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Web Design Advice

Helpful articles in designing and optimizing Web sites

Updated: 2018-03-05T08:37:00.310-08:00


Converting Site Visitors to Customers


Gone are the days when Companies and Business Units just wanted to create their presence over the internet. Today, an online presence is a lot more than that. Companies now want to make the most of their website, and have a personal equation with their Customer online. Thanks to the Live Chat Support System, Companies can do this and a lot more! Digging into the basics of Marketing and Customer Service, Live Support System has proved to be boon in converting Site Visitors into Customers and the impromptu assistance to their customers has made them experience Customer Delight! At ResellerClub, assisting our Resellers through Live Chat has really helped in achieving great heights in a very short span of time. This week, to help our Resellers boost their businesses; here are a few useful tips and truths listed below:

Today, almost 60% customers prefer live online help as compared to telephone assistance & E-mail: Well, who wouldn’t. Live Chat Support System is an application free and a hassle free solution for the customers. As Customers do not have to download or install anything to avail of this facility, they do prefer this mode of communication over the legacy - telephone & email.

Monitor Every Page of your website and every Referral Link to your Website: Now-a-days, there are various tools available which help generate such reports at regular intervals. However, Live Chat Support System does facilitate businesses in monitoring their visitor’s navigation through the website and also about the various key information. This can be of great importance for a Business to strategize their future marketing and business moves.

Boost your Sales: By using our Live Chat Support System, you can not only assist your Customers and Site Visitors in choosing the right Products and Services, but you can also set a good example of the Live Chat Support System to your Clients as well - helping them understand the benefits of integrating Live Support System for their own business.

Know your Customer like never before: With Live Support System, you can understand your Customers / Site Visitors in a much better way. Live Chat Support System has a unique feature, wherein, it can trace all the previous Chat Conversations that you have had with any of the Live Support Executives / Agents. Hence, even if you are chatting with a Customer or a Site Visitor for the first time, you can very well understand what he might be looking for!

Track your Employees Performance while you Grow: Live Support System offers amazing administrative tools for your business as well. These tools facilitate one in keeping a check on their employee’s performance along with a quality check of their Live Chat Support Service. As a Reseller, such tools can definitely interest your Clients and help you add more revenue and profits to your business by reselling our Live Support System.

Writing for the Web


In this article, we will explore some strategies for improving your online writing skills and making your Web site's content more appealing. The article includes tips for transitioning print content to the Web.IntroductionWriting for the Web should be easy, right? The ease of publishing content, the acceptance of a more casual tone, and the ease with which you can continually revise your content may lure you into a false confidence. In Designing Web Usability, Jakob Nielsen reports that 79 percent of readers on the Web scan rather than fully read a page. When they do read the screen, they read about 25 percent slower on screen than they do printed material. His research also suggests that Web readers are, in fact, more intolerant of errors than readers of print sources. Web readers also have a shorter attention span, and they like to skip around a page looking for relevant bits of information.All this means that you need to write content that is easy to scan and present it in a way that will be easy on the readers' eyes. There is no 'right' way to write for the Web, but there are some general guidelines to follow.One caveat before we start: In this space, there is no way to tackle everything involved in writing for the Web. For example, graphic design will not be covered, and navigation is covered only briefly. We focus here on the text itself.Information DesignBefore you begin writing, think about what'and to whom'you want to communicate. The key skills in writing for the Web are:Being able to understand how content affects navigationKnowing how to properly organize content into manageable chunksWriting concise headings that are informative and easily scannedNavigationYou are in charge of how users will get around, and the number-one rule of navigation is 'don't confuse your reader.' Be clear and consistent with navigational links and menu options. Remember, online readers like to skip around, so use a hyperlinked table of contents if your content addresses more than a few main topics and subtopics.Manageable ChunksChunking refers to the process of dividing each topic into cohesive units of information. A good chunk is usually fewer than 150 words and can be viewed on the screen without having to scroll, even for users with low-resolution monitors (800 x 600 and lower). Each chunk should have a clear, readable header and should link to other chunks. Don't just use the ubiquitous Next button. Readers should be given a choice of which chunk to move to next, and those links should be contextually intuitive. For instance, after reading about 'Choosing Gardening Tools,' readers might appreciate links to 'Planning Your Garden Layout,' 'Maintaining your Tools,' and 'How to Start Planting.'Concise HeadingsUsers scroll only if they think it is worth the effort, and they are intolerant of extraneous information. How can you make key information easy to find and use? Keep your headings short but as descriptive as possible. For instance, the heading 'Creating Scannable Content' is fine, whereas 'Make Sure You Are Creating Content that Readers Can Easily Scan in 10 Steps' is too lengthy and confusing. Also, you may need a multiple heading structure. Try to use no more than three heading types; more than that can be hard for the reader to decipher.OrganizationLinking and the Inverse PyramidWhat is the inverse pyramid? It is an old journalism term for a way of writing that probably opposes what you learned in school. You probably learned to write an introductory sentence to lure readers into your piece and then deliberately lay out more and more information as you read further down. The inverse pyramid approach flips that concept: Write a first sentence that 'tells it all' in very general terms. Then each subsequent sentence in the paragraph delves deeper into detail. The idea is to provide as much information as possible in the first minute of reading time. This can be accomplished by highlighting the major concepts in a piece and then allowing the reader to access the more detailed content by linking to i[...]

Enlist Site Statistics to Snag Sales


Do your Web pages appeal to potential customers, or do they need work? Use your site-statistics server log to analyze the traffic on your site, and you’ll clearly see which pages are losing customer interest.

Site statistics show data such as the number of visitors, the pages they go to most often, how much time they spend and which page they view just before leaving. Do they ever return, or do they visit only once? Most server logs contain answers to these questions and more. They’re updated in real time so you can use the data to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

If you run ads in print magazines, check the log to see how many visitors reached your site by typing in the address (user-created URL). You can also see visitors who were referred by a search engine. Looking at which engines are used most often is a good way to determine if paid search listings work better for you than free ones.

Your Web site should offer an action you want your visitors to take, whether it’s placing an order, signing up for an appointment or more information, or joining your organization. Another goal may be to have them read articles you've written (which will, of course, link back to your shopping pages).

If your statistics show many people landing on your "Contact Us" page but only a few submitting the form, you’ll want to think about how to improve your response rate. Are you asking for too much information? Then try this:

  • Cut the personal info you request to just a name and e-mail address.
  • Make sure the form is easy to use and working properly
  • Present a good reason to fill it out (offer free information or a discount, for example).

Server logs can tell you which site (URL) your visitors came from before they jumped to yours. You’ll see the keywords they were searching for when they found your site. To keep your site's ranking in the search engines high, make sure these words appear at the top of your page text and code.

Studying your statistics will help you determine your most and least popular pages. Poorly-performing pages need editing either to the page itself — or to the text that links to it. Try crafting a convincing reason on your home page, and use a text link to jump to the troubled page.

Re-check your statistics after a month and see if your changes have boosted your site’s search engine rankings. Hopefully, your sales will see improvement, too!

Like Free Advertising: Press Release Basics


Publicity is free, and great when you can get it! Sending a press release to editors of newspapers and other media is the best way to begin. Start small with local papers and build your presence up from there.If you're persistent, you'll soon get calls for interviews. After one newspaper publishes a story about you, other media will likely jump on the bandwagon.To start, make a list of all the publications (magazines, newspapers, etc.) and on-air media (radio and television stations) you want to contact. Call each one to confirm the deadline and the best editor/department and mailing address to send your information.To give you an idea of what a press release should look like, I've included one below that I sent out for an organization.A press release is a document that provides information to a newspaper: the essential who, what, where, when and why. The first paragraph should have those five facts, and then you can add more colorful stuff afterwards.The materials you include with it can be fancy, but the press release itself should be straightforward. Note the two items in the heading below:For Immediate Release: [The Date]Contact: [Your Name and Phone Number].These two elements are very important. When editors see this crucial info right up front, they'll likely note your professionalism and read on to look for an angle they want to explore further.You're probably thinking this sounds really dull, and you're right. So follow up your correct, plain intro with a brief story to spice things up. This item can be about the hardships you faced in forming your company, where you're based (the local angle), community organizations in which you're active, etc. Think about what makes your company or product unique, and write a paragraph or two to entice the editor into calling you for an interview.Remember, except in the case of small local papers, you're not writing the story for them. So just give them the plain facts and enough extra to stoke their curiosity.After you mail, fax or e-mail your press release, follow up with a phone call to confirm that the recipients got your release and to ask if they have any questions.Here's a sample release sent by fax. This group got numerous newspaper calendar listings and some mentions on radio and TV.__________________________________________________________Sample Press Release:Garden State Iris SocietyFor immediate release: 4/23/03Contact: Reesa Marchetti, (856) XXX-XXXXThe Garden State Iris Society invites everyone to stop and smell the flowers at the Mostly Medians Iris Show on Saturday, May 10 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Medford Leas Community Center, Route 70, Medford, N.J.This early-season show will feature median iris such as small dwarf bearded, intermediate bearded, miniature tall bearded and border bearded. Plus, the blooms of everyone’s favorite — tall bearded iris — will be on display.The show is free and open to the public. Anyone, including non-members, may enter. If interested in exhibiting, please see the GSIS Web site for details on the rules and show schedule at: opportunity: The garden of GSIS member and hybridizer, Mary Smith, is in bloom at 25 Maple Road, Southampton. Mary grows numerous varieties of iris as well as other flowers. Call (609) XXX-XXXX for information.[...]

Before you start designing your site, Know what you want & why


Many people concentrate on how their home page design should look, but forget the basic foundation for success: advance planning of your entire Web site.
Decide if your pages will provide free information or content, offer products for sale, or both.

Then follow these steps:

  1. Sketch the navigation structure out, and determine which functions you want the site to provide to your visitors.
  2. Write a snappy tag line to be used on your home page that explains the site to visitors. Make it informative and straightforward (not ad copy). This line should thoroughly explain the site to strangers who have never heard of you before.
  3. Look at many sites and make lists of content, features, and design elements you like and don't like.
  4. Decide on the location of navigation bars, color schemes, and the use of animations, video, or sound files.
  5. Define your audience. Are they youths or adults, looking for reference content or for entertainment?
  6. Understand how people navigate the Web. Most don't read Web pages word for word: they scan the text. So to hold their attention, use highlighted keywords, subheadings, bulleted lists, one idea per paragraph, and half the word count of conventional writing.
  7. Inventory the content you already have in digital format. What do you plan to develop in the future? What do you already have, such as photos, videos, music, or artwork, that should be converted?
  8. Coordinate real-time public relations and marketing to complement your Web site development.
  9. Decide who will be responsible for updating the site.
  10. To improve search engine ranking, write a 25-word description of your site and a list of keywords. What would someone type into a search form that should lead to your site? The words you come up with will be displayed as content, and will also be set into the code (as hidden metatags) for search engines to find.
  11. Stay focused on your vision.

Optimize Images for Speedier Sites


Optimization is reducing the file size of an image is to a minimum without changing the look of the graphic. The reason you optimize Web graphics is that smaller file sizes result in faster page loading. That way, site visitors don't have to wait too long for your material to appear. Recommended load time for a page is 30 seconds maximum.
The file size of a GIF or JPG image depends on:
The dimensions (width and height). · The number of colors. · The complexity (number of pixels).
Reducing the number of colors (GIF) will slim down the file size. Reducing the quality (JPG) also produces a smaller file.
Image editing programs come with a Crop tool to remove extraneous portions of an image. Use it freely. PhotoShop also has tools to give you a curved frame, shadows, blurred edges and other effects.
Grayscale images contain 256 shades of gray (white and black included). If you save a black and white image as grayscale., you'll reduce the file save and save some bytes.
Keep the actual dimensions as small as possible without losing visibility. If you want site visitors to be able to look at full-screen images, turn them into thumbnails that expand to full size when clicked.

Search Engines: Take Me to the Top


Search engine optimization has become the buzzword of the moment. You want your site to show up at the top of the listings when a Web visitor searches for keywords, but how do you get there?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer — and no guarantee that you’ll stay No. 1 once you get to the top. That’s because search engines frequently change their criteria for ranking pages. (For this reason, Sheer Web Design™ subscribes to a service that tracks the standards various search engines consider when ranking pages.)

Submitting to the major search engines is an important step, but submitting too often can cause some to lower your rankings. And you should never submit before your pages are ready for the scrutiny to follow.

So what should you do? Don’t worry: You can make some basic changes that will improve your impact — on site visitors as well as search engines — no matter how the search criteria change.

Start at the top of your home page and follow this guide to improve your page:

Title Bar: The bar at the top of the browser window that displays your page should contain up to six words including your company name. You can add a word or two, but don’t repeat words or use any text that’s on your home page.

Check the rest of your site, too, to make sure the title bar is different on each page. Some search engine experts recommend that on inner pages, you put your company name after the title. Example: “Multivitamins: Joe’s Drug Store”

Metatags (keywords hidden in your page code) are not the ultimate solution to search engine rankings. Many engines ignore them completely. Others can even lower your rankings if they find words in your metatags that aren’t also displayed in the page's content. My best advice is to use metatags only to reflect the text that is visible on your pages.

Content: Search engines read words, not graphics. So concentrate on that text. The ideal home page contains about 250 words. Include your most important keywords, the ones potential customers would use in a search to find you. Put these words in your headings and repeat them as often as possible (without being obnoxious to your human visitors).

Images: Be sure every graphic you use contains an “ALT” tag that describes what the image shows. This wording will appear before the actual images load so that search engines and visually-impaired browsers can read it.

Incoming Links: Most search engines raise the ranking for sites that have incoming links. These links should be from high-quality, related sites. To see how many incoming links your site has, search for “”.

If you don't have many, consider starting a link-building campaign. Seek out non-competing sites in your industry and ask them to exchange links.

Other than paid or sponsored search engine listings, there’s no way to guarantee top page rankings for all your keywords. But improving your page content is a great way to start that will benefit your marketing efforts in many ways.

Invite search engines and visitors in your back door


Here's another way to draw search engines and visitors to your site: invite them in the back door with information pages. Don't just submit your home page to search engines. Submit these secondary pages, too.
Information pages contain plain facts — without sales pitches — on a particular subject. They give you the chance to show yourself off as an expert while giving visitors essentials they won't find elsewhere.
Once they see your know-how and skill at work, they're more likely to buy your products or services.
To create a good information page:
1. Be brief. Discuss only one subject per page. It's better to create several shorter pages than one long page that takes a long time to load.
2. Don't try to sell anything here. You can mention your product, but only in passing. Try explaining the topic, the problem and a solution. You can say your product or service helps to solve the problem, but link to a sales page to fully promote your product.
3. Avoid jargon: Try not to use complex, industry-specific terms unless you're sure your audience will understand them. If you must use words your visitors aren't familiar with, explain them in a separate FAQ (frequently asked questions) or glossary page.
Submit each information page separately. Within a few months, you should see a new group of potential customers finding your site.

E-Commerce Made Easy


Thinking about getting into Internet commerce? Studies show as many as 80 percent of Internet users make online purchases. So how do you tap into this growing marketplace?

Consider that of the e-commerce sites that succeed, there are two types. One, the marketing site, is merely an offshoot of a “real-life” company’s marketing program. This type provides added product or company information. It usually pushes visitors to contact the company, either by phone or by signing up for an e-mail list.

The second type, a selling site, is an online store. Selling sites need elements such as:

• A catalog with product details (images, benefits, specifications, prices).
• A secure shopping cart system to accept payments and track orders. It should allow customers to view their carts, continue shopping or check out.
• A credit card processing service or a system to take phone orders.
• Company and product information to instill customer confidence.

Most online merchants use a credit card processing service that charges a monthly fee. If your business isn’t large enough to warrant such an expense, you may accept checks or money orders, or use an online service like PayPal. For a small fee per transaction, PayPal collects check or credit card payments and then transfers the funds to your bank account.

(One downside of PayPal-type services is that your customers may dislike having to register before their payments are accepted. I’ve also heard complaints about PayPal freezing clients’ accounts for reasons such as a customer disputing charges.)

For a selling site to succeed, you must promote it both on and off the Web. Optimizing your pages and registering with the few major search engines is the cheapest way to go. But may get better results with:

• Traditional marketing and PR.
• Direct marketing by mail or by e-mail.
• Trading links with other Web sites.
• Pay-per-click advertising on search engines.

I’m still experimenting with the Google AdWords pay-per-click program. So far, I've received a number of clicks but few valid client inquiries.

Other Webmasters have advised me to be patient because if only one out of 100 clicks turns into a sale, I will make a profit. But the field I'm in is highly competitive, so I think a print advertising campaign may be more profitable for my company.

Like me, most e-commerce enterprises are experimenting to find out which marketing efforts work best.

Once you get visitors to your site, make sure you provide an environment that’s easy for them to navigate — and eventually buy. Customers should be able to find the products they want in just a few clicks. If they have to go through many levels or menus, they may just click right off your site.

Explain Your Site with a Tagline


To create effective Web copy, talk directly to your site visitors as if they were sitting across the room from you. Tell potential clients what you can do for them. The word "you" should appear frequently throughout your pages.

Use short, hard-hitting sentences in short, two- to three-sentence paragraphs. Bulleted lists are excellent: they lead the eye down your page. And sentence fragments? Formal grammar may so no, but on the Web they’re OK — as long as they help make your point.

Write as if you’re talking to someone.

Use contractions (“where’s” instead of “where is”).

Be informal.

Use simple words. If a one- or two-syllable expression works, why use a longer one?

After you’re finished, read through the text and trim all unnecessary words. Web copy should be roughly half as long as a print version on the same topic.

Tell potential customers how your product or service will benefit them. For example, don’t just say, “Our syrup contains natural chocolate and sugar.” Try this: “Your recipes will win raves from your friends when you add our syrup with its natural chocolate and sugar."

Keep your most important copy on the first half of the page (“above the fold” in newspaper lingo). Many readers won't scroll down, and they may miss text on the bottom of your page.

Use your spell checker, but for the final analysis, read the page out loud to yourself. Does it sound like you’re really talking to someone, or is it stiff and formal?

Insert images only if they add to the understanding of the content.

Now that we’re clear, let’s write short, snappy copy that sells!

Top Ten Web Design Mistakes


Here's my list of ten ways that websites have been particularly annoying recently.1. Unclear Statement of PurposeMany companies, particularly in the high tech industry, use vague or generic language to describe their purpose. Obscuring this basic fact makes it much harder for users to interpret a website's information and services.A strong mental model can grow from small seeds, as each additional design element adds to the user's existing understanding of a site. However, many sites create blurry mental models in users' minds because they fail to offer the one hard fact that users need to place other facts in their proper context.2. New URLs for Archived ContentArchives add substantial value to a site with very little extra effort. Although more and more sites are archiving old content, most sites still fail to maintain good archives. Some sites treat archives as a separate site area, assigning pages new URLs when they move them from the main area into the archive.Changing the URL when archiving content causes linkrot. It also makes other sites reluctant to link to you. Although sites might consider linking to a current article, if they've been burned by linkrot in the past, they'll often pass you by because they don't want to bother with having to update their own pages when you move yours.3. Undated ContentWithout dates on articles, press releases, and other content, users have no idea whether the information is current or obsolete. It's great to keep content in archives. The Alertbox, for example, gets 80% of its readership for old columns, which readers continue to find useful. But some facts and recommendations are strongly date-dependent, such as when I recommend using a certain version of a software package for another two years. Obviously, I mean two years from the day the article was written; if readers can't see the date, they won't know how to follow the recommendation.A user confronted a similar error in our recent test of how investors and business journalists use the investor relations areas of corporate websites. The user found a news item through a site's search engine and used the item to evaluate the company's current business prospects. Fine, except that the item was a few years old. The search engine had listed a misleading date for the article -- probably the date that the file was moved or had a typo fixed.The search engine on my own site has the same problem: it relies on the operating system's file-modification date rather than the date the content was written. As a result, I've shut off the date feature in the search result listings. Such dates can be very useful, but they do more damage than good if users can't trust them. Of course, the ideal solution is to get a content management system that feeds the authoring date to the search engine. Any big site with an IT staff should do so.4. Small Thumbnail Images of Big, Detailed PhotosIt's great that websites are now using smaller pictures. Avoiding the bloated designs of the past decreases download time and increases information richness. It's also good when sites link small pictures to bigger pictures, so users have the option of seeing the image in more detail.The main problem here is that websites typically produce small images by simply scaling down bigger images. If an original photo has a lot of intricate detail, the thumbnail is often incomprehensible.When using photos on the Web:Use fewer people and objects, and less complicated settings than you would for photos intended for printEmphasize close-up shots with clean backgroundsUse relevance-enhanced image reduction when preparing small photos from big ones. Don't just resize; first crop the image to focus on a salient and simple element5. Overly detailed ALT TextMany sites have begun paying attention to users with disabi[...]