Archive for the ‘Website Design’ Category

16 Ways to Do Websites Wrong

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On February - 4 - 2014

It’s easy to tell you how to do things right. In fact the Internet is full of helpful tips on how to do things right. What’s been missing is a manual on how to do things wrong. By the way, I’m not above sarcasm to make my point.


Lesson #1: Put it on Auto Pilot!
Now, if you’re looking to shed some of that unwanted cash, go ahead and take advantage of your developer’s telepathic powers and let them do all your thinking for you.


PRO TIP: Tell them whatever they do will be fine…they’re the professionals. Then critique them mercilessly when they don’t read your mind.


Even the best developers can’t work in a vacuum and properly represent your brand without your input. If you want professional results, you need to take an active role in the development process by actually working with your development team so they have what they need to get you what you need.


Lesson #2: Never Respond Right Away!
Don’t spoil your development team by immediately responding to their questions or supplying thoughtful feedback. That way you can avoid becoming their number one priority.


PRO TIP: Make sure you tease them a bit by only addressing part of their request.

What you need to know is that while waiting for your feedback, you project is probably on hold. Developers can’t schedule the next step in your project because they don’t know when the feedback is coming. When you get back to them, that’s not necessarily when they start back up…that’s when they schedule you back in. If you wait 3 days to get back to them, you probably lost an entire work week.


Lesson #3: Don’t Test it Yourself
Why should you? After all, they’re the professionals. And given the industry requirement for telepathy, you can be assured that everything will work just like it did in your head.


PRO TIP: Not testing a website before launching it is particularly effective with government Health Care projects. 

Your developer is absolutely responsible for making sure everything works flawlessly. That doesn’t mean it will work the way it did in your head. They can only develop what THEY think you want…not what YOU think you want. Go over every aspect of your website like you were your own best customer.


Lesson #4: Management by Committee
Everyone has an opinion, and even if they don’t, they’ll chime in so that everyone thinks they have an opinion. Take advantage of this phenomenon by making sure that everyone has a little piece of themselves in the final project. Remember… a Camel is really just a Horse built by committee. And after all, isn’t a camel more interesting?

Think about the psychology; if you are asked for your opinion, just saying that you like something or agreeing with someone else doesn’t add “value”, so you feel obligated to throw your 2-cents in even if it doesn’t add value. It just kinda shows that you’re involved. There is a saying that “none of us is as smart as all of us”. That’s true if someone is actually managing the process and can sort through the noise. You want diverse opinions, but do not feel obligated to appease everyone. Solicit opinions, and then use discretion.


Lesson #5: Trickle your changes in one at a time
You wouldn’t want to overwhelm your design team by letting them organize the project all at once would you? This way they can have 10 or 20 miniature projects to manage instead of just one.


Very little affects the development time of a project like a constant stream of never ending updates. Nothing wrong with updates and fine-tuning, but trickling them in one at a time is probably the single biggest issue affecting development time and quality.

What you probably don’t know, is there is a minimum amount of non-value added time that goes into each round of changes. Project management time, communication time, uploading, testing, etc. It often takes about the same amount of time to do 5 changes as it does to make a single change. Think about collecting and “Bundling” your changes into a series of consolidated changes.


Lesson #6: Do it Yourself!
After all, you have plenty of time to learn about marketing, design and coding. What do you think all those “Dummies” books are for? Everyone loves that “homemade” look, and in just a few short months…Presto!


I suppose if you have more time than money, you might want to take on the challenge, but then you aren’t working on other aspects of your business, and you probably won’t get the same professional results.


Lesson #7: Use the Cheapest Technology Available
Don’t offend your customers with one of those fancy “user friendly” websites that scream “Look at me… I take my company seriously”. And what better way to showcase your thriftiness than to cut corners on the company website?


Just like everything else on this planet, you get what you pay for. Will that ecommerce platform handle multi-variables and taxes and shipping? What about weak support and clunky editors?


For example, I am working with a client that had an awful home-made website on some sort of budget platform. For an extra $10/month she can have a user friendly image Gallery instead of uploading each image manually. Do you think she will burn more than $10 of her own time each month manually manipulating each and every image? 


The truth is, not everyone needs the Cadillac of…anything. But cutting corners is not always a wise decision.


Lesson #8: Delegate it to an intern
Why not let the 22 year old kid with no business experience do it? After all, he’s good at Twitter, he must be good at business websites.


Now who can’t get some sort of do-it-yourself website builder program and put something that sort of looks like a website together?  This is something that you can delegate to an intern or an administrator who isn’t busy at the moment…Just paste a picture of 2 business people shaking hands…. And presto… you have a website.


There is a misconception that digital marketing is about technology. No… it’s about marketing. It’s about business, and it’s about representing your brand in the finest light possible.


Even if you delegate your website development to someone on your staff, look for someone who knows the business, understands the target market, and has an aptitude for marketing. The best combination is a savvy development team who understand business and knows marketing and how to work with someone on your team to understand your business.


OK, this is the product of an Intern:


After the crash of Asiana Flight 214, an intern with the National Transportation Safety Board erroneously confirmed four fake racist names of the pilots to television station KTVU, which subsequently read them live on-air. To the intern this was funny. To the people around him with real jobs, this made them look like fools. The NTSB intern was fired for his actions.


My intention is to not make light of this or to condone it as funny, but to illustrate how dangerous it is to hand over something public (like a website, or Social Media) to someone who is not truly familiar with the company’s image or business practices. 


Lesson #9: Make it clear you have no budget
Nothing incentivizes web developers to do their best work like dropping subtle hints about your willingness to make your website a low priority in your business.


PRO TIP: Never tell them your true budget so they will magically give you more than they think you have to invest.


Most good Orange County web design companies (at least the one’s I’m aware of) will scale their services to meet your budget. Essentially that means if you drop hints that you have a minimal budget, most developers will accommodate you with a no-frills quote and a no-frills result. Nothing wrong with that if it meets both your budget and your needs.


Keep in mind that a 15-page website for $1500 will most likely not be the same as a 15-page website for $5000. The developer will most likely scale down the attention to graphics, content and planning to meet your budget. The moral of the story is that, like anything else on this planet, you get what you pay for.


Lesson #10: Squeeze 10 pounds of Crap into a 5 pound Bag!
People like to look at things, so take the opportunity to jam-pack each page full of visually stimulating eye candy. That way you can camouflage your most important message in all the clutter.


People don’t read on the Internet, they scan… they see headlines, graphics and bullet points, and they are a lot less interested in you than you are. Every page on your website should have a specific goal. Do NOT jam pack your website pages with distracting graphics and competing options. Do NOT do an information dump and expect the consumer to sort it out for themselves. Every page should be a landing page with a specific call to action and limited choices. The Internet is short attention span theater… and every visitor is just one click from putting you in their rear view mirror.


Lesson #11: Skip all that Search Engine stuff!
Wait until after the website has been built to start thinking about how your customers are going to find you. That way you don’t have to deal with all those annoying customer calls.


Pro Tip: Demand the most convoluted navigation and code heavy features possible to thoroughly confuse the search engines.


Let’s go on the premise that it’s actually important to show up on the first page of the search engines. The time to start thinking about your search rankings is NOT after the website is already built. The time to start thinking about it is during the planning phase.


This is actually a very complex topic, but let’s just say that because it looks cool to you, doesn’t mean it looks cool to the search engines. Technology, structure and a host of other behind the scenes factors are what the search engines are looking for. Optimizing an attractive, but poorly built website is generally not the most effective strategy. That doesn’t’ necessarily mean that adjustments can’t be made, but why not do it right the first time?


Lesson #12: Ignore Mobile!
Why not cram your entire website onto a viewing area the size of a postage stamp?  


PRO TIP: Make sure the navigation buttons are smaller than your fingertips so your customers can’t click on what they were aiming for.


What a missed opportunity! There are a disproportionate amount of mobile users out there than there are mobile websites. Ask yourself if you ever look at website on a smartphone or tablet?  How much time do you spend on a website that is the size of a postage stamp on your iPhone or Droid?


Search engines have also recognized this and are even giving preference to mobile enabled websites when they are being searched from a mobile device.


In any event, do not ignore mobile, you are missing a golden opportunity and maybe handing it off to your competitors.


Lesson #13: Just throw something up there for now
Nothing conveys attention to detail like a placeholder for a website. That way your customers will assume that you are spending your time on them and not pesky details like your company image. After all, If you don’t have time to do it right… you’ll probably have plenty of time to do it over…right?


There is a huge difference between a “coming attractions” website and a half-baked amateur placeholder that can easily be mistaken as a bad version of a permanent website.  If you aren’t careful, a temporary website can completely misrepresent the quality of your brand unless it is done strategically and professionally. A bad website is worse than no website…which is pretty bad.


Lesson #14: Assume that it’s Easy!
Make sure that your development team knows that you know how easy it is. That way you can trivialize their knowledge and be assured of their best effort.


Finding images, designing graphics, laying them out on a page in a way that is not only pleasing to the eye, but functionally correct… and using best marketing practices, isn’t just one talent… its several talents.


Even if you are one of those people who actually have a sense of design (which is much rarer than you think), trying to bend any sort of web development platform to your will is another story. Building “a” website is easy. Building one that does the job it’s intended for is not.


Lesson #15: Choose your developer based solely on price
All websites are the same, so they should all cost the same. After all, all cars are equal and they all cost the same…right?


I once had a phone call from someone who said that he runs a local restaurant and asked me how much does a website cost? I asked him how much does food cost. (I told you I wasn’t above sarcasm to make a point). 


There are a lot of considerations when choosing a design firm: Do you want someone to just take your order, or do you want someone to take control? Do you need a higher level of graphic expertise, or is just pasting some symbolic pictures onto the pages good enough.


If you don’t need that much, then don’t pay that much…but don’t ask for that much.


Lesson #16: It’s all about you!
Above all, make sure that your website is all about you and not your customers. If they want a website that works for them, they can go to your competitors. This one is yours…


I like to think this one needs little explanation, but the truth is we’ve had more than a few clients who thought of their websites as monuments to themselves and their own companies.


You don’t pack 10 lbs of crap into a 5 lb bag. You don’t do an information dump on your visitors assuming they are willing to sort through way more information than they are looking for. At the end of the day, we are all consumers…so think like a consumer when thinking about your website.



How Does the Web Design Process REALLY Work?

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On December - 18 - 2013

Turning a Four Week Project into a Twelve Week Project

So you decided to redesign the company website. After all, that design your nephew Jimmy did back in 2009 is starting to look a little dated. This time around you decided to upgrade the company image and work with a professional website design company. You haven’t done that before, but if your nephew could do it in four months, a professional should be able to do it in one month easy. In fact, you are going to synchronize some off-line marketing to coincide with the new website. You want to build in some padding, so you schedule the off-line marketing 2-months out.


The Feedback Follies
Telepathy is a rare talent and highly unreliable. Therefore your website design company may actually have to communicate with you periodically. And as inconvenient as it may be, you might actually have to communicate with them every now and again.

 Expert Guide to Flushing Your Web Design Budget

Probably the number one thing you can do to move your website project along and get what you envisioned is just good quality, timely feedback. Remember, 15-minutes of your time may cut the project delivery time down by 2-3 days. Believe it or not, here is a realistic scenario:


Monday the 1st: The agreement has already been signed, and today is the kickoff meeting with your web development project manager. You figure you can get this website up and running in about 4 weeks tops.

The project manager asks you for your design preferences and reminds you that the website should be designed around your target market, not necessarily you. However he also reminds you that you have to live with the site, so it’s important that it reflects your company’s image and values as well. You agree to send a few examples of websites that you like and what you like about them so that he can put together a creative brief for the design team to use as a guide and start the design process.


Wednesday the 3rd: You get a quick reminder from the project manager that they have scheduled time to work on your project, but really need to get those examples you promised them. You know it’s in your own best interest to get this thing going, but you have a few important things to attend to and you can probably get to it before you leave today. Something else comes up but you know you can get to it tomorrow sometime. 


Thursday the 4th: You start thinking about some of the websites you like. You remember that some of your competitors have some pretty nice sites, and you like their various styles. You hastily copy a few URLs and send them off to your web developer before you leave for the day. The project manager glances at it before he leaves, and schedules himself to look over your examples and write up the creative brief first thing in the morning. 


Friday the 5th: The project manager checks out each of the examples and quickly discovers that the designs are all over the place…some colorful and elaborate with animation, some more clean with a lot of whitespace. All good designs, but so varied that the project manager has to call you up for clarification as to what your preferences really are. You tell him that you really like a particular one you’ve envied since you first saw it last month. The other ones were just competitors that you thought he might like to see. He thanks you for the clarification and figures he can finally write up the creative brief for the design team after he gets back from lunch. 

Now that he has what he needs for the design team, he can schedule his best designer to get started with the first round of comps on Wednesday (after the weekend). He would have had the web designer start on the project the previous Wednesday when he had an open slot, but waiting on your feedback allowed 2 other projects to sneak in ahead of you.


Wednesday the 10th: The designer is ready to go on your project and diligently works on it the moment he gets in to the office. He has a couple of good ideas and wants to show you a few versions and get your feedback. These are essentially “sketches” not finished designs. Once he gets a sense of the direction you want to go after getting your feedback, he will fine-tune and really concentrate on the one you like the best. He’s real excited about the designs and wants to look them over in the morning before he sends them to the creative director for review.


Thursday the 11th: The creative director loves the designs but has some feedback for the designer and wants a few revisions before showing them to you. Just before lunch the designer gets them back with the revisions and sends them over to you. You’re off site at a meeting but you got it on your smartphone. Obviously you can’t review it until you get back to the office tomorrow where you can properly review them on a desktop computer.


Friday the 12th: You have a couple of commitments that you have to get to because you were off-site yesterday. You’ll get to the website review on Monday sometime.


Monday the 15th: You looked over the designs when you first got in and you had some specific recommendations and feedback, but you need some “alone time” to put it into words. After wrestling with this for a while you decide to get your team together and review it as a committee. Easier said than done…. Can’t get everyone in one place at the same time until the Thursday meeting, but none of us are as good as all of us, so it should be worth the delay.


Thursday the 18th: Well, you got everyone together, but rather than simply getting buy-in on the design changes and your ideas, everyone has an opinion. Well…at least they feel obligated to have an opinion. After all, you did ask, and just simply agreeing with you doesn’t do their career any good, so they feel obligated to add something of “value”. This naturally involves changing something. Otherwise what good are they?

By the afternoon, the committee has put together a list of disjointed recommendations (each member making sure they contribute something, whether it’s necessary or not).  Now you just have to sort through and organize it into cohesive feedback. Oh heck, “I can’t think right now and that design company keeps asking me for the feedback”.   So you just send that blueprint for Frankenstein’s monster over to the web designers and let them figure it out. After all, they’re the professionals.


Friday the 19th: The designer gets the “group” feedback, which now resembles nothing like the original creative brief. It’s his job to keep the client satisfied…and produce a quality design. He legitimately wants to do that, but now he really has to think about this. Maybe he’ll figure it out over the weekend and get back on it Monday the 22nd. He may need the project manager to get back with you for some clarification.


OK, I think you get the point…

This feedback cycle is normal, inevitable and to be expected.

In this scenario we’ve already used 3 weeks and still don’t have the final design on the horizon. We still haven’t even addressed the content for the website, which should be developed in parallel with the web design so the site can immediately be populated once the design has been finalized.

Whose fault is this? Well no one’s really. This is just the natural flow of business. However there are a few simple things that you as the client can do to move the project along and get the most out of your web project:


Top 5 Things You can do to Help Your Design Team Help You

Tip #1: Batch all your changes and feedback.
Professional Web designers don’t typically piecemeal their day together, they schedule projects in advance. Why? Because switching projects requires them to locate access information like passwords and files. In order to make changes to a website that is already online, they have to download the website, make the changes, upload the website and test it. They may also need to have it reviewed by a manager. The fact is, it often takes about the same amount of time to make one change as it does to make 5 changes.


Tip #2: Address ALL of the feedback requested
If the project manager asks you to weigh in on 4 things, and you only address 3 of them, that might be all it takes to put the project on hold until they can get clarification from you. An experienced project manager will often number the feedback points because it’s easier for the client (you) to make sure you address everything.


Tip #3: Be specific with your feedback
Spend the extra few minutes it takes to be very concise with your feedback. Make sure you re-read it before you send it. If the designer misinterprets your direction, he may spend hours going down the wrong path. This is not only going to cause delays in order to re-do the work, it will often cause additional delays because they have to attend to other projects that were idle while working on the wrong thing for you. You might find yourself in the back of queue when you should be heading into the next phase of the project.


Tip #4: Be Timely with your feedback
As much as you might envision your design team being on call, a busy web design firm has a constant stream of projects they may be working on during any given time. What happens during that extra day while waiting for the client to get back with the missing info? Well another client (or two) may sneak in ahead of you. Keep in mind that designers like to design, and project managers like to manage. You may be special to the project manager, but then again….so is everyone else on his list.


Tip #5: Hold up your end of the bargain
For example, perhaps you have decided to provide the content for your website…writing the text for each page yourself. Or assigning it to an overworked subordinate. If you’ve opted to take that portion of the website on yourself, remember as pretty as the design is, it still can’t go live without the content.


How to flush your website budget down the toilet

For those of you who are bent on self-destruction, we’ve put together The Experts Guide to Flushing Your Web Design Budget down the Toilet. Quite frankly, we’re not above sarcasm to make our point.


Kreative Webworks: Orange County Web Design since 1999!


Already have a website? Get your FREE Website AnalysisNo Strings…No Kidding



Experts Guide to Flushing Your Web Design Budget Down the Toilet

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On December - 3 - 2013

We really do love our clients, but some of the things they do to shoot themselves in the foot are amusing…if not predictable.


We’ve been designing business websites since 1999, and we’ve learned a thing or two about what to expect from our otherwise well intentioned clientele.


Now we’re not above sarcasm, so we put together this expert’s guide detailing how a business owner can be their own worst enemy and effectively flush their website budget down the commode.(Or at least cause some delays).





Why would a guide detailing how to obstruct, delay and degrade website development be necessary when it appears to come so naturally? Well, it’s not. We just thought it would be entertaining, so we rehashed all the things we’ve seen actual clients do that really hinder their own projects and had some fun with it.


Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments!!!


Digital Marketing is hard enough, don’t squander your Traffic

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On September - 8 - 2012

It’s hard enough to drive traffic to your website, but it’s a shame to waste it by driving your visitors away within moments of arriving. Below is a list of what NOT to do.

Poor Navigation: Nothing frustrates a consumer more than not being able to find what they want quickly and intuitively.

Too Many Ads: Aside for the negative effect excessive ads have on search engine rankings, smothering your visitors with distractions won’t engage them, but it might enrage them.

Bad Site Structure: Simple is better. The “Rule of Thirds” says that every time you ask a visitor to do something or click to another page you lose about a third of them. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for without having to go too deep into the website.

Invasive Audio & Video: People want to consume content at their own pace and at their own discretion. Force feeding sounds and motions on them is a sure way to cut short their visit.

Registration Requirements: Forcing a visitor to register before they can view content is like asking them to pay for something before they know what they are buying. Think of your content as the product, and their contact info as the currency. Don’t ask them to register until you give them a taste of what they are paying for with their personal information.

Boring Content and Design: Your website is a statement about your company. Minimalistic is OK, but boring just won’t cut it. People don’t read on the Internet… they scan. They see Headlines, Graphics and bullet points. Create the image that is appropriate for you target market and present the information in the most concise and interesting way possible.

Poor Legibility: Don’t get cutsie with italic designer fonts or use red text over a black background. In other words, function over form when it comes to the actual reason why someone took the time to visit your site. We were all conditioned to read dark print on a light background with proven legible fonts. Stick to the program.

Stale Content: You wouldn’t watch the same episode of a television show over and over again would you? Why would anyone return to a website that is not updated with current relevant information? And by the way…. Search engines love fresh content and have little use for stale websites. “Last updated in 2004” and “Under Construction” pages will impress no one.

Here are Six Simple Tips you should consider when creating a website page layout.

Chuck Bankoff is Director of Web Services for Kreative Webworks, Inc. A Digital Media Marketing firm in Orange County CA.


Mobile Website Design and Consistent Branding

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On June - 29 - 2012

The benefits of good mobile website design are numerous and well documented. The highlights of a recent infographic by The Mobile Web Design Blog on June 16 points out that:

  • 2 out of 3 Americans are connected by mobile devices
  • 94% of adults ages 18-44 own a mobile device
  • Email usage has risen 30% in the last 2 years
  • 52% of users actively browse the internet on their mobiles
  • 34% of mobile owners use their phones to research and compare prices of products at least once a month.

With so much internet activity now being relegated to mobile devises, it is essential that every brand have a mobile enabled version of their website that is not only optimized for the small screen of a mobile device, but that it is integrated into their overall marketing strategy.

It is true that the behavioral patterns of mobile users who access a brand from a mobile device are different from when they interact with a brand from a standard desktop display. They are actually looking for less, but more specific information. Typically the consumer is seeking products and services information, directions and an easy way to contact the brand (click-to-call or simple striped down contact forms).

There are a variety of different templeted solutions that are typically used; however these have a tendency to lose continuity with the brand. At the end of the day there is no substitute for a simplified customized mobile website that accurately reflects the “mother ship”.

Case Study: Kelly Brothers Painting

When we took over the Kelly Brothers Painting website it appeared as a postage stamp when accessed from a mobile device. The text was too small to read, the navigation buttons too small to press, and the contact form too unwieldy to use without an inordinate amount of patience.

We wanted to maintain the look and feel of the original site by maintaining certain aspects that the client uses to brand the company. In particular, we wanted to ensure we incorporated the following features:

  • Make the image of the paint can prominent because that is a consistent factor in all their email marketing templates.
  • Since the painting industry is all about making things look better, we wanted to incorporate the same slideshow that is on the original full-size version to maintain the emotional connection.
  • We incorporated the same video that is on the main site into their mobile site.
  • We gave the consumer direct access to an interactive Google map to quickly locate the shop while on the go.
  • We employed a “tap-to-call” function so the consumer can just tap their Smartphone to instantly call the shop without having to leave the website and enter the phone number.
  • Ensured their Social Icons were on the bottom of every page so the consumer can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Different industries require different solutions, but what remains consistent is providing a user friendly experience that is rewarded by increased consumer interaction and higher placement in the search results in the major search engines.

With brands increasingly paying attention to their mobile web presence, there are now a lot of well designed mobile websites to model your site after. You can view a few of them on our own Mobile Website Design Portfolio.

Kreative Webworks, Inc. is a professional digital marketing agency in Orange County CA specializing on Online Lead Generation since 1999.


Mobile Website Popularity

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On November - 14 - 2011

Over the next few years mobile enabled websites will be as popular as, well… websites.

Currently about 1 in every 7 searches on the Internet are from a mobile device such as a Smartphone or iPad. By 2013 there will be more searches from mobile devices than from desktop devices. In fact 25% of Internet users around the world are “mobile only” right now, yet few websites are mobile enabled.

This is temporarily a huge advantage for mobile savvy businesses.

It’s temporary because over the next couple of years all serious businesses will be mobile enabled. What is now an advantage will become mandatory. So for now, why is there an advantage?

Search engines try to give the best user experience to their customers. Their customers are people like you and me who are searching for, well…whatever we are searching for. Search engines can detect the specific device the search is being conducted from, and are giving preference to mobile enabled websites over their non-mobile counterparts in the search results when searched from a mobile device.

The consumer of course is not going to dedicate much time to viewing miniature versions of full websites. They have no patience to make the text bigger and move it around the screen so they can read everything. They are not going to spend much time squinting at little buttons that are smaller than their fingertips as they try to zero in on them to navigate to the next page of tiny text and miniature graphics.

Mobile consumers are looking for different information and a different experience than their desktop counterparts.

Just when you thought you got this website conversion thing just right, technology makes another adjustment to human behavior. Traditionally you want to lead your visitors down a “path” or a “sales funnel”. You want to control their experience, but make sure that any information that they may possible want is available on the site. This is true for mobile visitors as well, the difference is the information mobile searchers want is typically a lot less, and very specific.

Understand the mobile user may be on-the-go looking for directions, or knee deep in water looking for a plumber. Understand your customer, and give them EXACTLY what they are looking for… no more…no less.

The most sought after information mobile users look for? Company information, Destination information and Social Media.

OK, now that you understand why mobile website development is so important, and what consumers are looking for, you might want to look into creating a mobile friendly version of your company website. Depending on the complexity of the design and how basic the functions are (and they should be basic) you can generally have a custom mobile site retrofitted to your existing site for $500-$1000.


Six Website Page Layout Tips you Absolutely need to Consider!

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On July - 11 - 2011

In the last few years Search Engine Marketing and Social Media have stolen the spotlight away from some basic Internet marketing principles. That is; the user experience and the fundamental way that website pages are laid out and organized for your visitors (human beings…not search engines). After all, what visitors do once they get to your website is purely the result of what they see on the site.

Here is where I would normally turn the conversation towards content. However there is something even more fundamental I want to address; Usability and Visual Appeal…

Your top banner and navigation layout are major considerations because they will generally be used consistently throughout the site. However the individual page layouts (what is unique on each page) is what adds personality to the site.

  • Think magazine…not flyer: Actually think somewhere in between. Print layout is not the same as web layout, but the basic rules of design apply. Flyers typically feature oversized fonts centered down the middle of the page. Magazines are typically more “artsy”. An effective layout combines the simplicity and directness of a flyer with the flair and interest of a magazine. Professional touches might include wrap-around text, multiple columns and strategic (but limited) attention getting devices. Add flair to your layout…not distractions.
  • Spacing considerations: Unless you are publishing a term paper online you will probably not want to indent each paragraph. Instead you might consider separating each paragraph with a double space. This technique is cleaner, easier to read, separates individual points into manageable blocks and is certainly more contemporary. Here is an example of a Huntington Beach Personal Injury Lawyers site where we spaced each paragraph in blocks, and actually have each line at about 1.5 spaces for easer reading.
  • Text wrapping: Wrapping text around images can have a very professional “magazine-like” effect on your page layout. A common mistake is allowing the text to butt directly against an image, creating an unintentionally crowded feel. Make sure that you use “cell padding” or another technique to create a small buffer around your images so that the text does not physically touch the images.
  • Scrolling v. White Space: Decide what is more important, an uncluttered design, or letting the visitor see everything without scrolling. Minimal scrolling is acceptable and preferable to jamming all your content into the top portion of your page. An even better solution is to aggressively edit your content. Visitors inherently breeze through websites with an unprecedented level of impatience. On the web…less is more. Here is an example of site we designed with minimal scrolling. Note there really isn’t a lot of text on this popular healthy lifestyle Edamame website. We allowed the graphics to do the talking.
  • Background images and textures: Unless you have an absolute compelling reason to do so, it is best not to use any sort of image background or textures behind the body text. This has a tendency to appear gimmicky and it obscures the readability of your text. It might also compromise the load time (the amount of time it takes for your web page to materialize).
  • Appropriate use of Flash: Animation has several advantages, but it also has a tendency to be over used. A little animation can go a long way towards distinguishing your brand or demonstrating a technique. However it can also be a distraction to your real message and cause unnecessary load time.

Try to avoid testing the patience of your visitors with gratuitous eye candy. Moderately animated logos and slogans in the banner of your Home page (or landing page) are great for branding, but once someone has seen it and has decided to venture deeper into your site, there is no point in repeating it endlessly. The repetitive movement would be akin to someone walking back and forth in front of you while you are trying to read. Here is an example of a glass and mirror company in Dallas where we rotated the flash through once, and let it settle on the frame with the written message. It doesn’t rotate any longer and never animates on internal pages.

An example where flash serves a purpose above and beyond branding might be a website that promotes women’s lipstick products where a flash sequence demonstrates the proper technique for applying the product. As a general rule, anything that says “Skip Intro” or “Enter Site” should probably not be there to begin with.

We can influence the search engines and make our cases through Social Media channels, but at the end of the day your own website is one of the few things that you actually have total control over…

Chuck Bankoff is Director of Web Services for WSIeWorks, a full service Digital marketing firm in Orange County California.


Nigel has Design Suggestions for his Website

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On June - 20 - 2011

Well actually his name was Mark, and he didn’t have a British accent, but the ensuing discussion was pretty accurate (sort of).

The cardinal rule of effective web design is to design for your target audience…not yourself. There are of course industry best practices…tempered with common sense.

Websites that are able to stand the test of time have three things in common:

  • Appropriate theme for the target market
  • Uncluttered design
  • Unambiguous navigation

Not necessarily rocket science, however these elements take a bit of upfront planning, and should not be trivialized. Good website design by its very nature is subjective, but bad design is just…well bad. Here is my checklist of what NOT to do:

  • Too much Flash: Improper use of flash is gratuitous and may detract from the purpose of the website. Make sure that flash is used judiciously and not just as “eye candy”.
  • Pages that are too long: Long pages are subconsciously interpreted as too much work to read. It is much better to break content into multiple, well organized pages.
  • Pages that are too cramped: Not everything has to be seen all at once to be appreciated. Too much collocated information is in itself a distraction.
  • Unnecessary repetition: Give your visitor a little credit. Convenient navigation is one thing, but force-feeding it to your visitors is something else.
  • Too many attention getting devises: If everything is highlighted, then nothing stands out.
  • (just in case you need additional clarification).

A Cinderella Website Makeover

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On March - 16 - 2011

When SeaPoint Farms came to us looking to reinvent their web presence, the first place we looked was at their current website. The design was a bit dated by today’s standards, and the technology had reached “end of life” and was no longer being supported.

As we typically do, we kicked off the project by surveying other websites in related industries. Along with the team at SeaPoint, we developed a Creative Brief that served as our guidelines for our graphics team.

The end result was a modern design built on our eFusion platform giving the client access to over a dozen different modules along with the ability to make quick edits themselves.
What did the site look like before?

Like Cinderella’s ugly sister….


Landing Page Copy: “I don’t have time to make it short!”

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On January - 11 - 2011

That’s what Mark Twain said over 100 years ago, and it’s still a challenge today. Writing content is easy; writing concise content in a limited space is a bit more difficult.

We are dealing with two limitations that point to “less is more”:

  1. Fitting all the pertinent points onto the viewable portion of your visitors screen: You only have moments before your visitor will click away if they don’t see what they are looking for.  People will scroll down below the fold (the portion of the web page that is below their initial field of vision) if you catch their attention with what is above the fold. Make sure that the important information is right in front of their faces immediately.
  2. Your visitors have the attention span of a 6th grader: People don’t actually read on the internet…they scan. They see headlines, bullet points and graphics. You must attract their attention before they make an effort to actual read any copy.

The body copy on your landing page has to be good, but don’t delude yourself into thinking everyone will read it. Only about 20% of your visitors will actually read the body copy… still, it has to be good (less is more).

Focus on a great “enticing” headline, and easily digestible bullet-pointed list, or a graphic that tell a story at a glance (known as a “Hero Shot”). Headlines should refer back to what the visitor was looking at before they landed on your page. This “continuity” is a factor in the conversion architecture of your marketing campaign.

Don’t forget the call to action! You might test matching up the call to action with the headline since that is almost certainly the one element on the page that you can be sure they will read.

You are welcome to download my Whitepaper “Landing Page Design: Common Mistakes & Tested Techniques” from the free section of the WSIeWorks website. You can also listen to the entire recorded webinar as well.

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