Archive for December, 2006

29Dec
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HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!

Web Templates Blog would like to take this opportunity to wish you a great Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!  I personally hope you all have a knockout New Year’s Eve and a SuperPsychoRockaRama 2007.

I have been getting ready all week for New year’s weekend.  My costume will be Captain Ahab.  You cannot believe how much work it took to get my fiancee’ to agree to wear the Moby Dick outfit.  I admit you can’t see her face but it also hides her unbelievable body too. (Brownie Points when she reads this).

I chose a great song for the entertainment.  I will sing “I am my own Grandpa”, but not like Tom Arnold – more like a Captain Ahab would, like Gegory Peck would.

Finally, just after the New Year is announced, I will catch Moby Dick, pull her on board and when I undress her the whole crowd will see the Mermaid.  My fiancee’ plans to sing “I Want To Be Loved By You” in the style of Marilyn Monroe.  OKAY ! OKAY ! I might catch her earlier in the evening.

Then Captain Ahab will publicly pledge his New Year resolution to become a Vegan and give up whaling.  – There I’ve said it.

God Bless Us One and All,
Arthur Browning

29Dec

What’s In a Name? A Rose is a Rose by any other name, right?  Maybe, but when all somebody has is your name you better say it loud and clear.

A good domain name is memorable.  No need to memorize it, it just sticks.

A good domain name is short in spelling. Keep it under ten letters if possible. It’s easier to remeber and spell that way. Typing a short name is easier and the visitor feels better.

A good domain name has the dot com suffix if possible. Dot com is popular and familiar. Visitors write the suffix dot com when they forget a suffix.

A good domain name is read and accepted by visitors from different countries, races and religions.

A good domain name has a nice sound. It is easy to pronounce.

A good domain name uses only letters if possible. It shouldn’t contain hyphens or numbers if possible.

A good domain name contains repeated syllables for a better sound.

A good domain name is descriptive, it reflects your message.

A good domain name contains keywords.

A good domain name is brandable to your unique business name.

Beam Me Up Scotty,
Arthur Browning

28Dec

Finding a business on the web can be made easier for some people by using search. Most people type in some syllables of the name of the business, hit the search button, then click on the business website. The reason that this is done is that most people don’t remember the URL, just the business name.

This is especially so for first time visitors who haven’t bookmarked the business website. The same experience holds true for nonbusiness listings like governmental and non-profits.

For well-known, large, national businesses this search is accomplished easily. Yet, some search engine writers and SEO service sellers use this simple example to sell services to some businesses who don’t even need the help.

Smaller local or regional businesses may actually need help in the search engine results, but the best help may not come from SEO consultants. If the company name and URL contains only highly competitive keywords then their SEO could be a problem. If the company name and URL rely on a very original name that does not contain keywords then the search should be easy.

Ultimately, the best URL contains the main keyword and the unique syllables that would make it both easily searched for originality and easily listed for keywords. In this case the length of the URL could become a hindrance.

An example can be made for the current SEO algorithms in mind. Let’s take the example of a coin shop. Let’s say this coin shop sells antique and collectible coins. The most searches for this business could use keywords and phrases like “coins”, “coinshop”, “collectible coins”, “coin collection”, “numismatics” (coins), “antique coins”, “coin trade”, etc.

Although I don’t know which keywords combination would be best for this particular shop there are several things to consider besides keeping the length of the URL down. Some keywords may be used more often or appear in more SERPs, but they may not deliver much in clicks or sales.

After these factors are negotiated then you must find short and unique syllable(s) from your business name or logo that can be added to “coins”. Some examples for this are: “nut”, “cave”, “paradise”, “haven”, “central”, “poop”, “owl”, “dealer”, “king”.

What about these example? “Paradise” and “central” may be too long. “Central” or “dealer” may not be unique enough. “King” may find you behind a laudromat with a URL lik coinking.com or kingcoin.com. “Nut”, “cave”, “owl” or “poop” may fill the bill, but taste and professionalism may not be served – although some are more memorable.

Punctuation and order of sylablles can be important. If you use coincave.com (or) coin-cave.com (or) coin_cave.com (or) coin.cave.com (or) cave-coin.com there may be some minor advantages to one or another. The SEO algorithms aren’t understood well enough to make an absolute distinction, but a dash seems to have the most all-around appeal for esthetics, memorability and spider perception.

The idea that Wal-Mart’s website was inundated by the traffic from Thanksgiving holiday visitors is not a selling point for SEO. Search traffic may have been too high to meet all the demands of that shopping press, but those website visitors were of two major groups. 1) Price/brand comparison shoppers who would buy instore, and 2) Internet shoppers ordering for delivery from the Wal-Mart shippers. This may have helped instore sales by forcing buyers into local Wal-Mart stores.

So, when you start worrying about improving your presence in searches, remember that for your particular business the SEO contractors may have less help than you can do yourself.

The Toast of Template Town,
Arthur Browning

27Dec

The Flash Template that works best is the one that loads very quickly, impacts and engages the visitor, allows easy to use seamless navigation.

The ideal Flash Template provides a soundtrack that holds the visitor and helps to put them in the mood to accept your message, but it also has a button to stop for people who have their own sounds on.

So, in my relentless search for the best available Flash Templates I have found an excellent example. Click on this baby for all the right moves.

13097.jpg

Flash Template # 13097

WHeWheeee!! Was it good for you? Let’s go again!!!

Don’t Make Me Spell It Out,

Arthur Browning

26Dec

Keeping costs down and traffic up – that is what I am talking about. Every business needs a webpage. The major consideration in this approach is your MESSAGE. Your MESSAGE must be: 1) short 2) easy-to-read 3) easy-to-remember 4) leave many positive and lingering mental associations.

1) How do you make the message short? Use a short URL, short slogan and strong logo.

2) How do you make your message easy-to-read? Use short words and few of them, make sure they are understood by a third-grader.

3) How do you make your message easy-to-remember? A quick twist of meaning that suggests a peak experience.

4) How do you make your message leave positive and lingering mental associations? The meaning should be easily associated with as many positive experiences as possible.

Here are some examples of messages based on FLOB, an imaginary product/service. Guess which are the better slogans?

- We always want to deliver the kind of FLOB you like
- FLOB is our business and our only business
- FLOB this!
- FLOB first
- When it comes to FLOB we are the professionals
- How’s your FLOB factor?
- The oldest dealer of FLOB in the state, doing business your way
- The reputable folks in the FLOB industry, the FLOB experts
- A day without FLOB is like a day without happiness
- FLOB LIVES!
- Don’t be confused by dealers of FLOB knockoffs, we have the original FLOB
- When it’s FLOB time, get it straight
- FLOB Central
- Trickin’ out your FLOB
- FLOB Zone
- FLOBmazing!
- FLOB since 2001 in your neighborhood

After looking at these slogans think about which ones are short enough to be used for a URL, logo, license plate, short print ads. Which ones are easiest to read and remember? Which ones could be associated with positive and pervasive experiences?

None are perfect, but if you work with these ideas you will allow your URL to be easily seen, remembered, and visited. Once you get your website visited, then your website should take care of getting revisits with attractive layout, easy navigation, and well presented, interesting content.

How does all this save money? Because your message is now so concise that you will be able to place very short print ads, radio spots, television spots, website banners, links, etc. with minimal cost. This means you can spread your name/URL/slogan/message farther and faster.

For some businesses it will be much more cost-effective than SEO or social bookmarking, although this method can be used with either or both of those methods as well. And with a shorter, better message SEO or social bookmarking will also be easier.

Who’s Your Daddy?
Arthur Browning

22Dec

The first step in establishing a presence on the web is to make a keyword list. You want to get all the best keywords on the first page without problems.

To formulate the most effective keyword list possible for your website you will need to be precise and exhaustive about what you wish to offer and what you will not offer. Whether you sell products/services or provide information you must have a complete inventory of all of it.

Once you have an inventory of everything in your website you will use this list to brainstorm a list of “possible” keywords and keyword phrases.

If your website will be used for a national concern such that location is not important then location shouldn’t be part of your keywords. If, however your offerings are for one city or region then that city or region will be part of your “possible” keywords.

The types of products/services/information you offer should be broken down into categories – and each word modifier of those categories should be a “possible” keyword. If you sell fast-food you should list every item on your menu, every characteristic that you want each item to be known for (hot, cold, icy, jumbo, special sauce, etc.), how it will be served (quickly, proudly, not before its time) whether your staff is knowledgeable (experts, degrees, award-winners), what side dishes or condiments are available, do you have carry-out or delivery, lighted and convenient parking, accept returns, special packaging, etc.

Once the “possible keyword” list is completed it should be fed one word at a time through the keyword tools at Google, Yahoo, etc. Every time you plug in a keyword you will get the number of searches conducted for that term over a given period of time. The keyword tools will also suggest keywords from the tool’s database that are similar to the “possible keyword” you entered.

Now you should go through the keyword tool’s returned list and copy any and all similar terms along with the search value of each. Once you have completed all the lists of returns for each “possible keyword” you must go through the list one term at a time. Delete any keywords that don’t have to do with your website. You want to identify as many keywords as possible.

Now you have a long keyword list. This list must now be narrowed down. You should narrow the list by weighing the potential gain for each keyword relative to competing websites. You can use these 3 criteria to choose the keywords you will keep.

1) The number of searches per each particular keyword (you have these from the keyword tools)

2) The amount of competition (do a search of each keyword on the big three search engines to find your competeition for each keyword or go to http://www.startlaunch.com/research/ , copy your list of keywords into the box, click “submit”, then click on each link to see your competition on Google.)

3) Will a keyword lead to conversions (this is your decision)

With good keyword selection, you have laid the foundation for success in your webpage. This success means more traffic, better SEO, higher rank, more popularity, and satisfied visitors.

See You After Saint Nick Leaves Town,
Arthur Browning

21Dec

Always searching the web for good portfolios. I like the best mixes I can find – form and function. Recently I had a look at the portfolio of Mary Ellen Wetherington and saw some great designs. Mary Ellen is partners at Ngage Design Studio. I requested an interview with Mary Ellen.

How did you get into web design? “During the last year of my bachelor’s degree in computer science, I did a great deal of experimentation with programming for the WWW. I then furtheredmy knowledge by earning a masters degree in instructional technology. A graphic designer and I teamed up shortly after to create our current company Ngage Design Studio. I am a programmer, not a graphics person, so we complement each other very well. Just because you can do amazing things with code does not mean people will want to use your services. The fact is that the graphic design has a major impact on selling your services. Clients usually see the surface and cannot visualize the backbone.”

Do you remember the very first site you designed? “Sure, the first site I designed was by no means simple. For a computer architecture course, I participated in a group project where four of us designed a local site similar to www.cfnc.org. We in essence jumped right into the fire.”

Where do you get your art for these webpages? “In house graphic design and photography.”

What will be the next big development in webpage design? “The sky is the limit. Every client presents a new challenge. The next development is simply what the client will request next.”

Have you ever worked with website templates? “A few websites we worked with have templates as a base. We tend to stay awayfrom templates because the originality and personalization is lost. Templates are usually effective for the person trying to cut costs and design a website themselves with little to no experience.”

What website template providers have you tried? “We have used Template Monster.”

What was your experience with them? “We received notification that a template we had purchased contained graphics that were copyrighted. This was made known to us several months after we designed and published the site. This caused a major problem concerning site redesign and could have had major legal implications. This was not a fault of Template Monster, but of an outside provider. Other than that one incident, we have had no problems.”

What do you think about Flash technology? “Graphically pleasing, but not especially functional. The use of Flash should be sparing and dependent upon the type of website. Flash has many components that tend to work slowly, require plug-ins, or hinder the functionality of the web browser. The use of the Flash Intros used to be very popular, but think about how many times you click ‘Skip’.”

What are your sources of inspiration? “Inspiration comes from our clients. Their excitement when they view a site built justfor them and works exactly the way they described is worth everything.”

What was the biggest problem situation you’ve encountered? “Make sure your contracts are correct and your fees are negotiated properly. Do not sell yourself short. Many problems that arise are non-payment or under-payment.”

Thankyou Mary Ellen, for the benefits of your experiences and viewpoints.

Attention! Holiday Shoppers!

Arthur Browning

20Dec

WordPress is well established as a platform and blogging is the new pastime. So, how can you make the best choice for your WordPress Theme?

WordPress Themes can be found for free or more exclusive designs cost $40-80. The main things to know are the varieties to choose from for your needs. Here’s the most important criteria (I think) for you choice.

SIDEBAR – Left or Right – Are you a lefty or a righty? If you don’t know look at the various WordPress Themes on blogger sites around the web. How do you read them?

COLUMNS – How many columns do you want? You can find 1,2,3 or 4 columns available. How many blogrolls, ads, banners, widgets, counters, categories, etc. will you want? or need? This consideration should take into account both function and appearance.

COLOR – What color scheme will you want for your blog? Pink or blue is better for a “Baby” blog than black. White may not be best for a “Gothic” theme.

PLUGINS – WordPress Themes have many plugins available, most of the well tested plugins are free of charge from WordPress.

WIDGET – Is the WordPress Theme you want widget-ready, most of the newest designs are already to accept widgets, but you have to check.

If you have a WordPress blog and you want to change themes you need to find a compatible theme or you will have to make it compatible.

It’s Showtime!
Arthur Browning

19Dec

Liquid VS Fixed Layout has been argued for a lot of years now. As screen resolutions have increased fixed layouts have gotten a lot of use, but there are still major advantages to a liquid layout in some situations.

Referring to the columns or boxes that hold the text, images, and other content – these can be called containing elements. They may have borders and background images, but they are the visual containers for the important content on the screen. In a fixed layout, the size of each containing element on the webpage is an exact amount. The page will not change when you resize your browser window. It will essentially look the same on any browser or computer.

With a liquid layout, the size of these containing elements changes depending on the browser size and user preferences.
The container size increases when viewed at larger screen resolutions and decreases when the browser is resized.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both layouts:

Fixed width layout

Pros

* Guarantees an easy-to-read line length
* Allow images to be placed exactly in relation to other elements and type sizes
* Allows the designer full control over how the page is displayed (as opposed to the user)
* Allows for predictable default printing behavior.

Cons

* May create a type size that is not optimal
* Takes control over page size and text size away from the user.
* Doesn’t take advantage of screen real estate and may produce large unused portions of window space that could potentially increase the amount of scrolling that users have to do (this is especially true at higher resolutions)

Liquid layout:

Pros

* Allows for maximum use of space or screen real-estate. Also allows the most control over sizing by the user, because
a user can resize the website to their preferences.
* Allows text size to be changeable by user preferences, making it easy for people with vision problems to increase or
decrease the text size on the page while the layout adjusts around the increased size automatically.
* When designed correctly, it sets your website look slightly apart from competitors, considering most websites use a fixed layout.

Cons

* If the screen-size becomes too large or too small it can produce unreadable text, or hard to read/scan line lengths
* Can cause problems with default page printing. (A separate print style sheet can be used allowing for perfect printing
from any page despite a liquid layout, but if a separate style sheet for printing is not provided this con is valid)
* As the website size changes, the image size to text proportion may create a less desirable look.

Modern Screen Resolutions and the Prevalence of Fixed Width Layouts

The problem facing layout design in modern web design is the huge variance of common screen resolutions among potential website visitors. The smallest acceptable and still common modern resolution is 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall. With the recent surge in wide-screen and large monitors resolutions, a screen width of 1280 pixels plus is also very common.

Q. So how do you design a site that looks good with both a 800 pixel width and a 1280 pixel width?

Most web designers don’t, they use a fixed layout that’s 800 pixels wide and call it good. With that said, I have seen some beautiful layouts that look good and are readable at both those resolution extremes. The specific details of these layouts are beyond the scope of this article, but most of the designs I’ve seen or created that successfully accomplish this task use multiple content columns in combination with “padding” that is defined as a percentage of the screen. So when the screen is small, the multiple columns are very close together, but when the screen is large the padding increases proportionally and the columns are spaced further apart.

Recommendations and Analysis

Most websites should probably be designed with a fixed or “semi” fixed layout. It guarantees readability and perfect presentation of content. With that said, if your website contains a large amount of text based content (more then 3-5 paragraphs per page) or if the website would greatly benefit from a non-standard design scheme use liquid.

If you’re still not sure, choose fixed. A fixed layout is easy to maintain, and assures readability by all users and is easier for a web designer to code perfectly. A poorly done liquid layout will cause more problems than it will fix and annoy potential users. For example, one of my personal pet peeves is when a designer uses a single column liquid layout. My personal computer workstation consists of two monitors a 19 inch, and a 17 inch wide screen. When a website is designed with a single liquid column the width of the page usually is way too wide for easy reading, so I have to manually adjust the window size.

Totally Awesome,

Arthur Browning

18Dec

The things that make a webpage template really attractive are the same things that interest visitors, draw them to return, allow them to respond, reward them for purchases and make them want to share the website with friends.

What exactly are these things? They include a quick and complete download of the webpage, entrancing initial experience on the first visit, comfort and ease of navigation to and away from every area, esthetically composed visual – possibly audio experience for the duration of any visit, sparklingly presented and pin-pointed content, dependable and secure interactions.

How can these things be accomplished? There are numerous articles written on each of these topics, so my goal here is to summarize and to amplify. In addition to this goal I want to explain the synergy of all of these factors – especially when they present your message in an elegantly uncluttered but interesting way.

First, a webpage template can be purchased by it’s look. It doesn’t matter whether you want a Flash Template, WordPress Theme, eCommerce page or a very clean “business card”. The goal then is to customize the template to optimize all of the possibilities listed above.

Second, once your webpage template has been customized, do not overload the webpage with noxious ads, banners, popups, stubborn drop-down menus. Although many people do not understand your efforts to make money from banners or your linking strategies, at a gut-level response they will know that you are NOT about your own content. Too many bells and whistles will kill all the effects of your webpage template and customization. Ultimately, the search engines know this as well.

Third, make your message and content concise, but make it creatively entertaining. If you start using the same old WOW! KING SIZE! BUY NOW! style of presenting your content or message you will lose visitors.

You can deliver your message and content in two levels. The first level is a well-defined quick overview. The second level is a more fully explained view. The first level gives people a chance to orient themselves to your site and message quickly and effortlessly. The second level allows people to comfortably inform and entertain themselves as fully as possible.

These two levels should be present on every page and for every single item or service you offer. People can then select easily from a field of possibilities as well as choose the level of involvement they want with your message. The key here is to keep each level concise but entertaining.

When you use photos and graphics make sure they are high-quality and well-cropped. Offer, but don’t force multiple or 360-degree views. Keep thumbnails orderly and offer enlargements.

When write texts make sure they are simple, concise, and interesting. Offer, but don’t force deeper text information. Keep the texts entertaining and concise at every level.

Simply Irresistible,
Arthur Browning

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