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.
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 were 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.
Each 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.
When I was young, I always got a chuckle because my mom kept a yellow pages in the trunk of her car. This was long before the Internet and smart phones. Her reasoning was that she would have a way to find a business while she was away from home. Yes, the yellow pages were indispensable back then. You may have even had the same reaction as Nathan Johnson did in “The Jerk” as shown in the movie clip below.
The clip ends with “I’m in print, things are going to start happening to me now!” OK, that is from a 1979 movie and it is certainly exaggerated. When you get a new phone book now, do you even open it? When was the last time you used it to find a company to help you?
Most people now use the Internet to find a company to solve the current issue. Often the search is done on a smartphone which means that keeping a phone book in your trunk is no longer needed. But if someone tries to find your company on the Internet, are they going to find you? If you are found, what will they find?
Now let’s talk about the money that businesses once budgeted for ads in the phone book. In talking to a printer in the Phoenix area, their quarter page ad cost them around $900 per month or $10,800 per year. When the phone book was no longer delivering customers to their shop, they had that money already budgeted for marketing.
Obviously a great replacement for an ad is a great Web site. It can deliver far more information than you could fit into a static ad. While building a site does have an upfront cost, the monthly cost to keep the content fresh doesn’t have to be expensive. In the case of the printer, it is less than $200 per month.
While the Web site is great, it is important to get people to the site. The printer runs ads on Google, Facebook and Yelp on a regular basis to bring potential customers to the Web site. Yes, that advertising costs money. I’m going to guess they spend around $500 each month for online advertising. Often I’m asked for more ways they can advertise their business.
Those of you who have had a business for many years will certainly understand the money you once budgeted for an ad in the phone book. Replacing that expense with online marketing expenses can give you wider exposure and still be a smaller investment. If you started a business more recently, it is still important that you allocate money (and time) each month to promoting your business.
Do you have a Web site? If not, you really should consider investing in even a very basic site. When was the last time your site got any significant updates? If it was more than a couple of years ago, you really need to look at updating your site to work with today’s devices. Now determine a budget to invest in a new or updated Web site. It doesn’t have to be a large number. That investment can pay off when more customers find your business.
Once the site is all set, make sure you have a good presence on at least a couple of social media platforms. Facebook is important for most all businesses. The second or third choice can vary based on your business. Also consider a monthly budget to promote your business online. Once again, it doesn’t have to be a big number if you choose the right platforms.
Need some help with your Web site, social media platforms and online promotion? We’d love to help you. Just give us basic information about how we can help, and we’ll use our online marketing talents for your business. Yes, you may have guessed it, this blog post is one way that we promote our business online.
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.
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.
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!