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Traffic Demographics

Website TrafficWebsite TrafficHow much do you know about the visitors to your web site? Are they directly interested in what you have to offer them? Is what you are speaking about on your site general information that is available anywhere on the internet, or something that they can only get from you? If you are simply rehashing what everybody else is saying, then you are losing out on a lot of traffic, and a lot of income.

Exactly how much you need to know remains something of a mystery. However, it is relatively safe to say that if you offer only generalities on your web page, you may generate a lot of traffic but you will probably not get a lot of return visitors. While people who come to your site initially, may provide some base ad revenue, unless they can interact on your site, they are probably not going to be very receptive to actual sales pitches from you.

HealthCareHealth CareFor example, if you are involved in the health care niche, and you only put out a couple of hundred articles about how important health care is, without giving your visitors and readers any real or useful information, it is not likely that they will be returning to get any real information from your site. When you offer them something of substance, no matter whether it is a digital product, or something more tangible, they will remember your mediocrity, and not be compelled to purchase your offerings.

On the other hand, if you have fifty well-written articles, discussing the different types of health care, and different concerns, benefits, and hazards of specific health care needs, your visitors will be more likely to return. When you have something specific to offer those readers, they are bound to be more responsive to your offers.

You can have ten thousand people on your list regarding your particular niche, but are you taking all of the possible variations into consideration, in order to offer something that is directly relevant to your list? That is not to say that you have to get into too much detail, but that you do need to offer them something that is directly related to a specific need. If there is no specific need to fill, none of your visitors will feel a need to purchase it.

While you do not want to narrow your niche down so far that you no longer have any real audience at all, you do want to include specifics about as many of those subgroups in your niche as is possible. Concentrate on building them up one at a time and you will actually fare much better than you would by bombarding them with everything all at once.

health care nichesHealth Care NichesIf you return to our health care niche example, you could very well start off with a general site, stating the relevance of health care, and how important it is for everyone. That main heading can then be broken down into sub-categories, in order to meet and fulfill the needs and requirements of all of the people that visit your site.

The health care needs of a professional athlete are going to be different than the needs of an elderly and infirm person. However, by including sections in your site to cover the needs of both of those groups, you have expanded your audience by providing more specifics separated into different areas. You have also accomplished this without alienating either group. This is something that is very relevant when you want to generate return traffic or confidence in the products you have for sale on your site.

Whatever particular niche yours happens to be, try expanding it as far as possible while continuing to provide enough information for the casual reader to learn what category they belong in. Offering something for both the general audience as well as more specific information for each of the groups within that arena will only expand your audience, your credibility and your income.

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Web design: Keep it clean

less is moreLess is MoreWhen designing your website, remember one thing: Less is more. Some people make the mistake of filling up every pixel on their web page with a different image or graphic or piece of text. Not only does this usually look bad, but it greatly diminishes the chance that the visitor will be able to find a focal point. People don’t like being confused when they visit a web site. They like simple.

column structureColumn StructureInformation overload

Try to not use more than three columns in your layout. Some websites can get away with one column, others need two or three. A good web designer will be able to develop a strategy for successfully laying out their website content in only a few columns.

Colors that complement

Try to avoid using more than 5 colors on your website. Develop a color scheme and stick to it. A great site that has heaps of working color schemes is at http://www.colorschemer.com. They also have a program called ColorSchemer that makes choosing colors a cinch. No, we don’t work for these guys - we just love their website and software! One of their recent blog posts was about our company’s obvious favorite color - blue!

Content is king

Make sure that the content on your pages is informative and to the point. Many web surfers have short attention spans and will lose interest if your web page content isn’t concise and clear. On the other hand, if you have a lot of informative, valuable information, post as much of it as you can. The web needs a lot of good content to make up for all of the bad website content out there.

too many imagesToo Many ImagesUse images wisely

The same can be said for website images - don’t abuse them. Not only do too many images look tacky and unprofessional, but they can significantly slow down the loading of your website. As mentioned a moment ago, web surfers have short attention spans. If your website takes longer than 5-10 seconds to load, you risk losing visitors. Make sure that your images have been optimized in Adobe Photoshop or other image editing software. Optimized images will load much more quickly than images that are saved without any optimization.

Web pages that suck

Web design talent is not something everyone has been gifted with. Someone went so far as to prove this fact by creating a website called Web Pages That Suck.com. On this site you will find many examples of, forgive us for saying, terrible websites. Those who created these sites obviously did not read their Web Design 101 book. We actually found this site helpful, when many of us at Chromatic Sites first began our website design careers. You can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes. Try your best not to end up on that website.

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Web Design - Simple Mistakes and Golden Rules

Good Web DesignGood Web DesignGood web design is something that can be achieved relatively easily by sticking to a small set of guiding principles and avoiding some very common mistakes.

Truly excellent web design skills are born out of years of experience, dedication, and plenty of hard-learned mistakes. Fortunately, being truly excellent at web design is not a pre-requisite for building a fantastic website, and the lessons learned from those mistakes can be passed on without the hardship.

This article contains some of the principles which I have learned the hard way, and the easy way. Each principle is fairly obvious, but so many designers ignore them for one reason or another, and the consequence is a hard-to-use, poor looking site that is difficult to manage, and fails to make the top 1000 in Google. If your website adheres to the principles below, it will almost certainly be much healthier, and you, and your visitors will reap the benefits.

1. Keep Everything Obvious - Don't Make Me Think

The book entitled Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug, is one of the best selling books on the subject of web design and usability. Personally, I think thinking is a good thing, but at the same time, I don't want to be struggling to figure out how to submit a web form!

Visitors to a website expect certain conventions, breaking these is a great way of losing visitors. People expect to find the navigation at the top of a page, or on the left hand side. Logos are mostly found on the top left. Much research has been conducted into how people view and use web pages. The good news is that you do not need to know all of this; instead, look at how larger companies, such as eBay, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft structure their pages, and the language they use, then emulate them.

website colourswebsite colours2. Limit Colours

A website using too many colours at a time can be overwhelming to many users, and can make a website look cheap and tacky. Any users with colour blindness, or contrast perception difficulties, may even be unable to use the site.

Limiting a palette to 2 or 3 colours, will nearly always lead to a slicker looking design, and has the added bonus of simplifying your design choices, reducing design time.

Software like Color Wheel Pro, can greatly simplify the creation of a pallet, by showing which colours sit well together. If you really do not have the eye for design, then software like this provides the perfect way of escaping monotone, or badly combined colour schemes.

If your site uses blue and yellow together, or red and green, then it may present problems to anyone suffering with colour blindness. Vischeck.com provide free software that can simulate different types of colour blindness.

Web fontsWeb Fonts3. Be Careful With Fonts

The set of fonts available to all visitors of a website is relatively limited. Add to that the possibility of a user having a visual impairment, then the options become even smaller. It is advisable to stick to fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Courier, Times, Geneva and Georgia. They may not be very interesting but your content should be more interesting than your font, and if it can't be read, what is the point of having a site?

Black text on a white background, is far easier for the majority of people to read, than white text on a black background. If you have large amounts of text, then a white or pale background is far more user friendly. Always ensure that there is a good contrast between any text and its background. Blue text on a blue background is okay, as long as the difference in shade is significant.

Verdana is often cited as being the easiest to read on the screen. Georgia is probably the best option for a serif font.

web design developmentWeb Design and Development4. Plan for Change

If you fix the height of your page to 600 pixels, will you still be able to add additional menu items, without completely redesigning your page?

The ability to add or remove content from a website is fundamental to the ongoing success of it. Having to rewrite the entire web page, or website, each time you want to make a small change, is a sure fire way to kill your interest in your own site, and will negatively impact your overall design and usability.

Getting a good idea of how your website is likely to grow, will clarify how best to structure your layout. For example, a horizontal navigation is often more restrictive than a side navigation, unless you use drop down menus; if your navigation is likely to grow, and you hate drop down menus, then your design choice has been 99% made for you!

Understanding how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), avoiding unconventional layouts, and complicated backgrounds, will all help enormously.

5. Be Consistent

Again, don't make your visitors think! About how to use your site, at least. If your navigation is at the top on your homepage, it should be at the top on all other pages too. If your links are coloured red, ensure the the same convention is used on all sections.

By using CSS correctly, you can make most of this happen automatically, leaving you free to concentrate on the content.

holiday picturesNon Relevant Holiday Pictures6. Keep it Relevant

A picture is better than a thousand words, but if the picture you took on holiday is not relevant to your Used Car Sales website, then you should really replace it with something which reflects the content or mood of the page; a photo of a car perhaps!

If you can take something off of your web page without it adversely affecting the message, appearance or legality of your website, you should do it without hesitation.

Avoid the need to add images, Flash animations or adverts, just because you have space. This wastes bandwidth, and obscures the intentions of your website. If you absolutely must fill the space, then exercise your imagination to find something as relevant as possible.

Keeping your content focused will ultimately help your search-engine rankings

cascading style sheetsCSS-Cascading Style Sheets7. Become a CSS Expert

Cascading Style Sheets should be any web designer's best friend. CSS makes it possible to separate the appearance, and layout of your page, from the content. This has huge benefits when it comes to updating and maintaining your site, making your site accessible, and making your site easy for search engines to read.

CSS at a first glance is very straightforward but it is definitely worth investing in one, or more books. Two great books are: CSS the Missing Manual by David McFarland and Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm.

8. Avoid Complexity

Using standard layouts for your web page will save you development time, and make your site easier to use. Pushing the boundaries nearly always leads to quirky behaviour, cross-browser problems, confused site visitors, and maintenance headaches. Unless you really do like a challenge, then avoid complexity wherever possible.

Many standard layouts are freely available online with much of the boring, repetitive work already done for you.

The principles above all border on common sense, and are well known to most people, yet so many sites continue to deviate away from them, and suffer as a consequence. Following these principles will help you keep away from trouble, although it still doesn't guarantee it!

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Your Company's Web Site – Quality Approach

team plannning a websiteTeam Planning a WebsiteThis is the second segment of a three-part series that addresses the guidelines on how to plan, present and develop your company’s website. In part one; we explored the importance of having a professional website that represents your company online. In part two; we will identify the quality approach of planning your company’s website.

Designing and developing a quality website. When you hire a team to create or redesign your company’s website, keep in mind that the basic concepts of quality also apply. They are:

Continuous Improvement

Leave space to grow, and make what is good now, even better. Your company will improve through the years, and so should your website, but this does not mean you need a new design every year! Leave room for improvement; build a quality website that can be easily updated to reflect the changes in your company.

Value of Quality

A well-designed and developed website does not cost; it pays! This is an investment that will bring you return in the form of satisfied clients. On the other hand, the cost of a poorly developed website can be a price that most companies pay for unknowingly – that is the price of non-quality. If your company’s website reflects the high standards of your company, it will bring you more clients; however, if your company’s website does not mirror the image you are trying to build, it will drive visitors and potential clients away.

How to Build an Engaged Audience for Your WebsiteBuild an Engaged Audience for Your WebsiteVisitor Satisfaction

Nothing is worse than getting lost within in a poor quality website, or being on a site and unable to find the information you need. Or when text is difficult to read because of site colour combinations. Have you ever been frustrated after clicking on a link and finding that the page no longer exists?

These and other website issues reflect on your company’s image. If a website is not well built, it sends the message that your company is not well structured; if your website has dead ends, it suggests that your company is not well managed.

Raise the bar – provide a well-structured and well managed, quality website, and exceed your client’s expectations.

Problem Solving

A quality website must anticipate the needs of the visitor. Since a company representative is unavailable to deal with any prospective problems that may occur while a visitor is browsing your site, plan ahead and crosscheck all possible scenarios. Let’s translate this into Quality terms:

1. Define the problem: Make a list of potential problems users may experience when browsing your website. This will maximize the solutions and keep a quality focus.

2. Generate alternative solutions: Once potential problems have been identified, make a list of possible solutions that deal with each problem. Implement this procedure to ensure that your visitors have an enjoyable visit to your site.

find a solutionFind a Solution3. Evaluate and select alternatives: Choose a solution that is right for your website, to ensure that your target audience will know what to expect, should a problem arise, and how to use the feature you provided. It is unhelpful if the solutions you provide are causing a visitor more problems. Example: Your Company manufactures hardware and a website visitor would like a copy of your catalogue; you provide an online form for visitors to complete in order to receive the catalogue in the mail. Sufficient? Not really. It may take a week for that catalogue to reach your prospective client. Consider providing visitors with a version of the catalogue online that can either be printed or downloaded as a PDF.

4. Implement and follow up on the solution: Simply adding solutions will not fix the problem; you must ensure that each solution works. For example, if you request an online form to be completed in order to download the above-mentioned PDF catalogue, how can you be certain people are actually submitting the form? Are they finding it easy to complete? Are they hitting the “Submit” button and downloading the catalogue in PDF format? This is where “follow up” becomes important. But how can a company follow up if website visitors never submitted the form that would have allowed for an easy follow up in the first place? You (or your webmaster or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant) should monitor the stats of your website and compare how many visitors your form page had, against the visitors your PDF catalogue page had. If you have 70% less visitors on your PDF catalogue page than on your form page, this would suggest a problem that has not been thoroughly solved.

planning a website designPlanning a Website DesignPlanning for the Future

Plan your website to grow with your company. When a facility is built to house a company for 10 years, plans include a good-sized parking lot, ideal kitchen facilities, more than one washroom, several plugs for countless electronic devices, etc. The same rings true for your website– it should be built to evolve. As products and services develop, or contact information changes, your website changes too. Build to grow!

Quality Website -- Quality Assurance and Quality Control

A website design company should ensure that a website will be built to the complete satisfaction of the client (you), and be customized to that client’s needs. Make sure your website is functional and user friendly, and that usability testing takes place. Usability testing is a form of website quality control, and it ensures that your site is visible by different types of browsers and that visitors will not get lost.

properly designed for all appsProperly Designed for All AppsSupplier Quality

Finally, a website design company must provide good service and a custom product that matches all your needs. This does not have to cost a fortune, nor does the company requesting a new or redesigned website need to be a large one. Ask questions before committing to a design team; make sure they understand your needs. Check their portfolio and references. Nothing speaks louder than current clients who are satisfied with the results of their new website.

Summary: Planning a quality website and seeking the company that will undertake its creation, is a major step in promoting your company, and the products and services you offer. The same care you take in planning the growth of your company, and the quality provided by the products and/or services you offer should be transmitted in a professional, well-planned website. List your priorities. Search for a good design company. Discuss your company needs, products and services. Plan for the future.

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How to Avoid the 12 Common Web Design Mistakes

Website Redesign ChecklistWebsite Redesign Checklist

Are people visiting your web site, but not buying? This may be a sign, and the time to do some redesign of your web site. Often you are so close to what you have created, that you can’t see obvious design mistakes. I have done the same when writing an article – everything looks fine when I have finished, yet when I review it the next day, I am amazed at how many mistakes I have made.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common Web Design mistakes:

1. Sloppy Web Site Copy – your heading and first paragraph should clearly indicate the purpose of your web site. “Content is King” on the Net, so make sure there is plenty of focused information for your visitors. The content should draw the visitor through the site, to take action in the end. Include contact information on every page in case people have questions..

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