Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category
by Ryan Grassie - Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:08pm
My business is pretty small, just me and two employees, and our product really can’t be sold online. Do I really need to build a website?
This question is one of the most important and most frequently asked questions of the digital business age. Should your small business have a website, even if your business is very small and sells products or services you don’t think can be sold online? The answer is Yes, if you have a business, you should have a website. Period. No question. Without a doubt.
Also, don’t be so quick to dismiss your product as one that can’t be sold online. These days, there’s not much that can’t be sold over the net. More than 40 million shoppers are now online, purchasing everything from e-books to computers to cars to real estate to jet airplanes to natural gas to you name it. If you can imagine it, someone will figure out how to sell it online.
Let me clarify one point: I’m not saying you should put all your marketing efforts into selling your product or service over the internet, but if your product is easy to sell online, you should certainly be considering it as part of your plan. You should at the very least have a good presence on the web so that customers, potential hires, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.
With that said, it’s not enough that you just have a website. You must have a professional looking website if you want to be taken seriously and not look micky mouse. Since many of your consumers now search for information online prior to making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, your site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer. If your site looks like it was designed by a barrel of colorblind donkeys, your chance at making a good first impression will be gone.
One of the greatest perks about the internet is that it has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing with the big box stores. You have one shot at making a good first impression. With a well-designed website, your little firm can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. The inverse is also true. I’ve seen many big company websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for your business, too bad for theirs.
It really doesn’t matter that your business is a small operation, when it comes to benefiting from a website, size does not matter. I don’t care if you’re a one-man show or a 10,000-employee corporate giant; if you don’t have a well built and designed website, you’re losing business everyday to other companies that do.
The One Exception to the “always need a website” rule
Here’s the exception to the rule: It’s actually better to have no website at all than to have one that makes your business look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, “Hey, look, we take our business very seriously and because of that we have created this wonderful website for our customers!” or it screams, “Hey, look, I let my 15-year-old nephew design my site. Good luck finding anything or viewing it on a mobile device!”
Your website is a very important part of your business and marketing mix. Make sure you treat it as such.
by Ryan Grassie - Apr. 26, 2012 at 1:24am
Your website is often only as pretty as the photography and images that are on it. A beautiful website template can be ruined by poorly taken pictures.
Lets take the case of getting head shots of company staff to display on a website.
We commonly see 3 categories of images:
1. “Hey everyone, go on Facebook and send me a picture where you have less than 4 beers in you!”
Uh oh. This always results in a gallery of horrors that no web designer can photoshop away.
What this says to people viewing your site:
“We don’t really care what you think of us, we just wanted some pictures on our about page.”
2. “My daughter bought me a digital camera in 2002, I’ll see if I can find it!”
This is one we see a lot. The staff member sitting nervously on his or his office chair, the bright flash in a dark room washing out all of the details of the face, a big ugly shadow on the wall behind the person. Some photoshopping can be done to correct exposure issues but the images are often too far gone to make respectable.
What this says to people viewing your site:
“Here are some mediocre pictures of our mediocre staff.”
3. “Attention everyone! We will be doing a staff photo shoot with a professional photographer on this date so please get a haircut and wear nice clothes.”
These are beautiful, well exposed, high resolution images. An absolute delight for web designers to work with. They don’t have to be straight-faced images on a white background; feel free to get creative with various settings and poses so long as it reflects your brand and personalities.
What this says to people viewing your site:
“We care enough about our staff to make sure that they are presented in a professional way that represents our values and culture. We’ve done such a great job with taking these pictures that you can bet the products and/or services we provide are just as creative and professional.”
This goes beyond simple staff head shots. The same rules apply for photos of your office, products, etc. By taking your time to ensure that a few elements such as lighting, composition and expression are consistent, you can greatly improve your online impression.
As the saying goes: How you do anything is how you do everything – Make sure that the images and graphics on your website are sending the right message to your potential clients.
by Ryan Grassie - Mar. 16, 2012 at 3:41am
So, you’ve decided to launch a blog or real estate website? Chances are you’re not building it by yourself. That being the case, your next choice should be about which CMS (content management system) you’ll use to simplify all the activities you’d rather not have to be an expert on. Of the platforms out there WordPress has emerged as the clear leader. Here are some reasons why.
WordPress is currently the most popular CMS in use on the Internet. All in all, almost 15 percent of all websites are on the Internet today are powered by WordPress, and 22 percent of new websites are choosing it. Why is this a good thing? Well, first of all, WordPress is open source, which means that the hundreds of thousands of developers who use it can contribute to improving its quality. This is why WordPress can release software updates more often than most technology companies, helping to keep your site secure.
WordPress’s popularity among regular site owners has a similar benefit. The more site owners there are using it, the more feedback the software receives, and the quicker bugs are fixed. Finally, the market for plugin developers and theme designers is robust and profitable. As of August 2011, WordPress has over 17,000 plugins and 1,500 free themes. Because so many people are competing to create great high-quality themes and plugins, you end up with a superior product.
2. Ease of Use
Once you’re up and running, it’s incredibly simple to add content in the form of blog posts, pages, photos, listings, videos, music, etc. You name it, if it can be consumed on the Internet, you can add it to your WordPress site. Do this consistently and you’ll develop inbound links, improving your organic search results like the pros do.
3. Search Engine Optimization
WordPress is ready to play nice with search engines right out of the box. Its setup makes it easy for Google to crawl your website and collect information for its database. When it comes to blogging, WordPress can make you an SEO superstar with meta tags, customizable URL slugs, permalinks, trackbacks, and pinging—all designed to provide interactivity with other blogs (and their readers) and make your content accessible to search engines. Finally, there are plenty of free or low cost third-party plugins designed specifically for search engine optimization.
Some people assume that because it’s a ready-made content management system, WordPress is meant for people and companies that don’t have the cash or the expertise to build a “real” website from scratch. But beneath WordPress’s user-friendly chassis is a seriously powerful engine that can handle just about anything you or your customers can dish out. In fact, some of the world’s most successful companies and highly trafficked websites use the WordPress platform as their foundation, including Mashable, The New York Times, CNN, Forbes, TechCrunch, Reuters, General Motors, UPS, eBay, Volkswagen, and Sony.
Although the core WordPress system is pretty basic, there are a great many ways to add on: custom web design and functionality, data integrations, user management tools, syndication tools, commenting systems, media management tools, web hosting, etc. You’ll have to pay for many of these additions, but because the core system is free, it’ll reduce your overall price tag.
WordPress has tons of developers working on tons plugins, and many of these perform functions that are especially useful for real estate professionals. WordPress’s many features give you the ability to perform and provide a wide variety of real estate-specific tasks and services for your customers, including:
- Show property listing data
- Integrate map data
- Share with social media
- Post on Craigslist
- Syndicate content
- Syndicate listing data
- Create forums and favorites lists
- Set and show pricing levels
- Enable subscriptions
- Show geotargeted information
- Provide CRM integration
- Capture leads
- Integrate payment gateways and invoices
- Import and export data
- Use coupon or discount codes