Why a Good Web Site Won’t Cut It Anymore

Why a Good Web Site Won’t Cut It Anymore

The folks at Website Magazine had a good article recently about what you need to have a site that works well for you. There was so much good information in this article that we’ll have more blogs in the future that focus on a specific section of the article. We encourage you to read Why a Good Website Won’t Cut It Anymore… and What You Can Do About It so that we can discuss it with you.

The second paragraph of the article was a bit surprising.

Everyone has a good website now. Even guys with food trucks have sleek, responsive online storefronts they use to pump out information and social media awareness. A good website is the minimum expected standard you have to meet, but it doesn’t give you any advantage.

Before you did deeper in the article, you really need to be honest with yourself as to whether you truly do have a good Web site now. Does it work on all devices, specifically phones? Has it been updated in the last year? Last month? Does it incorporate your social media channels? As the paragraph above states, this is the minimum expected standard and there are many sites that fall well below the standard.

In order to have a good Web site, it needs to be built in a responsive manner. Sure, there are various technical issues involved in the process. A good Web designer should be able to take care of this for you. Sadly, some Web designers aren’t nearly as good as they may claim.

One of the more difficult tasks can sometimes be getting great content from clients. Even if you get good content, does the client have a clear goal of what they want the site to accomplish? Just claiming you want the site to increase sales is not a complete answer. For example, one client was very clear about their goal. The site was supposed to make the telephone ring. This goal was quickly accomplished to the point that the company had to hire more employees to answer the phones.

Of course just making the phone ring could be a nuisance. If there are questions that can be answered on the site, it may make the call more efficient or it could even mean the call is never made as the company isn’t the right answer.

We want to help you get to the minimum of a good site. From there, we want your site to get taken to the next level so that it is delivering on your business goals. Let us know how we can help you develop a great site!

Outdated Plugin Caused WordPress Shopping Cart Failure

Outdated Plugin Caused WordPress Shopping Cart Failure

Clients come to us for our expertise in WordPress Web design. Some clients want us to handle everything while others want to have the ability to make any changes they desire. Even when we give clients the ability to make those changes, we try to give them advice that will help them to avoid problems.

Our thought is that it is truly their Web site so we have to allow them to make those changes. If the changes cause problems, they’ll rely on us to fix the problems. Fixing those problems will likely cost them more than simply asking us to make changes in the first place.

Recently just such an issue came up. A client contacted us because their shopping cart wasn’t functioning properly. Products weren’t staying in the cart and other products couldn’t be removed from the cart. At first glance, we also noticed that their pages where not being loaded securely. While this could be related to the problem, it was very concerning to us that the e-commerce data wasn’t properly secured.

We can only guess that the client had also noticed that the store wasn’t secured as there was a WordPress plugin installed related to SSL security. It wasn’t something that was installed by us so it was time to investigate this plugin. At the top of the plugin page was the warning below.

wordpress plugin not updated warning

wordpress plugin four years oldEach plugin included in the WordPress repository also includes some basic stats on updates, compatibility and popularity. As shown in the screenshot at right, this particular plugin hadn’t been updated in more than four years. In the WordPress world, that is ancient history!

As soon as this plugin was disabled, the shopping cart started functioning properly. There were still security issues with the site to be resolved, but the initial problem had been resolved. Unfortunately in trying to fix the security issues, the client had created more problems and yet the site still wasn’t secure.

We did find the root cause of the security issues and got them fixed. Now, the e-commerce functions on the site are working as designed and shoppers can enter their payment data with peace of mind on a secure site.

Bringing a Landscape Design Firm to the Web

Bringing a Landscape Design Firm to the Web

When I think back to my days in middle school, I realize how many friends I made that are still in my life years later. Today we’re going to talk about one of those friends. We went in different directions when it came time to go to college. After college, we also went in different directions. While I’m designing Web sites from offices in Arizona and Mexico, he is designing amazing outdoor spaces in California, Mexico and beyond.

Throughout his career, he worked his way up to a senior level position in a firm. I certainly suggested a few times that he consider starting his own firm. He did exactly that almost a year ago. Then the next step was putting together a Web site for the new firm and it has now launched.

We had a lot of discussions about what to include on the site and the best way to present it. One conversation I have with many clients is the importance of a site on a phone. That’s always a bit more challenging when the client is somewhat who never surfs the Web on their own phone. Yet as we worked on the site, Bill truly understood the importance and always made sure to look on his own phone.

As a landscape designer, it was important to show off his designs. This also led to a challenge since many projects take a long time to go from the design phase to completion. Thus there were a number of designs to show which were still in the build phase. In his overall portfolio, the projects are all shown.

There is also a separate portfolio for projects he designed at previous firms, including some very large resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. Each of the individual projects from the portfolios also have a dedicated page where project details and photos can be shown.

I encourage you all to visit WilliamBrunsky.com to see all of Bill’s amazing work. If you need help designing an incredible outdoor space, talk to Bill about it! For those who are in need of a great Web site, get in touch with Unleashed and we’ll get to work!

Important Information to Provide for Your Web Site

Important Information to Provide for Your Web Site

Rarely have a met a Web client that wanted me to spend more time on their site than necessary or to bill them for more hours than needed. Typically they wanted the least expensive site possible. I am happy to work with clients to achieve this goal, but it has the best results if the clients are able to provide all of the information needed.

While each project is different, some tasks are true of most every site. The more the client contributes, the less time I will spend on the project. In many cases, only the client can provide the needed content. Below is a list of some of the most important elements.

Pages and Navigation

I guess I assume you have visited some other Web sites. Most likely hundreds of them. As you visit other sites, you see the individual pages on those sites. Make a list of pages you’ll want on your site. For example: Home, About Us, Contact Us, Our Services. Name them whatever you want, just make a list. You might have a list with only 3-4, you may have a list with hundreds. If I don’t know what pages you want, it is really hard for me to build them.

Once you have the list of pages, I need to know what will go on those pages. You know your business much better than I do. Even if you aren’t a writer, any text you can create is very helpful. I can clean up what you provide, but I can’t write about something if I don’t know anything about it.

Once upon a time a client asked me to write a bio for each of the ten employees on their staff. I had never met nine of them. Do you see why it would be difficult for me to write about them if all I knew was their name? In that situation, ask each staff member to write two sentences about themselves. We can edit the bio, but it isn’t something I can write.

By listing page names and the text content of the pages in an electronic file, you save me a lot of typing. Do you really want to pay my hourly fee to have me be a typist? Yes, you might grumble that I’m asking you to do it, but I’m trying to help you save money while also getting a better Web site.

Photos and Graphics

Just like I often need your help with the text on pages, I also need your help with photos and graphics. Yes, I can sometimes take photos for you. Once again, that means you will be paying for my time setting up the photo, shooting it, editing it and then putting it on the site. Maybe you already have good photos. Why reinvent the wheel?

No, the incredibly low resolution photo can’t be used. It is awful. Computers can do wonderful things, but they can’t work magic on awful photos. When you provide good original photos, I can improve them and they will look great on your site. Plus, I can do it quickly to keep your bill as low as possible.

The same is true of other graphics. Sure we could purchase stock artwork. Yes I have a lot of skills for creating and editing graphics. But all of that takes time and time is money. If you can provide me more artwork, I can save you money.

One of the most important graphics is your logo. I need it in a vector format. No, that crummy JPG on your current Web site isn’t a good answer. Could I rebuilt it? Sure, but it could take me a few hours. Please spend just a few more minutes looking for the best version you can find. This helps me put the best version of your company on the Web site and also saves money.

Sample Sites

When you’ve surfed the Web, you have probably seen some sites that you like. Maybe not even the whole site, but elements of the site caught your eye. Give me a list of some of your favorites and tell me why you like it.

Just as you have your favorites, you probably can also name a few sites you think are bad. I want that list as well so I can avoid the things you don’t like.

I know this may sound like a lot of work. If you want to raise your budget, I’m happy to do more and bill you for it. But if you want me to keep to a very tight budget, I need your help providing as much as the content as possible. Then I can focus on making your site awesome!

Tea Site Makeover Fit for the Queen

Tea Site Makeover Fit for the Queen

For those who aren’t familiar with our area, Cave Creek and Carefree are two small suburbs that often blur into a single location. You’ll find the English Rose Tea Room on Carefree’s Easy Street and it is a fixture who those who want to enjoy tea time. Their Web site was in need of a makeover, especially to make it work better on mobile devices. The biggest need was a menu that could be read on a phone.

Prior to the makeover of the site, several items had been added to the home page without integrating them into the site. You’ll see the old home page below.

It was important for include links to the various sharing platforms such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook; though we tried to do it in an elegant manner that even the Queen herself would love. You’ll see the new home page below.

One of the biggest changes to be made was to the way menus were presented. Prior to the makeover, you could download a PDF of the menu or large images of each page were available. But they weren’t something you could easily read on mobile devices. You’ll see the previous menu page below.

We kept the ability to download a PDF of the menu and also the images of each menu page, though we tried to display them in a more attractive manner. The biggest change was creating an online version of the menu that would easily adapt to all devices. Even in the downsampled screen shot at right, you should find it easy to read each of the menu items. Yes, that is a real screenshot from a smartphone!

Word of mouth is extremely important for this type of business and there were a lot of nice reviews on the old site. The display of them left a bit to be desired and so we also redesigned that page.

Knowing that new reviews come in regularly, we developed a system so it was easy for anyone, even the client, to add a single review and it would automatically flow into the appropriate locations on the site. Displaying too many reviews makes the site cluttered so we set it up to randomly grab a limited number each time the page is loaded. So if a visitor refreshes the page, they should get a whole new set of reviews.

Blog posts on the original site didn’t look bad, though they did include some extra information that wasn’t necessary. We gave the main blog page a redesign that really makes the new posts pop. See the screenshot below for a current example.

Now that the main makeover is complete, there will undoubtedly be some ongoing tweaks to keep improving the experience for site visitors. Unleashed will make some of the changes, but we’ll also work with the client so they can make some of the changes themselves.

Is your site looking outdated? Does it work well on mobile devices? Don’t continue to lose business to your competitor’s sites! Tell us a little bit about your project and we’ll work a little magic to get your site performing well on all devices.

Polishing a WordPress-Based Car Rental Web Site

Polishing a WordPress-Based Car Rental Web Site

Each Web design project is unique and part of the process is defining who is responsible for each of the tasks involved. We were approached by a a local rental car company who had already built a WordPress Web site. Much of the initial work was done, but they needed some help with the final polishing of the site.

While discussing the project on the phone, we started looking at the site they had built. The client was a little timid because they admitted they had learned everything on their own. An important part of any WordPress site is the theme, see Choosing the Perfect WordPress Theme for details. A cool site named What WordPress Theme Is That? will tell you the theme without having to dig through source code.

Divi WordPress ThemeThe theme was immediately identified as Divi, one of the themes we use most often. This is great news as it would allow us to provide great help to the client without needing to research a new theme. Soon after the initial call, we set up a meeting so that we could work on several tasks together.

During the meeting, we migrated the existing site to a new hosting plan as the client wanted two similar, but different sites. We then made a variety of changes to the theme settings so the site would better fit their vision. Before the meeting ended, we defined tasks for each party to complete in the next few days.

We worked on preparing a new logo and rebuilding the slider at the top of the home page. The client focused on rebuilding the pages describing each of the vehicles they offer. Within a few days, the site was ready to launch via a Google advertising campaign.

Going forward, the client will handle most of the additions and changes to the site. There will still be some tasks where they need help and we’ll take care of those. The key is that we developed a plan that works for both the client and the Web developer. Together we’ve created a great site that is boosting their business.

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