Tag Archives: websites

9 Ways to Make Your Website Work Harder

website workA website should help, not hurt, a small business or start up. Today’s users expect (and deserve!) an awesome online experience. Customers have been spoiled by hardworking sites that are fast, easy to navigate, attractive and, in many cases, even fun.

Unfortunately, many businesses have websites that look like an afterthought… sometimes they are even cringe-worthy. Sure, your website is mobile-friendly and your call-to-actions are bold and enticing. But, that’s not enough! It has to work harder day-in-and-day-out.

Gone are the days when you’d create a website and then leave it to do its job. Now, we are constantly having to test, track and make modifications to keep it competitive and on target. All this, so your organization doesn’t have to settle for a less-than-fantastic, user-friendly user experience.

Here are 9 easy ways to energize your website to make it work harder for your business…and actively make it a destination for consumers. Continue reading

7 Reasons Content Comes Before Design (in the Alphabet and on Your Website!)

Depositphotos_30209081_s-2015Time and time again, clients have to be reminded to take a break from their website design or redesign efforts and get content done first. Sure, they want to see all the pretty design stuff instead of dealing with time-consuming content strategy and working their way through lots of words. But the simple truth is that those very words are critical to the success of the site. You must get the words done right before working on the design elements.

Doing copy first may be a paradigm shift in the way we think about building websites. But, it has to be done. Because you know what they call things that are beautiful, but have no function? Useless!

We all know that content comes before design in alphabetical order. Now we also have to understand 7 reasons why it’s important that content comes before design in website development, as well.

  1. You make it easier for people find stuff
    Content helps convert visitors into customers. Developing content first will ensure that a web site is purposefully designed to help users find the information they need. This same content guides visitors towards desired actions, as opposed to designing the interface first without knowing what content will be displayed. That’s simple logic!
  2. You make sure the design fits the words
    If you design before you have content, you effectively create the packaging before knowing what’s going to go in it. And if the content doesn’t fit the package, there are only two options: start from scratch or try to jam the content into the existing package. No one wants that. Suddenly, the design doesn’t work so well. Truth is: content should inform design…and tell the designer how much space to devote to what. Doing the content first means the design will ultimately work with the words…and fit them to a tee. (And your designer won’t have to try and shove 50 lbs. of sh*t into a 10 lb. bag!)
  3. You can be more strategic
    When you start with content, you have the opportunity to start with user and business goals, and make sure your content meets those goals. Content is not just a commodity, but instead is the starting point…the foundation and basic building blocks of a website. That means you start building the website like you do a house. The content tells you how much room to allow for what, just like the blueprint for a house tells how many bedrooms and bathrooms it needs and where they go.
  4. You answer the most important questions
    You need to have a handle on critical website questions before you can proceed, including: Why are we doing this? What message are we conveying (and why is it important)? Who is the audience? How are we going to convey the information?
  5. You speed up production
    Content usually goes through several rounds of reviews, and each one typically means revisions. As it goes up the approval ladder, more comments trickle down, leading to further iterations. It’s much faster and easier to fix content in manuscript form first than it is to fix content in the final design.

    If it’s already in the design stage, changes and revisions slow things down, and can cause problems with versioning and record keeping. After all, every time someone asks for a revision to content that’s already in a design, you’d have to update the manuscript copy document—and the designer has to update the source file, etc. Plus, every step in this process increases the chance for miscommunication, errors, crossed wires, and, in the worst-case scenario, the wrong content getting published.

  6. You design after you know what to say
    Design is communication. And you cannot communicate anything through the design unless you already have the words to say it. That’s the content (which comes first).
  7. You encourage a beautiful creative partnership
    While I said that content comes first on a website, the even bigger message is that there should be a working partnership in website development between the designer and the writer. These two creative forces are masters of their respective crafts—they take complex ideas and convey them in ways that express a particular meaning, emotion, and effect. Good design will bring out the best in quality content, and strong content will enhance great design.

If you want to launch or redesign a website that incorporates the best of content and design, give the Solamar team a shout.

9 Easy Ways to Make Your e-Newsletter More Useful to Your Audience

NewsletterEveryone knows that e-newsletters create and build relationships with customers and clients. Plus, e-newsletters provide you with a vehicle for ongoing one-on-one messaging and communications. When people subscribe, they are giving you permission to contact them, and in turn, expect reliable, useful information.

Instead of helpful content, unfortunately, I often see e-newsletters that are only about the senders’ businesses and selling their stuff. All the “me, me, me” material can be a major turn-off to readers, who want more about how you can help “them, them, them.” Remember, it’s not about you…it’s about how you help them!

A great newsletter that people look forward to and really want to read lets the good stuff shine through. So, consider these 9 points to keep your e-newsletter more helpful, useful, and valuable to your targets. Continue reading

What Pages Should You Have on Your Website?

web-menuThe one part of business website design and development that puzzles every entrepreneur is the content development. They just don’t know what pages they need to include in their website—which are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves. So, they confuse people with too many pages or forget important ones.

Sure, there are some spectacular websites out there. But unfortunately, the Web is full of atrocious sites (and we’re not just talking about really, really bad design and dreadful content). There are many other elements besides how your website looks and sounds that go into making it customer-friendly—not to mention something that actually inspires them and makes it easy to do business with you. And, the most important part of making it easy to use is having the right pages and delivering information people really want. That’s called usability!

Is usability (or functionality) important to a website? According to one web authority, “…great web design without functionality is like a sports car with no engine.”

The most basic step in assuring website functionality is organization and, at the very least, having the right pages. That’s why there are standard pages that every business website needs. The way the content is presented on these pages may change from site to site and the page order can sometimes vary, but the basic pages remain the same.

Below is a list of the top 5 standard web pages and some information on what should be included on each one. Continue reading

How to Communicate Your Vision With A Designer

woman-791874_640I love being a graphic and web designer! It allows me to dwell at the intersection of art and business in a way I find deeply satisfying. I get to flex my creative muscles and provide a service that many small businesses are desperately in need of, all at the same time.

For most businesses, I know that time is money, and that arriving at a brand that “feels right” is essential to the future success of that brand. However, the businesses I work with don’t necessarily spend a lot of time with creative types. Sometimes, even if they have a clear vision of what they want, they have trouble communicating that vision to the designer, often simply because they don’t know the right kind of information to provide, or the right questions to ask. Occasionally, they know they need “something better,” but their vision of what that means specifically for them is murky.

That “feels right” quality I mentioned earlier is a highly subjective thing. Even if you are communicating clearly, it can take time to hone in on what’s best, as your designer adjusts what “feels right” to them in order to meet what “feels right” to you. And if you aren’t sure what you want, then finding the right feel is difficult at best.

The good news is, whether you know what you want yet or not, you can cut down on how many revisions are necessary in order to achieve your desired result by carefully considering what you are looking for in advance, providing appropriate info when you begin working with a designer and remaining open to the iterative process that the back-and-forth nature of design entails. Continue reading