layout, then it is not necessary to mock all of those pages up (although you certainly can). Just be sure to mockup any unique layout that your website will have. You’ll thank yourself later.

website mock upWebsite MockupThe Do's

  • mockup all unique pages
  • include important elements (logo, navigation, content placement, images/video placement)
  • start from the top and work your way down
  • reference your flowchart created in stage 1 to make you don’t forget to mockup any pages
  • save, save, save - like with anything on the computer, save your mockup(s) every 10 minutes or so
  • focus on clean, user friendly layouts
  • label your elements so you don’t forget what they are when you reference them in stage 3, execution
  • use other web sites as inspiration; there is nothing wrong with taking elements from other sites and making them your own (see “donts”)

The Dont's

  • don’t include graphics or colors (that’s for the next stage)
  • don’t make your mockups too “busy”; focus on clean, well organized, user friendly layouts
  • don’t skip this stage; it is just as important as the first and the last
  • if you take elements from other websites, make sure you don’t plagiarize; there is a difference between being inspired by another website to create certain elements of your design and blatantly ripping off their layout and colors

Stage 3: Execution

In the third and final stage, execution, the planning from stages 1 and 2 are combined to assist in creating a live, interactive website. The third stage is by far the most time intensive since you will be 1) creating the graphics 2) creating the content, and finally, 3) converting the web designs from images into code that web browsers use to present your website to the world.

By the time you reach the third stage, you should have a clear idea of:

  • how your visitors will get from one place to another (stage 1, flowchart)
  • how your web pages will be laid out (stage 2, wireframe mockups)

If you don’t have a clear idea of these two things, go back to the first and second stages and continue to develop them. You will find that the third stage is easiest when you have constructed a clear, concise battle plan for designing your website.

ditch pen and paperDitch Pen and PaperDitch the pen and paper

In stage 3, you need to be using Photoshop or another image editing program since you will be using colors and graphics to create the layout for your website.

We usually begin creating the “home” page (index) first. Use your wireframes that you created in stage 2 as a template for each of the pages you create. However, instead of using solid boxes, use graphics, colors and text instead. Each page must look exactly how you want them to look on the Internet since this is the final stage of the design process.

Be sure to include the background for your navigation (but don’t actually add the text to your image). When converted using CSS (cascading style sheets), your navigation should be in the form of text and not images. Images are not crawl-able by the search engines (the keywords used in your navigation won’t be indexed in the search engine results pages, meaning fewer people will be able to find your website). For additional information about things that you should not do involving Search Engine Optimization visit Mr. SEO’s blog.

When you’re happy with your designs and feel that they are ready to be put on the Internet, it’s time to break apart the designs so that you can create a CSS based layout. For more information on converting your layouts to CSS or marking up your website in CSS, visit W3Schools.com or The Blog Herald. After looking around the Internet, we couldn’t find a decent image-to-CSS tutorial - so expect one from us in the coming weeks. Converting your designs into CSS is extremely important since table layouts are a thing of the past.

Above and to the right is a screen shot of a nearly-completed example of the layout we mocked up in stage 2. This was taken directly from our web browser and as you can see, there is now a logo, colors, a pretty navigation system, a footer, and a most importantly, a clean, organized layout. Thanks to the planning in stages 1 and 2, our layout is well-organized and easy to use.

The Do's

  • reference your templates that were created in stage 2; though it is fine to deviate from your original layout, you shouldn’t need to
  • do some research before creating your actual design; get ideas from other sites and make them your own (without plagiarizing)
  • include color and graphics to create the final look for your web pages
  • use CSS (cascading style sheets) to convert your designs from images into markup understandable by web browsers
  • reference your flowchart from stage 1 when coding your pages with hyperlinks; it is better to use a drop down menu that includes all (or the majority) of the links in your website on every page; this will allow for easier navigation and also make your pages easier to crawl when the search engine spiders stop by; a great place to get CSS drop down menus is at Dynamic Drive
  • finalize your design while working in Photoshop or whatever image editing software you use; it can be a pain to make changes to your design once it is converted into markup (code)

Search Engine SpiderSearch Engine SpiderThe Dont's

  • don’t include the text in your navigation menus when converting to CSS; instead of using image text, use regular text that is readable by search engine spiders
  • don’t use tables when converting; even if you need to buy a book on CSS, it will be worth it; tables are dead
  • don’t skip the first two stages just to save time; your website WILL be better if you start from the beginning of the web design process (instead of at the end)
  • don’t forget to compress your images when they are cut apart for CSS; there is nothing worse than a slow loading website because of large image files; Photoshop has a “Save Optimized For Web” option (CS3 - “Save for Web and Devices”)

Process Makes Perfect

By following a web design process such as the one illustrated in this article, you increase the chances of creating a website that is well-organized, easily navigable, and very user-friendly. Lets face it - if visitors get lost or become confused while attempting to surf your website, they might hit the back button and look for a more user friendly website. People do not like to think when it comes to finding their way around websites. Don’t make them think. You do the thinking by planning out your website from stage 1 to stage 3 and you will find that more people will enjoy visiting your website.

For a free quotation, or more information....please contact us

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SEO is an Investment, Not a Cost

Good KeywordsGood KeywordsAn investment with a high return. The returns can be truly stupendous when you get it right.

Maybe you have noticed that certain keywords have great conversion rates, yet you only rank on page 2 on Google. You need to lift your ranking to the top 3 spots on page 1 to have any satisfaction, and true return on your modest investment into SEO.

If you are serious about your business and are investing thousands on marketing offline, in newspapers etc., the time has arrived when you should definitely consider investing in professional SEO.

Here are some important reasons to consider about Professional SEO

1. It still works – First and foremost, the techniques employed to improve SEO still work. “As long as you are focusing on optimal user experience while performing methodic SEO strategies, you will be rewarded with higher positioning and organic traffic."
2. It is not going to stop working any time soon – Based on the way search engines appear to be developing, it is not likely that SEO will cease to be effective any time in the foreseeable future. Your business depends on keywords, the same as traditional text-based content. This link ensures continued success of SEO techniques as long as it exists
3. It is cost-effective – Compared to the costs associated with other forms of online marketing such as PPC advertising, social media marketing, or purchasing leads for an email marketing program. SEO provides fairly good ROI, so your organic SEO in many ways remains the bedrock of your online presence
natural organic seo servicesOrganic S.E.O4. Search engines grabbing more market share – Somewhere between 80-90% of customers now check online reviews prior to making a purchase, and this number is only expected to increase. It won’t be long before virtually everyone is searching for products and services online. Without organic SEO in place, people will have a very hard time finding you, and will instead find your competitors.
5. Rise of mobile bandwidth, and local search optimization –With this dramatic explosion in mobile usage, a whole new world of effective SEO techniques have opened up for companies, such as local search optimization.
6. Not having a healthy content profile is damaging – With each and every update to its search algorithm, Google and other engines change the way they look at websites. Things which didn’t exist a few years ago, such as social media indicators, are now given fairly high importance in terms of their impact on your rankings. Not building a healthy content profile, spread out over months and years, is potentially damaging to your business, as it is one of the factors Google evaluates when looking at your site.
7. Your competitors are doing it – Remember, SEO is a never-ending process. If you’re not moving forward, and improving your position, you’re losing ground to a competitor who is. That’s a simple fact of how the process works. Don’t let your competitors out manoeuvre you by ignoring this valuable tool for your business.

Your business definitely needs to have an SEO strategy in place, if you are interested in succeeding in terms of online marketing; it remains one of the single most important components of any organization’s branding efforts, and online presence.

Please feel free to leave comments in the reviews on this page.

If you need a free quotation or would like to discuss your requirements, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Great Milestone Achieved

10 years of service10 Years of ServiceIt is with great pride and satisfaction that we announce that StormBiz has now been operating for 10 years, and going strong.

StormBiz was started in March 2007 and, like a baby it grew day by day, step by step, until it has reached great heights and service to many clients.

We wish to take this opportunity to thank our loyal clients who have been with us since inception, and stuck with us throughout.  You have become part of the StormBiz family and we are proud of all you have also achieved over the years.

We look forward with anticipation to the next 10 years and beyond, and hope you will be with us on the ride to new heights.

Over the years we have expanded our business to enable us to offer more services to our clients.  We have become specialists in our field and all our work is done with pride.

Our services are:

•    Website Design
•    Web Hosting
•    Business Revamp
•    Graphic Design
•    Joomla Specialisation
•    Search Engine Optimization
•    Advertising and Marketing
•    Social Networking
•    Printed Material
•    Website Security, and more…

All our work is professionally done, and of the highest standard.

Please feel free to contact us for a free quotation, or to discuss any of your website requirements.

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What Constitutes a Complete and Effective SEO Campaign?

SEO planningSEO PlanningUnfortunately, not many Search Engine Optimization companies know what this involves. You may see a "one size fits all" package, link popularity development in the form of submitting to link farms, or even the dreaded "Submit Your Site to 1000's of Search Engines" scam. While the basic premise of each of these ideas is true, the execution of them is extremely important.

First of all, your web site needs human attention. A real person should thoroughly analyze your site before any work is done. Get them on the phone and ask them questions. There should be a clear process that the Search Engine Optimization Company uses and tailors to each client. The SEO company should also have a clear idea of what your goals are for your web site.

The first step in any work that is done should be keyword research. Like any kind of advertising, you need to know where your target market goes, and how they find businesses like yours. The keywords chosen should apply to the theme of the web site. High rankings for these keywords should also be obtainable given your budget. If you are a computer repair shop with one or two locations in a city, and cannot service computers outside your area, then targeting a term such as "computer repair" is overkill. The cost for obtaining high rankings for a term such as that, will be far greater than what you will make from the exposure, as much of your web site traffic will not be targeted enough.

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