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Posts Tagged ‘Web design’

5 Small Biz Web Design Trends to Watch

Posted Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The importance of having an attractive website that converts visitors into buyers and helps cleverly promote your small business is essential in these fiercely competitive times.

Mashable, 10th August 2010

Your website has to capture a visitor’s attention, entice him or her to stay and browse around, create an interest in your product or service, and result in sales. For small businesses with limited time and budgets, design is an essential factor in both attracting and converting potential customers.

With this in mind, here are five current design trends that most small businesses can utilize to great effect.

1. Minimalism

While this web design style has been popular for some time, it’s worth revisiting as no small business owner wants to turn visitors away with a cluttered, overbearing and hard to navigate website.

Minimalist design effectively strips away the excess and helps the user concentrate squarely on the content. If a page has too many elements, the user will easily become confused about where to focus on, with many elements vying for attention.

With page weight now affecting your Google search engine position, it’s the perfect time to reassess how streamlined your design is.

There are several principles and steps you can follow to create a more minimalist design:

  1. Go through your site and prune any unnecessary widgets or elements which aren’t serving a real purpose.
  2. Make good use of whitespace, which is the space between different elements of a design. Used well, it will allow for easier scanning of your site and help frame the elements on each page.
  3. With fewer elements, choosing the right color palette or accent color is critical. As color has great significance and meaning, it’s best to test how certain colors interact with each other.
  4. Browse your site through the eyes of your visitors, evaluating if there is too much information, confusing or off-putting elements, or sufficient calls to action. Answering these types of questions truthfully will help you prioritize the essential elements.

A minimalist design doesn’t have to be bland and boring; it can easily be modern, fresh, sophisticated, elegant or refined, based solely on the details within the design.

2. Unique Photography

Two men shaking hands, a group of people in suits sharing a joke, the call center girl: these are all tired, clichéd images that litter thousands of business websites. These types of images fail to convey either information on the company or a sense of the site’s character, and are essentially meaningless.

Using custom photography or artwork whenever possible is recommended, though for small business owners, both time and budget are limited and stock photos are a relatively cheap and accessible resource.

So when choosing stock imagery, it’s best to keep in mind these four tips:

  1. Research your competitors and industry and take note of the images used. You can then find a unique way to represent your product or service.
  2. Avoid being too literal in your choice of imagery as abstract compositions often give a more dramatic and memorable effect.
  3. Don’t always opt for the cheaper low-res image, as pixelated imagery devalues your overall design and looks unprofessional.
  4. Veer away from the bland and predictable and let the images ‘break out of the box’.

Imaginative imagery will reinforce your brand message and add greater character to your website. So, when you must use stock imagery, do so with great care and take the time to find the right piece that will convey the true personality of your service or product.

3. Bold Typography

Web design at its core is about communication, and typography is a vital component of that. Great web typography helps bring order to information and creates a coherent, visually satisfying experience that engages the reader without their knowing.

A recent trend is the use of big, bold typography which helps to create contrast between other text while grabbing a user’s attention. Oversized text can help create hierarchy and ensure users understand your message loud and clear.

In order to utilize typography to create a bold statement, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Determine the single most important message you want to emphasize, as too many messages can lead to choice paralysis. Understand the qualities of the message you are trying to convey, and then look for typefaces that embody those qualities.
  2. Choose a typeface that will match the character of your work. For instance, if your company embodies the feel of an Old Style font, you should consider Bembo, Garamond and Sabon. It will also greatly depend on what you want to convey with the type, because legibility is as important as the character of the type.
  3. Give the typography the prominent position it deserves by surrounding it with a generous amount of whitespace. This will add emphasis and create even more focus on the typography.
  4. Test out some of the various font replacement options such as Typekit or Typotheque. These allow you to license fonts to embed within your site, and help you to experiment with beautiful typography.

Typography is an art and the decisions you make are subjective; however, carefully selecting a typeface can make a huge difference to the quality of your design.

 

4. Clear Calls to Action

As a small business owner you want your visitors to complete a certain task when they land on your page. It could be to download, sign up or checkout, but these calls to action are one of the most important (and overlooked) elements in a small business website.

You want to grab your visitor’s attention and move him or her to take action. Crafting a clear, concise call to action is essential.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when designing a call-to-action button or advertisement:

  1. Language: Keep the wording short and snappy (always start with a verb), but also explain the value behind the action the user is taking. In some instances it also helps to create a sense of urgency using words such as ‘now’, ‘hurry’ and ‘offer ends,’ with ‘free’ being the number one incentive.
  2. Positioning: Ideally, calls to action should be above the fold, and be placed on every page of the site in a consistent position. For instance, Squarespace, not only has a large call-to-action button at the top of the page, but also has a slightly smaller button in the footer of every page.
  3. Color: The color should make the call stand out from the rest of the design. Brighter, more contrasting colors usually work best for smaller buttons. For larger buttons, you may want to choose a less prominent color (but one that still stands out from your background), so as to balance out its size.
  4. Size: The call-to-action button should be the largest button on any given page. You want it to be large enough to stand out without overwhelming the rest of the design

.

It’s vital you test different combinations of call-to-action buttons and see how each affects your conversion rates (see A/B Testing below). It’s also best to make sure they fit within your overall design.

  1. 5.      A/B Testing

With competition growing fiercer online, it’s important for small businesses to have a website that converts visitors to buyers and creates a competitive edge. That’s why it is important to continually measure and improve site performance, usability and conversions.

One of the foremost ways of optimizing your web design is via A/B testing (sometimes referred to as split testing). An A/B test examines the effectiveness of one landing page over another. The two versions are randomly shown to site visitors to see which generates the best results. You then evaluate the performance of each and use the best version.

Various elements can be tested, including, layouts, copy, graphics, fonts, headlines, offers, icons, colors and more. Here are a few tips for A/B testing:

  1. Clearly define your goal before beginning any test. For example, if you wanted to increase sign-ups, you might want to test the following: type of fields in the form, length of the form, and display of privacy policy.
  2. Start with elements that will have the biggest impact for minimum effort. For instance, you could tweak the copy on your checkout button to see if conversions can be improved.
  3. Don’t use A/B testing in isolation as this alone won’t give you a well-rounded picture of your users. Instead, use other feedback tools, such as Feedback Army or User Testing, in conjunction with A/B testing to get in-depth analysis of user behavior.

A/B testing won’t make a bad design great, but it will prove an effective aid in optimizing your current design’s usability and conversions until you decide to overhaul your website design completely.

These are just five web design trends that small businesses can take part in to enhance their websites. Which web design changes would make the most sense for your small business?


Social networking for business is next big thing

Posted Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Social sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn feed the craving people have to find one another, exchange information, catch up and solve problems.

Commercial Appeal, June 8, 2008

But there’s more, and for business, this matters. In the back-and-forth of ordinary conversation, ideas pop up.

They may be about your product or ways you could do things better … or new products your customers could use if you were hearing what they had to say.

“Those conversations are going on online anyway, believe me. You want them going on in your foyer,” Barger said.

The idea, of course, is that if people are talking in your presence, you’re the first to hear what is being said.

And if it’s said on your site, the exchange can be cataloged and stored, giving you a tidy archive of correspondence.

Barger, president and chief executive of LunaWeb Inc. — a Memphis company that does Web design and Internet marketing — is speaking Wednesday on social networking at the Public Relations Society of America meeting at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.

“It has gotten to be such an important part of a PR person’s job right now,” said Bob Phillips, chapter president and Thompson & Berry Public Relations account exec. “Listen, business is so competitive. Everyone wants to know as much as they can find out.”

Barger is likely to start his talk by reminding the audience that “business used to be a faceless entity behind a security guard at the corporate gate.

“A perfect corporation was a business entity that could be perfected with mass production and quality assurance. It was all mechanized, and not human,” he said.

Now, with the push to put a face on the corporation, companies are using professional photos of employees on their Web sites, for instance, and finding employees, such as Don Dodge at Microsoft, to blog in voices that are credible and, well, folksy.

Blogging opened up a dialogue that social networks expanded. Today, there are more than 200 social sites, excluding niche networks — sometimes called vertical sites — tailored to specific audiences.

LinkedIn is one of the best for connecting professionals. In Memphis, about 100,000 people have Facebook pages. Two years ago, the population was probably closer to 40,000, Barger said.

Everything changed last fall, when Facebook broadened its membership beyond its college core, and the universe changed overnight.

“Now all of sudden, Facebook is saying, ‘Business, we welcome you. Here is how you set up shop; here’s how you engage your client base,'” he said.

“Businesses tapping into social networks to expand customer base need to have a clear idea of what they want to achieve,” said Chelsea Dubey, account executive at RedRover.

“You need success metrics, such as: How many people use the site? How many prospect leads are generated?

Social networking just for the sake of social networking isn’t always a good investment. It needs to connect to other elements of your sales and marketing strategy,” she said.

When FedEx Corp. created NetFace in 2006, a social networking site for employees only, it did no promotion but sat back to see how quickly a community would form, said Nicole Heckman, manager of innovation research.

“We found it was much more viral than we expected,” Heckman said. “Over several months, we had 2,000 active users.”

People into social networking use the word “viral” to describe how quickly networks form and spread.

Some companies build in viral functions, giving users gifts for telling friends.

“One of the things I found was that it really did give employees a way to have a personal identity within a large organization,” Heckman said.

People were soon connecting in and outside work to talk with people who had worked on similar projects or simply to play flag football.

“It really doesn’t have to be a huge investment,” Heckman said. “We accomplished FaceNet with a team you could count on one hand. You do obviously have to have someone manage it, but it wasn’t someone’s full-time job.”

For people who think the networks are just for kids, the average new Facebook enrollee is in the mid-30s.

“Many of my friends that are older and less tech savvy could care less,” said Gwin Scott, president of business incubator EmergeMemphis.

For him and the startups he works with, social networking is a chance to attract like-minded people, plus it gives business a way to tap into audiences that aren’t watching as much TV or paying as much attention to other traditional media.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division rolled out a blog in January, frankly as damage control after the utility was rocked with leadership scandals and contributions to its Plus-1 charity fell to record lows.

“We had to look at taking a more creative approach to communicating with our customers,” said Glen Thomas, head of the utility’s public relations. “We had to take the blinders off to look at the different ways to reach our customers, interact with them and respond to them.”

When looking over the staff for a potential blogger, Thomas suggests someone already passionate about the subject area.

“The woman writing our blog would chastise us if someone had a plastic bottle in trash,” he said.

Oh, he also suggests frequent views of the blogs that tend to break news in Memphis so you’re not caught off guard when the media come calling.


 
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