3 Tools to Help You Improve Website Speed

Posted on August 22nd, 2014 by John Giaccotto

1415055_63258558Want to improve engagement, retention and conversions on your website? You can boost all three by improving the speed of your website.

You might think your website loads fast enough, but in reality, it may need some improvement. The speed of a website can have significant impact on its usability. Users become frustrated with slow websites and often leave rather than wait. Some users never come back.

Here are 3 tools you can use to improve your website’s speed:

Google PageSpeed Tools
PageSpeed will help you identify performance best practices and apply them to your website. With the optimization tools, you can even automate the process. Google offers tools for analysis so you an analyze your site online, install browser extensions, use the Insights API and learn about best practices that will improve the performance of your website. PageSpeed can be installed on Apache or Nginx to help you with optimization.

Pingdom Website Speed Test
Pingdom will help you analyze the load speed of your website and learn how to make it faster. You can learn what is fast, slow, too big, etc. on your pages and identify practices. It is useful to both novices and experts. With Pingdom, you can easily optimize the performance of your website. It’s key features include examination of web page components, performance overview, performance grade and tips, performance history and multiple location testing.

Web Page Test
Web Page Test is a free website speed test that is performed from multiple locations around the world using real browsers at real consumer connection speeds. You can run simple tests to more advanced tests which include multi-step transactions, video capture and content blocking. The test results form Web Page Test offer rich diagnostic information with optimization checks and suggestions for improvements.

Because website speed is critical to your success online, you need to be vigilant. Make use of these tools frequently. If you don’t have the time or expertise to monitor the performance of your website, you should talk to a web development professional. Even slight decreases in your site’s performance can have a significant impact in engagement, retention and conversion.

How often do you evaluate your site’s speed?

What are web safe colors?

Posted on August 21st, 2014 by John Giaccotto

Screen shot 2014-08-22 at 12.37.59 PMWeb safe colors display solid, non-dithered and consistent color on any computer monitor or web browser capable of displaying 8-bit color or 256 colors. The palette contains 216 rather than the 256 colors because only 216 will display the same on all computers.
The concept of web safe colors is a bit antiquated with today’s technology. However, in the early days of the web, computers were only capable of displaying 256 colors at a time. These color limitations resulted in the need for web designers to use web safe colors in order to ensure that colors displayed consistently across various computers monitors and web browsers.

Today, computers are capable of displaying millions of colors. You don’t really need to worry about using web safe colors anymore. If you are concerned, you can always ask your web designer to test it for 256-limited web safe colors and its lowest resolution and see how it looks.

However, keep in mind that most users aren’t going to be affected. While there may be some users who are still using outdated computers that are only capable of displaying 256 colors, most are not. The majority of your users will be using modern computers and high speed Internet connections. As a result, they will be able to load pages with millions of colors that will be displayed brilliantly on their screens.

There’s certainly no harm in restricting your website to web safe colors, but in a world of millions of colors, why limit yourself? Modern website users expect to view high quality images that are rich in color.

If your website is stuck in the past, it may be time to consider upgrading it. You can go for a complete redesign or gradually add page elements that are rich in color. There’s an entire rainbow of gorgeous colors out there to choose from, why not brighten up your website?

Do you still use web safe colors in your web design?

Is native advertising good for SEO?

Posted on August 20th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

seo-1-1287370-mMany businesses are turning to native advertising as a way to strengthen their online marketing strategy. However, it’s important to remember that everything on your website can have an impact on search engine optimization (SEO). What kind of an impact does native advertising have on SEO?

Is native advertising good for SEO? Native advertising can be good for SEO, if it is effectively integrated into your online marketing strategy. Native advertising is created to fit naturally within the content of a website or other media platform such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Because native advertising is integrated seamlessly into your content, it can be beneficial for your websites SEO.

Unlike display advertisements, native advertisements are aligned with your page content. Display advertisements are designed to stand out and are typically placed above or to the side of the page content. Native advertisements can serve to enhance the page content by providing useful information and acting as a strong call-to-action.

Native advertising is less interruptive than traditional display advertising. As a result, it provides a better user experience. You can use native advertising to promote a product, service, promotion or event. Because native ads are a seamless part of your page content, they are more likely to be viewed and shared. User engagement such as viewing, reading and sharing improves your SEO.

When used to promote strong, useful website content, native advertising can help you grow readership, establish authority and earn backlinks which are all important for SEO. The key is to invest some time into creating outstanding native advertising that seamlessly blends with the rest of your web content. If you integrate native advertising into your online marketing strategy, you will see results.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can sit down with your marketing professional to develop strong native advertising content for your website and social media platforms. Once you have a strategy in place, you can be confident that your native ads will benefit your conversion rates as well as your SEO.

What is ViewPort in a Responsive website?

Posted on August 19th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

Graph-Paper_a3.inddViewPort is a meta element used in the head of the document in order to optimize pages for a wide range of devices. The ViewPort tag tells the browser how to control the dimensions and scaling of pages.

Mobile browsers render a page at a desktop width in an attempt to provide the best user experience. At the same time, the browser attempts to make the content readable by increasing the size of fonts and other content to fit the screen. On standard websites, this creates a lots of usability issues for the mobile user.

As a result, many website owners opt to use a responsive website. Responsive websites are designed to be usable on everything from desktop computers to smart phones. The ViewPort tag is an important element of responsive website design. The ViewPort value width=device-width tells the page to match the screen’s width in pixels that are independent of the device.

Here’s a sample of the ViewPort tag:

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″>

The ViewPort tag also has minimum-scale, maximum-scale and user-scalable attributes which can be set. However, you need to keep in mind that these may limit usability. You need to make sure that all of your content will fit within the ViewPort. If the content is larger than the ViewPort, users may need to zoom in and out and scroll horizontally. These actions can pose serious usability problems for your website. As a result, you need to be mindful of the ViewPort when designing a mobile website.

In order to make your responsive website usable you should avoid using large fixed width elements. Also, you should not rely on any particular ViewPort width when attempting to get your website to render well. Finally, remember to use CSS media queries to apply different styling for small and large screens.

What is a custom web application?

Posted on August 18th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

1159095_58554250A web application is an application program. It is stored on a remote server and delivered via the Internet through a browser. A custom web application is a web application that has been custom developed to meet specific project requirements.

Most websites contain web applications and some contain custom web applications. Custom web applications are developed out of necessity. When an existing web application is unable to perform an objective, a custom application must be developed. Custom applications often improve the performance, functionality and usability of websites.

You may not realize it, but every time you browse the Internet, you’re using a multitude of web applications. Many of these applications are custom built to perform a specific function. Without web applications, most websites would be unusable.

In the mobile market, there are web applications and native applications. Native applications are developed for a specific platform or device. These apps generally come installed on the device. Most mobile devices use a combination of native and web applications and many applications use elements of both. Applications that use elements of both native and web apps are called hybrid applications.

Chances are, your current business website uses web applications. However, you may benefit from a custom web application. How do you know if your website can benefit from a custom application?

The best thing to do is sit down with your web development professional. Your web developer will help you evaluate your website and look for ways to improve its performance, functionality and usability. In many cases, a custom web application can make a significant impact in your website.
Custom web applications range from simple to complex. Some custom applications can be developed in a matter of a few hours. Others will required hundreds of hours to complete. Whether you need a simple or complex custom web application, remember it will pay off in the long run with improved conversions.

What is a mega menu, and are they good for retail websites?

Posted on August 17th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

Screen shot 2014-08-22 at 12.24.59 PMNavigation is a critical consideration for your website design. As a retail website owner, you may be wondering what navigation system to use for your site. One common navigation system for retail websites is the mega menu. The online retail giant, Amazon, uses a mega menu. However, a mega menu may not be a suitable fit for all retail websites.

What is a mega menu?
A mega menu is a type of drop down menu. When a user hovers over a link, button or other defined area, the menu drops down displaying all of the options in one giant menu box. The menu is often broken down into categories and sub categories, but the user can see an overview of what the website has to offer and navigate it very quickly. Websites with deep footers containing all of the site’s navigation links can also be considered mega menus, even though they do not drop down in the standard format.

Are mega menus good for retail websites?
As was previously stated, the gold standard for online retailers, Amazon, uses a mega menu. Obviously, their mega menu has served them well. However, this doesn’t mean a mega menu is a good option for all retail websites. In fact, many online retailers may not find a mega menu to be an effective solution for their website’s navigation.

Mega menus are best suited for retail websites with a large number of products. If you have a giant eCommerce website, then you may want to seriously consider using a mega menu. It will improve the usability of your website by helping users quickly navigate to the products they want. If you have a huge amount of content on your website, a mega menu is a good option.

Most small businesses with retail websites do not need to use a mega menu. If you have a small, brochure style site with a small selection of products or product categories, you may want to consider other forms of navigation. Mega menus are great for helping users quickly find what they’re looking for on a vast retail website, but they can be cumbersome on smaller retail websites.

Discuss your options for navigation with your web designer. Most small retail websites are better served with a simple navigation system. While a mega drop down menu is helpful on a large website, it will be an unnecessary hassle on a small website. Ultimately, you need to consider usability when looking at navigation. What navigation system will make your website user-friendly and easy to navigate?

What is conversion rate optimization?

Posted on August 16th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

1208425_45520599Conversion rate optimization is a marketing term and is often referred to as CRO in the industry. CRO relies on analysis and user feedback in order to improve the performance of your website. Specifically, CRO seeks to improve your website’s conversion rate. Whether you’re seeking to convert sales or sign-ups to a newsletter, you need your website to convert.

In order to improve your website’s conversion rate, you need to optimize it with conversions in mind. Every element of your website should serve to further your goal of converting visitors. The first thing you need to do is evaluate your goals for your website. Sit down with your marketing professional and discuss the short and longterm goals for your site.

Once you have evaluated your goals and determined the conversions you want to push on your website, you can define your key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are metrics that are important to your business.

Common KPIs include sales, new customer registrations, downloads, newsletter sign-ups, etc. Key performance indicators will help you assess your current conversion rates and gauge the success of your CRO efforts while working with your marketing professional.

Ultimately, your website needs to convert. Whether you use your website to convert sales or simply to generate leads, you need visitors to your website to take action. Common conversions include signing up for your newsletter, becoming a fan of your Facebook page or purchasing a product or service.

While conversion rate optimization sounds rather simple, it requires a great deal of effort. You need to understand what users want upon their arrival to your website and provide it for them. Work with your website designer and marketer in order to gain insight into your KPIs and adjust your website accordingly.

In some cases, your website may require a redesign in order to optimize it for conversions. In other cases, you may be able to optimize your website’s conversion rate simply by improving your call-to-action throughout your pages. Whatever the case may be, you need to be open to change.

A lot of times, your conversion rate may be impacted by a confusing or overly complex conversion funnel. Perhaps users find your newsletter sign-up form to be too cumbersome or time consuming. Maybe your check-out cart is too complex or cluttered. Conversion rate optimization will help you identify and correct these problems in order to boost your site’s conversions.

What is jQuery?

Posted on August 15th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

Screen shot 2014-08-22 at 12.16.55 PMIf you’ve spent any amount of time looking into web design, you’ve probably heard about jQuery. But what is it? jQuery is a nimble and feature-rich cross-platform JavaScript library. It is a free and open source software licensed under the MIT License.

jQuery features a user-friendly API that works across a wide range of browsers and makes HTML document traversal and manipulation, event handling, animation and AJAX easier. jQuery is extremely versatile and extensible. As a result, it has transformed the way millions of users write JavaScript.

The popular JavaScript library was designed to streamline client-side scripting of HTML.  jQuery makes it easier to navigate a document, create animations, select DOM elements, develop AJAX applications and handle events.

Developers use jQuery to create abstractions for low-level interaction, animation, advanced effects and high-level widgets. Because it is modular, the library allows web design professionals to create dynamic web pages and web applications. It is a powerful tool for web designers.

jQuery includes the following features:

  • DOM element selections
  • DOM traversal and modification
  • DOM manipulation
  • Events
  • Effects and animations
  • AJAX
  • JSON parsing
Plug-ins
  • Utilities
  • Compatibility methods
  • Multi-browser support (Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Opera)

Even though you may never learn how to use jQuery, it is helpful to know what it is when you’re talking to your web deign professional. Don’t ever hesitate to ask your web pro the meaning of a term when you’re in a meeting.

Most web designers are happy to help explain the jargon they’re using. In fact, they may not realize they’re using jargon until you let them know that they’re getting too technical. If you don’t understand something, just ask!

Should you develop your own CMS or use WordPress?

Posted on August 14th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

Screen shot 2014-08-22 at 12.14.26 PMContent management systems allow website owners to efficiently maintain their websites. In today’s competitive online market, websites need to be regularly updated and filled with fresh content. Without a content management system (CMS), most website owners would have to rely on their web developer to maintain and update their content. As a result, content management systems are a necessity. Should you develop your own CMS or use WordPress?

For most website owners, WordPress will be a near perfect solution. Most people are already familiar with WordPress. It is incredibly easy to set-up and use. The control panel is intuitive and simple. Overall, WordPress is an efficient way to manage website content and has plenty of options to customize it to the user. An additional advantage is that it is open source, which means WordPress is free and has an active community of developers working to improve it.

What’s not to love? Many website owners will love WordPress. It will streamline their website updates and make posting content quick and easy. However, some website owners require CMS with a higher level of customization than WordPress offers. If you require an efficient, scalable and customizable CMS, it may be beneficial to consider developing your own. WordPress is great, but it can’t do everything you may need it to do.

Every business is different. Sit down with your web developer and discuss your needs. As you assess your needs, your developer will be able to help you determine whether or not you need a custom CMS. Sometimes WordPress can be customized enough to avoid having to create a custom CMS. Other times, a new CMS will need to be developed. It really just depends upon your specific requirements for a CMS.

No matter what route you decide to take, you’ll want to make sure your CMS is scalable enough to grow with your company. As your company grows, your needs may change. Be sure to take scalability and growth into account when making your decision between a custom CMS and WordPress.

What CMS do you currently use?

What’s the best color for your “buy now” button?

Posted on August 13th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

828512_13039456Ah yes, the age old question of color in web design. There are all kinds of theories as to which color converts best. Truth be told, there is no best color for your “buy now” button.  Every website design is unique. Every brand identity uses different color schemes. Every target demographic is going to respond differently to different colors.

In order to select the best color for your “buy now” button, you will need to understand your brand identity and target demographic. Work with your website designer to create a compelling web design for brand that will engage your target demographic. Color choice has a lot to do with user perception and expectations. A good designer will be able to help you hone in on an appropriate color scheme for your brand.

Call-to-action buttons, including “buy now” buttons, need to stand out. Contrast is more important than color. There have been lots of “studies” performed online to determine the effectiveness of one color over another. However, in reality, the most effective call-to-action buttons are the ones that stand out, yet are cohesive to the company’s brand and user expectations.

When considering the color of your “buy now” button, you need to determine what color will contrast with the existing elements of your website design. For example, many studies have show red to be an effective color for call-to-action buttons. If your brand’s color scheme is red, white and blue, it may be an effective option. However, if your  website uses red page elements on a white background, a red “buy now” button wouldn’t really stand out. Instead, you might use the color blue.

The key is to create an eye-catching button that still fits in with the overall design of your website. The best color is going to immediately command the attention of visitors to a page, yet still maintain cohesion within your overall design. You don’t want to choose a color that conflicts with your branding or your website design. Instead, select a dominant color from your brand or web design and use it exclusively for your call-to-action buttons.

Once you’ve honed in on the best color for your “buy now” button, you will also want to consider placement. Placement is extremely important for “buy now” and other call-to-action buttons on your website. These buttons need to be placed in a prominent location and given ample white space. Too many website owners focus on color and neglect placement and white space.

What color do you currently use for your call-to-action buttons?

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