Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category
It’s natural to assume, when it comes to Internet marketing and business web design, that larger companies have a big advantage over smaller ones. After all, they have the budgets, mailing lists, and staff to handle any challenge… so that means they should have an easier time winning customers, doesn’t it?
That’s partly true, but small companies actually have an important advantage on their side – one that can be even more decisive: Most tiny businesses and self-employed professionals see (or least talk to) some of their customers every day. The bigger companies all have customers, as well, but most decision-makers and executives don’t interact with buyers on a regular basis.
That means smaller businesses can gather important information, such as:
Who their customers actually are. As simple as it sounds, lots of bigger companies don’t actually know – in a specific sense – who buys their products and services. In fact, they spend millions on focus groups just to find out. Smaller companies don’t have that challenge, and can pinpoint their perfect customers more directly, making their marketing more efficient.
Why buyers come to them, instead of the competition. In order to be successful in online marketing, it helps to know why your customers buy in general, and why they buy from you specifically. Again, this can be a challenge in large organizations, where several levels of sales and marketing are engaged at once. In a small business, though, it’s easy to distill it down to the main marketing messages.
How the customers’ needs are changing. This is a huge advantage, since it often takes a big company months or years to change gears and directions, whereas a business owner or self-employed person can switch gears in a few days. The faster you can adapt to your customers’ changing needs, the easier it is to get out in front of your larger competitors.
How do these advantages play out in business web design and online marketing? That’s easy – savvy owners add pages, blog posts, social media specials, and more to reflect the personal nature of their relationships, their understanding of the market, and their perspective on where the industry is headed.
When it comes down to it, smaller businesses tend to be more agile, and more informed. Now is the perfect time to talk with a member of our team and see how we can help you make the most of those advantages in your next business website.
Stop whatever you’re doing right now and think to yourself: What are your online marketing goals for 2013.
Probably the vast majority of business owners and executives out there would have to answer that they want “more sales,” or “higher profits.” That’s great – everyone wants those things – but they don’t necessarily make great marketing goals because they aren’t specific enough.
In fact, sometimes the easiest way to increase profitability is by narrowing down to a more specific target. Here are four that we consider especially good online marketing goals for 2013:
1. To improve your online marketing ROI. Granted, this is also a bit vague, but it at least addresses both sides of the equation. It’s good to want to increase sales, but you should also be looking to lower costs at the same time.
2. To gather more social click-throughs to your business website. Why settle for having more followers, when you could have more social engagement at the same time? In other words, you shouldn’t want customers to just look for you online, but to take action on your posts and tweets.
3. To secure higher PPC click-through rates. Although your cost-per-conversion is ultimately more important, raising your click-through rates is a good way to capture more of the market and improve your quality score at the same time – in other words, to reach more people at a lower per-customer cost.
4. To have more return visitors to your business website. Capturing first-time potential customers is wonderful, but bringing them back is even more important. For one thing, return visitors tend to convert at a higher percentage. Plus, the more likely they return, the more engaged they become with your company and the more likely they are to think of you the next time they need to make a purchase.
There’s nothing wrong with setting your sights on bigger sales or higher profits in 2013, but narrowing down to some more specific goals is a good way to ensure that you actually accomplish both.
If you need more help, we’d love to be involved! Just drop us a line to connect.
The Most Important Web Design Trend for 2013 (and Beyond)
Right now, there are lots of business web design teams coming out with their lists of trends for 2013. Some will turn out to be spot-on, while others might be a little more speculative and fall short.
What a lot of them have in common, though, is that they don’t necessarily refer to the important ideas that will affect the everyday business owner or marketing manager. With that in mind, we’d like to offer you the one single most important business web design trend for 2013 (and probably beyond): responsive web design.
If you aren’t familiar with responsive web design, it basically involves coding your site in such a way that it adapts to each visitor. That is, the person who’s using a desktop PC sees one version, while someone visiting with a smart phone or tablet screen might see a different one. In that way, your business website becomes “responsive” to the user (and hardware/software combination) on an individual basis.
It’s not hard to see why this trend is so important. At the moment, experts predict that more of us will be using mobile web devices than traditional desktop or laptop computers within the next two years, a shift that is already nearly complete in many urban areas where free Wi-Fi and 4G service are readily available. As this segment of the market continues to grow, it makes more and more sense to have a website that is accessible to all of your customers, all of the time.
More to the point, however, is that responsive web design is all about more flexibility and durability, which in turn leads to a lot higher return on investment. Because your website can do more, it lasts longer (and gives you more leads or sales in the meantime), making it a much more valuable investment.
There may be lots of business web design trends that are out there, but responsive web design is the one you need to pay attention to most. Why not call or e-mail a member of our team today and take the next step in upgrading your site and making it more accessible to customers?
Vrrroooomm! That is the sound my car makes as I pass a local bike shop on my way back home. As I glance out my window I notice that this store could use a design upgrade. The signage out front is disheveled and worn, and the logo is portrayed as a simple block-letter typeface. I could just chalk this up as a loss for local business and continue jamming out to my radio…but it’s too late. My mind is already working to provide a solution that will enhance their logo brand. With my gears in motion I start the problem-solving process with a few questions:
1. Is there room for improvement in the overall design?
2. How can this store better communicate what they offer?
3. Is there a more effective way to appeal to their target audience?
This exercise is really a great way to keep your creative mind sharp. Many times, I will follow up my thoughts by recording ideas onto my mobile phone and then putting them down as sketches when I get home. Obviously, this can be practiced anywhere you choose to roam..like the grocery store, the mall, or just out at a restaurant. I have also found that the more I practice this method, the more improvement I see in my everyday design work.
There is a massive need for better design, and it can be seen just about everywhere. But wait, the fun doesn’t stop here! I would also encourage you to reign in those drive-by ideas and bring them to that business owner’s attention. After you have finessed the design mockups, have them ready to present with a price in mind. This is your creative work, after all. Some owners will have the attitude that they don’t need your design, and they have been “getting by” with what they currently have for quite a few years. If you have already defended your work and explained how it could improve their brand, then just smile and walk away with the knowledge that you earned some valuable practice. Trust me, if your design work is solid, then you will eventually meet the business owner who is impressed enough to not only buy your new and improved design…but will also have you do all their future work, too. So keep your eyes open…and your eyes on the road (if you are behind the wheel)!
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Front-End Design Conference, with our Creative Director, Trey Ingram. It was held at the Palladium Theatre in St. Pete Florida. The speakers ranged from designers, programmers, and everything in between. The conference was well-organized and the speakers had a great range of topics. One of the main themes was the interest, and propagation of responsive web design for mobile users. There were different opinions as to the best practices, but all agreed it is the future of the web, and the way we use it.
One of the most interesting speeches was in regards to the way the world changed with the invention of the automobile, and how subsequently the screen is the game changer for our generation. The world adapted and the way we do life was forever changed. Similarly the screen has revolutionized our lives in almost every way. And with advances in size, and cost it will continue to do so.
The best benefit from the weekend was the sense of excitement that everyone leaving seemed to have. It truly is a great time to be a designer, and with the prevalence of the internet, it is especially a great time to be in web design. For designers, and programmers, if you get the chance to attend the Front-End Design Conference next year it will be sure to be a pleasure.
Brand identity should not be rocket science. You want your customer to recognize “you” as quickly as they would recognize Coca Cola, Apple, or any other successfully branded product. This is true whether you are selling a product, service, or a combination of the two. If your logo, or tag line is too complicated to understand at a glance, then it is too complicated. Colors, shapes, and fonts are an important part of many successfully brand logos.
In the design world many fads come and go, but brands that have staying power rely on something more important. They stay relevant. What is popular today, may be old news tomorrow and so while some elements of popular design are great to include is small doses, the best brands stay true to the businesses’ core values, customer base, and roots. Design Extensions will use your feedback and our experience to craft a website as well as logos, business cards, and other print collateral as needed to convey the image you want for your business.
Many businesses fail to realize their potential, simply by not maintaining uniform branding across all sectors of their business. Design Extensions can help, from business cards, letter head and other print collateral, to websites and online advertisements that keep your business’ image consistent. One of the benefits of utilizing all of the features Design Extensions has to offer is that our design team is all in house, and all files/logos/and content is accessible for use across all platforms to reach new customers. For the few aspects of your business that we may not have an in house solution for, (clothing, and novelties) we can recommend a service provider, and will be happy to design, or provide design elements to them.
As the first point of contact for your customers, your business’ website should be like a friendly receptionist. Potential clients and customers visiting your site; see your site, as indicative of the type, quality, and style of work you do. Presenting a sloppy unfriendly website, with poorly thought out navigation, and missing or confusing information, is like having a receptionist that client’s are afraid to approach, and who wouldn’t know the answer anyway. You wouldn’t hire an employee like that so stop letting your website turn customers away from your business instead of inviting them in.
The Friendly Receptionist would not be very good at her job if all she did was act super friendly, but not actually know anything. Similarly the best designed website is no good if the information isn’t easily accessible, concise, and above all pertinent. Many businesses, new to the internet, tend to want to include every tiny detail of their business online so as to reach every possible customer. It’s great if your Salon sells hair products, but if 90% of your business is made through selling hair cuts, then the information for your hair products does not need to be as featured as the information about hair cuts. A better approach is to think like a customer and assume your website is your Friendly Receptionist. What information should she have readily available?
We all have experience with the other type of receptionist as well. The one who knows everything about everything, but is so cold, and unfriendly that you really try not to bother her and find out what you need on your own. That’s how some websites are. The information they have is great unfortunately it is just too “ugly” to access. The wonderful information that you need is hidden in such a cold unfriendly way, that you’d almost rather just find it elsewhere. This problem is just as serious as the lack of information on an otherwise “friendly” site. How can she help anyone if they don’t want to spend anytime with her, or are afraid to approach her?
The best websites have the information you need, in a “wrapper” that is friendly and easy to use. Why are these two things so important? It tells your customer’s, that you care about them. We want to feel like the people and businesses we interact with care about us and our satisfaction. We want those businesses to make us feel like they are working with us towards a common goal. Design Extensions is here to make sure that you feel cared about, by making sure that we adhere to the principles of the Friendly Receptionist when designing, and building your website. Simple, beautiful websites, with easy to navigate menus, easy to access information, presented in a friendly inviting way will keep clients coming back, and recommending you to their friends.
If you feel like it’s getting harder and harder to find the right team to design, or redesign, your company’s website, I can empathize. In the eleven years I’ve been in this business, the number of firms offering web design and online marketing has exploded. The increasing number of options – not to mention specialties, fee ranges, and levels of quality – has made it hard for companies to find the right fit.
You can still find the right designer, though, if you know where to look, and what to look for. Here are five things you definitely want to know about any web design team before you hire them:
- 1. How past clients feel about their work. It’s one thing to look through a designer’s portfolio, but if you really want to get the story, you have to make a few phone calls. Talk to former clients and see what their impressions of the work, and the design process, were like. Whether you get good feedback or bad, these are things you want to know before you sign on the dotted line.
- 2. If they will still be able to help you tomorrow. Your site might be basic right now, but there’s no guarantee it will stay that way. In fact, if your launch is a success, it’s probably not going to be long before your company needs help with online videos, secure site areas, databases, content management systems, and search engine optimization to name a few – services that smaller or newer firms might not be able to offer.
- 3. Whether they have a bottom line vision. This is more important than most business owners realize. These days, when you hire a designer, you shouldn’t just be getting a layout and some HTML code – what you need is the first step towards a comprehensive online marketing plan. Be sure that any designer you work with can help you integrate your new website to search engines, social media, and more. You’ll need that exposure to gain new customers over the Internet.
- 4. What their fees are… Obviously, the numbers are going to be an important part of the discussion. Be aware, however, that quality always costs more, and that more than one web design client has been burnt by falling for bid that was “too good to be true.”
- 5. … and what those fees include. Web hosting, updates, content, and add-on features are just a few of the things you might want for your web design team, but might not be included in their rock-bottom bid. Find out exactly what you are paying for before you agree to any work. Or better yet, choose a vendor with a long reputation of quality work, no one that’s going to nickel and dime you at every step of the process.
There might be more web design companies to choose from than there were in the past, but that doesn’t mean that the right decision has to be any less clear. Take the time to do a little bit of research and get the answers to these five crucial questions – it’s not as easy as choosing the lowest bid, but it’s going to leave you a lot happier, and more profitable, in the long run.
(Republished from our recent article in Valacious Magazine in St. Augustine, Florida)
While no one is rushing out into the streets to declare the economy “fixed” just yet, there are some early signs that the worst is over. And with that realization, a lot of business owners are looking to make some of the investments they’ve been putting off until better days – hiring new employees, expanding to new locations, taking on new products, and so on.
But before you run out and jump at all the new opportunities that are coming your company’s way, don’t forget to take care of one of the most critical parts of your business… one that brings in new revenue, handles customer service problems, lets you market to the globe, and try out new products all at once, 24 hours a day.
I’m talking about your website.
A lot of owners, facing a tough business environment over the past couple of years, have elected to hold off on a new design or any major upgrades. That’s understandable. But now, with customers coming in through the front doors once again, many are concentrating on offline promotions and improvements. After all, if the site is doing a pretty decent job right now, why mess with it?
That’s a dangerous line of thinking. Because, if recent history is any guide, the buyers aren’t just coming back the way they were before; the American economy is evolving into something more competitive – and a lot more digital – than it ever was before. Your website is the one piece of your marketing mix that can keep you in the game.
Here are four reasons improving your website might be your best investment right now:
It sells. The bottom line is that websites are good for the bottom line. They help you reach more buyers, and sell more products or services, than any other marketing medium can.
It has a farther reach than your advertising pieces or sales staff… and at a fraction of the cost. Whether you want customers from out of state or overseas, a website is your best choice to find them.
New forms of online marketing are taking hold. Until recently, social media has just been a cool buzzword to throw around; now it might be a way to find new business. Making sure your site is equipped for social media marketing is a good first step.
It reduces costs. If your customers can look up and change their account information, order history, and shipping details, online, they don’t have to call you or your employees on the phone for routine tasks.
As the owner of a web design and online marketing company, I will admit that I am biased towards websites as a business investment. But that’s only because I have seen what they can do for a company’s growth. The online component of business success isn’t going away any time soon. If anything, it’s becoming more important as the economy recovers.
Keep that in mind, and keep up with your online marketing. It just might be the single smartest investment you can make right now.
(Republished from our article in the St. Augustine Women’s Journal)