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Archive for the ‘Web Development’ Category

Which page loses most visitors? Website Analytics.

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Website analytics So you’ve got your website and with all the confidence that it will be a great success you’re sat there waiting for the phone to ring red hot, or for the email orders to pile in and…… nothing!

When you open a new shop on the high street you have the benefit of being able to see who browses in the window, see if them come in, what they look at, what they spend time on and what they say even but with a website you can’t get all this vital feedback. You don’t know if they move past the home page or what page it is that brings them to your website in the first place.

Well fortunately you don’t have to be left in the dark. There is a way to get this vital info and to analyse it and get that feedback you need. Of course you can’t see the visitors’ faces nor gauge their body language and what they say but you can see how they get to your website and what they do when they get there.

Google analytics is a fantastic tool that allows you to see important and informative statistical data about the people that come to your website. Features include (but not limited to):

  • Track how people found you including keywords and referring websites
  • See which pages are attracting visitors (landing pages) and which are turning them away (exit pages)
  • See information about the visitors themselves like geographical location, browser info, screen resolution and more
  • See visitor loyalty, returning visitors, how long they spend on each page
  • Make reports, set date ranges, set up goals

Here’s the great thing about it, it’s 100% free. You just have to add some code to every page of your website and Google Analytics does the rest. Of course this is maybe easier said than done but your website developer should be able to do this for you for a small charge.

So here’s what you need to do to start seeing where problems may lie:

  1. Get a Google Analytics account
  2. Get the code installed on your website
  3. Learn to read the data and understand where problems may lie (a subject on its own)
  4. Most importantly – act upon your findings!

More information about Google Analytics can be found here on the Google Analytics website

What are your thoughts on this? We love to interact with our readers so please leave a comment.

Content Management (CMS) -The Kiss of Death?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

webdesignThe aim of this article is to talk openly about the restrictions that having a content management system can have on your online marketing and ultimately the success of your business. CMS is sold by web designers as the perfect post launch package but is that really true? Lets take a look at the realities of CMS.

The ability for a site owner to control their own content is nothing new and there are 1000’s of off the shelf content management systems (CMS) out there for developers to use to enable clients to, at various levels control their own content. ‘That’s great’ you might say, ‘who needs to hire a web developer to make changes to a site when I can do it myself?’

More worryingly it also implies that the skill sets of the original designer can be imparted onto the client simply because they now have control

The problem with the ‘who needs to hire a web developer to make changes’ question is that it assumes that a) A CMS system can do everything your original developer can do and will update a website perfectly, it’s fool proof after all …. isn’t it? B) More worryingly It also implies that the skill sets of the original designer can be imparted onto the client simply because they now have control.

I’ve yet to see a CMS system that updates any and every part of a site perfectly and with ease, that’s because it simply doesn’t exist.

When I talk about CMS what I really mean is control and addition of the content pages such as ‘about us’ or ‘home page’ etc. I’m not talking about blogging or e-commerce. It goes without saying that for e-commerce and a blog to be effective the client has to have control but that comes with restrictions. Restrictions put in place by a good developer to make sure the site stays looking how it should.

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘What, CMS doesn’t actually give me total control of my site and let me make updates to anything?’ then you’d be absolutely right, Many people don’t realise this. CMS actually can be quite restrictive because to build in a CMS to a website there are many considerations to be made especially with the design.

Put simply it’s an expert updating the site expertly.

When a designer knows they will have post launch control over a site they can do whatever as they know that they and only they will have to update it. Put simply it’s an expert updating the site expertly. If you know that this isn’t the case then you have to factor things in.

Now with all that in mind there are several ways in which content can be updated on a website:

  1. No CMS but you update it yourself as you have some html ‘know how’
  2. The people that built the site update it for you
  3. The people that build the site include a CMS and you update it yourself via that
  4. You are big enough to have an internal dedicated member of staff to look after the site updates (a techy)

Now in the case of point 1 then so be it but either the user is a time served expert online web designer or they aren’t. If they are then why are they hiring a web designer to build the site in the first place, with maybe the exception of time constraints? If they aren’t then should they really be fiddling with it after it’s been perfectly made and is live? You don’t service your car when you don’t know your spark plug from your sink plug so why would you jeopardise your online marketing strategy by playing with your website content?

Point 3; Ok so you have a CMS system, you have control of all or some of your site. Here’s the thing. Here’s the little question or questions that have been bugging me for the past few months:

  1. If only simple text updates are needed now and again (and remember I’m not including a blog or e-commerce here) then surely any good web design company would be more than happy to do it?

    ‘Why?’, I hear the website companies scream. Well, it takes less than a minute of your time and it’s an excellent way to keep in touch with your clients and keep them sweet. A happy client will steer happy prospects in your direction. If you still think it’s justified to charge £50 to change a typo then either you probably wont be in business for much longer or your traditional advertising expenditure must be huge due to the lack of referrals from happy clients.

  2. So with that in mind and here’s the crux of my article. Why would a client pay a lot of money to a web design company to come up with their online marketing master piece only for them to launch it and then someone with no web design or marketing knowledge take over?
  3. Are we as web design companies doing our clients a disservice by offering and in some cases pushing CMS to clients as a ‘good idea’? When you think about it is it really a good idea to give control back to the client which is comparable to handing the steering wheel of a car over to someone who can’t drive?

So is CMS in the wrong hands spelling the kiss of death for businesses as online marketing becomes so important and in many cases the sole revenue stream?

What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear them below. Please leave a comment.

Choose a User Friendly Website Designer who can communicate

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

choosingdesignerFinding the right website designer who will be come up with the goods that you are looking for is quite a tricky business. The interpretation of your website dream, the way in which you business will be fronted, is quite an intricate undertaking, and you need to make sure that you select a user friendly website designer who you will work comfortably with.

Even where you may be given a personal recommendation for a supposedly good website designer, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you, personally, will be able to communicate with them. Excellent communication of course is absolutely vital to any project, but in terms of designing a new website, it is imperative that you choose a website designer who can turn your ideas into a user friendly site to move your business forward.

Most projects that we undertake in our working lives are actually more about people than anything else. Whether you are buying, selling, designing, or whatever you are interfacing with other people, and being able to communicate with them effectively is key. Design and concept are probably the most difficult things to be able to communicate. Concept is more about thoughts, ideals and aspirations than say, a set of figures for example. Choosing a communicative website designer to whom you can convey your ideas to, and one which understands each business has individual requirements, is hugely important.

Ideally you need a website designer who has empathy. You want someone who is good at listening; someone who can grasp the nettle of your idea and your concept and run with it. However, they must instinctively be able to run in the right direction. It’s no good your design company haring off at one hundred miles per hour in the wrong direction. That just wastes time and money, and will result in frustration and disappointment for all parties. You want a user friendly website designer who will pick up on your needs and goals and who will translate them into reality.

Ideally you should go through a tendering process when you search for any sort of supplier though you can only go so far by measuring certain criteria such as quality, timescale, and price. Then when it comes down to choosing somebody that you feel you can work with in a productive way, you need to have a face to face meeting. So, if you are going “cold calling” to find website designers the ideal is to start by going out to tender with the same loose specification to a number of potentials; say up to three as an example. Once you have received their “ball park” quotations, you can then narrow your field down to your two best hopefuls, and then arrange that face to face meeting to try and find the most user friendly website designer amongst them.

When you arrange your meeting, you must ensure that it will be with the people that you will work with if you chose that designer. It’s no good meeting up with some sales guy whose sole job it is to get your order and then pass the brief on. The whole object of the exercise is to locate the people that you feel you will be best able to communicate with, and that you will work with to see the project through to its successful completion. Make sure this is clearly understood when you arrange your meetings to find the best user friendly website designer.

Recommended Website Designers – Looking out for the Quiet Ones

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

choosingdesignerIf are looking for a company to design your website, you obviously want to find the best company for the job; but how can you go about finding just such a company? One of the best methods is to seek recommended website designers.

The great majority of businesses, no matter what industry they are in, advertise their service in one form or another whether by using marketing campaigns, trade directories, advertising campaigns, employing sales representatives, or even affiliate marketing programs. These are the some of the ways that businesses attract enquiries from potential clients in addition to relying on the traditional method of personal recommendations.

There are some companies who do not advertise at all beyond just having a listing in a local trade directory and very often, if you come across such a small company you may find you have struck gold. The way that these sorts of companies survive and prosper is through personal recommendation, and personally recommended website designers can be worth their weight in gold.

The very best website design companies (the crème de la crème) will often start from small beginnings by designing websites for people that they know. The successful ones (the ones with great original ideas and state of the art techniques) thrill their clients, who are then delighted to make personal recommendations of the designers’ services to friends and business colleagues and share in some the kudos of being able to propose personally recommended website designers. A designer or any small company who doesn’t prosper so well often resorts to advertising, which is quite possibly why we think asking around your friends and colleagues works best.

Of course that doesn’t mean to say that all website designers who advertise are second rate, but with a great personal recommendation, you have a superb starting point for your exciting new venture. It is also worth bearing in mind that whoever is doing the recommending is putting their own reputation and judgment on the line too, so you will usually find that personally recommended website designers are definitely companies to look into.

Obviously everyone is in search of something unique, and what suits one person is not necessarily the next person’s cup of tea. In other words there is no cast iron guarantee that the recommended website designer that you approach will suit your own particular requirements. But the chances are that they will, or that they will know someone that they themselves are prepared to recommend who operate in your particular market niche.

Some people like the razzmatazz of dealing with huge website designers of enormous reputation however, these large companies can sometimes be rather too impersonal. They often tend to do things somewhat at arms length and employ too many people in various functions, so you might find you talk to a salesman who then talks to his designer, and then the brief gets passed down to a techie to actually builds the site. Before you know it, the original concept has “gone to the wall”.

On the other hand, a smaller personally recommended website design agency will give you that more intimate one to one service and you will often work with an individual who will see the project right through with you from conception to launch. It is exactly this sort of small company that will suit you best and that will do a stunning job. So start asking around for personal recommended website designers now for the best starting point.

A Busy Website Design Company is a Company in Demand

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

choosingdesignerWhether your website designer is a local developer or part of a big national company, one of the important factors that you should take into consideration in your search for the right website design company is how busy they are; the size of their order book. This can actually be a double edged sword because on the one hand a busy website design company may have to quote longer lead-in times, but the activity does of course indicate that their services are in demand. If their services are in demand, the logic is that their product must be good. Based in Norfolk we know there are lots of super companies around but it should be easy to find the best developer for your site?

There are certain cases where a big order book or the long lead-time a busy website designer quotes can be misleading. If this apparently busy website design company is a relatively new start up for example, the clientele may not yet have had the time to evaluate the designer’s performance, so look out to make sure that there is a client list that you can follow up to interrogate. Any local developer, Norfolk or beyond should be happy to assist as they want your business.

A short order book, and a therefore rapid response time could be a sign that nobody wants to use them, or it could simply mean that they are very fast and efficient in keeping up with things, either way the presence of testimonials and following them up is again an invaluable process and one that perhaps should not be rushed but done methodically if you have the time.

Any local developer or designer would tell you that design is not something that should be hurried and a busy website design company will not only know this, but will stick firmly to their guns and refuse to be hurried. This is actually good brand marketing in progress and whilst at times this sort of attitude can be very frustrating, it speaks volumes for their integrity, and if they won’t allow other projects to get rushed along they will not permit yours to be rushed either.

A busy website design company that holds to this principle is worth their weight in gold. It should however be made very clear through the tendering process just exactly what their lead times are, and at that early stage you have the opportunity to question this and to perhaps seek permission to even talk to some of their current project owners for real-time feedback – see our testimonials article for assistance with this part.

Any sort of design work is a process where there will be discoveries along the way: new suggestions about the best way to lay a site out, or how to arrange the navigation etc. which is all part of developing the best product for your business. A busy website designer may even adopt a new technology in the process of fulfilling your design, to stay at the forefront of website design and to ensure that they offer state of the art product. It would actually be very annoying if your website were to just miss out on a new innovation simply because your chosen local developer couldn’t make time to incorporate it.

They do say that patience is a virtue, and in the case of good website design this is very true. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your website is your shop-front. Once it’s out there in cyberspace you need it to do an effective job for you. The “window dressing” is key and fashions change, as do new technologies, and in order to stay at the cutting edge you will want to incorporate these changes in your website. A busy website design company will be busy partly because clients return to them again and again for these state of art or fashion updates; another thing you can check out amongst their client list be it Norfolk, London or anywhere else.

In the majority of instances, a busy website design company is a good design company; it’s a local web design or graphic design company with integrity, with flair, and with dedication. If and when you find one, stick with them for the best site that works for your business.