Top 7 Web Design Tips to Help Your Website Load Faster

web design tips

When it comes to business marketing, it is important to ensure these days to have a prominent online presence. And for that, having a website is a must. It can be a great marketing tool for your business. But what’s the use of owning a business website if it has no visitors? For your business to perform properly, you need to ensure that people are attracted to your website on a regular basis. There might be several ways to ensure this. And one of the most important among them is surely how you have designed your website.

The primary aim of a well-planned web design strategy is to create a unique user experience. It must be an experience that’s unparalleled and that will make the visitors return to your website time and again. And for that, it’s essential to have a website that loads fast. But how can you alter your Web design to get the best results in terms of speed of your website?

Here’s a quick look.

Make the Website Lighter

That’s the first thing you need to do. One of the major reasons behind long loading time is a heavy Web page. You have to get rid of all that’s trash. Remember, the smaller a Web page is, the faster it will load. If there are images and videos that are absolutely not relevant to your content, delete them immediately.

Getting rid of something that’s not needed is surely the hardest thing. So, take your time. Find out which components are actually adding value to your website. But ensure that you remove from your Web page everything that’s not necessary or does not add any value to you or to the visitors.

Compress the Web Page

A full size Web page is sure to take a lot of time to load. A compressed website, on the other hand, is faster. Which compression algorithm do you want to use? You can have multiple options, such as:

  • Deflate
  • Gzip

Compressing the Web page ensures that the server does not need to send a lot of data to the page while it’s loading. So, it is going to take shorter time to load.

Split Large Pages into Shorter, Multiple Ones

Why have websites become slower these days? One of the primary reasons is the increase in the size of the Web pages. Are most of the pages of your website too long? Then they are sure to take a bit of time to load. There’s no way you can help it, except one. Just split the long Web pages into multiple pages that are shorter in length.

Doing this will help you get rid of that long scroll bar on the side of the page. Moreover, the attention span of most people these days is pretty short. Having multiple pages with less information on each will help significantly to cater to these people perfectly.

Use Single Code Source for All Web Pages

Have the same script on a number of pages of your website? Just wait before you create separate scripts for each page. Once you use separate scripts, the website will have to read them every time the pages are loaded. That will take a lot of time. Instead, use an external code, that is, you should use a single code source for all the pages. It will ensure that the code remains in the cache. Thus, the time taken for loading the scripts won’t be necessary anymore. This will help the page to load faster. And more so for pages with larger codes.

Keep the Coding Clean for Google

When it comes to coding, you will have to keep it clean. It is essential to write the JavaScript properly. Moreover, you will need to avoid using a lot of external resources. Ensure that the images are not too large. You should pay proper attention to the different attributes of Web design for your page. This is because, Google likes cleaner coding.

By following these steps, you will be able to help your website in terms of SEO. It will rank high with Google’s search engine results for relevant keywords and thus, generate more traffic. It is also important to make the codes smarter to ensure they can be easily read by the search engines. The HTML should also be simple enough. It is also essential to remove the duplicate scripts to make the Web page load faster.

Reduce the Extra White Space

White space is one of the most important components of Web design these days. It can give your website a unique look. It can also form different shapes on it. But are you using too much white space? This can also have a negative impact in terms of the page load time. Remember, the white space also adds up to at least a few bytes in terms of size. Hence, reducing this space means you can cut down on that size. So, it will be less for the server to load. The result: the pages of your website will load faster.

Optimize the Images

When you are creating a website, it is essential to include images there. It helps to enhance user experience. But make sure you use the right format for the image. There might be multiple options, such as:

  • Scaleable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
  • Portable Network Graphics (.PNG)
  • Graphic Interchange Format (.GIF)
  • Weppy (.WEBP)
  • Joint Photographic Experts Group (.JPEG or .JPG)

No matter which format you use, you will need to optimize the image for the web and compress it to ensure that it loads properly and fast.

A web page that takes a long time to load usually results in reduced user interest. It is essential for the Web page to load fast, so that the visitors remain interested in the topic.

Speed Photo via Shutterstock

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Top 7 Mistakes With Mobile Friendly Web Design

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Unless you’ve been staying away from the Internet these last few weeks, you know that on April 21 Google is going to be rolling out a mobile optimization algorithm (and if you need more information, we’ve covered the announcement here). According to Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji from the Webmaster Trends team, this is going to be one of the biggest updates we’ve seen from Google to date in terms of how many people will be affected — bigger than Panda and Penguin — although no specific number was given.

While April 21 is the day that’s since been labeled the “Mobile-Pocalypse,” it’s important that small businesses start putting mobile best practices into action immediately. The efforts you’re making now will matter come April 21, and if you wait until just a few days before, it could be too late. Fortunately, Google is making this update very easy for us by telling us exactly what mistakes most businesses are making when it comes to mobile.

The 7 Most Common Mistakes Webmasters Make When Optimizing for Mobile

As discussed above, Google actually created a guide that outlines all of the most common mistakes that they find Webmasters make when they try and get their websites mobile-friendly. And so, without further ado, below are the top seven mistakes straight from the horse’s mouth along with links that take you to a full report for each specific point:

Blocked JavaScript, CSS, and Image Files

If the Googlebots are unable to access JavaScript, CSS, and image files, indexing is going to be harder because the Googlebot is not able to see your site like the average users. This usually occurs if your site’s robots.txt file disallows crawling, which again, poses a problem for indexing and will bring down your rankings:

How to fix it: Use the Fetch as Google feature in Google Webmaster Tools so that you can see how a Googlebot is seeing your content. You should also check your robots.txt in Google Webmaster Tools and test your mobile pages with the Mobile-Friendly Test. All three of these options will help you identify any indexing problems.

Unplayable Content

The last thing Google wants to see is a video that is unavailable to users because that is an annoying experience. Many content types, such as Flash, do not work on all mobile devices and therefore cause unplayable content.

How to fix it: Use HTML5 standard tags for animation and use video embedding that is playable on all devices. Google Web Designer can help make it easy to create animations in HTML 5 so that your content is more widely accessible.

Faulty Redirects

This happens most often if you have separate mobile URLs because it forces you to redirect mobile users on each desktop URL to the right mobile URL. Unfortunately, many companies do this wrong and sendevery mobile user to the desktop homepage, for example, which is incorrect because that isn’t what the mobile user asked for when he/she clicked.

How to fix it: The solution here is easy: Use a responsive web design. This will automatically serve the same content for both desktop and smartphone users. You can also check the Smartphone Crawl Errors of your Webmaster Tools and you can simply see if any faulty redirects were detected.

Mobile-Only 404s

Sometimes companies have their websites setup so that users can see a page on a desktop, but when they try to visit that same page on a mobile device there is a 404 error. The key here is to make sure that you have an identical page that can be served on mobile (see number 3 above) and then redirect users to that URL instead of serving a 404 error.

How to fix it: Check the Crawl Errors report in Webmaster Tools and look at the smartphone tab to see if any URLs are 404 errors. Once again, a responsive Web design should also fix this problem.

App Download Interstitials

If your business has a native app, it’s important that you make sure you don’t have any indexing issueswhen promoting that app. In other words, make sure that users can still see the page’s content and not just a large app advertisement. Visit the link above to see a great screenshot.

How to fix it: Use a simple banner to promote your app inline with the page’s content. Google recommends Smart App Banners for Safari to help.

Irrelevant Cross-Links

It makes sense that if you have mobile URLs and separate desktop URLs to try and link to each on the opposite platform. Unfortunately, many companies are linking to URLs that are irrelevant, such as the homepage you would see on a desktop when someone is reading about a product on mobile.

How to fix it: Always check your links to make sure they’re pointing to the most relevant (or identical) pages!

Slow Mobile Pages

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If your pages are loading too slowly this is especially problematic for mobile search because people are usually on the go.

How to fix it: Use Google PageSpeed Insights to see not only what might be causing your pages to load slowly but how to fix the issues.

The Takeaway

In the end, anything you hear from Google should be your first move. If you were unsure how to even begin preparing a mobile presence, start with the tips above and go down the list. Once you’ve fixed some of these common mistakes, you should be able to see clearly other things you can do to enhance your efforts. Do you have any thoughts on some of these tips from Google? Are you ready for the mobile update in April? Let us know in the comments below.


Google Mobile Photo via Shutterstock

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How Social Media is Impacting Web Design

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Social media has been everywhere these days. And it is affecting almost every walk of life.

It is often noticed that social media has its impact on the offline world as well. So, it is quite obvious that the world of the Internet would be impacted the most by social media platforms.

For businesses to be successful these days, creating a social media strategy is a must. And for almost everything they do, they need to follow a process that integrates social media in it. Web design is no different when it comes to this. It has experienced a sea of change since the advent of social media on the Internet.

Social Media Impacting Web Design

Social media has been able to exert its impact on Web design to a great extent.

Almost all the companies these days have their presence on social media. And what can be a better platform to let people know about this than the home page of the business website? This is why almost all the websites have the icons of different social media websites. And a click on any of those would lead the website visitor to the company’s social media page. This is becoming imperative for any website these days.

Attractive Design for Social Media Pages and Profiles

The advent of social media has made the Internet more of a live and interactive marketplace than ever before. It’s no more the same drab thing. In addition to creating an attractive website, it is also extremely important to have a prominent social presence. And for that, you need to design how you want to present yourself in front of your potential customers through the social media platforms.

For example, if you want your business to be present on Facebook through a page, it is important to designthe Facebook fan page of your business properly. The same holds true for Twitter and other platforms as well. The profiles that you have on these social media websites need to be designed in such a way that they can grab the attention of the viewers with immediate effect.

Perfect Design Necessary for Ads on Social Media

With social media becoming more and more popular with every passing day, increasing numbers of people are joining these websites. For example, Facebook alone has its number of active users in 2015 at a whopping 1.41 billion. This is driving the companies to use these platforms to reach out to their target audiences. So, they are preparing ads for the social media websites. And the focus is more on design.

The ads are being specially designed for different platforms. The objective is to increase their effectiveness and garner more clicks. The designs of the ads will also play an important role in ensuring that the company is able to gather leads, which should be converted to earn revenues. Moreover, the designers are also required to create different other stuff, such as banner ads, memes, and so on.

Interactive Designs

Social media has helped to create a penchant among people for content that is more interactive and interesting. This is where Web design is expected to play an increasingly important role. Web designers need to shape the websites as well as the social media pages of the companies in such a way that they attract more interaction from the potential as well as the existing customers. This will help them understand what their customers are looking for and where they are going wrong.

Using Images for Social Media Communication

Social media has been able to change the way businesses are run. They are the perfect field to interact with the customers, know what they want from you, and help you decide how you should plan your offerings.

The designs should be planned in such a way that they drive the interaction of hundreds of customers on a regular basis. A picture speaks a thousand words and hence, they are among the best components for communication. So, most of the social media platforms need images. This is where a Web designer becomes relevant. Attractive images need to be created. Moreover, the images should also be resized to meet the requirement of different social media platforms.

Increasing Importance of Web Design on Social Media

Is the importance of Web designing going to diminish with the passage of time?

This is a question that’s haunting the online world after the advent of social media. But that is not expected at all. In fact, the importance of Web designing is likely to increase further soon. This is because the companies will need attractive Web design to keep the audience captivated on their social profiles.

Social Media Photo via Shutterstock

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Web Design Tips for Beginners to Drive Traffic to Your Website

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These days, your business needs an online presence. It is an important component in the process of marketing your business to an online audience. The primary objective when building a website is to market your products and services. And for that, it is essential to ensure a maximum number of people visit your website.

The design of a website plays an important role in building a committed audience. You can go for an SEO-friendly Web design to make your website rank high in search engine results. Or, you can just follow a few tips on Web design to increase visits to your website to generate maximum leads and revenue. So how do you get the maximum amount of visitors to your website? Here’s a quick look at some Web design tips for beginners.

Manage the Content Prudently

Even to this day, when it comes to the world of websites, content remains king. But even if you have excellent content, it will be of no use if you can’t use it properly. This is where Web design becomes relevant. It helps to manage content in the most effective manner.

Focus on proper Web design that manages content in an effective way to attract the maximum number of people.

Use a Responsive Design

How important is a responsive design these days?

Well, I was surfing the Internet from my desktop computer and I found a website I liked. I was in a time crunch, but I really wanted to go back to the site and make a purchase. So a few days later, I thought of checking out the website on my phone. To my dismay, I found that the graphics and text of the site were in total disarray.

This is why almost every website these days needs to be responsive. Websites need to appear perfectly on all kinds of devices. Many people these days use Internet-friendly mobile devices. These devices help them to remain connected even while on the go. In fact, mobile traffic has tripled in the last three years. So obviously, it’s important for this audience to be able to see your website properly.

Plan Proper Navigation

Let’s imagine that Steven loves shopping online, and he has some favorite websites he likes to shop from. But one day, he finds that the design of one of these sites has changed. He tries searching for his favorite products, but he cannot find his way through the website easily to locate them. So Steven stops visiting on a regular basis.

This clearly demonstrates the role well-planned navigation plays in increasing and retaining traffic. And it should make one thing abundantly clear – from one page of a website, you should be able to move to other relevant pages of the site with ease. Only then can you expect people to stay on your site for a longer period.

Make Landing Pages Attractive

Just ask yourself, would you buy anything from a shop where the products are kept in a disheveled manner – or, would you go for one that has a well maintained look? Surely, the latter.

The same holds true for a website. You need to design the landing pages of your site properly. The homepage should be dynamic enough to engage visitors in no time at all.

Integrate a Blog on Your Website

Well-written content on a blog offers information and insights to the reader. If the blog content is unique and high quality, you will notice that visitors return to it. You might also have subscribers who follow updates on your blog. How this helps you is:

  • You can add social media buttons to blog posts to ensure that they are shared on different platforms, increasing your reach.
  • Blogs increase website content and this content is essential to generate better organic search results.
  • You can create backlinks to your website pages from the blog posts.

It’s a win-win situation.

Replace Image Files with Text

Do you use images in place of simple text to transfer information? These images may make the appearance of your website better, but they’re probably not  helping much with organic reach. Your website may perform better by replacing those images with text that’s crawled by the engines.

Conclusion

Your website can use design in many ways. It’s up to you to decide the type of design that you want for your website and that will work best for you. Make those decisions wisely to ensure that your website design helps to draw plenty of traffic to your website.

Web Design Photo via Shutterstock

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What is Responsive Web Design?

responsive web design

Have you asked yourself, “What is responsive Web design?” Responsive Web design is an approach whereby a designer creates a Web page that “responds to” or resizes itself depending on the type of device it is being seen through.  That could be an oversized desktop computer monitor, a laptop, a 10-inch tablet, a 7-inch tablet, or a 4-inch smartphone screen.

Responsive Web design has become one of the hottest trends in 2013.  This is due in part to the  growth of smartphones and other mobile devices. More people are using smaller-screen devices to view Web pages.

In fact, Mashable even dubbed 2013 the Year of Responsive Web Design. Pete Cashmore wrote,  “For those of us who create websites and services, all this leads to a singular conclusion: A million screens have bloomed, and we need to build for all of them.”

What Does Responsive Web Design Look Like?

The purpose of responsive design is to have one site, but with different elements that respond differently when viewed on devices of different sizes.

Let’s take a traditional “fixed” website.  When viewed on a desktop computer, for instance, the website might show  three columns. But when you view that same layout on a smaller tablet, it might force you to scroll horizontally, something users don’t like. Or elements might be hidden from view or look distorted.  The impact is also complicated by the fact that many tablets can be viewed either in portrait orientation, or turned sideways for landscape view.

On a tiny smartphone screen, websites can be even more challenging to see. Large images may “break” the layout. Sites can be slow to load on smartphones if they are graphics heavy.

However, if a site uses responsive design, the tablet version might automatically adjust to display just two columns. That way, the content is readable and easy to navigate. On a smartphone, the content might appear as a single column, perhaps stacked vertically.  Or possibly the  user would have the ability to swipe over to view other columns.  Images will resize instead of distorting the layout or getting cut off.

The point is: with responsive design, the website automatically adjusts based on the device the viewer sees it in.

How Does Responsive Web Design Work?

Responsive sites use fluid grids. All page elements are sized by proportion, rather than pixels. So if you have three columns, you wouldn’t say exactly how wide each should be, but rather how wide they should be in relation to the other columns. Column 1 should take up half the page, column 2 should take up 30%, and column 3 should take up 20%, for instance.

Media such as images is also resized relatively. That way an image can stay within its column or relative design element.

Related Issues

Mouse v. touch: Designing for mobile devices also brings up the issue of mouse versus touch.  On desktop computers the user normally has a mouse to navigate and select items.  On a smartphone or tablet, the user mostly is using fingers and touching the screen.  What may seem easy to select with a mouse, may be hard to select with a finger on a tiny spot on a screen. The Web designer must take “touch” into consideration.

Graphics and download speed: Also, there’s the issue of graphics, ads and download speed. On mobile devices, it may be wise to display fewer graphics than for desktop views so that a site doesn’t take forever to load on a smartphone.  Larger ad sizes may need to be exchanged for smaller ads.

Apps and “mobile versions”:  In the past, you might have thought about creating an app for your website — say an iPad app or an Android app.  Or you would have a mobile version specifically for BlackBerry.

But with so many  different devices today, it’s getting harder to create apps and versions for every device and operating platform. As Smashing Magazine wrote, “When will the madness stop? It won’t, of course.”  A responsive design that is flexible enough to be viewed on multiple devices just makes sense.

Why Small Businesses Need to Switch to Responsive Web Design

More people are using mobile devices. A recent Pew study found that 45% of American adults own a smartphone, and 31% own a tablet computer. As we reported yesterday, smartphone shipments outpace those of regular mobile phones, and tablet growth is surging.

Check your traffic and you might just be shocked at how many visitors are getting to your website  through mobile devices.  (In your Google Analytics, select “Audience” on the left side, then “Mobile” to see what proportion of traffic is from mobile devices. You can even drill down to see which devices are sending the traffic.)

Responsive design templates are everywhere now, for purchase.  If, for instance, you have a WordPress site you can visit a reputable template gallery such as ThemeForest and search for “responsive WordPress themes.”  Purchase one for under $50. Your Web developer can then customize it for your logo and brand.

Editor’s Note:  Here at Small Business Trends, we are working on a new responsive design. Shouldn’t you?

Responsive Design Photo via Shutterstock

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30+ Places to Promote Your Blog On The Web

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Even if you’re the best blogger in the world, you’ll lack readers if folks can’t find your posts online. How do you lead readers to your posts? By promoting your blog in as many ways as possible.

If you want your blog posts to get the attention they deserve, you’ll need to know the best places to promote your blog on the Web. Then you need to do the legwork necessary to have your blog listed in those places.

Below are a bunch of places to start.

Places to Promote Your Blog on the Web

Email Signature

Including a link to your blog in your email signature will promote your blog every time you message a customer, vendor, new contact, colleague or even friends from high school.

Using tools such as WiseStamp, you can also include a link to your latest blog post automatically.

Social Media Profiles

Have a Twitter account? What about Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ or Instagram? As you can see in the example Twitter image below, there’s space to include a link to your blog in each:

Social Media Profile to promote your blog

Per-Post Social Media Sharing Buttons

Make sure that each and every one of your blog posts prominently feature social sharing buttons like the set on the left in the image below:

Social Sharing Buttons

These buttons enable your readers to promote your posts for you and that’s a very good thing. If you have a WordPress site, click here for a list of social sharing plugins.

In-Post Social Media Sharing Links

Encourage readers to share your posts by providing sound bites they can share with the click of a button. Click here to tweet this …

(FYI — we used ClickToTweet to create this free link)

Social Media Updates

Whenever you publish a new post, let your social media fans, followers and connections know about it by posting an update with a title that attracts attention and a link to the post.

Use @Mentions to Increase Social Media Reach

If you refer to a source in your blog post (e.g. a site or person), make sure to @mention them in the social media updates promoting that post. This lets them know that you’ve promoted them and, in turn, they may share your update with their own fans, followers and connections.

Social Media Groups and Communities

Posting an update to social media groups (on Facebook and LinkedIn) and communities (on Google+) will promote your blog to targeted readers. One warning however: make sure the blog posts you promote are truly useful or you will be seen as “spammy”, something that will drive readers away rather than attract them to your blog.

Share Blog Posts Multiple Times on Social Media

Your targeted prospects are neither on social media all the time nor at the same time. To increase the odds that your blog updates are seen, you should promote them many times. Again, to avoid being “spammy”, don’t pelt your followers, fans and connections with updates — send them over time.

Post Social Media Updates When They’re Most Effective

Tools, such as the free Google Analytics, can tell you the best days and times to post on social media based on the number of clicks your previous updates received.

Paid Promotion on Social Media

Social media advertising is on the rise, and it’s a handy way to extend the reach of your promotional updates. Click here for some social media advertising tips.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a practice that will help your blog posts obtain higher ranks in search engine results so readers are more likely to discover them. Click here to learn some SEO basics.

Paid Promotion on Search Engines

Search engines offer “Pay-Per-Click” (PPC) advertising that can be aimed at your targeted readers. This is an especially useful tool if your target market is specific.

Other Paid Promotion Platforms

There are a number of paid promotion platforms that can get your blog in front of millions of potential readers. Here’s how that looks on one of these solutions, Outbrain:

Outbrain

Other solutions include: SimpleReach, Taboola, ZergNet, and Adblade.

Guest Contributing on Other Sites

Get the word out about your blog by guest contributing on other authoritative blogs in your industry. Not only will you get in front of their readers, but you’ll be able to point people back to your blog, as well.

Leverage Sites with Heavy Traffic

Similar to guest contributing, this approach enables you to post content on heavily-trafficked sites, such as LinkedIn (tips) or Medium, to leverage the readership they’ve already built. Be sure to include a call-to-action link back to your own blog so they can read more of your posts.

Set Up and Promote an RSS Feed on Your Website

Readers who subscribe to your RSS feeds will be automatically notified when you publish a new blog post. Make sure to promote your RSS feeds (with a button as shown below) so readers can subscribe.

use RSS Feeds to promote your blog

Use Desktop and Mobile Push Notifications

A growing number of solutions enable you to send desktop or mobile notifications when a new post is published. Here’s how that looks on one of the solutions, Roost (desktop on top, mobile on the bottom):

Roost Push Notifications

Other solutions include: and OneSignal and Pushbullet.

Leverage Your Email Marketing List

Bring list subscribers back to your site by sending an email when a new post goes live. Click here for some email marketing tips.

Add Your Posts to Curation Sites

When you add a post to a curation site such as Scoop.it or Storify, folks can add your post to their own list of “must-read content” for their followers to see.

Team Up with Other Bloggers on Triberr

Triberr is a reciprocal social media site for bloggers where you form a “tribe” that shares each other’s posts with your respective audience. This is a great way to leverage others to promote your content.

Links Roundup Submissions

Many sites create weekly link roundups that are perfect for promoting your posts. Click here to see a list of sites to start with.

Submit Your Site to Content Aggregators

Regardless of topic, get your blog listed in popular news aggregators to help people find it. Two examples are Alltop and DoSplash.

Social Bookmarking/News Sites

These sites allow you to submit your post after which its visibility depends on the number of people who vote your post up. Examples include: BizSugar, Digg, Blog Engage, StumbleUpon, and more.

Syndicate Your Content to Top Blogs

Many top blogs and networks will allow you to republish your content on their site with credit back to you. Most big blogs, including mega publications like Business Insider and Huffington Post, do it if they feel that your content is good enough.

Answer Questions on Quora

Quora is a site where you can establish your authority and attract attention by answering questions. Make sure your profile has a link to your blog and you’ll drive readers to your posts.

Make Comments on Other Blogs

Have a list of blogs that you read and respond to regularly? Include the link to your blog either in the text or in the URL field as a reference point for who you are and what you’re knowledgeable about. You don’t want to get in the habit of spamming blogs with your blog URL, but if you’re adding to the conversation, it doesn’t hurt to leave it.

Use a Press Release

For posts with truly interesting or exclusive news, consider using a press release to promote your work.

Bonus Section – Offline Places to Promote Your Blog

Here are some ways to promote your blog in the real world:

Print Promotional Material

Hey, just because that brochure or handout resides offline, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using it to promote what you’re doing online. Make sure customers are aware you’re a business whose blogging by putting the address and blog-related call-to-actions on printed promotional material.

Customer Receipts

Whether they made a purchase in your store or through your website, put your blog address on receipts to build awareness and encourage people to check it out.

Packaging

Why not send customers home with something else to check out?

During Presentations

Speaking at a local or national event? Using a PowerPoint or a Keynote presentation? Don’t forget to mention your blog!

On Business Cards

It’s not just for your phone number anymore. Include your blog URL + all social profiles!

Community Happenings

Sponsoring an event or just taking part in a community activity? Make sure to include literature that mentions your blog or direct people there during conversations.

Conclusion

Knowing the best places to promote your blog on the Web is the key to building your readership, use the list above as a map for your promotional journey.

Do you have additional ideas on how to promote your blog you want to share?

Promote Photo via Shutterstock

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The Strategy Behind Web Design

A great website doesn’t start with design. You may only see what’s on the surface — a well-designed and well-functioning website.  But behind it is weeks, sometimes months, of strategic planning.

Without it, your website wouldn’t exist in the first place.

You would never build a house without a plan. Even before you meet with your contractors, you have an idea of what you want out of your house. The same goes for your website.

Not allocating the time and resources necessary to strategically plan your website is the biggest mistake companies make. While these steps will vary based on your company’s needs, here’s what a well-developed tactical Web strategy should look like:

Step 1: Establish Your Goals

Before your Web design agency starts creating a website, make sure you’re clear on the basics: What are you trying to achieve with your new website? What is your website’s main purpose?

Ask your key stakeholders:

“What’s the biggest goal of our website?”

Everyone is likely to have different answer to this question, and you’ll want to discuss all input. But you’ll need to reach a consensus so there’s one clear-cut vision. A good way to do this is through Card Storming.

Let’s say you have four stakeholders. Pass out note cards to everyone, and give them three minutes to write down as many brand/business goals for the website they have, with one goal on each card.

Then pair up and each team has three minutes to decide on the top three goals out of  their bunch. Do that as a whole group so that, in the end, you have a consensus on the three main goals for your new website.

Step 2: Define Your Audience

Your audience will play the biggest role in your website, so you need to know everything about them. The basic demographics of age, gender and profession are good, but don’t stop there. What do your users like to do? What social networks do they use? How technically savvy are they?

This user research could include focus groups, competitive analysis, surveys, interactive exercises, or existing and potential customer interviews, depending on how in-depth you choose to go.

Step 3: Set Your Brand

The last thing you want is for your website to give your audience mixed messages from a confusing brand image. How do you want customers to feel about your brand? Be sure to adequately explain that to your web designers so they can choose color schemes and other elements to best convey that emotion.

Every color elicits a different emotion, so you want to settle on a scheme that properly conveys the tone of your brand.

Step 4: Design For Your Users

You spent that time learning about your audience. Now that knowledge needs to be implemented in the design. Make sure your agency focuses on user-centered design when building your website. This should include:

  • Information architecture to organize your websites’ content.
  • Intuitive navigation so your users easily flow through your website.
  • Strong call to action so your users complete your designed goal.
For example, when we were redesigning a newspaper’s website, our user research showed that visitors first wanted to see the weather. So in our redesign, we put that top-right in their page layout.

Step 5: Track Your Results

In the end, you want a website that looks great. But you also want one that accomplishes your goals. In order to do that, make sure you have installed an analytics tracking system so you can see just how people are using your website.

Google Analytics will do just that for you.  Make sure the goals you identified in Step 1 are tracked here.

Your project is only as strong as the planning that goes into it. A proper strategy ensures effective design and development, and avoids costly setbacks.

At the conclusion of a well-developed strategic process, not only will you have a great product, but you will also have a comprehensive blueprint document to use as a basis for future expansion.

The future of your business is too important not to do it right the first time.

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9 Things that Will Drive Your Web Designer Nuts

web design

Website development is not easy for the web designer or for the client, but there are things you can do to make things easier for your designer. There are also things that you can do that will make them very agitated and angry.

Because the web development process can be difficult and tedious I am going to tell you about some things to avoid doing so your working relationship with your developer will be better. (Side note: I am fully aware that there are web design companies that drop the ball; perhaps we will touch on that in a different article.)

1) Expecting A Designer to Be at Your Beck and Call

Anyone in the web design or developing business has to have a good number of clients at one time to make a living. Just think about this – you pay half up front and you don’t pay the other half until the site is completed (which could be 3-6 months depending on how long the process takes). The deposit you put down is not going to pay the bills for a web designer for months; they need other clients to pay the bills.

You are not the only client. Because of that, the designer and their team cannot be available every single time you want something. Please understand that they have responsibilities and obligations to many people, not just you. If it takes 24 hours to get a call or email back, that is a respectable time. In the mean time, take notes on all the issues you want to discuss so you can get everything out in one conversation.

Another important note: web designers may work all hours of the day, but that doesn’t mean they are available to talk after working hours or on the weekends just because that is when you are free. They deserve family time like everyone else.

2) Failing to Gather Materials Which Results in Slower Progress

As I mentioned earlier, web designers get a certain amount of money in the beginning. They need to make that money last for a period of time and also finish a website in a certain period of time to receive their final payment or they start to lose money.

Businesses, sometimes, are not in a big rush to finish a website and they are fine with it taking 6-12 months. This is not fair to a designer because they have to keep the job on the books and pay attention to it even if you are not. They are losing money and time and also paying for your site to be on development server. Plus, they deal with your emails consistently which takes a lot of time. The designer is losing time and money. You can’t expect them to be happy about a project if they are losing money.

It is really important to remember that designers have families and bills to pay. They need jobs to get done in a reasonable amount of time. Help them do that by sending them the requested documents, content and images they need so they can effectively develop your website. The website getting finished in a timely manner is good for you and the developer.

3) You Disappear for Three Months & Suddenly It Is Urgent That the Site Gets Finished

A web designer is depending on finishing a website to get the money that they need to make a living. Say a business owner disappears and does not respond to emails or phone calls. The web designer then must take on another job to offset the money they will possibly not be receiving. (How do they know if you are coming back?) Other clients are anxious to get the work done and are helping the designer consistently to finish the project(s), so the business owner that disappeared gets put on the back burner. This is logical.

However, the absent business owner suddenly realizes that they need their site, comes to the designer and complains that the site isn’t finished and demands it be finished quickly. Anyone that does this should know that they have essentially killed a good working relationship with the designer. The designer may be polite, but they were screwed financially by the disappearing act and on top of it they are now receiving demands. I highly recommend businesses avoid this.

If you have to disappear tell the designer why. Offer to pay a holding fee monthly to keep the project going or apologize for the disappearing act and ask them what you can do to get the project running again.

4) Giving Content on Paper and Expecting a Designer to Re-Type All Your Content

A developer or designer works very hard on coding and design. Trust me when I say that the coding and design take a lot of hours and require tedious work. When they add content to your website, they also have to format that content so it looks nice and this is also very time consuming work.

Typically copying and pasting content saves some time. When you expect a web designer to re-type your content, it is just rude. They are not being paid to type out content, but to make you something wonderful. Typically with a web design, a business pays for a certain number of hours of work and usually they want to stick to that number and not pay more. If someone insists on a designer re-typing, I can assure you that the designer will deduct some time from other work they needed to do to offset the cost.

Please send them documents where designers can copy and paste. Ask them how they would like the content sent so time and money is saved on both sides.

5) Sending Lots of Images with No Organization

Images are a ton of work. Every image that goes on a site is resized, named and uploaded. An image-intense website can double the cost of a website because the images alone are so much work.

When businesses send a disk or flash drive of images with no organization or names and they expect the web designer to figure out which images go where, they are adding a ton of time to the designer’s already long list of tasks. This drives designers insane. If you have images you want on a certain pages you could organize them into folders that name the page so they designer knows where they go.

You can also label images if you are emailing. No matter how you get images to your designer, I highly recommend you find a way to organize the images so things are easier for the designer. It will save you a ton of time answering questions and it will also save the designer a lot of time. Ask your designer how they would like to receive images from you.

6) Asking 19 Questions in 14 Emails

I already established that web designers have more than one client. So if every client emails many times (and they do), the designer has to spend a lot of time sifting through emails. They often have to go back to each one to make sure each question is addressed and readdressed.

It is wiser to sit and create a list of questions and send them all in one email so the designer only has to look at one email. Often designers have to go back to the email conversation when working because requests are in there. It is a lot easier to look at one email of conversations verses 14 emails with conversations.

Always keep in mind how much time an email or emails take. Do you want your designer spending hours answering emails or do you want those hours spent on your website?

7) Not Trusting the Web Designer

The thing that used to eat me alive the most was the fact that my partner and I would make recommendations based on usability principles, design, SEO and over-all knowledge based on experience and clients would not listen or trust the advice. We had absolutely no reason to offer advice that had no merit, but businesses wanted to ignore the advice and believed their way was better.

If you are given a recommendation don’t dismiss it outright. Ask why the recommendation is being made and really listen to the thoughts you are given. It is perfectly alright to disagree, but at least give the designer and their team the respect to listen to their thoughts.

8) Having a Bad Day and Taking it Out on the Designer by Sending Nasty Emails

We all have bad days and sometimes we take it out on others, but when you have someone killing themselves coding and constantly thinking about what is best for you and your business you want to avoid hurting feelings.

Often the nasty emails that come in are because someone is having a bad day. They are irritated already and they look at something about the website, write a crappy email and somehow forget that the person that receives that email is a human with feelings.

Please try to avoid this in all business dealings. Web designers sit all day and work on code and design. I can’t really explain in words how much that exhausts the brain, but it does. Nasty emails just don’t come across well to people that are mentally exhausted because they are creating something wonderful for you. Also keep in mind that emails don’t show the emotion on your face so the reader can’t tell if you are joking or attacking at times. Be careful how you word things.

9) Allowing Anyone in Your Business to Be Adversarial to the Web Design Team

Sometimes there is one person that just has to say negative things all the time or attack ideas. Some people have an ego problem and sometimes they even do things to slow down the project. This one person can destroy a good working relationship. This one person can make the designers life very un-enjoyable.

If you notice that one person is always being negative about the project or the designer you need to put a stop to it. Pull the negative person off the project or ask them what they problem is. The bottom line is: you need to finish the project and you need the designer to be on your side. There are always things that need to be addressed after a website launches, so you don’t want the designer to launch your website and walk away.

You will need a good working relationship with your designer in the future. Make sure respect is given on both sides.

Conclusion

As someone that has worked with many web design clients, I highly recommend you share this with anyone that is in the process of creating a new website. These 9 issues I have listed are so common, but they also cause a lot of problems for designers and working relationships.

The most important suggestion I have is to make sure everyone’s time and effort is respected. When there are issues, let go of anger and just ask what is going on. Most issues can be resolved if respect is there.

What issues have you seen with either web design clients or web designers?

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Is Minimalist Web Design Poised to Rule the Online Future?

minimalist web design

You are trying hard. You have created a website. You are posting contents on a regular basis. But that’s only a small part.

You’re also creating marketing content. Posting it on different blogs. You’re posting on different social media platforms as well. Yet somehow, you feel you’re not getting returns. And you’re frustrated, because you just can’t find a way out. So, what’s going wrong? Are you focusing enough on your website’s design?

As a business, you need to have an online presence these days. You need great content. But that’s not all. Would you read a book if the words were not printed properly and the design was clumsy? Probably not. Similarly, your target audience will not spend time on your website, even if you have a great content, if the design is not attractive. It will only increase your bounce rate and it won’t help one bit with profit.

So, What is it That You Need?

The answer is simple – attractive web design. But the question remains: Which of the latest website trends is the best for your site?

Gone are the days of complicated designs with a wide array of colors and shades, different fonts, etc. Your idea needs to be clear on what the essentials are. Minimalist web design has been around for quite some time now and remains as relevant as ever before.

Minimalist Web Design: The Basics

What is minimalist web design? The answer is in the name itself. If you’re looking for a minimalist design for your website, exclude everything that seems extraneous.

This might seem an easy task to perform, but in reality, it is one of the toughest things to do. So, what are the features that make minimalist web design so effective?

Follow the Minimalist Philosophy

Omit needless things – this is probably the heart of the minimalist philosophy. Keep features that are necessary and delete many of the others. This ensures that readers will be able to focus more on the primary elements in your website, without being distracted by unnecessary ones.

Light Design Loads Faster

Minimalist web designs have only necessary components. This ensures that the design is light. And a light design means it takes less time to load, which is a great way to ensure that readers remain longer. It helps reduce the bounce rate of your website significantly, which in turn, reflects positively.

User-Friendliness to Increase Website Footfalls

Does it feel easy to surf through a website that’s complicated? Probably not. The same is true with your target audience as well. They will always flock to websites that are easy to navigate.

Usability plays a major role in ensuring that a website is user friendly. This user-friendliness also plays a major role from an SEO perspective, thus increasing the number of footfalls to the website. Minimalism can be a great step forward toward SEO friendly web design.

Attention Remains Focused on the Content

Content is king. No matter what type of website you’re building, content is sure to play an important role. However, it’s hard for readers to concentrate on your content if your design distracts them. This is where minimalist web design comes in handy. It ensures that their complete focus is on your content.

Minimalist web design enhances chances of conversion and is also extremely user friendly. It can attract maximum visitors and help you garner maximum profit.

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Ten Questions Your Web Designer Should Be Asking You

Web Design

Over the years, however, I have learned some key questions that I always ask every client before beginning the design process. Going beyond general stylistic questions that you might expect a designer to ask, these questions are designed to get to the heart of what it is you need your website to be for your business.

If you are working with a web designer who isn’t asking you these questions, you would be wise to bring them up and provide answers to them sooner than later. Some of them may be difficult to answer right away, but if you think about the answers, do a little research, and communicate the answers with your designer, you will be much happier with your new website.

1. “Can you describe your business in a few sentences?”

By distilling your business into a sentence or two, you are essentially giving your designer your “elevator pitch.” This is great information and can be used to quickly describe your business on your homepage for instance. After all, when it comes to writing for the web, brevity is your new best friend, as most of your users will never read as in-depth as you would like them to. You have to capture their attention right away.

2. “Who are your main competitors?”

By knowing who you are competing against,  your designer can conduct the research needed to see how others in your field handle their websites. He or she can then determine what seems to be working well for some of them, and not as well for others. The intent here is not to copy what others are doing, but rather to learn from the benefit of their experience, as well as from their mistakes.

3. “What sets your business apart from your competitors?”

This is your chance to really distinguish your business from the others. If you have something unique to offer, then your designer should know about it, so that it can be played up and specifically called out on your site. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering.  In fact, it can be something incredibly simple, such as offering a complimentary consultation, for instance.

4. “Can you describe your target customer?”

Knowing exactly who your main audience is affects almost every aspect of the design.  After all, a site that would appeal to teenage boys would not be very visually interesting to women over 60. Other than the visual concerns, these breakdowns would also make a big difference on search engine optimization(SEO) efforts, as well as social media integration. It is very important to be as specific as possible: gender, age, and annual income are major things to be considered in order to design the most appropriate site for your audience.

5. “What is your deadline for completing the site?”

You have a deadline in mind, right? Well you should! Having a deadline not only keeps your designer on track, but it will keep you focused as well. All too often, website projects start with a bang and fizzle out over a span of months because a timeline was never established. It’s a good sign if your designer asks because in most cases that means he or she respects your time and is interested in getting the website finished when you need it.

6. “What are some other sites on the Web that you like and why?”

This is where your designer can get a sense of your own personal tastes. Since personal preferences are so subjective, it really helps me as a designer to know what visual style you respond well to. Again, this question is not designed in order to copy anything that someone else has already done, but it serves as a great jumping-off point. If a designer doesn’t ask this, then you run the risk of them designing a (possibly) amazing site that just isn’t your cup of tea.

7. “What specific functionalities would you like included on your site?”

This is something that you may not have thought very much about. You may not even be fully aware of all the options that are out there. Many of my web design clients know they want a Web presence, but they aren’t always sure about what they want to get out of it. And that’s ok. It is up to your web designer to get to the heart of your business, and suggest new ways to leverage all the technologies that are available and appropriate to your site. For instance, if you run a restaurant, you probably know that you want to have your menu, contact info and directions on your site. But what about adding an option for customers to book their reservation via your website?

8. “Who is going to be responsible for the website’s content?”

This is a question that often catches clients off guard. It is a bit easier to answer in the case of a redesign, but what if you are a new business starting a website from scratch? Do you plan on writing the copy for your own site? Unless you have experience writing for marketing purposes, I wouldn’t recommend it. The first reason is, good Web copywriting is a skill that can greatly improve user engagement when done right. Secondly, (and I say this in the nicest possible way,) it will probably take a very long time for you to get around to it, if at all. I can’t tell you how many projects that have either stalled, or been abandoned altogether because a designer hasn’t received the content promised to them by a client. If your designer works with a copywriter, by all means, spend a little extra and go that route. It will take a lot of pressure off of you, the project will be completed faster, and you will end up with a much better product in the end. Well written copy sells. Period.

9. “What key search phrases would you like to be found for?”

Search engine optimization (SEO) is your key to being found on the Web. Your designer should be asking you this because your answers could have a big impact on not only the copy, but the overall site structure as well. Let’s say you run a photography business in Boulder, Colorado. You might want to be found for the terms “wedding photography boulder colorado,” as well as “yearbook photography boulder colorado.” It would be a good idea to design two different landing pages for those different keyword phrases, rather than relying on being found through a more generic homepage.

10. “How much time do you want to put into new content creation per week?”

Another key element to SEO strategy is keeping your content fresh. This means adding brand new content to existing pages, and/or adding new pages altogether on a fairly consistent basis. This can be done any number of ways, including a blog, user generated content if appropriate, or even a podcast. When I ask a client this question, I am looking to find out how I should design their site to make the most use out of the time they are willing to spend. If its only a few hours per week, a blog would be sufficient in most cases. If it is a company that employs someone who can work on content creation full-time, I would start thinking of new areas that would attract users. A video page perhaps? Or maybe a twitter contest? The ideas are endless, but it all comes down to how much time you are willing to spend on such efforts.

Final Thoughts

There is much more to your new website than just the visual elements. A good web designer knows this and will go beyond the basics. The questions on this list each serve a very important purpose, and your web designer should touch on all of them in order to make fully informed design decisions that will positively impact your business for years to come.

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