What is conversion rate optimization?

Posted on November 8th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

click-1276072-mConversion 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 Colors for a Website with a Female Audience

Posted on November 7th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

marcjacobSo you have to design a website for a primarily female audience. Now what? The temptation of many web design professionals is to gravitate toward stereotypically feminine colors such as pink, lavender and pastels. While these colors can be used effectively in web design, it is a mistake to paint the pages of any website in girly colors. Instead, aim for sophistication.

Today’s female audience is intelligent, sophisticated and prefers websites with a clean, modern and trendy design. Unless your target demographic is little girls, avoid bows, ribbons and lace filled borders. Instead, try to create an online boutique that puts trendy brick and mortar shops to shame with your style, trendiness and modern design.

What colors should you use for a female audience? Don’t be afraid to embrace a sophisticated color palette. Instead of a pink background, choose a streamlined black and white design and accent it with pink or another feminine color that matches your brand. Using saturated feminine colors as accents rather than for backgrounds, text and borders will appeal to modern women.

Accent colors can soften an otherwise bleak black and white design and transform it into a high end online website. Choose colors that match your brand and will enhance your brand identity online. Instead of relying on color to make your website appeal to a female audience focus on a clean layout. Use gorgeous typography, images and graphics to create a beautiful web design.

Subtle texture can also be effectively used with color to achieve a feminine web design. While you may not want to use a bold background color, using a subtle texture with a hint of color can create a sophisticated look. Texture used in combination with color can also enhance the usability and readability of your web pages.
The key to designing a website for a female audience is to know your target demographic. Most female web users will find an overly girly website insulting. Instead of designing a website in bubble gum pink, get to know your demographic and select colors that will appeal to them. For example, if you sell outdoor products targeted to women, you might use earth tones in your design and accent them with a girly color that will appeal to women and enhance your brand at the same time.

What color tips do you have for designing websites for a female audience?

Should you still use Flash on a website?

Posted on November 6th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

flashadobeFlash is a vector based animation software. Because vector based graphics are so lightweight, they are ideal for web design. Flash was originally designed to create animations for web pages.

However, as it grew in popularity and advanced with newer releases, Flash became a powerful web design tool. It was used to build interactive websites and applications. A common use for Flash was eCommerce web design.

For a period of time, there was a great deal of debate in the web design community about using Flash versus HTML. Flash was capable of loading faster and offered quicker download speeds than HTML because it is vector based. Over time, however, HTML outpaced Flash in popularity. Today, Flash is still around, but is less commonly used.

This begs the question, should you still use Flash on a website? Flash can be a nimble way to add interactivity to a website. Unfortunately, Flash designers got to a point where they were going crazy with their use of the vector based software. Instead of enhancing usability and performance, it was actually detracting from the overall web design in many cases.

It’s important to understand that Flash is a viable design option for increasing speed and interactivity. You just have to be careful to use it only where it will enhance your site’s design. Still, it’s worth noting that HTML and other technologies today offer similar advantages to Flash, making it an arguably outdated option for web design.

Another consideration when looking at Flash is search engine optimization. In today’s competitive online marketplace, you need to be careful with your use of Flash. Web crawlers aren’t able to evaluate content in Flash format.

As a result, your search engine rankings can be negatively impacted by using Flash in many cases. You will have to work with your web design professional if you do decide to use Flash to ensure that your website is SEO optimized.

There is still plenty of debate in the web development community to be had as to whether or not you should still use Flash on a website. However, the consensus is moving steadily toward not using Flash or using it very sparingly to achieve a narrowly defined purpose.
For example, Flash still can be very effective for web development of applications and eCommerce solutions. Ultimately, you’ll have to weigh the advantages versus the drawbacks with your web development professional before you decide which direction to go with your web design.

WordPress themes or custom design?

Posted on November 5th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

wordpress themesWith all of the great WordPress themes out there, it can be tempting to just pick a theme, customize and launch your website. For a personal, hobby website, a WordPress theme can be acceptable. However, for a serious business website, a custom design will position your business for long term success.

A WordPress theme may be a good starting point. After all, many themes are gorgeous, sleek and modern. You can establish a professional appearance with a WordPress theme. Plus, they are easy to customize and make your own. However, their ability to be customized is limited. If you’re looking to establish a unique brand presence for your website, you will eventually need a custom design. Why not start out with one in the first place?

If you’re like a lot of business owners, you’re comfortable using WordPress. It’s a simple, user-friendly content management system. Chances are good that many of your employees are familiar with it. If not, they can easily be trained. There are many advantages to using WordPress as a content management system for your business. However, instead of using an off-the-shelf WordPress theme for your website, you should really talk to your web designer about a custom design.

A custom designed WordPress website will offer the best of both worlds. You’ll have a unique website that seamlessly represents your brand and the user-friendly content management system offered by WordPress. A custom website design paired with WordPress is a great solution for small and large businesses alike.

WordPress themes are a good place to look to for inspiration. As you start thinking about your custom design, you can browse through WordPress themes and show them to your web designer. After looking through a variety of themes, you will be able to zero in on the type of custom web design you want for your site.

While browsing themes, you may fall in love with a theme. Just remember that your web designer will be able to take it and create a custom design that goes well beyond that theme in representing your brand.

The key to competing in today’s online market is standing out. Competition is fierce online. As a result, you need to establish a unique, branded online experience for your customers. A custom design is the only way to achieve this experience.

Do you currently use a WordPress theme or custom design?

Does banner advertising still work online?

Posted on November 4th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

banneradBanner ads used to be an effective online marketing tool. In the early days of the web, banner ads were everywhere. At some point, people started to ignore them and they fell out of fashion with online marketers. However, banner advertising can still work online. In fact, if done right, they can be highly effective.

The days of indiscriminately plastering banner ads across the Internet are hoping for the  best are gone. The key to using banner advertising effectively in today’s online marketplace is to design banner ads for targeted demographics. Your banner advertising campaign should be highly focused.

You need to work with your marketing professional to determine where banner advertising would be effective. Then work on creating banner ads that will engage your target demographic. You may have several different banner ads in any given campaign based on the ads are being placed. Focus on audience, context and creative design for an effective online banner advertising campaign.

Missed Opportunity
Banner advertising takes advantage of an otherwise missed opportunity. Say for example that you sell backcountry adventure gear. Your target demographic spends a lot of time online frequenting digital magazines on the topic. You can develop a very effective banner advertising campaign and reach your target demographic while they are already thinking about backcountry adventure.

Highly Targeted
Banner ads allow you to embark on a highly targeted marketing campaign. You can target by age, lifestyle, location much more effectively than you can with other types of advertising media. When you know the audience you’re trying to reach, banner ads can still be a very effective option.

ROI
Compared to other forms of advertising, banner ads offer a high return on investment. They are very cost effective and can yield an impressive return if executed properly. You can reach an impressive segment of your target demographic at a very low cost with banner advertising. As a result, the ROI is often very high.

While the strategy may have changed over the years, there’s no question that banner advertising can still work online. Instead of using obnoxious, flashing banners, online advertisers now use sleek, targeted banner ads to appeal to a very specific demographic. You can achieve great results when you put in the effort to know your demographic and put together a solid banner ad strategy for your business.

Do you still use banner advertising as part of your online strategy?

What’s the most readable typeface online?

Posted on November 3rd, 2014 by John Giaccotto

googlefontsTypeface readability is a critical consideration in web design. As you set out to select the right typeface to match your brand, keep readability in mind. Readability will impact the usability of your site and may hurt your conversion rates. Users need to be able to read your content without difficulty or distraction.

When selecting a readable typeface, where should you start? In print, serif fonts reign supreme. However, sans serif fonts are generally more readable than serif fonts on digital devices. Browsing sans serif fonts will be a good place to start. Google Fonts is a great place to find readable typefaces. It features hundreds of free, open-source fonts that are optimized for the web.

What makes a typeface readable? The most readable typefaces are transparent to the reader. In other words, the typefaces that go unnoticed by the reader are the most readable. Google Fonts allows you to preview typefaces in single words, sentences and paragraphs. You will be able to get a good snapshot of a typeface’s readability using these features offered in Google Fonts.

The most readable typefaces feature large, open counters, generous lowercase x-heights and character shapes that are easily identified and obvious. They are not too light or too bold and weight changes are subtle within character strokes. Essentially, larger, well-spaced, balanced typefaces result in improved readability.

There are lots of great typefaces that offer online readability. The typeface you choose will have to be readable and match your brand. Open sans is easily one of the most readable typefaces online. It features a sans serif font, with easily recognizable character shapes. The spacing is generous and the typefaces are balanced. The lowercase x-heights are generous and allow the words in this typeface to be easily read on a digital device.

Ultimately, you’re going to have to select the best typeface to represent your brand throughout your overall web design. Readability is important, but you also need to select a typeface that represents and enhances your brand. Here are a few tips to increase the readability of your web design:

Font Size and Line Spacing
After you’ve found the most readable typeface for your website, you will need to keep font size and line spacing in mind. You could have the best designed typeface ever and still have an unreadable website if you don’t use a readable font size and line spacing. Keep in mind that font size and line spacing will need to be optimized for cross-device compatibility.

Contrast
While typeface is important, contrast between the text and your background is also a necessary consideration. Make sure there is a high level of contrast between the two in order to enhance the readability of your typeface of choice. While background images and textures can be engaging, you need to make sure the text is readable.

Short and to the Point
Text on the web needs to be concise. Keep your lines and paragraph blocks short. Break up your text blocks with plenty of white space and other design elements whenever possible. Using lists and bullet points can also be a great way to make your web pages more readable.

What are your favorite typefaces for online readability? What other tips do you have for making online text more readable?

What is ViewPort and how do you use it?

Posted on November 2nd, 2014 by John Giaccotto

viewportIn web development, ViewPort is the framed area on a display screen. Web developers use the ViewPort meta tag in order to control the size and scale of the ViewPort. As more users are browsing the web from mobile devices, the meta tag is being used by developers to create responsive websites that offer cross-device compatibility.

Standard websites simply don’t offer an optimal browsing experience for users on mobile devices. As a result, web developers have been creating mobile-friendly websites. These responsive websites expand or shrink to fit the screen size while maintaining a readable, usable website. Responsive websites are made possible in large part due to the ViewPort meta tag.

Here’s an example of a mobile-optimized ViewPort meta tag: <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>

The width property determines the size of the viewport. It can be set to a specific pixel size or a specific device-width value. The device-width value is the width of the screen in CSS pixels at a scale of 100 percent. The initial-scale property determines the zoom level upon initial page load. While this is a basic overview of the ViewPort meta tag, you can discuss it in further detail with your web development professional.

The importance of designing websites for cross-device compatibility cannot be stressed enough. Web users are increasingly using their mobile devices to access the Internet. When visitors arrive on your website, what kind of mobile browsing experience can they expect?

If you only have a standard website, you should really consider responsive web design. Even if you do not have a significant amount of mobile traffic to your website right now, the number of mobile users is sure to rise in the future.

When developing a website for cross-device compatibility, ViewPort is a central consideration. Your web developer will be able to implement the ViewPort meta tag to create a mobile-friendly design for your website.

What kind of browsing experience are you currently offering to your mobile users?

How to Use Full Screen Images as a Background with CSS

Posted on November 1st, 2014 by John Giaccotto

A full screen background image can transform the user experience of your website.

A full screen background image can transform the user experience of your website.

Using a full screen image as a background can be a powerful design element. While there are many different methods of implementing full screen background images, CSS code offers cross-browser compatibility without the use of Flash or JavaScript.

Here is a short example of the code from PaulMason required to implement full screen background images:

CSS
html, body {
height: 100%;
width: 100%;
padding: 0;
margin: 0;
}

#full-screen-background-image {
z-index: -999;
min-height: 100%;
min-width: 1024px;
width: 100%;
height: auto;
position: fixed;
top: 0;
left: 0;
}

#wrapper {
position: relative;
width: 800px;
min-height: 400px;
margin: 100px auto;
color: #333;
}

HTML
<body>
<img alt=”full screen background image” src=”/background.jpg” id=”full-screen-background-image” />
<div id=”wrapper”>
<p>Content goes here…</p>
</div>
</body>

Websites featuring full screen background images are gorgeous. Full screen background images are engaging and will draw users in. However, if you’re not careful, they can also detract from the rest of your design elements. Here are a few tips for web design with full screen background images:

Purposeful
Use full screen images purposefully. Don’t just use a full screen image to keep up with trends or because you like a particular image. Instead use a full screen image that embodies your brand message and enhances the user experience on the web page. When used with purpose, full screen background images can be very compelling.

Contrast
Create page elements that contrast with your full screen background image. Without contrast, your page navigation, text and other critical design elements will blend in or be difficult to see.

Custom
Don’t use stock photographs for full screen background images. If you must use stock photographs, have your web design professional customize them to match your brand. When you use a full screen image, all eyes will be on it. Create a custom background image that will enhance the user experience and your brand.

Typography
While it may seem unimportant, typography is important when you are using full screen background images. Use typography that matches the style of the images you are using for a cohesive overall web design.

What types of web pages do you think work best for full screen background images?

Should you bid on your brand name when using paid search?

Posted on October 31st, 2014 by John Giaccotto

blue-website-buttons-3-1369150-mThe question of whether or not to bid on your brand name when using paid search is up for debate among marketing professionals. Many marketers believe bidding on your brand name is an effective strategy for paid search, while others believe it is not as effective as it has been touted in recent times. Ultimately, it will likely come down to what will be most effective for your paid search campaign.

How do you know whether bidding on your brand name when using paid search will be effective? You will want to do a cost benefits analysis. Does bidding on your brand name actually achieve results that you wouldn’t already be achieving with organic search? Comparing the cost of bidding on your brand name to the benefits will allow you to make an informed decision.

Run a scenario where your campaign relies solely on organic search. Run another scenario where you bid on your brand name. By running both scenarios, you’ll be able to estimate which campaign strategy will yield the best return. If you aren’t already bidding on your brand, you already know your baseline return. All you will have to do is determine whether bidding on your brand name will yield a better return.

In order to determine if bidding on your brand name will yield a better return, you will want to look at how much traffic you would lose to other sites by not bidding on your brand name. You will also want to determine the value of your organic site traffic compared to your paid site traffic. Compare the user behavior of organic and paid search traffic.

Another consideration is the profit of a conversion or sale. In order to get an accurate look at the effectiveness of paid search, you need to know how much you profit you gain from a conversion. You can work with your marketing professional to determine how paid search will impact your the profit of your conversions.

Bidding on your brand name will allow you to manage your brand messaging. You can drive traffic to landing pages with strong calls to action. Rather than relying on search engine algorithms, you will be in control of how your brand is represented to your target search demographic.

As you consider bidding on your brand name in your paid search campaign, you’ll want to look at the cost per incremental click and understand where lost incremental clicks may end up. Ultimately you will need to go with the strategy that maximizes your profit. If you find that bidding on your brand name will maximize your profit, then you will want to act accordingly and monitor the campaign carefully.

How You Can Make Navigation Simpler

Posted on October 30th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

1327908_14330343Navigation is problem area for many websites. For some reason, many web designers make the navigation cumbersome or overly complex. It can be really frustrating for users and many will simply leave a website with a complicated navigation system. When it comes to navigation, the simpler, the better. Here are a few tips to help you make your website’s navigation simpler.

Consistency
The importance of consistent navigation from page to page cannot be stressed enough. A consistent navigation system will increase the usability of your site and help visitors to your site find relevant information. Pick a navigation system and stick to it throughout your website.

Categories
Do you have content on your website that can be logically divided into categories? If so, you can make your navigation much simpler by organizing it into categories. Users will be able to quickly navigate to the category they need without trying to navigate there by chance. Be sure to use clear headings and separate sub-categories for a clean navigation structure.

Clickable Links
It should be obvious, but lots of websites fail to make their links clickable in navigation elements. Don’t forget to make headings and sub-headings clickable, even in drop-down menus.

Descriptive Titles
Be accurate and descriptive in your navigation titles. Cute or clever titles aren’t helpful for the user who is looking to find information quickly on your website. Be informative with your navigation titles.

ALT Text
Include ALT text on all of your clickable images. This is particularly important for images that link to other pages, but should be included on all navigational images. Use descriptive ALT text for the best results.

Search
Include a search feature on your website. Sometimes the quickest way to find information on a website is to search for it. Including an in-site search option is a great way to help out visitors who are looking for information on the fly.

What tips would you add to the list to help make navigation simpler and more effective?

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