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Posts Tagged ‘website’

Improving Your Website Sales

April 3rd, 2009

Anyone who has been marketing online knows that the lifeblood of a business is the traffic of a site. More visitors equal more sales. However, here are some ways that you can tweak your sites with to improve sales without the need to get more visitors.

The first method is to weave in your personal touch in your sales message. Nobody wants to be sold to by a total stranger, but many people will buy what their close friends recommend to them. If you can convince your audience that you are a personal friend who has their best interest at heart, they will be convinced to buy your products. Remember to speak to an individual in your sales letter, not to your whole audience.

The second method is to publish testimonials and comments from your customers. A good idea would be to publish both good and bad comments; that way prospects will be really convinced that these testimonials are real. When prospects see testimonials on your website, they will have the confidence to buy from you because human beings follow the herd mentality; when others have bought and proven it authentic, they will jump on the bandwagon and buy too.

Use visual representations for the problems and solutions that your product offers. Not everyone will read your text copy from the head to the tail, but most people will pay attention to images on your website.

Offer quality bonuses to accompany the product. When you offer bonuses that complement your product, your prospects will feel it’s a very good deal and it would be stupid to miss it. Be sure to state the monetary value of your bonuses so that people will be even more compelled to grab your good bargain.

Lastly, ask for the sale! Many people entice their prospects with the benefits of their product, sell to them with stories of how it has solved many problems, even offered killer bonuses but forget to ask for the sale. Give a clear instruction on how to buy your product.

Webmasters Resources , ,

How to create a good enough website

April 1st, 2009

For most people, that’s all you need. A website that’s good enough. Not that breaks new ground, establishes a new identity, discovers new ways for people to interact online. Just a good enough website that didn’t kill you to launch.

To be clear, the following advice assumes that:

  • You’re not trying to reinvent the idea of a web page–that the page is a means to an end
  • You work with other people

So, here’s what you do. First, realize that traditionally, the job of designer has been linked with the job of programmer. There were very good reasons for this. Designing a page that can’t work is silly, and changing the design every time you change the way the page works can be time consuming and expensive.

As a result, web design became a sacred art, one done only by the blessed few, in caverns far away from where mortals tread. In addition, it became expensive, because design changes (which marketers love to make) got in the same queue as programming changes.

We need to start by divorcing the two practices. There’s no longer a really good reason for the two to be so closely linked, especially since disciplined use of CSS and testing pays such dividends.

Start with design. Don’t involve the programming team until you’re 90% done with the look and feel of your pages. It’s cheap to change design if it can’t by supported by programming, and cheaper and faster to have design done in Photoshop before you commit to cutting it up and coding it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and beg you not to create an original design. There are more than a billion pages on the web. Surely there’s one that you can start with? If your organization can’t find a website that you all agree can serve as a model, you need to stop right now and find a new job.

Not a site to rip-off, but an inspiration. Fonts and colors and layout. The line spacing. The interactions. Why not? Your car isn’t unique, and your house might not be either. If you’ve got a site that sells 42 kinds of wrapping paper, why not start by finding a successful site that sells… I don’t know, shoes or yo-yo’s… something that both appeals to your target audience and has been tested and tweaked and works. No, don’t pick a competitor. That will get you busted. Pick a reasonably small but successful site in a totally different line of work. Say to your designer: "That’s our starting point. Don’t change any important design element without asking me first. Now, pull in our products, our logo and our company color scheme and let’s take a look at it."

At this point, some people are aghast! Shouldn’t the web be a design contest on top of everything else? I don’t think so.

Now, take your finished Photoshop pages and get every single person who can possibly veto your project to say okay. THEN give it to engineering to make it work.

[Boy, am I in trouble. People hate posts like this one. They read all sorts of things into it that I don’t intend. I’m certainly not against bespoke design, or designers. I certainly don’t believe that all engineers are bad designers or even difficult to deal with. The point of the post is most definitely not to encourage you to commit copyright violations or even ethical ones. It merely works to recognize two things:

1. If you are unable to agree on an existing site, you are sure going to spend a lot of time and money trying to agree on a custom one.

2. The process of design and user interaction is best done separately from the process of server speed, database structure and uptime.

Website Design , ,

20 Websites That Made Me A Better Web Developer

March 19th, 2009

As a web developer, if you’re to be successful, you have to have a constant yearning for learning new things. In an industry that evolves rapidly, you’ve got to keep up or you risk being obsolete and outdated. Keeping up with trends, weeding out the fads, and adopting new techniques to your web-building arsenal is an essential part of being a web developer.

I spend (literally) most of the day in front of the computer and even in my spare time, I choose to read, learn, and keep up with web technology news. This leads to a massive collection of bookmarked links, but through the years, there are only a handful of websites that I frequent.

I’d like to share 20 websites that have broadened my knowledge, expanded my skill set, and improved the quality and efficiency of my web development projects. Most of these (hopefully) you’ve already encountered, but if you come out with just one or two links you’ve never heard of or you end up bookmarking a link or two, I would’ve accomplished my goal.

1) Alertbox: Current Issues in Web Usability

Alertbox is Jakob Nielsen’s bi-weekly column that discusses web usability. I’ve been a fan of his for almost as long as I’ve been professionally developing websites. Most of his recommendations makes sense and is backed by real-world studies and carefully-constructed surveys.

His columns cover topics such as the merits of breadcrumb navigation to Top-10 Application-Design Mistakes. A great link to provide people when you’re asked about optimal web page design is the column on Screen Resolution and Page Layout.

2) TheBestDesigns.com

On days when your creative juices don’t seem to be flowing as it should, it often helps to look at other people’s work to help inspire you. TheBestDesigns.com is a gallery site to visit on such days. TBD has a few things that distinguish them from other web design galleries — among them are: choosing quality over quantity, showcasing flash-based as well as CSS-based layouts, and tagging each design with relevant keywords so that users can conveniently find similar designs.

They showcase truly innovative and skillfully-crafted designs and they abstain from showcasing the “yet another recycled web 2.0 look” websites. It might not be updated with hundreds of websites everyday, but having a strict guideline on what gets displayed on TBD ensures that you don’t have to filter out the noise to get to the signal.

3) A List Apart

A List Apart inspired me to become a proponent of web-standards and semantic code. Starting out, most of us probably didn’t care about capitalized, unclosed html tags (… that won’t validate with a strict doctype) or understood the real value of accessibility in web pages.

One of the major influences in my views on web-standards, best practices, accessibility, and usability can be attributed to a significant part… to A List Apart. ALA articles are high-quality and they only come out with two articles a month, but they are worth the wait. Articles are written by some of the leading experts in the industry, and their staff include well-renowned pro’s such as Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman.

4) Getting Real by 37 Signals

Getting Real” is a book that’s available online, written by 37 Signals. It’s about creating web-based applications in a productive and successful way. The book covers topics ranging from philosophies that help push out quality products to views on hiring the right people to do the job.

Favorite topics covered in the book are:asking users what they don’t want and dealing with problems only when there is one.

5) Digg / Technology

Digg is a site where people submit links and vote which content is worthy to be read by its users and which articles don’t deserve the light of day. A large part of my ability to keep up with emerging technologies, techniques, and new standards is because of frequenting Digg’s Technology section. The community is picky of what is good news and bad news, so it allows you to skip the junk and get to the good stuff right away.

Other social-bookmarking sites that will help you stay sharp and current, and that should be mentioned here are: StumbleUpon , del.iciou.us, reddit, and popurls.

6) Web Design from Scratch

Web Design from Scratch is a website run by Ben Hunt, that’s about (straight from the front page) “A complete guide to designing web sites that work“. It caters primarily to web builders just starting out, but it’s always good to “go back to the basics” and get a refresher on things that you’ve taken for granted.

The section on Copy Writing taught me that web developers shouldn’t be limited to the coding part or the design part of the project; writing effective copy comes naturally with the experience we’ve had with developing websites that succeed and fail.

7) mootools

mootools is a lightweight framework that simplifies the way you write JavaScript and provides you with powerful AJAX classes, effects, and fuctions. It’s helped with the development of complex web pages in a rapid and elegant way.

There are other JavaScript frameworks similar to mootools, and you can’t go wrong with any of the popular ones, but a developer’s got to choose his or her favorite — and for me, mootools is the one I’ve come to love and use.

8) ReadWriteWeb

ReadWriteWeb is a long-standing (five years and counting) weblog about web technology news. It caters to web professionals that have a need for knowing what’s up right now. It was founded by Richard MacManus, who also co-founded the Web 2.0 Workgroup – a network of blogs that cover the Web 2.0 generation.

It’s a website that allows you to keep your knowledge up-to-date, and is a source I consistently cite when talking about current web technologies with colleagues and fellow developers.

9) Zend Developer Zone

This is a website written by some of the PHP core developers and they provide news, articles, tutorials and other stuff related to PHP. If you’re looking for a reliable source of information about PHP, there’s no other place to look than the Zend Developer Zone.

Worth taking a look at is the five-part article series about the xdebug extension (here’s the link to Part One: Introducing xdebug), which is, as author Cal Evans puts it, “a free and open source swiss army knife tool for PHP developers”.

10) css Zen Garden

css Zen Garden is an eye-opener for newer CSS developers. css Zen Garden explores the power of external style sheets by showcasing a variety of designs contributed by developers throughout the industry.

If you haven’t seen the website before, the concept is: using the same html mark-up, CSS developers submit external stylesheets and images to style the web page into beautifully-looking designs.

It’s a great place to inspire you to push your limits and knowledge regarding CSS.

11) CSSplay: Experiments with Cascading Style Sheets

Another wonderful website about CSS. It features demos of CSS-based solutions such as image galleries, drop shadows, image maps, etc.

The website is authored by a married couple, Stuart (Stu) and Fran Nicholls, who have been in the computer industry since the 1980’s. Most of the demos are (or were) cutting edge; the examples are practical and easy to follow and the website’s easy to navigate.

It’s a commendable resource to check out when you want to gather information about CSS-based solutions.

12) W3Schools Online Web Tutorials

his is an amazing center of knowledge for all things web development, covering topics such as JavaScript, HTML, PHP, SQL, and more. At the bottom of their logo, they quote, “The best things in life are free” – this is indeed true in their case.

The website is a great starting point towards learning about web development and design topics and an effective online reference for those who know about the subject but need a quick refresher.

13) Books24×7.com – ITPro Collection

The ITPro Collection at Books24×7.com features digitalized versions of the top IT books. It’s a fee-based website, but if you’re able to afford it (or can convince the boss to get you a subscription), it’s the best way to access quality literature through the convenience of your computer.

It will also allow you to select the books worthy of buying and adding to your collection.

14) Drupal

Drupal restored my faith in open-source applications. Prior to Drupal, I worked on Oscommerce, Zen Cart and Moodle. All projects had bloated PHP and CSS, poor HTML mark-up (default layouts used tables, little care for semantic mark-up, amongst a few things) and were designed with little usability/accessibility in mind.

Drupal’s code — in contrast — was clean, modular (but not excessively so), had a robust API so that you don’t have to tinker with the core files, and most importantly, the community’s willingness to help out, share information, contribute, and commitment to quality is my vision of the “Utopian” open-source community. Since then, projects likeWordpress, Magento, and Joomla! re-assures us that effective quality solutions don’t come from shelling out the cash, but rather promoting and contributing as much as you can to these remarkable communities.

15) Webmonkey: The Web Developer’s Resource

Here’s a throw-back to the past! This is here as a reminder to the (slightly) older/more experienced developers that the site is still up and running. It was, during their time, a place to visit and learn about web development, covering topics such as web programming, E-business, and page design. It also has a “Quick Reference” section on the sidebar.

I remember being amazed at how their “folder navigation” on the sidebar worked — ever since then, the functionality can now be achieved quite easily using the DOM and/or a JavaScript framework like mootools.

16) Meyerweb.com: Eric’s Writing

This is a collection of Eric Meyer’s writings, an accomplished author on the topic of CSS. Not only is he a CSS expert, but also an advocate of semantic code. His work was, and is, truly revolutionary. I attribute my appreciation and understanding of “resetting CSS” to him.

Eric Meyer is one of the key influential people that I truly find to be talented and knowledgeable in the field of web building. His current and previous works are worth the time to read.

17) 456 Berea Street

456 Berea Street is the creation of Roger Johansson, a web professional from Sweden. His writing is a primary inspiration for starting up of Six Revisions. Topics include book reviews, written work about CSS and XHTML, and web development news and events.

Some pages worth bookmarking are Efficient CSS with shorthand properties (which can be used as a reference to writing “shorthand” CSS – reducing file size and page length) The CSS and XHTML Lab (which features some demonstrations as well as a list of works translated into other languages) and Accessibility myths and misconceptions (a helpful resource to link to when asked about the value of accessibility in web pages).

18) The Web Standards Project

The Web Standards Project “fights for

standards

that reduce the cost and complexity of development while increasing the accessibility and long-term viability of any site published on the Web”.

Whether it’s suggesting correct mark-up or rallying web browser developers to render styles/html a certain way, The Web Standards Project aims to help web developers reduce the amount of time committed to troubleshooting browser-display issues. The website features articles, tutorials, and the Acid3 Browser Test (visual rendering tests of your browser).

19) Fiftyfoureleven.com

A marvelous website for the modern web developer. The website “is intended to be a resource for web developers: people who design, code and program websites and applications for the web“. The website is part of the 9rules network and is written primarily by Mike Papageorge who chooses to blog about topics such as “Marketing on the Internet” and more specific subjects such as “Olympic Logos“.

Aside from the Web Development Resources sidebar, there’s also a list of the author’s most recent Web Development resources that’s worth a bookmark.

20) SitePoint

SitePoint is one of the older websites that has survived the constantly-changing tastes of web developers and designers. A co-founder of the website, Matt Mickiewicz, first had a website called Webmaster-Resources.com Community Forums launched in 1999.

SitePoint had a bit of a lull for a period of time in terms of popularity; the site’s prominence was replaced by newer, more “forward-thinking” web development sites.

The site has found its “second wind” with it’s young and modern web developer audience with an updated design/user interface, frequent updates, and a new and notable”CSS Reference”  section.

Webmasters Resources ,

Pass or Fail: The Top 30 Technology Company Homepages

March 18th, 2009

Although there are lots of posts that evaluate different design blogs, I haven’t seen many that focus specifically on corporate websites.

Therefore, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the homepages of the Top 30 technology companies (the order of this list was determined by the InfoTech 100 from Business Week), and assign them a PASS or FAIL rating based on the quality of their homepage design.

Click on the screenshots to check out each website.

 

1. Amazon.com: PASS

Although it may be a little cluttered for my taste, it would be short-sighted to say that the Amazon.com homepage is a FAIL. Amazon has created a company that has landed at the top of the InfoTech 100, and the fact that one hundred percent of their sales are made online shows that they understand how to use their website to attract and retain customers.

 

2. Apple: PASS

As an Apple user, I may be a little biased, but I honestly don’t think that anyone could look at the Apple homepage and say that it fails in terms of design. The homepage is uncluttered, provides easy to use navigation and gracefully showcases several of Apple’s products.

 

3. Research in Motion (RIM): PASS

Let’s be honest; the RIM homepage is not going to win any awards for being innovative. However, while this may be true, the homepage does get the job done. Not only does it provide links to all of the relevant topics of interest, but it also showcases their latest product. If I was a school teacher, the RIM homepage would probably get a B- (while the Apple homepage would be at the top of the class with an A+).

 

4. Nintendo: FAIL

Okay, I already know that this is going to be a controversial one, but I have to give the Nintendo homepage a FAIL. While I do like the color scheme of this homepage, there are simply too many elements in the layout. Since it already looks like they are trying to replicate the Apple homepage, Nintendo needs to take another look and realize that they could benefit by cutting out about 75% of the homepage elements below the navigation bar.

 

5. Western Digital: PASS

This homepage falls into the same category as the RIM homepage. It’s definitely not pushing any envelopes, but at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with it. This is a corporate homepage we are talking about, and not only does the menu make navigating the website easy, but I like the fact that they use the main area of their homepage to promote a single product (instead of making Nintendo’s mistake and trying to cram as many products onto a single page as possible).

 

6. America Movil: FAIL

Although this isn’t technically their homepage (it’s the first page of their website, but you have to click “Enter Fullscreen” to visit their actual homepage), I do not appreciate a website that forces me to go into a fullscreen mode. Unless I’m watching a movie, I do not want a window to be in fullscreen. Not only it interrupts my flow of browsing, but it’s going to cause problems for people who don’t have a 1024×768 resolution.

 

7. China Mobile: PASS

First of all, kudos to China Mobile for having their website in multiple languages. While I think they could cut the size of their Press Releases area in half (and do a better job at emphasizing the “Hot Products” on the right side of the page), the China Mobile homepage successfully accomplishes the basic goals of a corporate homepage.

 

8. Nokia: PASS

I really like the fact that Nokia puts all of the necessary navigation elements (links and search box) at the top of the page, and then uses the main real estate of their hompeage to showcase their latest products (the large box actually scrolls through several different products). Additionally, they finish things off with a few other boxes that lead to destinations of potential interest (such as capitalizing on the new “Twilight” trend).

 

9. ASUSTeK Computer: FAIL

Although you can’t see it in the screenshot, there are simply too many moving elements on this homepage (including the left and middle columns). Unlike the main area of the Nokia homepage (which scrolls through several different elements), the main area of this homepage is animated, but it simply loops the same offer over and over. Additionally, there’s too much clutter on the homepage for a user to figure out what they actually want to do.

 

10. High Tech Computer (HTC): PASS

If I was going to pick my two favorite homepages out of the first ten companies on this list, Apple would be #1 and HTC would be #2. The homepage is relatively uncluttered, and (in addition to the navigation) simply displays four main elements (three of which are to popular products/offers).

 

11. Google: PASS

If you need proof that minimalist designs are more effective than cluttered ones, just compare the stock prices of Google and Yahoo. Google is a search company, and from the second that you visit their homepage, you know exactly what you are supposed to do with their website.

 

12. MTN Group: PASS

It’s definitely not my favorite homepage on this list, but it gets the job done. In addition to providing visitors with easy to find navigational links, MTN Group promotes all of the latest news that’s related to their company.

 

13. IBM: PASS

I actually have to admit that I was little surprised with the IBM homepage. Given the reputation of the company, I was expecting an extremely bland homepage, but theirs actually has a little flair. I also like the fact that each of the main navigation links is actually a drop-down menu, which makes it easier for users to find exactly what they want.

 

14. Mobile Telesystems: FAIL

I want to like this homepage. However, there is simply too much red in the design, which results in an overwhelming experience when the page loads. On top of that, Mobile Telesystems really needs to increase the size of their fonts for their navigational links.

 

15. Telefonica: FAIL

I don’t think I need to go into much detail about why this design is a fail. I guess that it’s a decent attempt at a design, but it simply doesn’t come together well. Telefonica’s needs to scrap this design and start over from scratch (it wouldn’t hurt them to get a little inspiration from some of the top homepages on this list).

 

16. VimpelCom: PASS

Like several of the other websites on this list, VimpelCom could benefit from increasing the size of their font. Also, I’m not sure why the paragraph under the “Brief Business Description” is one long hyperlink. However, those are both minor details, and I otherwise like the design of this homepage. I think their use of ample white space helps to bring attention to their main content.

 

17. Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Ind.): FAIL

Although I will give them credit for making it easy to switch their site between English and Traditional Chinese, this homepage just doesn’t do it for me. I think what really turns me off is the badly done header. If they could come up with a more attractive header and improve the link structure below the header, Foxconn might be able to move into the PASS category.

 

18. AT&T: PASS

Even though they have a lot on their homepage, AT&T is a company that offers a lot of different products and services, so I don’t think their homepage is overwhelming or too cluttered. Additionally, I also like that their main content area highlights several of their best offers.

 

19. Accenture: PASS

Not the most exciting homepage (although I do like the picture of Tiger), but like several of the other homepages on the list, it gets the job done. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but my one suggestion would be to increase the font size of the links on the right side of the page (I think a lot of designers underestimate the importance of having text that is large enough for people of all ages and monitor sizes to read).

 

20. LG Electronics: FAIL

I like this homepage. However, I have to give it a fail because even though I have a fast Internet connection, it takes this page forever to load. Not only do you have to wait to load the “Select Your Region” page, but then there’s another delay before the actual homepage loads!

 

21. Bharti: PASS

I think that the picture on this page is a pretty cool. I also like their one sentence mission statement about 2020. I would recommend formatting the description of their company differently, but other than that, this a pretty good corporate homepage.

 

22. Oracle: PASS

I like the use of white space, and unlike the Mobile Telesystems homepage, Oracle successfully uses red in their color scheme without going overboard. My only suggestion would be to move the bottom navigation (Customer Spotlight, News and Special Event) above the list of links, and to potentially prune down the total number of links in those four columns.

 

23. Microsoft: FAIL

As an Apple guy, I was hoping I would get to fail Microsoft. Although I remained objective, I’m glad that I get to give them a FAIL. The reason is because of the “Microsoft Silverlight” pop-up that automatically appears when their homepage loads. Just like America Movil forcing a full screen, I don’t want anything to pop-up while I’m browsing (especially when it forces me to click the Install link or the No Thanks link).

 

24. Maroc Telecom: FAIL

Since I’m not one of their target customers, I don’t mind the fact that I can’t read what’s on the homepage. However, I do have to FAIL this page because they are trying to cram too much into a small space. If they would actually take advantage of the full page and spread apart their layout, they might actually be able to earn a PASS.

 

25. Turkcell: PASS

As you have probably noticed, I really think that this general type of layout is one of the most effective for corporate homepages. It gives companies the ability to highlight the main elements of their company, and generally draws visitors deeper into the website.

 

26. LG Display: FAIL

This homepage suffers from the same problem as the Maroc Telecom homepage. Instead of spreading things out, they have crammed all of the elements of their layout into a small space. They don’t necessarily need to remove any of the elements from their homepage, but they do need to spread out the elements that are there.

 

27. NHN USA: PASS

I really like the bold header that is a part of this layout. It really grabs your attention, and the five links that are integrated into the header make navigation easy. I would suggest potentially changing the navigation links from grey to black, but other than that, this is a great looking homepage.

 

28. COSMOTE: FAIL

Like the Maroc Telecom homepage, this isn’t getting a FAIL for being in a different language. The reason that it’s receiving a fail is because it is way too cluttered. There are simply too many elements jammed into this layout. Additionally, I’m really not a big fan of how much they used bright green in this layout.

 

29. Millicom International Cellular: PASS

Especially when you consider the fact that this is a corporate homepage, the design is quite nice and bright. The navigation is easy to use, and the main area of the layout is divided well between information about the company, links to documents for investors and a couple elements with additional information.

 

30. HP: PASS

Not every website can get away with a black background, but the HP website pulls it off successfully. Their use of big images in the middle of the page seems like a really effective way to grab visitor’s attention and get them onto specific product pages.

Website Design ,

Making Merchant Websites Easy

March 18th, 2009

Convincing your prospects to purchase from you is a hard job, but have you ever thought that you’re making the process twice as difficult for both parties if your prospects are convinced but don’t know how to buy from you? No matter how good you are at convincing your prospects, they won’t buy if they find the process cumbersome.

First, you will want to check that people can find your order form easily and hassle-free. You can write a clear, concise paragraph to direct your prospects to your order form so that you can minimize the chances of them getting lost. You can also reduce the chances of losing prospects by putting a prominent link to your order page from every other page on your site.

Also, do you offer multiple payment options? Some people may feel comfortable paying via PayPal, some may only want to pay with their credit card and others might want to send a check. The more options you offer, the better your chances of covering your prospects’ desired payment method. After all, it wouldn’t make any sense to sell hard to a prospect only to find that they won’t be able to pay you when they want to.

On the other hand, you will want to prove that you are a credible merchant. Is your order form secured using encryption technology? You would want to look into SSL for this. You can also offer a money back guarantee so that people will feel confident about buying from you. How about after sales support? Who do they contact when they have problems after purchasing?

Alternatively, you can add customer testimonials, your contact information, address, and so on to boost your prospects’ confidence. Make them feel safe about buying something from you, a total stranger to them on the other end of the Internet.

As a conclusion, it would be very pitiful if you sold hard and sold well to a prospect and something goes wrong when he or she is ready to pay. Eliminate any chances of that to maximize your profits!

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