Just because your website is live doesn’t mean the job is done. This is only the beginning and unfortunately, this is also when some
of the most horrendous crimes occur against your website. I don’t mean to sound harsh but I want to help you recognize what may be preventing your business from reaching its full potential.
Having a solid web strategy, not only guides your website tactics, and prevents problems; it also keeps your website from ending up something you never envisioned in the first place.
Stagnant and Stale
Nothing screams irrelevant or stale more than websites that don’t bother to remove promotions that ended months ago, show past events on the calendar, or when visitors return looking for new information, they find only the same information as their last visit.
Before you know it, your once vital website will be considered one of the many abandoned.
Within moments your visitors will leave your website to find another (and there are plenty of fresh websites) that will serve their needs better.
One way to prevent this - If you are still updating your website via HTML or coding, it may be time to consider migrating to a user friendly Content Management System CMS. While there are plenty out there, Softmedia recommends the Kentico
Content Management System which allows for easy management of your website content without the user needing to be tech savvy.
By being able to manage your updates yourself, you will save time and money because you will not need to wait or pay someone outside of your organization to do these tasks.
Nonfunctioning links and menus
You should routinely check your links and all applications to ensure they are functioning. Visitors easily get frustrated when links don’t work, or when they are slow to open.
Nobody intentionally creates a website that is designed so haphazardly it actually repels visitors. Unfortunately this happens, and the worse part, the offenders don’t always realize it or they think it’s not that bad.
Here are some signs that it may be time to look at your website design.
Your website copyright date doesn’t display the current year
Your website makes visitors listen to music. Please give the visitor the option to skip and if they skip, then DON’T have the music start again when they click another page. All music at this point (for the site) should be off.
Your website makes visitors watch a Flash Splash page and doesn’t offer a Skip Intro button. And let’s face it; if you have a Skip Intro button, you probably have no information of value on that page.
Ads are on every area of your website making it looks like a used car dealer. This gives the perception the ads are more important than the visitors coming to the website.
Your cousin or friend (that is not a designer) designed your website
Have you been losing traffic? Is your company staying up with technology and competition?
Your website has never acknowledged any of the newest trends. You don’t want to hear….the nineties are calling and they want your website so they can close the decade!
4. Nobody can find your website
You may have a great website but can it be found? Here at Softmedia we like to say, “Your website is a tree in a deep forest. What are you going to do to make it stand out?”
Here are some quick tips:
Submit a sitemap to Google.
If your business depends on local customers, register your site on local search engines and directories.
Take the time to do keyword searches for your content. Keywords can help generate targeted traffic to your website, as well as, help you rank higher than your competition in search engines for your chosen keywords. Google Adwords offers a free tool.
Blog – this is a great way to keep your content fresh, add value, become a voice in your industry and generate traffic. The more blogs you write, the more opportunities for visitors to find you.
Engage socially – build trust and relationships in a conversational way. This is done by listening and engaging NOT by selling or promoting your business. If done right, this is a great way to get in front of your targeted audience.
Every visitor that enters your website leaves a footprint. By analyzing your analytics you will see what pages visitors entered, where they came from, how many visitors entered within a time frame, what pages they exited and much more.
Measure your marketing efforts and adjust your strategy accordingly. By reviewing your data you will know which areas of your website are working well and which pages fail and need a re-do.
Here is the good news. No matter what condition your website is in, it can be turned around. Begin by determining the desired outcome, from here - create your a web strategy.
And remember, tactics should never be deployed until you’ve formulated the bigger picture which goes back to your web strategy.
Today’s blog doesn’t cover all website mistakes, or missed marketing opportunities, however we hope it helps to move our readers' website in the right direction.
We wish you a healthy and prosperous business!
If you have any questions on this topic or would like to suggest a blog topic, please email Sharon
Posted: 5/2/2013 4:01:11 PM
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In the early days of the internet bubble it wasn't so hard to find businesses that were entirely indifferent to the web. Some postponed building a web site for years as the industry really swung into high gear, others slapped up a one pager with a gray background and logo. Probably the best example of this blatant procrastination was Taco Bell. They failed to build a site or purchase a URL pretty late in the scheme of things. Eventually curious customers that stopped by were greeted by a mock web site set up by some stoner TB employees, who posted photos of each other making rather hilarious use of the local drive thru. From the company's point of view, at least the slackers were using the Taco Bell drive thru and not promoting a competitor, and oh, it could have been much, much worse.
This comedic use of the site went on for more than a moon's turn, and management had no inkling. These sorts of mistakes will not happen again on this epic a scale for large companies, even poorly run ones, as enough time has passed to make it clear how lucrative and vital this medium is, and how much embarrassment can be doled out if one doesn't man the ship. Let me refine this statement though: missteps of this magnitude will by and large be avoided henceforth, but plenty of branding and functionality blunders continue to this day and will anytime a major technology shift takes hold. Presently the most common flub is to completely ignore the mobile device experience they are offering to a rapidly growing audience, and it might be a good idea to state the case for taking charge of this matter now, and then waht to do about it.
Flavor of the Day: Foot Dragging
In 2011 there were over 1.1 billion mobile phone users globally, or 17 percent of the entire world population. Roughly a quarter of these people use this device exclusively to view the web, so there is a pressing need to view your site through this set of lenses. Yet there are plenty of companies that have failed to consider what their site looks like through a mobile device despite having put good time and effort into creating a solid web experience for more web devices with large screen formats. 8% of all North Americans web page views today are through a mobile device, almost a 40% increase in one year. To put it in perspective, these numbers have probably eclipsed total views for all Apple laptops and desktops, while PC growth has slowed to a crawl (3.8% last year). This should demonstrate the need to take the mobile device experience seriously, at least anyone who isn't clueless enough to let their domain name be purchased by disgruntled employees and turned into pure comedy.
What to do
What exactly is plan of action, you ask? A few simple steps can get you oriented, and give you a sense of what you need to do in order to create a better user experience for your mobile customers. First try out one of the following websites listed below to see what responsive website design, the best answer to mobile browser challenges, is all about. If you are on a PC, try dragging the browser window inward once you have an example on screen, narrowing the width, and watch how the layout changes to make better use of the available screen real estate, because these sites adjust to best accommodate the device being used, or at least that is the goal. The code that holds the web page and gives it structure has been written to respond to smaller browser/device sizes:
Now try viewing your own website using an iPhone or Android. If your site already employs responsive design like the ones listed above, you are all set. If not, find yourself a consultant who knows his way responsive design to get advice on how best to serve your site to a mobile audience, because there's no one size fits all business solution. Try visiting Target.com on a mobile device to see what I mean; they've chosen a completely differently path to presenting their website on such a small screen, as it is not the exact same content you'll find on the home page when displayed on your PC. The distance you've got to cover in not what I would call daunting in order to meet the needs of your mobile customers if you've failed to address it up till now, and you've got a number of tried and true solutions to choose from when you finally get your ducks in a row. No time like the present.
Posted: 4/18/2012 1:59:52 PM
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In the beginning designers and developers were intrigued when they learned that HTML5 offered something called Canvas, which is a low level language that allows browsers to support vector graphics, motion, paths, rendering text, copying images and video, manipulating pixels and more. It was an open source alternative to Flash, which sounded great. But to say Canvas was a mixed bag is being kind. It had many limitations that made it less than an ideal choice for most. But when Steve Jobs, Google and Microsoft later sanctioned it, it changed the game and caused some to reconsider whether the time had come to pick it back up and take it for a spin. No Flash or SVG on the iPhone is reason enough to take a closer look at where things stand, because there have been constant developments for Canvas. After recent advances, is it now worth using?
Starting off on the Wrong Foot
Let’s take a look at what Canvas brings to the table. No longer are HTML developers stuck using blinking text when they want animation! Throw away mooTools and Flash, because Canvas is the answer to your interactive prayers. Right? No. Canvas will not be able to compete with Flash any time soon. Flash can bring Canvas to the wrestling mat with a reverse pile driver in most instances. The computing power required of your browser will not allow Canvas to do all that much. We must limit our expectations right out of the gate, but it does have pratical uses. Anyhow, here are some examples that are touted to be “ridiculously impressive”:
If you are looking to draw simple images or do very simple animations, Canvas can do it. Too many moving parts means you better had better be fine with deplorable frame rates. If you are thinking about making complex interactive movies, interfaces or animation, I should stop you right here. Canvas might perform better once newer browsers come along with more horsepower devoted to the task, but right now I’d look to Flash, maybe Silverlight if you are a glutton for punishment, but Canvas is not a good option.
Gimme My Pen Tool
Let’s talk a little about the vector art in Canvas. Vector art is of course smaller in file size than raster art and scales nicely. That’s why Illustrator is a vital tool for many designers and why Flash files can stay so lean. Well, Canvas has more than a few issues here. First of all, drawing simple objects like a circle or a box requires a surprising amount of code. Illustrator and Flash objects contain similar code but the artist never has to look at. Canvas has no drawing board or tools, so many designers are not going to be very pleased. So far Canvas is not making my life any easier, it’s making it harder. Now imagine I need a more complex object, like a cartoon character that requires some points and curves. Canvas does support Bezier curves, but get a load of the steps required for two anchor points:
That looks a lot like what makes Silverlight such a tedious piece of junk. Designers and developers are a deadline driven bunch, and I want, no, I need to draw Bezier curves in under three seconds without being ground to a screeching halt in order to grab the four x/y coordinates for each curve in some other application. This is not efficient, so we are going to have to grab these coordinates from another app like illustrator and then add them to our scripting in order to use them in Canvas. All I can say is ugh. Until there is a Firefox app allows us to complete this task as easily as Adobe Illustrator, I will not be partaking in this lesson in futility.
So let’s instead bring our actors from another drawing app. This is what I did, and since there is no drag and drop, no WYSIWYG action for creating Bezier paths, and easing controls that I simply punch a number into, you are stuck building it all programmatically. Very slow when you need things to snap to point, and synching sound or music is not an option. The window of opportunity to use Canvas is a small window indeed.
We do have one more choice here: if you have your heart set on using complex vector images in Canvas, and you are reasonable enough to see that calculating bezier curve coordinates point by point is too labor intensive to make sense, there is a solution available. As of writing this I haven't tried it out yet, but in theory it look like a great idea. This app should allow Adobe Illustrator users to convert their images to pure Canvas code. That said, converting an image with thousands of control points is not going to be happy fun time for your browser:
Basic support is ok, but Internet Explorer does need an extra library . Firefox is fine for everything starting at version 3, Safari at 3.0, Chrome at 1.0, iPhone and Android were fine right out of the gates. The use of radial gradients will require IE9 or greater.
Mobile devices a possibility
Flash was not invited to the iPhone party. Even SVG was given the brush off. Here is our shining moment! If you have something pretty light as far as animation, and you need it for mobile devices, then Canvas might actually make sense. jQuery is also alright if we don’t need vector/scalable art, btw, so you are not stuck using Canvas.
You know what ? Let’s try and polish this thing – no need to be a downer. Simple animation and scalable graphics via Canvas is a good fit for mobile devices. And I bet a Canvas project would look pretty good on a young front end developer’s resume. We’re not really at a point where employers are going to beat down your door with more Canvas projects, but it would show you have some versatility, and the ability to pick up new technologies, and things could change. But who else needs this trick in their quiver? Not many.
Some new advances show promise, and some kits tools have made things a bit easier on the coding end, so the engine of progress has not stalled , but browser performance is still a major hindrance to Canvas’s relevance. It is not an all-in-one solution, at least for anyone who needs more drawing tools than simple shapes and gradients, so I am not feeling the love. Yet. But I’ll keep checking back every six months to a year, and you should too. One day this thing might make sense.
renderToCanvas: Off-Screen Rendering (good to use when Canvas has to do complex drawing)
Comparison of layout engines (HTML5 Canvas)
Posted: 9/15/2011 6:47:14 PM
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Google has created an environment where new content can give your the site some serious searchbot recognition. If the body copy is poorly written, however, your bounce rate may increase, in which case Google may agree with your fleeing visitors them and give you a demotion in the rankings. Copying and pasting other people's content is not the answer either, and Google will not be very impressed. Putting just anybody in charge of producing new content is not exactly ideal; what you put in is what you get out. What you need is a writer. A skilled writer.
Rediscovering a Lost Talent Pool
Most people can write, but but few can do it well. Putting someone who has marginal skills at the helm of your web blog is not going to give you the results to need. A talented writer can add content that is fun, compelling and informative. They can influence your audience and create a positive user experience in ways that an average writer simply cannot, regardless of whether or not they understand your business and your industry. So we should call upon the professional writer, the group who can actually make it happen for you, people who were all but forgotten by many businesses after the internet bubble.
What Happened to Bubble Buddy?
We wouldn't even be having this discussion prior to the rise of the internet; print, radio and television advertising once understood the pivotal role good writing played in their success. If you needed visibility and wanted a chance at some good results, you either hired a veteran writer or hired a creative agency with writers. This wisdom was even valued by web companies right up until the bubble popped. Then the money dried up and companies made some hard choices in order to survive, and not all of those decisions made good sense over the long haul. Many cheesed out by dumping their writing talent and giving the job to someone who could wear a number of different hats. The writer's cap, it turned out, was not a great fit. But to be fair, even many print publications dropped the ball by letting much of their staff go and turning it over to interns and lesser talent in an attempt to maintain profit margins. Pennywise and pound foolish for sure.
Now imagine a post bubble crowd that was attempting to quantify the drop in content quality after jettisoning their writers, and then correlating it to a drop in positive user experience, and then further showing correlation to increased bounce rate or drop in sales. The sophistication, the science wasn't there yet. We were still waving away the smoke from the bubble implosion, finding our way through the aftermath of the wild wild west we once rode through with a surreal giddiness. Serious tools to measure these changes are a only few years old, and their usefulness is being further solidified by Google's assertion that content is a primary factor in search worthiness, so let's follow where they are leading us.
Supply and Demand
In the wake of the internet bubble, many writers have been battered by a drop in demand. We saw the same thing with freelance photography; most website owners are too cheap or simply cannot afford to hire quality photographers, so they scuffle over to istockphoto or some other McDonaldland can-i-have-fries-with-that stock photo vendor for $2 a pop, and they end up with some rather questionable image choices to try and prop up their site. This was also driven by the old channels falling by the wayside, as businesses that take control of their website won't have the same freelance connections that an established agency has, and they might find traversing the professional stock photography market an expensive and confusing endeavor. For very small businesses and start ups, cheap stock photo sites may have to do the job, just like a cash-strapped greasy spoon may have few options other than printing out a plain Jane, black and white menu for their take out customers. But for others, where the business has outgrown the model they chose and branding can finally be reconsidered, the time has come for them to move the brand to a place where it can be properly leveraged. Quality photography is important to a good user experience and so is good writing, and if you have the smarts to hire a good writer, you are in for a treat. Rates for writers are often rather reasonable because of the glaring lack of demand. That same lack of demand that gets you quality writing on the cheap also indicates most competitors still do not value writers, so hiring one gives you the opportunity to build content that will make your site a destination point for people in your industry.
Barber Shop Versus Beauty Salon
We would be remiss if we did not consider the skill set of the writer that needs to be hired. A tech writer is not a good candidate to write engaging text for a fashion site, and a fashion writer will rarely be suitable for writing competent, tech industry copy that can be churned out quickly. It might be worthwhile to explore various options for finding the talent you need. Creative agencies often have people in house or have a stable of writers with different skill sets, so this is a logical choice. Or you can strike out on your own and try to find them yourself through other channels. They should be able to supply you with sample writing so that you'll have a gauge on what it is you'd be getting from candidates.
Whether businesses know it or not, their hand has been forced by Google if they expect to blog and be taken seriously. The author of new site content when it has to be produced regularly needs to be just that &emdash; an author, a word which is practically synonymous with writer. I'm not talking about having a book under your belt or having any street cred, but a solid mastery of the craft to draw upon, a cleverness with words. The talent pool is there waiting for you, ready to do your bidding, to create a reason for people to link to your quality content, so what better time than the present to make use of it?
Posted: 8/26/2011 6:17:07 PM
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If you are pasting content from Word into Kentico, and the styles from the original document are coming along with it, you might need to take action to rescue your site from an evil soup of conflicting styles. There are a number of scenarios where a writer might need to cut and paste from Word on a regular basis. Some people do not like writing directly into a content management system; they may have another app they use for their writing and then move it to the CMS once their work is complete. Or perhaps they are moving old content to the web that previously existed only in Word or PowerPoint. Your website probably has its own style guides, which can run into trouble with Word and Open Office since they can carry over their own style tags. The Word styles may not agree with the look and feel your company wants to maintain. In this case it is first necessary to clear the text of all "Microsludge", or the verbose, semi hidden code that Word employs to control the look and feel of your site text. Rather than manually editing each item in the Kentico editor in order to purge the Microsludge, we'd like to suggest a number of more efficient, less tedious methods of removing these style tags and put your content management system back in charge.
Make Word Clear the Style for You
2010 and 2007 Microsoft products can clear it for you:
2010 Word and PowerPoint
2007 Word and PowerPoint
If you are using an older version than that, you will have to try another method. Some people have found the newer versions don't always clear all the tags, so check out the other solutions listed below if this is what you are up against.
Get an Kentico editor patch
Depending on what editor is being employed by your Kentico CMS, you may be able to add a patch that will automatically filter out Word tags. This cuts out most of the trouble and allows you to then go directly to adding your site style guides in Kentico. If you are not a developer, you'll need to request this from whoever is running your website. It's certainly worth your time and effort.
Using an Text Editor to Kill the Styles
Start by copying and pasting the text into a editor like Notepad ++ (not regular Notepad), Textwrangler, bBedit, etc., then find the "clear text formatting" function; most serious text editors will have one, but it might take a moment or two to find it in the menus. Once you find it, se;ect the text in question and then hit the button. Your text should be ready to be added to Kentico.
Use Google Docs / an Online Code Editor
Cutting and pasting into Google Docs or any online editor that has a clear formatting function works just like I explained earlier with the text editor solution.
Using Lowly Notepad
Notepad can be found on any Windows machine, and if you do not have IT staff available at that moment to help you with the aforementioned solutions, you may be forced to use this in a pinch. Cut and paste here first, then cut a paste the content into Kentico
These techniques will remove the Microsludge but aren't going to help you put the correct style tags in place. That said, you should now have a starting point that is not going to be any more difficult that creating a brand new page and writing directly into Kentico, so life is good.
Posted: 8/22/2011 4:45:43 PM
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