Designing websites for people not device

Designing websites for people, not devices

Web design has evolved greatly over the years. No longer do you have to only worry about users viewing on stationary desktop computers. In a mobile-first world you have to consider tablets, phones and other mobile devices that are emerging. It is easy to get distracted and design for these devices instead of designing websites for people. Never forget the purpose of your web design and its focal point – the user.

You need to consider your users first to ensure that your website is successful. They are the ones interacting with your website. They are the ones you need to make an impression on. Their experience will influence their action and you want them to take specific actions. Positive actions are usually preceded by positive experiences. What experience does your website provide?

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5 tips for securing WordPress websites

5 Tips for securing WordPress websites

One of the most popular content management systems (CMS) used in web design is WordPress. The open source CMS has a lot of things going for it.  WordPress is free, easy to install, easy to use and it can be customized through themes and plugins. Unfortunately, popularity comes with a price. WordPress possesses a market share that makes it an ideal target for those seeking to distribute malware or gain access to your website. Vulnerabilities in web server software and outdated plugins or themes are common points of entry for attackers. Securing WordPress websites can save you and your clients a lot of headache in the future. Here are 5 tips to help boost your WordPress installation’s security.

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Is a content management system right for me?

Is a content management system right for me?

When developing your business website there are many things that you need to consider. Who is your target audience? What are your goals for the website? How will your website be used and updated? The answers to these questions will help determine the best type of website for your company. A content management system (CMS) is a  popular option for getting businesses online fast.  Some popular content managements systems are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. They are relatively easy to set up and do not require knowledge of code to install. A CMS is also relatively easy to update and maintain allowing users to focus on content rather than design. On the other hand, some businesses may feel restricted by the limitations of a particular content management system. There are many factors to consider when deciding if a CMS is the ideal choice for your business.

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Fix Broken Links

Fix broken links on your website for better SEO

SEOWhen you create a website it usually contains a lot of your own content and internal navigation links. All of these are under your control so you are aware of any changes. You may also want to include links to external resources or websites that would be useful to your audience. These external links however are beyond your control. Over time they may lead to content that has moved or websites that have been abandoned. These broken links are a problem because they lead your visitors to pages that do not exist and present an error page instead of expected relevant content. Additionally, the number of broken links on your website may be a factor which search engines use in determining how to rate your website. It is  in the best interest of all parties to fix broken links on your website.

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Build Trust

Build trust with your website

The priorities of small businesses  are usually centered around profit making and customer acquisition activities such as sales, marketing and customer service. All of these areas are important to business success and can directly affect revenue generation. It is therefore no surprise that they command a lot of attention. There is also a more subtle method of attracting customers to your business that can have a huge impact on how your business is perceived. It all begins with using your website to build trust.

Your website is an ideal tool for getting your brand message out. It is under your control and can be utilized in a manner that fits with your business objectives. You can use it to maintain the type of image that you desire. A good reputation is a very powerful marketing tool that encourages referrals. There are many ways that you can use your website to build trust in your business and we will explore a few of them.

Build trust with official channels of communication

Chat buttonYour website is one of your most important tools for creating and maintaining a trustworthy line of communication. It is a channel that any stranger looking for your business online can find. It is also very easy to refer people to it.  When information comes from your official website it is regarded as more credible than other external sources. Think about it. If you want to know the opening hours of a local store would you trust the store’s website or a third party website more? To maintain this level of trust it is imperative that your website is current and regularly updated.

Blogs, news and press releases

You can keep the public abreast of what is going on with your business in many ways on your website. You can run a blog to share stories and information and foster discussions. You can also have a news section of your site where you make announcements and publish press releases.

Email Forms

Forms on your website allow customers to send an email directly to your company with as little hassle as necessary. There is no need to log in to a separate email account or worry about sending the message to the right email address. The form can also be customized to guide customers to submit only the specific information that your business will need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Providing a list of frequency asked questions and official responses to these questions can help customers find answers to questions on their own. This may reduce the amount of time you need to spend answering these questions and provides a consistent answer that anyone in your company can refer to.

Testimonials

Testimonials are a great way to share what your actual customers think about your business with the public. Since it is written in the voice of the customer and not the business it may be regarded as less biased. Customers in doubt may also find the opinions and experiences of other customers helpful in making a purchasing decision.

Build trust with signs of security

Shield PadlockBefore customers consider making a purchase from your website they want to be reassured that the website is genuine. They also want to know that their financial and other data is transmitted securely. With the proliferation of online scams and unscrupulous business practices customers are more concerned about privacy and data security. Fortunately there are many methods that you can use to reassure your customers and potential customers that your website is secure.

Security Certificates

One of the best ways to reassure customers that your website is secure is to secure the data they transmit via your website. This can be done by using an SSL Certificate to validate that your business is authentic and that the data transmitted between your website and the customer is encrypted. This provides a visual cue that customers can identify in their web browsers.

Policies and Terms of Service

Honesty also pays a huge part in gaining the trust of your target audience. Users of your website may want to know how their data is being used and who has access to it.  It is important to address these concerns in a privacy policy. If you are providing a commercial service with rules and restrictions that customers should know about it is wise to also have a Terms of Service page on your website.

Easily Accessible Contact Information

Although a website is a powerful tool, it may not be enough to gain everyone’s trust. It is not unusual for people to seek out more information about the company or people involved with the company. They may want to have an actual voice conversation or even visit the business in person. Visitors may become skeptical if the company’s contact information seems obscured or difficult to find.

Conclusion

Building trust in your business is not about using clever tactics to appear a certain way to the general public. It is about transparency and allowing the core values of your business to be expressed in your brand’s own voice. Visitors to your website can then make their own assessment based on the information you have provided. Your business processes should always aim to build trust  and your website is a wonderful tool to start with. Trust is also a precursor to customer loyalty which is also good for business.

 

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Your website and social media strategy

Complementing your website with a social media strategy

Website LaptopYour website is the go to authority for information about your business or organization for the inquiring public. The website does not only spread your message but also acts as an easily recognizable credible source of information. Another source of information is social media and if you manage your social media and website to work together this is a powerful combination.

Two voices or one?

Brand voiceSocial media excels at driving conversations and interactions and allows you to meet your audience where they hang out. As a result of this social media can usually be a lot more casual than an official website. Even in this relaxed setting it is important to remember and use your brand voice though. By remembering your vision and core values on social media you can bring your message to a more casual setting while still remaining professional and consistent.

Wing it or be prepared?

WingWhile content for your website is usually well prepared and edited, on social media sites posts may be a lot more spontaneous. This is not a bad thing but you must be prepared to answer questions and respond to comments that may not always be flattering. This is where having a social media strategy helps with dealing with awkward situations. Having some policy for dealing with disgruntled customers or curious fans and followers allow you to know what is an acceptable response to avoid public embarrassment that may tarnish your brand.

How do I build my social media strategy?

The first thing you need to do when building your social media strategy is to outline your goals for your brand, business or organization on social media sites. Are you there to entertain, inform, interact or simply provide support for a product or service? This helps you to identify who your target audience is and allows you to tailor your messages to suit that specific group.

Once you know why you want to use social media sites and who you intend to address you need to figure out which social media sites you will use and who will have access to your social accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media websites all have features that cater best to specific niches. You should also ensure that only designated individuals have access to post on your behalf on social media sites and that these designated persons are aware of your goals as well as your brand message and voice.

After you have sorted out who will handle your social media accounts you need to decide on what you want to share and how frequently you want to post content on social media websites. Your schedule can be as specific down to the exact times of day to post or as general as a minimum number of posts in a week. When your content is relevant and your frequency of posting is what your audience expects you have a better chance of reaching more people.

The final part of building a social media strategy is to be flexible and adapt to changing environments. Unlike your website where you have total control of the content and structure of your message, social media websites are more unpredictable. You never know when the rules for using the site will change or exactly who will engage with you on these sites. It is important to keep abreast of developments and changes in best practices and new features of whichever social media sites you are using to get the most out of it. Using insights and studying statistics provided by these sites will help you to improve your social media strategy.

Conclusion

It is very common for a website and social media to work together to achieve a common business goal. Social media is a great way of raising brand awareness and drawing attention to the content of your website. When creating your social media strategy remember that it should complement your website and not compete against it.The message from either channel can affect how the other is perceived by your audience.

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Mobile-friendly SEO

Designing mobile-friendly websites for usability & SEO

TouchOne of the keys to modern web design is allowing websites to be viewed on multiple devices at different screen sizes with content and layout adjusting naturally to the size of the screen it is displayed on. This seamless adaptation can be achieved by responsive web design. The layout of the website can be manipulated depending on the size of the viewport on which it is displayed. This makes the website easier to use but also has many benefits for search engine optimization (SEO).

Imagine the websites that you use most often displaying in the same way on your computer and your phone. While the website may be well designed for larger displays if the layout is not optimized for the smaller screen size it may become cumbersome to use. Having to scroll a lot or zoom in to view website elements greatly degrade the user experience of visiting a website on a mobile device. These factors have been noted by major search engines.

Google uses how mobile-friendly a website is as a signal in ranking websites in search results on mobile devices. Considering the popularity of mobile devices and the popularity of the Google search engine having a responsive website is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. Not only should websites fit on smaller screens but they should be optimized for use by touch enabled  devices. This means navigation elements should be large enough for fingers to  touch without activating neighbouring navigation elements.

Responsive web design is not just a fad but a best practice for designing modern websites. If your website is not yet responsive now is as good a time as any to upgrade. Although there are obvious benefits for search engine optimization the improvements in usability are the main reasons why your website should be mobile-friendly.

Links

Google rolling out mobile-friendly update

 

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Match email addresses to business functions

Improve communication and workflow with effective email addresses

Most businesses realize that they need an email address in order for people to be able to reach them online. Small businesses usually have one generic email address to manage all email communication. While this may be suitable for some businesses for others it may be quite restrictive. The problem becomes apparent when the business experiences growth or a great increase in communications. Someone then has to sort through various emails addressing various topics in a single inbox and determine appropriate follow-up actions. This can lead to more administrative work that diverts attention from core business functions to managing emails.

When one size does not fit all

One Size Fit All

As much as a business may desire the simplicity of a single email address, whether this is the right solution is a question that needs to be asked. Who will have access to this single email address? Are any of the emails received of a confidential nature? Are emails overwhelming people who they do not directly pertain to? Businesses tend to departmentalize work in order to be more efficient and utilize resources effectively. Email addresses can be departmentalized in the same way regardless of whether a business has 1 employee or 20.

Generic plus personalized

Generic & Personalized Emails

Many enterprises allow all employees to have a personalized business address to conduct business activities. The benefit of this approach is that it allows for personalized communication and the generic company email address can be avoided if the customer already knows who the information needs to be addressed to. This encourages the building of relationships between customers and the business which seems more natural than an email to a random company representative. Those who know who they want to communicate with can email them directly while a generic business email is still available for general inquiries. The business can publicly advertise the generic email address and selectively distribute individual personalized email addresses if they so desire.

Group Email Addresses

Group email addresses

Another alternative to using a single email address is to use group addresses which departmentalize emails. The sales team can have a single email address while customer support can also have a different email address. This helps customers in deciding which department that they should address and speeds up the processing of emails. It also allows the customer to specify the functional group of the business they intend to respond to the communication. Allowing the customer to do this sorting for you allows you to focus on other tasks such as following-up on the emails.

Where your website comes in

Website At Sign

One of the great things about creating a website is that it comes with the option of creating business email addresses that use your business domain name. SeizerStyle Designs can therefore create email addresses using @seizerstyle.com. This allows us to add our branding to our email addresses and also serves to help people remember our website address. If you already have a website or are thinking of creating one remember that an additional benefit of your website is that it allows you to departmentalize your email addresses. This can help reduce the stress of email overload and allows you to prioritize certain email addresses more than others.

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Good content attracts return visitors

Use content to attract repeat visitors to your website

Content is one of the most important aspects of a website but too often it can be overlooked with attention instead being diverted to design and layout decisions. Some balance has to be  reached in order for your website to be effective and make an impact on your target audience. During the design phase the appearance and layout of the website are critical to achieving the ideal user interface and creating a comfortable user experience. Once this is finalized however,  your content is responsible for captivating your target audience and making them want to come back. Good content is what the most popular websites on the internet have in common so it pays to invest some time and efforts on your website content.

Content Quality

Quality IconWriting about your expertise or backing your content with strong research is a great way to ensure that whatever you publish on your website is of high quality. Quality can also be influenced by how error free your writing is or the resolution of the imagery you include in the content. Good content for a sports website would include fixture lists, match results and sports news. Information that is exclusive to the business or organization that would be released as a press release is also ideal content for a website.

Quality content attracts visitors to return because it proves that you are knowledgeable and a credible source of information. It makes your website more believable and more reliable.

Content Quantity

Die IconWhen you are gaining an audience the quantity of content you create also becomes an important issue. People expect different types of content to be published with different frequencies. For instance news stories are expected to be published several times a day while business articles may be expected less frequently. Whether you are creating or curating your content will also affect how often updates are expected. Websites that curate content are expected to be updated more than those that create original material.

The quantity of content you create helps your website visitors figure out when to revisit your website if they are interested in your content. Websites that are frequently updated encourage visitors to revisit more often in search of new information. Quantity works together with quality because if the content is not of good quality the quantity may have little impact on repeat visitors.

Content Relevance

Puzzle IconThe content that you publish on your website should be relevant to your target audience. If you are targeting mothers and fathers video games and  sports cars may not be the ideal content for that demographic. Your content must also be published in a timely fashion in order to be relevant to your visitors. Information about a sale your company is having published on the final day of the sale does not give your visitors much opportunity to take advantage of the sale.

Relevant content helps you to develop a niche that your content specially caters to. This niche can be identified by interests, age, geographic location or any other demographic. This makes it easier to market your content to new groups that share the characteristics of your niche.

To ensure that your content is effective you should try to gain the right balance of quality, quantity and relevance. This may differ from industry to industry or business to business. It is important to know your target audience and let your content cater to their needs and expectations.

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Beyond beauty of web design

Web design is more than just creating beautiful websites

Creating a website is more than just designing the look and feel of an online entity. There are many aspects of website development that are less glamorous than designing beautiful mock-ups to impress a client and including fancy effects to woo visitors. While even these fun aspects of designing the website can be challenging at times there are also many other things that have to be considered. Research, responsive design, SEO, content management and website analytics are all important aspects of web development that cannot be ignored.

Web Design ResearchResearch

Every website is different and the design depends on a number of factors. Who does the website target? On what devices will the website be viewed? What functionality is required? These are just a few questions that need to be answered by research. The client is an invaluable source of information but not the only source that must be identified at this stage. Industry best practices and trends must also be considered. Improper research can doom a website to failure before it is even launched.

Web Design Responsive Responsive Design

Gone are the days when you could assume with confidence that the majority of users would be viewing your website from a desktop or laptop computer. Mobile devices including smart phones and tablets have risen to a point in popularity that they cannot be ignored. Responsive design allows you to cater for  a variety of different screen sizes in a manner that is seamless to the user.

SEOWeb Design SEO

Optimizing websites for search engines helps make your website more easily discovered. With more and more websites coming online every day it is increasingly more difficult to stand out. You want your relevant content to be accessible via a search and be as close to the top of the results as possible. SEO cannot be an afterthought, since it has to be integrated into the website development.

Web Design CMSContent Management Systems

Most web design clients are not designers and are not comfortable in delving into code to update their websites. They do however want trhe control to be able to add, remove and modify content on the site they are paying for. The solution to this is a content management system (CMS). A CMS acts as a separation that splits a website into the front end that visitors ssee and the back end that the client uses to update the website. The CMS is more user-friendly than actually writing code. COntent management requirements need to be known before the website is designed in order to cater for that functionality.

Website AnalyticsWeb Design Analytics

When you have launched your website you will obviously have questions about its performance. Is your website meeting expected targets? How many visitors are you getting a day? What channels do they take to get to your website? All of these questions can be answered by website analytics. Bear in mind that the more specific information you want about your website visitors the more you may be encroaching on their privacy. This is why website analytics are directly correlated to privacy policies.

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