Posts Tagged ‘Website Development’
How many times have you accessed the web through your smart phone lately? I bet you can’t even keep track of it. Consumers are believed to be madly in love of their smartphones these days. In the past few years, we have seen a huge increase on sales of smartphones worldwide. According to Jason Spero, Google’s head of mobile sales, 38% percent of the total population in the United States is now smartphone owners. 95% of these owners generally used their smartphones for mobile search. Jason Spero also anticipated that about 1 billion people would use their mobile phones as their primary tool for internet usage by the end of this year. So how prepared are businesses for this change? Are their sites mobile ready? Have they prepared a much stronger internet marketing campaign that would utilize the fast growth of mobile user enthusiasts?
I conducted a little visit to the Top 10 Fortune 500 companies’ websites to see if they are mobile ready and surprisingly, I found out that only 4 out of top 10 companies are mobile ready: Walmart, General Motors, Bank of America, and Ford. I found their mobile sites very user friendly and easy to access. These are companies that use the internet and marketing towards end consumers, and having a mobile ready site helps them reach their target demographic easier.
Though the other top 6 companies’ sites (Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Fannie Mae, General Electric, and Berkshire Hathaway) were accessible through mobile, they are not mobile friendly and I found them hard to explore. It is understandable if some of these B2B companies do not target mobile users since they are not selling a product or service to end consumers. There is probably no need for it now, but in some small way, if these businesses really want to maximize the experience to their target audience, then creating a mobile ready site is not a bad idea. For example, an investment holdings company like Berkshire Hathaway having a mobile friendly view of related financial news and stock price updates would really be beneficial to their investors.
There are no more questions that businesses have to go mobile. By creating a more effective search marketing campaign, they have a bigger opportunity of reaching a much wider demographic. But this potential success might not start unless they accept the idea of creating a mobile ready site. With the overwhelming success of the mobile industry these days, businesses should really consider operating in the mobile world more. So if you are a business, get started and create a mobile ready site. Do not miss out on this great opportunity and soon your business would benefit from all the love that this huge mobile community is giving.
On Tuesday, the Target Corp launched its limited collection Italian design label Missoni, for a short period of time before a high volume of eager shoppers caused Target.com to crash.
Target mentioned that the number of items customers wanted per order was even bigger than what is usually seen for orders on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year after Thanksgiving that usually marks the start of the traditional holiday season and is one of the biggest selling days in the industry.
The limited collection of Missoni features more than 400 items in Missoni’s Signature zigzag, mix-match and other graphic prints including luggage, bikes and wine boxes with the average price of apparel in the collection being $49.99. The brand offers a high-end cashmere crewneck sweater that run nearly $800 and striped dresses for $1,400 sold at the retail store Neiman Marcus.
The Target.com page displayed the message “Woof! We are suddenly extremely popular. You may not be able to access our site momentarily due to unusually high traffic. Please stay here we’ll try to get you in as soon as we can.” The crash of Target.com affected the online sales for all products that Target sold online. The site came on for a short amount of time before the site crashed once again.
The limited collection line of Missoni was meant to generate significant traffic and buzz for Target, which had done just that. The collection will be on sale at the company’s store through Oct 22.
Vid.ly, a video uploading service, has the ability to provide for all your video needs. The site has recently been revamped and is ready for the general public. Any video can be uploaded with your free account and Vid.ly makes that video available on any browser, application, or device. This means your video can be seen by anyone whether they’re on an iPad, Google Chrome, or a Blackberry.
Vid.ly has recently become more popular with browsers and devices, as seen on Vid.ly’s website:
According to data collected by Vid.ly, the iPhone uses Vid.ly for about 62% of its video use while Blackberry and Android also use Vid.ly at a significant percentage. Though the iPad does not use Vid.ly as much, there’s a strong chance that as Vid.ly’s popularity grows, more Mac products will adopt this method of video use.
According to Christophor Rick’s blog, Vid.ly has also reported various browsers’ usage of their service. Firefox uses it 50% of the time while Chrome and Internet Explorer use it 20% of the time. This is good news for Vid.ly and as their service becomes more popular, chances are these numbers will increase as well.
Google is under attack, but stays calm in the midst of multiple allegations against their Web search services and influence over Android. The Federal Trade Commission along with several state attorneys general have been pushing forward with an investigation of Google’s control over Android’s operating system. Canalys, a company that provides research data, has stated that Android currently leads close to half of new smartphones shipped worldwide in the second quarter of this year.
After serving Google with several extensive subpoenas, the FTC continues to investigate whether the report that Google is preventing Android manufacturers from using other competitor services, is true. Google denies all allegations against them, assuring that none of their practices are unfair or illegal. Google believes that the recent increase in antitrust investigations has been a result of rival competitors who have been affected by Google’s aggressive push toward new business sectors.
In a private lawsuit against Google, the Boston-based company Skyhook Wireless Inc. has tried to prove Google otherwise. Skyhook claimed that Google was using its large market share to pressure smartphone manufacturers to drop Skyhook’s location-sensing technology in exchange for Google’s own competing service. Google replied stating that Skyhook’s allegations were unsupported.
Yelp is among other business-review sites that also agree to disagree with Google’s impartial statement, accusing Google of stealing content from their sites and posting it in the Google’s “Places” service. But so far the FTC has not proven Google guilty, and will not for a while since they are just starting an extensive investigation process that can last up to a year or longer. With several civil subpoenas being readied to send out to other parties in request of evidence against Google, the FTC is one step closer to solving the Google problem.
Embarking on a custom website design or redesign project is not to be taken lightly. Both the monetary and time commitments are large. Yet once completed, the impact of a new website design can last for years! The following six steps will help you select the right partner, identify the website goals and track the progress of the design/redesign so that your website is built correctly the first time!
STEP 1: Pick a Partner, Not Just an Agency.
Picking a website development company is never an easy task. The first step in setting yourself up for success is to pick a partner and not just an agency. A partner will have your strategic goals in mind while developing your website and not just the end product. Look for a partner who:
- Can provide you with examples of live websites they completed (Experience in your specific industry is not necessary, but can be beneficial)
- Will market your website post development. (A) Partners who have incentive for post-production work are generally more inclined to take the extra steps to keep your business. (B) Partners without specific Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click Advertising experience may not be aware of subtle techniques which will need to be updated for the marketing of your site.
- Website Development is never over. Even once the finished product is live, keep in mind that tweaks and updates are needed. Having a partner who you trust and who knows the back end system of the site will ease and expedite updates.
- Ask for references! When speaking with the references (yes, you should actually call them!), ask them about the process:
How were their interactions with the agency?
How flexible was the agency?
Did the agency propose solutions and suggestions (usability, plug-ins, etc)?
Did the agency develop the site on their own staging/development server?
Did the agency meet timelines?
STEP 2: Identify Your Website’s Goals.
Many of my clients have turned to me and said, “I want a website that wins awards”. While an award winning website is a great ego-stroke, there are no studies relating website awards won and increased conversions. If you cannot identify a goal/conversion metric for your website, consult with your partner. If they cannot help you, pick another partner!
Be sure not to cram all of the information and calls to action above the fold! Your site should have a clean and logically organized design that doesn’t try to be all things to all people. Use your real-estate wisely and never be afraid to test!
Understand what your client’s are looking for – If you are not sure how your customers are currently using your website or even the makeup of your target audience, Pew Internet has some good Data Tools which can help you identify your target audience and design a site which meets your client’s needs while increasing conversions.
STEP 3: Set a Timeline and Major Milestones.
Pick a partner who clearly lays out timelines, steps and major milestones. There are many tasks being complete which you cannot see (Ex: Server set-up). Major milestones should be in place so you can track the development progress. The agency you choose should have a process in place that they follow. Our process includes:
- Functional Specifications Document (FSD)
- Site Architecture
- Design and Usability
- Development, QA, and Launch
- Continuous Optimization
Understand what your partner’s process is and why! It is okay to request modifications to the process or to ask for details on what is included within a process, but understand that you cannot build the highway and then decide if the road goes in the direction you want.
STEP 4: Identify Needed Assets
This may be the first production step within the website development. Your partner should give you a list of items they will need to develop the site. Have you provided their team with everything they will need upfront to complete the website? Putting all required asset information within one email/file will keep everything organized and clean.
Note: If you need to remove an agency/disgruntled former employee/ a-wall developer’s access, save the time and do so first.
STEP 5: Be Flexible
Similar to any building project, issues will arise; it’s inevitable. Often it is your very own request (usually outside of the original project scope) which cause these hiccups. Be firm, yet flexible with your partner. If your partner says “let me look into that” or “I know of a platform that will perform what you are requesting”, be sure to ask the question, “How will this impact our completion date”? If you do not ask, they may not tell you.
STEP 6: TEST TEST TEST!
Every company will tell you that they Quality Assurance test your site, but is that time built into the project timeline? What steps are they taking to test the site? Many often over-looked tests include:
Has your analytics account/software been installed correctly?
Do the forms on your site function correctly?
- Emailing correctly (Format, subject and addresses)?
- Sending out from your server and not just theirs?
- Required fields accepting correct data?
Are you, the client, able to make updates to the site easily?
- Add a page?
- Delete a page?
- Add text to a page?
Can you process test transactions on your website?
- Can you reverse a transaction?
Is your site compatible in all browsers?
- Though only used by 4.4% of the population . IE6 has limitations which prevent some of the amazing functions your site has been built with to work. Agencies may charge you more if this requirement is not tested prior to launch.
If you follow the above suggestions to pick the right web development partner, you will have a successful, converting website that you can both be proud of.
Simply deleting extra data fields on your website can potentially save you millions, as shown in the article “Expedia on How One Extra Data Field Can Cost $12 M“. Expedia utilizes SAS® predictive analytics, which helps them understand their customer base statistically, based on web traffic and user behavior. They realized from studying this data, they they needed to eliminate ambiguous data on their online form that was misguiding their customers away from their product.
Expedia realized customers were inputting their bank name in the optional ‘Company’ field and proceeded to enter their bank address instead of their home address in the subsequent field. This was preventing the credit card verification process and consequently driving customers away. By simply removing one misguiding data field, an immediate improvement was noticed resulting in a $12 million profit per year.
We can all learn from this example. It is essential that the direction on your website is efficient for the average online user. Remember that people do not want to spend extraneous time on a website if they don’t need to. The information you provide on online forms must be straightforward and free of misunderstandings. Analytics can only obtain so much information about online users. One way to completely understand your website users’ behavior is to physically observe them navigating the website and note their confusions.
According to SAS analytics (http://www.sas.com/success/expedia.html), Expedia applies their resources in three ways: inventory selection optimization, website design and fraud reduction. Each facet of SAS analytics observes data in order to learn and optimize on previous customer behavior. These data collections ultimately prevent issues like credit card fraud and help interpret data that will be useful to a specific customer.
Although the primary purpose of using analytics is not eliminating problems such as these, it has proven to be useful in removing glitches to optimize a website’s performance. Analytics only provides statistical information which is why it is crucial to understand your customer in order to make your website as efficient as possible. Who knows, maybe removing a couple of optional fields on your website’s online form could result in similar benefits.
The Basics of a Website – Part 1
For most non-webtechies, the “behind the scenes” setup of a website is often very confusing. There are two very specific things that need to be setup before you can launch a website (after website design and development) and that is the Domain Registration (www.yourname.com) and the Web Hosting – which is a server where the files of your website are stored and your email is setup.
Finding a good name is very difficult these days. Nearly all the short acronyms are already taken and in most cases, your own name is possibly already registered. Using one of the domain registration websites, you can search for a domain name and if your choice is taken, most sites will give you suggestions for names that closely match your search. Try to avoid using dashes in your domain name if at all possible.
It is always strongly recommended that you register your own domain name(s). There are a quite a few options available, just search for “domain registration” the cost is around $7.50 to $15 per year, and you can get discounts for registering multiple years at a time. It doesn’t matter where you register your domain, but do not let a web developer tell you they have to register for you – this is absolutely not true! They are only trying to control you and possibly your domain if your site is a success.
Once you’re finished registering your domain, then you are free to shop around for web-hosting. Some of the domain registration sites also offer hosting. In most cases, this is the ideal setup. This way, you only have one contact for all your support needs. However, before you setup hosting, make sure you contact your web developer to ensure that the hosting company is acceptable. The difference in cost is nearly insignificant, until you start adding layers of security (SSL) which are recommended for any online purchasing websites or eCommerce that accept credit card payments.
For a web developer, there are certain tools that will make the development of your website proceed smoothly. Example, is if the host offers a cPanel or Plesk interface (a user friendly control panel for development). But most importantly, your developer will be able to check to see what software your host supports in order to build your website. Some of these include MySQL and PHP (which are both very critical tools for Content Management Systems like WordPress or Joomla).
The type of server you choose for hosting can make a big difference in the way your website can be built. Linux is the preferred server for most custom web developers, however, larger corporations and those with more interest of high-tech security chose to go with a Windows server. In most cases, a Linux server will provide you with a safe and secure website hosting environment.
It’s always best to check with your website development company before you purchase a Hosting solution.
Next: Changing your Domain Registration and /or Web Hosting provider.
Website design and development can be a frustrating process for both the designer and the client because it is a creative process and there are usually several people involved on both sides providing feedback and guidance. Everyone has a different opinion on what looks good and what will properly reflect the company’s brand image.
To avoid obstacles and communication issues throughout the website design process, it is better to spend more time on discovery and the initial planning. Here are seven tips to help ensure the end result is a success for both the client and the designer Internet marketing company.
ONE: Gain an Intimate Understanding of Their Business
This seems obvious but this step is often rushed. To truly provide value and show your client that your care about their business, you need to learn about their business model, revenue streams, financial goals, corporate culture, and future vision.
TWO: Know the Competition
It is important as the designer to understand who your client’s competitors are. Find out who their offline and online competition is. There may be a difference in who they are competing with in the search engine results and who they truly consider their competitor. You should know both sides and find out what their competition is doing right as well as where they are falling short.
THREE: Understand Their Design Goals
During the discovery process it is often helpful to provide the client with a questionnaire such as a “needs analysis” or “design questionnaire” so you can extract as much information as possible such as color pallet ideas, websites they like and don’t like, desired functionality, and basic conversion goals. For example, is the purpose of the site to simply inform, or will it be meant to generate new business, or both?
FOUR: Get a List of Website They Like
One of the best ways to get behind the “design” eye of your client is to have them provide you a list of three to five websites they like. Make sure they provide you with details about why they like the designs and any aspects about the sites they do not like.
FIVE: Understand Budget Ranges
This can be a sensitive discussion early on because the client will not want to give up any negotiating power by simply answering your question, “What is your Budget?” However, quite often the client does not have a sound understanding of how their vision for their new website will translate into design and development time…and money! That is why the discovery process is so important. Whether you are a freelance designer or a full scale Internet marketing company, the process should be the same. The budget will immediately help you communicate to the client what is possible and what is not.
SIX: Understand Functionality and Optimization Goals
This part is very important. Many times a designer may not be the individual actually developing the website. This can be problematic of the designer has more of a graphic design background and a limited understanding of the development process. Sometimes great designs don’t translate well on the web or may not be feasibly from a development perspective depending on the functionality needs of the client. Make sure you communicate with the development team so they understand how you plan to lay things out. All designers these days should also have at least a basic understanding of search engine optimization. It is frustrating for a client when they spend a lot of time and money having a great website designed only to find out month later that it has to be rebuilt for SEO purposes.
SEVEN: Functional Specifications
The result of the discovery process should be a very detailed FSD (functional specifications document) that both the website designer/developer and the client sign off on. This ensures that there is a blueprint to consult when there is confusion about what is or is not “in scope”. This is the MOST important part of the project and should not be rushed. The FSD should include details on design, functionality, timeline, budget, and all supporting details and documentation gathered during the discovery phase. A good FSD will include the wire frames and maybe even some initial design mocks. Make sure the FSD is in line with the contract and that deliverables are detailed. Because website design is a creative process, the client will think of things along the way that they did not initially communicate during discovery. Depending on how simple or complex these requests are, you can make a judgment call whether to include the additional requests or possible provide the client with an additional quote based on estimates hours.
Conversion optimization: The process of manipulating a web page to improve the visitor’s perception of the page and increase the conversion rate. A “landing page” is generally referred to when speaking about the page a visitor is directed to when clicking on an advertisement, email marketing piece, or search engine result link. The page should be a logical extension of the ad, support the “promises” made in the ad with more detail, and have clear and simple calls to action.
Three types of LPO:
- Associative content targeting: the page content is dynamically modified for each user based on parameters such as search criteria and geographical location.
- Predictive content targeting: the page content adjusts based on any “known” information about the user such as demographics, browsing patterns, and possibly purchasing behavior.
- Consumer directed targeting (social targeting): page content is created using public information through metrics based on reviews, ratings, referrals, tagging, etc.
Below is an example of a nicely laid out landing page with a very clear call to action. Notice how the layout gives the visitor a very simple multi-step process, additional content about the page and offering, a short registration form, and the appropriate “trust” factors associated with the serrvice. All of these elements exist to improve conversion rates.
All website design elements should define a specific conversion. The client should be first asked to lay out their business goals and goals associated with their online presense and Internet marketing plan. If you haven’t defined the conversion factor you can not take the necessary steps to design the site appropriately. The website and its landing pages are probably the most crucial element and the key foundation to the online marketing strategy. There is no point in building a fancy site that noone will see. More importantly there is no point in spending time and resources to drive traffic to a site that is no set up to convert visitors into customers. Until “traffic” is converted, it should always be considered a cost, not an asset.
I assume most of you out there have seen “breadcrumbs” across the top of web pages. When considering website design/development and search engine optimization, it is important to understand what breadcrumbs are, how to use them most effectively, and why they are important for SEO.
Breadcrumbs are simply a text based navigation displayed across the top portion of web pages to show the page hierarchy. The term “breadcrumbs” is generally thought of as a way to find your way home. In this sense that is basically true but they are really used to show where a page falls within the site’s hierarchy. They are useful for the user as well as for the search engines to determine the purpose and content of that page. Breadcrumbs can offer an easy navigation path for the user, but a site should still have a very clear navigation so the user does not need to rely on breadcrumbs to move through the site.
How are breadcrumbs implemented?
- On a given page, regardless of how the user navigated to that page, the breadcrumbs should show the hierarchy starting with the top most page (Home page) all the way down to the sub-page. An example would be a real estate site that shows home listings. The breadcrumbs on a page that is specific to an individual listing could be displayed as: Real Estate > California Homes > Los Angeles Homes > 1234 LA Avenue
- Each breadcrumb is typically separated by a greater than (>) symbol
- Notice I did not use “Home” for the home page. The main page breadcrumb reference should include your main keyword(s).
- Breadcrumbs in the hierarchy should correspond to the page titles. It is best when page title and breadcrumbs both use keywords. In the example above, we used the keyword “Homes” for each component. The page titles in this example would also be “California Homes”, “Los Angeles Homes”, etc.
- All the breadcrumbs in the navigation path should hyper link to the given page except the page the user is actually viewing. In the example above, 1234 LA Avenue would not be a hyperlink because the user would already be on that page
- Never display breadcrumbs on the home page – naturally there is no need because technically the user has not yet navigated anywhere within the site
Other things to consider:
- As you may have noticed, breadcrumbs display a navigation path or hierarchy but that may not necessarily correspond to how the user got to that page. For example, if a user is on the home page of the theoretical real estate website mentioned above, they might see a featured add for 1234 LA Avenue rotating on the home page. If they click on the add and go that the listing page, the breadcrumbs will not be displayed as Real Estate > 1234 LA Avenue. They would be displayed as shown above to designate the true hierarchy of the page within the site with refernce to the California and Los Angeles pages.
- All sites are different and therefore breadcrumbs my be used in different ways depending on the page hierarchy and overall site structure.
From a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint, breadcrumbs can help boost page relavance and rankings. The idea behind a comprehensive SEO strategy is not just to get rankings for the home page, but as many pages as possible for the site. Often times, the long tail keywords will drive traffic to internal pages of a site more specifc to the keyword phase. Breadcrumbs assist in this process by providing the search engines exactly what they need:
- user friendly site with a very clear navigation path
- a perfect outline or structure for the overall framework
- corresponding terms for text based navigation and page titles
- proper internal linking
Internal linking is important to note because it follows some of the same theories as when we consider the importance of inbound links to a website. Inbound links act as a “vote” for that page so when the search engines review a link coming to the site they see it as a positive recommendation (assuming the link is valuable). In the same way, breadcrumb links act as a vote for the page above them in the hierarchy. The main page will obviously have the most “votes” and the subsequent internal pages will have fewer votes.
Regardless of all the details above, breadcrumbs are a must…for your users and for proper search engine optimization. So don’t forget the breadcrumbs! If you use an Internet marketing company to build your new website, be sure that the firm has a solid understanding of SEO. This is imperative. There is no point in building a site that will not have the ability to achieve rankings.