Archive for November, 2006

29Nov

Online sales will continue to rise. Every webpage designed to sell a product or market a service should understand the future of online shopping. ECommerce Templates are especially designed with the future in mind. Which makes it logical to assume that those resources that sell tools for eCommerce (like CRELoaded templates and ZenCart themes) have really good chances to succeed in nearest future.
There are several major variables that make online sales attractive to the worldwide market. These variables include: 1) Value of Products/Services offered 2) Dependability and Reputation of the Seller 3) Ease and Security of payment 4) Ease and Security of shipping. These should all be well managed on your eCommerce Template.

Younger, wealthier shoppers drive the wave of online sales. Many of these people – having some web familiarity and disposable income – have learned to shop online for price comparisons and other comparative data. If shoppers find a superior situation, especially regarding the above 4 crucial variables they will usually become online buyers. ECommerce Templates can make cost effective design that is eCommerce-friendly.

Online buyers establish shopping habits. They abandon bricks and mortar stores and malls as value, dependability, security and convenience of online buying improves.

Although the online buyer cannot return an item as quickly in some situations as the buyer who might be able to walk in and out of a Wal-Mart or Sears if there is no parking problem and there is no line at the returns desk, but there are many other reasons to buy online.

Sellers of low-mass products – small books, DVDs, lightweight clothing have a marked edge in sales because shipping is relatively low in cost. The seller of these items doesn’t need to pay the overhead of a store, staff, parking lot, utilities, etc. They pay only storage and shipping which is becoming increasingly automated.

Although people are rightfully afraid of bankcard fraud, I believe all card services will continue to improve security and improve buyer dispute processes. A checkout feature on your eCommerce Template is necessary if you do any real volume.

Fraudulent emails sent to credit card holders (and all business accounts for that matter) will continue to be a big problem. As both merchants and shoppers become aware of these fraudulent practices it will be more difficult to exploit people with business accounts at PayPal or Amazon.

There is a probability, partly because of the price of fuel, that delivery services will consolidate to some extent in the future so that you will receive one or two regular deliveries per day of all goods you have purchased – including groceries – along with mail and newspaper, etc.

Each person may also have a receiving station service in the future whereby the shopper picks up everything from one large, secured lockbox. If a delivery is very large or has accumulated over days, a key would be left with directions to a nearby, larger overflow box. Security, insurance, and energy costs would all be cut by these changes.

Grocers have experimented with many forms of advertising, delivery, billing and credit. All of these ideas are improved with online transactions. Shopping from several grocery chains will be easier when you get free delivery and easy to find price comparisons. You will even be able to subscribe to discount announcements of various products.

Internet Marketing of online education – especially college level offerings – has been slow to respond to the potential sale of services by internet. Online degrees will become more common, less expensive, and more legitimized with standardized and secured testing procedures of students. The knowledge areas in the cognitive domain can be done completely by internet. Educational offerings in the behavioral and affective domains will be greatly augmented by online offerings and testing as well.

Larger purchases will also be more prevalent on the internet, especially for mass produced items like automobiles. You can test-drive several models locally, then cruise websites regionally for price, color, accessories, delivery costs, taxes or other charges. This is already being done, but with advances in registration and licensing as well as online financing and insurance – you may spend 25 minutes on a website and be legally driving your new car in the time it takes to meet the delivery-person curbside.

Internet Marketing of online downloadable tickets and coupons is becoming widespread, and this will continue. Insurance policies and other documents can be downloaded as well.

Internet Marketing of social life is here – and it is simplifying the dating and matching processes. This computerized internet socializing saves time and money. While it may lack some of the intangibles, it also allows a more fully objectified set of tangibles, as well as leaving more time for the intangibles that happen after screening.

The internet will also become easier to use: fewer viruses, popups, host and server problems. This adds up to faster, easier, safer and less expensive shopping.

Troubleshooting the Future,

Arthur Browning

27Nov

Log Files have some good statistics in them. You can analyze them for Internet Marketing if you use these tips. SEO can also be enhanced. There is specific data about your web site that you should look at in your log files on a regular basis. Some variables can be examined monthly or weekly to get a different point of virew about your website design and page optimization.

Entry Paths – Most sites can be developed and analysed around the concept of visitor pathways. For example, if your site is a Business to Business (B2B) site and you service small, medium and large businesses, there should be pathways through your site designed for each class of visitor. An extremely simplified example would be:

Clients coming to the site through an optimized home page:

home page —> small business page —> order page —> order confirmation page
home page —> medium business page —> order page —> order confirmation page
home page —> large business page —> order page —> order confirmation page

You should have a good idea of the main pathways that clients take through your site, both for monitoring the effectiveness of your page optimization and conversions, and for the purpose of subsequent site redesign. A good starting point to track the pathways through your site is via the graph or chart called “Entry Paths” in your log files / site
statistics.

Top Exit Pages – These are pages from which most visitors click away from your site. Why is it useful to track these? Because exit pages can tell you:

1) If there is a technical problem with the page that is causing visitors to leave your site. For example, if there are broken links, or the form on the page is not working properly etc.

2) If your site design is breaking the strategic pathway, for example, you may have links to external sites that are inducing clients to click away before buying your product or signing up for your newsletter.

3) If there is something on these pages that is encouraging visitors to leave your site. For example, an unprofessional design or confusing layout.

In your log files / site statistics, the graph or chart called “Top Exit Pages” is the place to learn why visitors are leaving your site.

Single Access Pages – These are entry pages that are viewed once before the visitor clicks away from your site. Similar to Top Exit Pages, Single Access Pages can tell you a lot about why people are not staying on your site for long. Look closely at the search terms used to find your site. Single Access Pages often indicate that your target search terms are too broad. For example, you may be getting a lot of traffic by targeting “printers” but if you only stock a particular brand of printer, then people looking for other brands will find what they truly want, so they leave immediately.

This can be fixed by narrowing your search terms to be more targeted and focused on your niche products and services, for example, by changing “printers” to “HP printers” and so on. To see what pages of your site are viewed once, look for the graph or chart called “Single Access Pages” in your log files / site statistics.

Most Requested Pages and Top Entry Pages – Tracking these pages is key to measuring the success of your SEO campaign. If your optimization is effective, the Top Entry Pages and Most Requested Pages should be those that you have optimized for target keywords. The Top Entry Pages are particularly relevant as you consider the pathways through your site. Do the most popular entry pages have any relationship to the start pages for your plotted visitor pathways? Or are visitors entering and navigating your site via ways you didn’t intend? You can use this information to continually tweak your page optimization to guide visitors to the right pathways. To see your most requested pages, look for the graph or chart titled “Most Requested Pages” in your log files / site statistics. Also look for “Top Entry Pages”.

Page Refreshes – Why are visitors refreshing pages on your site? Are the pages not loading properly? The “Page Refreshes” variable is another one to monitor on a monthly basis via your site stats to ensure that there are not site usability issues for visitors. Referring Domains and Referring URLs – Where are your visitors coming from? Are they coming from sites that are linked to yours? Are blog authors or forum members talking about your site? Referring Domains will tell you what sites are linking to yours, while Referring URLs will list the actual pages where the links are located. These can be little gold mines because you can often find valuable sources of traffic via links to your site that you didn’t even know existed. In terms of an SEO campaign, these links can all add to your site’s overall link popularity, an important factor in the ranking algorithms of many search engines, particularly Google. Monitoring these metrics can tell you if your site requires a link-building campaign or help you measure the effectiveness of various online and offline advertising campaigns. In your log files / site statistics, Look for the graph or chart titled “Referring Domains” and “Referring URLs”.

Search Engine Referrals – How many of your visitors are coming directly from search engines? What percentage of overall traffic does this represent? This is a good variable to track to help you keep up with how many search engines are listing your site (both free submission and paid submissions), how much traffic they bring and whether to renew your paid
submissions. It can also tell you whether you need to increase the number of search engines your site is submitted to in order to build on your link popularity. As a a very rough guide, you should be receiving at least 30 percent of your site traffic via search engine referrals. To see search engine referrals, look for a chart or graph called “Search Engines” within your site statistics.

Search Phrases – This topic is related to search engine referrals generally, but gives added insight into what terms you were actually found for in the search engines. Do these terms match what your site was optimized for? Are there any surprising terms that you might want to develop site content for? Some log file analysis programs will even break down what specific phrases your site was found for in which particular search engines. The more detailed the data you have, the more closely you can tweak your optimization campaign to your precise market.

To see the search phrases your site was found for, look for “Search Phrases” or “Search Phrases by “Search Engine”.
Landing pages for PCC Campaigns, etc. – If you run a pay-per-click campaign or dedicate specific pages to advertising product specials, you may use special landing pages or tracking ids to monitor your traffic and conversions. Your site logs can help you track these by showing you how many visitors they each had and what they did after they visited those pages.

Metric values that show a radical change from developing trends – Any site metrics that show a dramatic change from one month to the next could pin-point a problem with your site or with your optimization campaign. For example, if your search engine referrals have dropped dramatically, it could indicate that you have been penalized in a search engine (or more than one). Noticing changing trends early gives you the chance to investigate problem areas and make adjustments if necessary.

Please note that all log file analysis and site statistics programs are different and use slightly different terms to describe the metrics listed above. If you’re confused, ask your site admin or hosting provider to highlight these for you.

Remember, your log files are filled with information about your web site. If you analyze on a regular basis, you will improve your situation.

New and Improved,

Arthur Browning

24Nov

As the Search Engines have evolved in their methods of determining which websites should appear at the top of the search so have their algorithms.

When links were important we responded with link farms and reciprocal links – anything a spider could read. When incoming one-way links were important, we invented directories and paid links.

When the popularity and rank of links were important we invented keyword-rich maze-libraries that spiders could savor and visitors could almost-find what they needed in an almost-concise format.

When we added social bookmarking and the voting of readers for relevancy we got net-gangs doing gang-voting for their favorites.

Human reviewers may be looking at the results of spider-baited rankings but there are often very large lapses of quality in many top 40 results, especially for conciseness, originality, and quality of the material that is being ranked.

What can the search engines do about these problems? They can try several things: 1) Assay an entire website for conciseness as it relates to various keyword searches – as they already do for the wording in the URL of the web page title. 2) Improve checking the website for original content. 3) Make sure the content is meaningful – not just an original arrangement of keywords. 4) Improve the detection of fraudulent clicks and time spent on internal links of a web page. 5) Use surveillance for gang-type voting and ranking issues. 6) Improve human review – especially for the top 10 and top 40 websites in the search results.

How can these six improvements be accomplished? Only the future will tell us. But I will offer some suggestions for now, and then we can see what really happens in the next year or two.

1) Conciseness – Part of the algorithm and human review should weigh the size of the website as a negative. How many different articles are found? How large are the articles? How many redundant clicks by visitors on various links are tallied? How far apart in the texts are the key words?

2) Originality – This is easier to check than meaningfulness. Spiders can read duplicated and near duplicated characters, phrases, even paragraph structure and lists – and there may be a need for duplication in some texts – especially for analytical and comparative materials.

3) Meaning – This should be looked at as a level of meaning. Is the meaning just a repetition of keywords, a rearrangement, a synonym, a simplistic definition, a basic treatise, or a deep and discerning analysis.

4) Clicks – Improve monitoring and surveillance of clicks, their origins, the associations of their occurrence in time and focus from different visitors. Is the time spent visiting or revisiting a particular page an asset or liability for visitors to a website?

5) Voting – Monitor all voting or ranking by visitors for gang-relatedness.

6) Human Review – Use specialty-trained reviewers to really look over the results of the top 10 and top 40 – especially for Meaning of the website’s content.

The World Wide Web search engines process many more entries than your telephone directory – the number of entries is itself a problem for most searches. So, the search engines should allow the visitor to refine their search by offering a number of search parameters.

These parameters (similar to Ebay’s advanced search) should include: language, location, level of knowledge needed, size of text article, total size of website, number and percent of positive votes by certified/relatively trustworthy participants, cost/value if product/service, proportion of ads/commerce related material it contains – just for starters.

These advanced search parameters should also include all the things that the Big 3 and other search engines don’t think we need to know.

Does decision-making about each of the various parameters sound burdensome or time-consuming? It wouldn’t be if your search preferences were remembered by the engine or as prompted by your computer memory. And you could change the parameters as you wish.

The search engines will have to make real change along these guidelines OR be relegated to the inept, slow, and/or commercially motivated.

Making It Happen,

Arthur Browning

21Nov
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Interview: SCOT CRONE

Small Business webpages are a big and fast-growing area of the web. As the web gets more and more surfers every business that has a phone or a business card or a sign out front will also have a webpage.

I am always on the lookout for good small business webpages, to use as examples. I was happy to run across the webpage of designer, Scot Crone, last week – Micrositez Web Design Studio

Scot’s page and portfolio are a real pleasure to look through. Scot gave me an interview as follows.

How did you get into web design?
“After university I decided to pursue web design full time. . .I reckoned everyone would want or need a website soon enough.”

Do you remember the very first site you designed?
“Yes. It was a small single page site for a local builder, not great looking but it did the job!”

You are doing a lot of small business web design is this a specialization for you?
“Yes. In fact we specialise in web page design for small businesses and startup companies.”

Where do you get your art for these webpages?
“Most images come from the content submitted by our customers, however we can and do use stock images from time to time.”

What will be the next big development in webpage design?
“I think we will see an increase in websites focused around content syndication using RSS, as the new IE7 is reported to have an RSS feature on its toolbar.”

Have you ever worked with website templates?
“Yes. We use aspects of templates from time to time, we rarely use a whole template as a final design, we normally cannibalise them for parts.”

What website template providers have you tried?
“We have utilised aspects of different templates from Template Monster and others.”

What was your experience with them?
“Templates or parts of templates are useful for their pre-made availability and low cost.”

What do you think about Flash technology?
“It is often over used.”

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Flash?
“Flash can give your site instant appeal (aesthetically) but it can have a long load time may have a negative impact on your SEO efforts.”

What are your sources of inspiration?
“Forums and newsletters help keep me creative.”

What are your favorite website designs that you did NOT design yourself?
“I like http://www.koenigsegg.com and http://www.tvr-eng.co.uk

What was the toughest project or customer situation you’ve encountered?
“A recent project for a Russian speaking church in London was tricky as we had a real language barrier which did create problems.”

What are your interests and dislikes in webpage design?
“I like clean uncluttered sites which are slick but easy on the eyes. I dislike flashing javascripts and animated gifs.”

Thanks Scot, it was a pleasure to interview you. Keep up the excellent work and the great values on your design packages.

Old School,
Arthur Browning

20Nov

Businesses can benefit from a web presence. Even the smallest business can use a “business card” website. Planning your webpage for profits – both now and in the future is the trick.

First you should look at your budget. What percent of revenues or what dollar amount per year have you budgeted for advertising and/or marketing? Considering a website can be much less expensive than many other forms of advertising, and that a website can produce a higher profit margin than many other forms of advertising you almost certainly have to have a webpage.  Blog platforms like WordPress.com are free and WordPress Themes are free as well.

For most small, local and regional businesses, the only form of advertising that might take a higher priority in your budget would be a telephone listing in the Yellow Pages directory. White Page listings may be free in your area with a business account.

Are your customers younger, urban, professional, technical, or students? All of these tend to be highly net-literate and net-focused. Yes to any of these questions means a website is essential.

Can your products/services be shipped or transmitted easily? If so you can gear your webpage to national and international business. Multilingual websites or texts are necessary in some areas.

Do you have many small transactions, or fewer but larger transactions in your commerce? This may direct you in deciding whether you want an ecommerce style “shopping cart” and “credit card acceptance” built into your website.

Are you selling in a specialized niche or collectible area with antigue, original, or even rare pieces of merchandise? If you need enhanced communication for high-ticket items then an ecommerce page is less important than rapid and expert communication with clients or potential buyers.  A simple WordPress  Theme  for a blog site may suffice  for your  needs.

Do your sales depend on cultivating customer relationships or are they for the quick resupply of mass produced stock? This will factor into the amount of time a buyer should be held within your webpage – or be quickly processed through your webpage.

The assets vs costs of a webpage are important when you want to pay for the design of a webpage. You can create a blog with WordPress Theme, or photo site, or webpage free of charge if your budget is nil or your market has zero needs for website amenities. You can also create an expensive but more effective website if necessary.

The design of the webpage must focus on: Content (clear descriptions and excellent photos of your products/services) Layout (arrangement of elements in the webpage is easy to understand and pleasant to see) and Functionality (the webpage is easily operated by the visitor to effectively and quickly communicate your messages).

Ideally, your webpage loads in 4 seconds or less, looks immediately interesting, invites the visitor to check out his/her interests in your site, gives info quickly and esthetically, anticipates the lack of web-savvy in many visitors, makes the visitor feel that transactions are easy and safe.

From a technical point-of-view your website should: look good in all browsers, be easily editted or expanded for product changes and be easily found by search engines.

Once your website is on line you want to increase the number of people/customers coming to visit the site. Begin by printing your website address on all cards, stationery, vehicles and signboards that you print. Telephone directories and newspaper ads should also show your web address.

You can list your website with directories, many of which are free, especially the market-related directories that are most visited by your potential customers. You can contract for pay-per-click listings to get exposure from various online sources.

You can exchange links with related websites. You can bargain to place small banner ads in various websites related to your business. After a short time you will select the most productive places for advertising your business webpage. You don’t have to commit large amounts of money to run these experiments in traffic generation.

Taking Care of Business,

Arthur Browning

15Nov

The good thing about the web is that there is real variety out there. I ran into an all-business website, Warthog Website Designers, owned by Martin Evers. After looking at his portfolio I requested an interview with Martin. He was kind enough to respond with the following interview.

How did you get into web design?
“Universities tend to get technology early and whilst working at a local university I became interested in the Internet in the early 90s. I was fascinated by the opportunities that this new medium of communication offered.”

Do you remember the very first site you designed?
“Yes, it was for a conference at the time frames were introduced so it used frames, a black background and every animated gif I could get my hands on. Quite a spectacle!”

Where do you get your art for these webpages?
“I create all generated graphics and glean photographic material from old publications and clipart libraries.”

What will be the next big development in webpage design?
“I hope that more designers will pay less attention to razzle-dazzle and more attention to the quality of the content: the reason for the site in the first place. Stylesheets are slowly coming into their own and while I don’t think they will ever completely replace HTML, they will assume a greater prominence.”

Have you ever worked with website templates?
“I have looked at them and discarded them: every site we develop is unique and quicker to design than to modify a template.”

What website template providers have you tried?
“I have looked at several whose names I have forgotten but being a skinflint, I resent paying $50 for a template that I could make a better job of from scratch.”

What was your experience with them?
“I make extensive use of stylesheets and most templates seem to rely on Javascript rollovers for menus. The Warthog site is a four year old experiment composed entirely of stylesheets.”

What do you think about Flash technology?
“It has its uses, not as irritating, pointless animations but to emphasize a point on a page. Its excellent at providing zoomable maps.”

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Flash?
“Flash animations are often cleverly executed by folk with undoubted talent. However, proponents of Flash fail to see that the function of a website is the efficient transfer of data: either to provide information or to sell a product. . . Our policy is that every element on every page must earn it’s place there. If any element, including Flash, fails to enhance the effectiveness of the website, it is discarded. . .Used carefully, it can be an asset. Visitors to websites are always in a screaming hurry: get in fast, be informed, make a decision and get out. I fail to see how Flash can, to any degree, aid this process in most websites. Then there is the search problem. “I’ve spent R50,000 on this site and I’m nowhere on Google”. It’s a completely Flash driven site, mate.”

What are your sources of inspiration?
“I try to ensure that every website I create has accessible, comprehensive and persuasive content and to that end, Rachel McAlpine‘s book, ˜Web Word Wizardry” has been impressively fresh. Gerry McGovern’s newsletter on web content quality is also a source of support when I think the Internet is destined to slosh around in textual mediocrity. Stu Nicholl’s CSS site is always surprising me with it’s innovations. My sources of perspiration are clients who, against the best advice, insist on throwing the kitchen sink at the home page and then complain the day after publication that they can’t be found on Google. They then complain again after six months to tell me that only 27 visitors have been to their website and 21 visitors have been themselves.”

What are your favorite website designs that you did NOT design yourself?
“Most websites, from both tiny businesses to large corporations are poor in one or more ways, however good websites are instantly recognized as such even though a word has not been read. There is an innate balance, a kind of delicate mini-ecosystem that such sites create where all the subtle elements of the pages support each other and the sum is greater than the parts. Great care is also generally taken with the content of such sites and the visitor is regarded as king. . . .Unfortunately, the majority of websites in this country are desperate things!”

What was the toughest project or customer situation you’ve encountered?
“Some projects proceed smoothly and others do not. A typical example is that of the client with champagne tastes and a beer budget. “I’d like you to take a look at whizzbangs.com. I think it’s very good what do you think?” A look at Whizzbangs shows that they have a fulltime staff of four doing nothing but their website. . . As alluded to above, we have the “incremental handbrake” specialist. ˜Can you just add this and that and a couple of these please, Oh – and we definitely need all of those”. Finally, the home page moves at the pace of the QE2 with an outboard and they blame you for the 300kb. . .Finally, we have the “I know exactly what I want on my site right down to the last comma pedant and I’m not interested in search engines”. He phones up a couple of months down the line asking whether there’s anything I can do to get his site ranked because its nowhere.”

What are your interests and dislikes in webpage design?
“Interests – the development of stylesheets is one although there are so many workarounds to deal with the plethora of foibles in so-called “standards compliant” browsers that I think we’re some ways off dispensing with tables. . . Content well written, absorbing, engaging and focussed on the user of the site, not the owner. Clients particularly those who will rely on their websites for a large part of their revenue, who have no experience of web psychology and yet know exactly how their websites should look. Getting the highest search rankings for our clients! . . .Dislikes – plenty. Here’s a few . . . Slooooowww pages. Pages that still take more than a minute under DSL. Their owners say “No-one visits my site”. Massive Flash slideshows, 760 x 300 pixels of vineyards, mountains, leopards etc. etc. that occupy fully half the area of the average screen. Clients don’t realize that those 800×600 pixels are worth a fortune get your message across in them, tell visitors what you have to offer in simple terms because you only have around 6 seconds of his attention.
Execrable content. Pages full of waffle, jargon, cliches, buzz phrases, acronyms. Tourism sites with “tranquil”, ‘bird lovers paradise’, “home from home”. For Pete’s sake, use some imagination! Flash splash pages people still continue to produce them. It’s like slapping your visitor in the face. To fail to provide a “skip” link is like also kneeing him in the groin. Then you see “Welcome to our Site”. If you have to provide a “Skip”, then why bother with the Flash?. . . Frames within frames within frames. In the stampede to get as much “razzle dazzle” as the budget will permit, two simple truths are trampled into the dust. KISS Keep It Simple Stupid and CIK Content is King.”

Martin, I must say, in addition to sage advice you have a great delivery. And that makes me know how your webpages work. We appreciate your frank report, your experience and wish you continued success.

Let the Good Times Roll!
Arthur Browning

13Nov

The visual presentation that your webpage offers is based on design and images. Graphics, photos, original art all play strong roles in that overall visual presentation. The quality and arrangement of these images is crucial in getting and holding the visitor’s attention – instead of losing or abusing the visitor’s attention.

In addition to the look of your images you should optimize them with tags, keywords, and search engine-friendly captions where appropriate. To make the best of your webpage’s images you will need to observe some strong suggestions.

“Alt Image Tags” for your images should be optimized for search engines. Search Engine robots cannot see the images on your website – they see only text – whatever text you write into the Alt Image Tags.

About Alt Image Tags: All images have HTML code – whether thumbnail, photo, drawing etc. The Alt Image Tag is: Alt=”Your Keyword Image”

These keyword-accurate Alt Image Tags should appear on every image, even headers, background images, thumbnails, etc. Keep your Tag brief but include at least one main keyword.

Internet Marketing demands that the images contain the necessary keywords in the Alt Image Tags as well as repeating the keywords several times throughout the page’s text. Adding that keyword to the URL of the page is an excellent idea as well. Some Internet marketing specialists will tell you to include the keyword phrase in the last 25 words of the page as well.

While your images should be easily indexable they should also be attractive to the visitor. Even the best designers will get a second opinions from other experts on the look of the site – how it feels to the visitor. Do your images make it easy and enjoyable to navigate throughout the website? They absolutely should.

Also, image file size is still a major factor in loading time. Just because designers and tech-savvy urbanites have Broadband internet service doesn’t mean everyone does. If your images are in large files they take longer to load. This means many people will not visit your page, they will leave. If they don’t visit they will certainly never revisit your webpage – there goes your internet marketing.

And remember to see your webpage in all available browsers, especially Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape Navigator, Opera, and Safari. Viewing your webpage on different screen or display sizes will let you check the visual presentation as different viewers will find it. And the differences can be major.

To maintain Unity in the appearance of your website you should be consistent with the visual presentation – keep backgrounds, color combinations, fonts, framing and spacing, logo size and style, and text sizes all the same.

As an internet marketing strategy you should remember – using quality images with good tags and file sizes that are well arranged within an attractive and unified website will make your webpage Visited AND Revisited.

The Wild, Wild Web,
Arthur Browning

10Nov

This last week I was looking for webpage designers that had a great overall look to their websites. I know that’s not the only criteria for a good webpage – but that’s what I was looking for at the time. When I got to CCR Design, owned by Richard Mathis, I was impressed .

Richard also has the Top Web Comics webpage and the DN Dorks webpage. I checked them out as well. I asked Richard for an interview and his answers are here.

How did you get into web design?
“I was hired to do tech support for a horrible little company called Inetba that had an automated website designer, kind of like a very expensive geocities for businesses. Well, of course the business owners were never satisfied with the very minimal tools they were given and I began trying to push the system, figuring out how to insert javascript and other tools to make their websites worth the money they spent on their website package. Ultimately the company recognized what I was doing, promoting me to manager of an entire department of web designers responsible for working with this system.”

Do you remember the very first site you designed?
“I believe the first website I did was a fictional taxidermist website which I did as a concept site to prove what I could do with the Inetba system. It had a safari theme to it and I even did some research to put together some believable information in the site.”

What kind of specialization are you doing?
“Our specialization is really interactive custom web applications. A lot of this is just fun stuff, games, random dice generators, things like that, but the ‘fun’ stuff is really just a way of learning how to do some really wacky far out things which we can then reuse for more practical applications. Many times I might stop in the middle of a very serious business project, like a shopping cart or a customer management system, work up a mockup of an online game for our gaming site, Dndorks.com, then use an improved technique I developed on Dndorks.com inside my business project.”

Where do you get your art for these webpages?
“We’re blessed to have a fantastic artist, Jason Smith, he creates a lot of art from scratch, drawing it either by hand or using a tablet. We’ve used clipart.com, taken out a digital camera and taken shots ourselves. Sometimes our customers have provided images, but usually we end up creating our own.”

What will be the next big development in webpage design?
“Well, from a programmer’s perspective, AJAX is really redesigning the web, the ability for websites to basically rewrite themselves client-side without expensive page refreshes fundamentally changes the feel for many websites. I know ‘I’ personally use it extensively in my newer projects, and I see it everywhere I look anymore.”

Have you ever worked with website templates?
“We have worked with templates a couple times, it all depends on what customers are looking for. There are some really beautiful templates out there and if a customer has a limited budget but still wants some of the fancier bells and whistles, it can really make sense for a company to spend a relatively small percentage of their webdesign budget paying for a template then use the rest of the budget to pay for integration, custom forms, or other automated features. Not every business’s needs can be satisfied by a template, many have a very distinct look and feel in their branding which won’t be satisfied by a template, but for businesses that don’t have a clear digital look or feel yet, templates are a boon.”

What website template providers have you tried?
“I’m not absolutely sure of all of them, but I know I’ve made use of templatemonster.com.”

What was your experience with them?
“To be honest, an issue I’ve encountered so far with the templates is that the source files (PSDs, SWFs) are very minimalistic, little better than working with the jpgs, which is a little disappointing since I know from working with our source files that we can really do a lot just by manipulating effects, moving layers around, etc.”

What do you think about Flash technology?
“10% of flash is absolutely fantastic, seamlessly improving a website. 30% of flash is invisible, could probably be done with DHTML, but is really a matter of choice. About 50% of flash I’ve seen is either overdone, damages the search engine optimization (SEO), slow loading, and ultimately inappropriate. I think it’s a testimony of how fascinating flash is as a technology, that it can be really fantastic but usually isn’t. Its like the plastic surgery of the online world, sometimes thrilling, usually sub par.”

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Flash?
“Flash can make your site really memorable. Flash can bring your imagination to life in a way that is difficult with just DHTML. The disadvantages of flash include things like poorly planned sites using flash can rank badly on search engines, can cause long load times if done badly, and can irritate visitors who may dislike flash merely because its flash.”

What are your sources of inspiration?
“Personally I talk to people, see what they think is cool. I actually avoid looking at the ‘cool’ websites people tell me about, I try to get them to describe it to me so I can get an impression what about the website they liked, and hopefully when I try to capture that idea or impression, its unique as opposed to just being a knock off.”

What are your favorite website designs that you did NOT design yourself?
“I just started playing with kudzu.com, very nice! We tried to do something similar several years ago, but the business owner we were working with would change their entire business plan every couple weeks until finally we just gave up on it. Still, I think Kudzu.com has done a fantastic job.”

What was the toughest project or customer situation you’ve encountered?
“We’re currently in the midst of a multi-year project which we are about 80% complete. Unfortunately at this point the customer has lost direction and, without providing any business rules or clear direction, asked us to complete the project. We’ve mostly spun our wheels for the past few months while we try to figure out what it means to ‘finish’ the project.”

What are your interests and dislikes in webpage design?
“I like websites that load quickly, have strong contrast, and normally use dark text on light backgrounds. I like websites to be open, with no clearly defined edges. I like flash that is worked seamlessly into the website but doesn’t block normal behavior (normal behavior means I can control+click or shift+click a link to open a website in a new tab or new window). My strongest dislike is broken javascript that people live in because most browsers ignore it, but due to my debugging settings it screams at me each and every time there is an error. At least one of each of our websites breaks one or more of my ‘likes’ (except the javascript, there is never an excuse to put up broken javascript), but then I guess there is always an exception to every rule.”

Thankyou Richard for your opinions and insights. I appreciate your candor and your experience in web design.

The Template Meister,
Arthur Browning

9Nov

Page Rank is all about the Search Engines and what they want. (Oh, Yes it’s ALL about them.)  Here’s four ways to give the spiders what they want when they come to call.

1) Good Content – Keep it brief but original with keywords used in good language.

2) Relevant – Use the right keywords for each page title, meta keyword, meta tag, head tag.  The eight to twelve best words should be found in the phrase of the title tag.

3) First – Get your keywords into your title and expand upon them in the very first paragraph of your website.

4) Post – Get your site posted with search engines – repost when you add content or pages, but don’t post so often that search engines designate your site as spam.  Post every time that you change your index page.

Internet Marketing may be puzzling at times, and always changing at other times.  But even your Flash templates and WordPress Themes can be changed to some degree to please the spiders.  You can hire an SEO expert for Internet Marketing, but if you have a small website based on a Flash Template or WordPress Theme it may be better to find out how to change them yourself. (YOU CAN DO IT !!!)

Mr. Positive,
Arthur Browning

8Nov

In this visual world that we humans have constructed the internet is rapidly becoming a major focus in many peoples’ lives. It’s more immediate, more personal, and more varied than television or movies.

Anyone can choose from millions of selections available on the interent. Considering the images that beautiful women want to project, and the images that men, women, and all the media want to see, it can be no surprise that internet marketing of personal and individual model websites is a burgeoning industry.

This industry has gone far past photo model sites, relationship introduction sites, my space “tease” sites, weblogs with “soft porn”, college dorm funpics, etc. Most women want, and can easily afford, a well designed and tasteful showcase of their visual attributes for many reasons.

Women, young and mature, are presenting their best visual-selves in many venues today. Internet Marketing of these best visual-selves is inexpensive and very effective, especially with modifiable WordPress Themes and Flash Templates. The webpage they want is more complex and original, easily updated, and a true multi-media experience.

Internet Marketing may be thought of as a commerce-based endeavor. But this most basic drive of women to be visually appreciated – as the apple of your eye – is a more fundamental and natural function. Because of this it will continue to grow, especially on personal webpages. If Flash templates and WordPress Themes can help women project their images then good for them.

The responses of webpage templates designers and of blog platforms to the increased demands of women for better, more affordable design will also drive quality webpage template creation. Flash templates and WordPress Themes are today’s answer for many women and more to come.

Some women will want to put advertising on their websites, others will want to keep it personal and uncomplicated. Whether these webpages also contain personality related material or blog entries will be decided by each woman.

Ultimately this means a woman will no longer need to be fully made-up, dressed – or in a swimsuit, and going to a social gathering to be seen. She can instead offer a controlled and attractive visual account of herself to whomever she wants and whenever she decides. Some women will do both, but with a Flash template website or a WordPress Theme blog she will project her image much farther and as frequently as she wishes.

Women can then communicate with and/or make contact with interested people easily, with relative privacy and safety. Internet Marketing will accomplish a natural and an age-old human function.

What an Election!!!
Arthur Browning

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