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Keywords are the key to good website design

SEO Keyword researchS.E.O Keyword ResearchWe all know potential clients won't come just because you built the site - the site has to place well in the search engines to pull the traffic. Of course, placement can be bought through Pay Per Click advertising, but there is nothing as satisfying to a web designer as a top position in the free results.

How do you get there? In a word: keywords. Design your web site for search engines from the very get go, and that means, start with your keyword research. Once you have those terms in hand, use them to plan your site and content.

domain name registrationDomain Name RegistrationWhat's in a Name?

If you haven't purchased a domain name yet, then think about ways to incorporate at least one of your keywords. Hyphens are fine, but if you can get bluewidgets.com, go for it. Or www.companynamewidgets.com ... you can rank well without it, but every little bit helps.

website widgetWebsite WidgetsSite Content - Give Them What They Want

If you plan your content based on your keyword research, you give searchers what they are looking for. Sometimes you have to get creative, of course. For example, if you sell red widgets, but your research tells you people search far more often for blue widgets, then you might want to create and optimize a page "red Widgets Vs. Blue Widgets." Sounds silly, but you get the idea. And it not only brings the searcher for red widgets to your page, it converts them to a blue widget buyer.

Create at least one page for each keyword variation, and on that page use your phrase:

  • In an h1 tag once
  • In an h2 or h3 tag once
  • In the first paragraph
  • In bold somewhere in the content
  • In the anchor text of a link to an authority site.
  • In the anchor text of a link to another page on the site

keywordsKeywordsSite Design Architecture and SEO

Your keywords will also figure heavily in the website's structure - especially if it's a large site. Where there are natural divisions, create sub-directories with keyword rich names: www.yourdomain/blue-widgets/ for example.

It can also be a powerful move to use your keywords in file names - your HTML and graphic file names. Assume for a moment you sell widgets of all different colours, and they are search terms ... you would have pages named:

- www.yourdomain/blue-widgets.html,

- www.yourdomain/black-widgets.html,

- www.yourdomain/white-widgets.html and so on.

Use those keywords in the graphic files names as well. Take your home page, for example. Your logo should be called widgets-logo.gif.

alternative textAlternative Text for ImagesOther On Site SEO Design Elements

Be sure to use Alt Tags for images, and title attributes for links. Don't stuff the alt tags with keywords, but describe the images accurately, and do it with the visitor in mind too. Here's why: we know the search engines do use the text from alt tags to help index a site, but did you know that Google sometimes uses the alt tag text as the description in the SERPs! It's rare, but it happens. I've seen it on my own site.

The jury's out on whether this last technique is really effective, but many SEO Web Designers now use the title attribute on links. If you look at the code for the link to my site – or put your mouse over the link, you will see what I mean.

Off Site SEO – Link Building

Wait a minute, link building isn't part of design is it? Yes, it is! You used to be able to build link popularity through reciprocal link programs, but that is no longer an effective gambit. To get links, you need to create the sort of content that makes other webmasters link to your site. It might be a forum, a blog with constantly updated information, or a tool that people need. Build your content to attract links, as well as visitors.

Incorporate these suggestions into your web site, and you will begin to see how SEO and Web Design can be synonymous!

Contact us for a free quotation, or to discuss your website needs

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The Importance Of A Good Header

city skylineCity SkylineFirst impressions are important - when you first see a city you've never been before, what do you notice? That's right, the skyline. Similarly, the first thing you see in the newspaper is the headline, and whenever you think of a TV show, you most likely think of the opening credits.

People tend to assess things based on these first impressions of them. Your website is treated just as anything else people see, they will tend to make a judgment based on the header at the top of your page. If your visitors see a header which has a professional appearance, they will assume that the content of your site is also of high quality.

wildlife website headerWildlife Website HeaderThough it isn't usually a functional part of the site, the header of a web page is one of the most important parts. With a professional and engaging header on a web page, visitors to that site will want to stay, because they will have been assured that if the header is up to a certain level of excellence, then the content they'll read there will be too.

While this may, or may not be true, it is what the reader will assume from seeing a well designed header. This reassurance will benefit you, in that the visitors to your site will not only stay to read your content during that initial visit, but will also return for future visits, and hopefully recommend you to others, and possibly link to you as well.

The header performs two basic functions on your website. It gives the viewer a quick overview of what your website is about, and it also provides an idea of the quality of your site.

Website headersWebsite HeadersEach of these functions are greatly important, but the second may be even more important than the first. There are millions of websites out there, and possibly hundreds or thousands compete with yours. If the style, or make-up of your header gives your website the look that it lacks quality or professionalism, your traffic will go to your competitors instead.

You may not realize exactly what is getting more traffic to your site, and increasing the length of the stays of visitors to your site.

Keeping visitors coming back, and staying on your site longer, is something which you can ascribe to many factors: content, better search engine rankings, new features and the like. However, in many cases it is your header which is doing all of this work: out in the open, yet behind the scenes.

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

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The ‘Website’ CHECKLIST : Domains, Hosting, Web Design

webite checklistWebsite ChecklistThis article is meant for all who already have a website, or who propose to buy one. Website – the term is comprised of three things : Domain, Hosting (Web space) & Web Design

There are numerous companies offering these services. I am here to discuss a few points with regards to top, and essential things you need to thoroughly check when you get a WEBSITE through one of these companies.

 

Now to the article,

Every day, I get a few phone calls of this sort :

  • Sir, My domain expires in next few days, but the company which registered it is out of business, Please RENEW it”
  • Sir, I want to transfer the domain to your server, but I don’t have the domain control panel”
  • Dear Support Team, The domain is registered thru ‘X’ and his name is listed as REGISTRANT and Admin Contact, help me”
  • I have a website since 1998, but I am not getting any enquiries through it. So what’s the point in having it renewed ? “
  • My website is down most of the time, can you do anything about it? “

If you look at the above, you could observe the common problem. Thus, a checklist is required for any WEBSITE. Lets see one by one :

domain name checklistDomain Name Registration ChecklistDomain NAME Registration : CHECKLIST

Once your domain is registered, check these things :

  • Is the DOMAIN NAME Registered with an ICANN Accredited Registrar ? (Visit : www.icann.org )
  • Does the REGISTRANT NAME and ADMINSTRATIVE CONTACT show your name/email ?
  • Did the Domain Registration Service Provider give you the Domain CONTROL PANEL with username / password to manage/modify name servers & contact details in real-time ?
  • Do you have the OPTION to get REMINDERS at the time of RENEWAL, well in advance ?

Web hosting checklistWeb Hosting ChecklistWeb Hosting (Web space) : CHECKLIST

  • Support, Support, Support – is the KEY issue when it comes to Hosting. Check the response time of the Service Provider before making an option.
  • How skilled are the technical persons ? Just put in a few queries and see how they respond ?
  • Get a quick look at the Service Provider Website and make sure its professional looking, with user friendly navigation and layout.
  • Check if they have listed TESTIMONIALS, a list of sites hosted with them, discount options for bulk purchase, payment modes. Also make sure there are NO Hidden charges. The key part to look at is : the BANDWIDTH offered for each hosting plan.
  • Multiple Domains in single hosting space. This is an added advantage and saves you money. You can ask for this option if not provided.
  • Make a deep study on the Hosting Plan you choose. Check all the essential features that are provided. To name a few, POP3 mails, SMTP support, FTP Account, Control Panel, Web mail, Spam Controller, Antivirus, Web Statistics.

website design checklistWeb Design ChecklistWebsite Design : CHECKLIST

  • Does the website designer provide you with free minor updates or for a nominal fee on a yearly contract basis ?
  • Is the website professional looking and appealing to the global audience ?
  • It has been 3 months since your launch and there are NO fruitful enquiries and you are UPSET. Wait…..go to : www.google.com and put your website name and click search. Does it show up anywhere in the results ?
  • Does the website designer provide you with monitoring service ?
  • Does the website take a lot of time to load? Make sure it loads faster, even on slow connections. Too much of Flashy animations, bigger size jpegs are NOT an option for your site. CONTENT is King. Make sure your website ‘delivers’.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free quotation, or more information

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7 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid when Promoting your Business

businessman rushingBusinesman RushingMany people rush into business thinking it will be easy to run, but very soon they realize that it is not as easy as it looks. A successful business is a finely tuned machine. In order to keep your business running smoothly, it is important to avoid making mistakes.

Here are the 7 most common mistakes to avoid:

keep your business running smoothlyKeep Your Business Running Smoothly

  1. Not having clear objectives:

 Many business people start a business without clear objectives. They fail to set realistic goals for their marketing, and consequently set themselves up for failure. It is important to make a list of goals and objectives, based on a quarterly time line. If you do not have company goals and objectives, you are like a car driving without a road map. Make sure all employees are briefed on company objectives. When your employees are not properly prepared, you will not be able to achieve company objectives.

2. Neglecting to analyze your potential customers

Neglecting to analyze your potential customers is a dangerous mistake. It can lead to many problems. When you do not analyze your customers wants and needs, you do not know what products and services to develop for them. This will lead to targeting the wrong market, and neglecting to understand your own niche market. It is important for any business to do your marketing analysis, so that you can target your market, and maximize your sales

3. Not testing:

By not testing your sales copy, and places you advertise with split testing your advertising, you will be losing sales. Split testing is simple to do, but many businesses fail to do this. This results in a lot of wasted time and effort. If you do not test your ad copy, and marketing promotions, you will not have a proper idea of the ads and promotions that are pulling, and what is not working. It is simple to do by placing 2 ads for the same product in a publication or website etc. You can then see which one is performing the best.

budgetBudget4. Not budgeting:

Budgeting is extremely important in business. Your business should never run out of money. This is especially true with your marketing and advertising ventures. It is important to have a monthly or quarterly budget for your marketing. Within that budget put aside money for each promotion you will be doing. Start small, test, and then build on successes. This will allow you to always stay solvent, and have enough for promotions.

5. Giving up too soon:

Companies go out of business at an alarming rate these days. One of the reasons is that the owners give up too soon. Just when success might be just around the corner they give up and decide to close the business down. In exactly the same fashion, marketing promotions can fail. You need to give your promotions at least 3 months before you decide to scrap them. Some promotions will take longer than others to bring results. As always, test all marketing tactics before you launch a larger promotion. Patience is one of the hallmarks of business, and you need to implement it.

6. Poor sales copy:

How often have you wanted a product, but when you read the sales page, you had serious doubts? Poor, unprofessional ad copy will cost you sales. In fact, without good sales copy, you will not be able to sell effectively at all. It is critical to your business to get this right. If necessary get an experienced copywriter to do this. It is worth the investment, as you will see returns when you make sales.

Pre Employment checksPre-Employment Checks7. Not screening your employees carefully:

To handle the extra load for the Christmas season, you will need to hire new employees. It is very important not to rush into this. There is no dearth of people needing employment, but you need to screen them carefully, before hiring. One rude customer service agent can cost you customers. Do not take this type of risk. You want to preserve the integrity of your company at all times, and screening employees is the way to achieve this. You will then be able to build a core of loyal professional employees, that will be an asset to the company.

The golden rule is to diversify. You should always use multiple forms of marketing promotions in your business. Do not just do one or two promotions, and then wait for results. This will slow company growth, and your business will stagnate. The last thing you need is to slow down your marketing in the Christmas season. So remember to diversify, and enjoy the increase in sales.

By avoiding these mistakes, you will take your company to the success you deserve. You will be able to have year round success for your business, and really be able to cash in on the Christmas season. So plan ahead and be careful not to make these common mistakes.

For a free quotation, or more information....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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