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Insights into the Online World

Aug262015

Imagine that you have your own minion that works for you 24/7, day and night, even on weekends, holidays, and never takes a vacation. Well, that’s basically what a website is. Whether or not it actually does a good job at what it does, is entirely up to you.

Often people come to me asking what they can do to make their website actually “work” for them and the answers I give them are easier than you’d think!

Beneath the fancy “skin” and alluring pixels of any website, are the mechanics and interaction that are key elements to a successful website. Whether or not you’re selling products, services, or providing information, you’ll probably want to make sure that your website is actually effective at doing what it’s supposed to do.

So let’s take a look at few common mistakes to avoid that will improve the  effectiveness of your website :

Get to the point!

Time is precious. Visitors should have some kind of intuitive response after being on your website for a few seconds. Why are visitors coming to your website and what action do you want them to take? It is best to make the action efficient and engaging for your visitors.

Effects and animations – Are you building a website for children?

It’s cool the first time you see an effect or animation in a user-interface, but too many bells and whistles can distract or annoy your visitors. I love seeing people take technology and user-experience to the next level by exploring animations and effects (where it has a purpose or function). It’s always nice to see new and interesting concepts at play when visiting a website. However, are they really needed? And do they serve a purpose? Do they provide focus points to features or actions?

Personally I find it hard to take the content too seriously if it’s on or near moving video, animation, or fancy “parallax” effects. There are some rare cases these effects may work, but for the most part it usually doesn’t and often slows the average computer down or distracts from what you want your visitor to do. In the end, it depends on the type of website you have, the function/purpose, and the target people you’re engaging.

Loading screens

One of the last things people like to do when visiting a website is stare at a loading screen. Most visitors are impatient, by making them wait you’re  betting that everyone will find your content worth waiting for. On average users will close a website if the page they are expecting hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds - don’t waste that time on a loading screen. This backs up my earlier recommendation: get to the point!

Bad links

No matter how cool your brand, product, or service(s) are, a broken link can tip the scale on whether a visitor stays on your site or closes the browser. Broken links often result with the visitor closing the window out of frustration and/or immediately losing trust in your brand. Scanning your website for broken links and fixing them (via redirect or similar) is very important and can also improve your google search ratings as a bonus.

Conclusion

We often get distracted by what we personally prefer, then what will add value and enrich the user-experience for visitors. It really helps to know who your visitors are and what they are expecting before leaving things up to chance. It’s great to go on and on about the benefits of your products, services, information, and have all the bells and whistles... but what does that really do for you if it’s not working for your visitors?

Researching and Choosing Keywords

POSTED BY Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Aug242015

Keyword research is one of my favourite parts of doing organic search engine optimization for a website.  There are always surprises; sometimes it’s a keyword I would never have thought of, other times it's a term I didn't expect anybody is searching for.  I particularly enjoy seeing how people search online, and how search trends change over time. 

When picking keywords for a client website I like to look in several different places.  Our particular SEO process focuses on ranking in Google Search results, so I often stick to their tools. 

I use the Google Keyword Planner Tool to research estimated search volume for potential keywords.  The tool provides average search volume over the past 12 months, and a low-medium-high ranking of how competitive the term is. Related terms that are often searched for after the initial search are also provided as alternative options.  That part is especially interesting to me because it gives you an idea of how people refine their search if they don’t get what they’re looking for the first time around.     

To get an idea of whether a keyword could be efficient for a particular website I'll run a search to see what results search engines think are most relevant to me at that time.  Then I have insight into how that term is perceived both by users, and search engines.  I also check related searches on the results page once I’ve found some terms that have the potential to be a good fit.  

In an ideal world I’ll be able to view the Google Analytics data for the website I’m focusing on at the time.  From there I can see what terms the website has already been returned as a result for, and how the different keywords performed.  Google Webmaster Tools has the queries report which is similar but provides a less detailed breakdown.    

Ultimately, choosing keywords that align well with the content of your website is the single best thing you can do to help your rankings.  Giving users exactly what they’re expecting when they choose your result out of the list helps keep your bounce rates low and your user engagement high.

Writing is Hard

POSTED BY Philip Giles

Aug202015

With most web design projects, there are several sticking points where progress can come to a screeching halt. The most common one is when written content is required. The design is approved, the site is built, and we have lots of blank pages just waiting for ‘stuff’ to go in them.

Almost always it’s because the person who is writing the content thought it would be easy to write, and when they sit down to write it, they discover it’s much harder than they thought.

Writing can certainly be hard work; personally I always find it hard. I’ve developed some tricks and tools to make it easier over the last 30 years, but for me it’s always something that takes significant investment, emotionally as well as time-wise.

So, some tips for how to make it easier to write:

  • Write on a schedule - set aside the same time every day/week/month to write, and treat it like a client meeting
  • In your schedule decide what you’re going to write about before you sit down to write it. Otherwise, you’ll spend all your time deciding what to write rather than actually writing.
  • If you don’t know where to start, you are trying to write about something that is too big. It’s easier to start writing about Selkirk (if you live in Selkirk) than it is to write about The World. Pick a small thing, and write about that.
  • Just write. Something. Anything. It may be bad, it may be great, it may be somewhere in between. The hardest part of writing is getting started.

If you’re still struggling to write, remember that you aren't a professional writer. So, in the same way as you may choose to hire a contractor to finish your basement, maybe you should hire a writer to write for you. If you need help to find a writer, we can certainly help, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Aug192015

As one of the members of the designer team here at Modern Earth I have a list of tools within my arsenal always at the ready. One of my favourites is the elusive call-to-action that guides a user to perform a specific action on a website. But before we can simply place a call-to-action on a website we need to figure out exactly what it is.

 

What is a ‘Call to Action’?

On your average website, there are different parts that come together to build a functional website such as the header, navigation, footer and content. The call-to-action is just as important as any other section. It defines an action that can be taken on the website and guides users to pursue this action. It can come in many different forms and could be placed almost anywhere on a website. In most cases, it takes the form of a button or a heading that tells a user what to do. In this case below one of our clients, Acuity HR Solutions has some really good examples that invoke users to view team members or read about services they offer. The call-to-actions on this site explicitly get users to learn more about the benefits of their service and in doing so increase leads for the company, which brings me to my next topic.

 

Acuity HR Solutions Screenshot -Modern Earth Web Design - Online Marketing Winnipeg Manitoba

(Click to view larger version)

 

Why is a ‘Call to Action’ important?

Every website has goals associated with it; a reason it exists in the first place. Some websites are meant to sell products while others serve as a hub of information and let users find the answers to the questions they have. Call-to-actions are meant to fulfill these goals on a website. It’s important that they exist on a site so users are informed of what actions can be taken on a website and to guide them to where you want them to be. Call-to-actions are often meant to generate leads on your website, making your business more profitable.

 

How do you implement a ‘Call to Action’ on your website?

Call-to-actions can’t simply just be thrown around your website loosely and expect leads to come flooding onto your doorstep. It takes careful thinking about what goals you want your business to achieve and how your website can be used to meet those goals.

I like to be frugal with my call-to-actions on a website. I make sure I can count them all on my hand on any single given web page. Too often users are given too many choices on what to do and next thing you know, they bounce off the site. Less is usually better in this case.

At the end of the day, it’s incredibly important to have a proper call-to-action on your site. By far it’s one of my favourite tools to use as a designer, and I make sure there’s a properly defined call-to-action in every single one of my designs.

Why Does Marketing Customization Matter?

POSTED BY Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Aug172015

Since marketing has made the switch from outbound efforts to inbound there has been a steady increase in marketing customization.  We see it on platforms like Netflix and Amazon all the time; recommendations for shows and products you may like based on your past behaviour.  We also see it on social platforms like Facebook - when I was helping a friend plan her wedding last year ads for dress alterations and David’s Bridal started appearing regularly in my news feed!

While some people find it irritating when ads start to follow them around the internet (I’ll be real, sometimes it is creepy) I still think it’s fascinating to see how far online marketing has advanced in recent years.  But why is marketing customization important?  How does it work, who benefits from it, and what separates a good experience from a bad one?

How It Works

Requiring users to create an account or login to gain access to a product or service, or make a purchase allows brands to collect information about who their customer base is.  Users provide the information themselves and in most cases choose what details are shared and what are kept private.  

Who It Helps

Marketing customization benefits both brands and users.  Brands are able to provide content to users that is more relevant to their needs and interests based on their past behaviour - this increases chances users will convert into leads and eventually sales.  The overall experience is then more enjoyable for the end user; people like that their needs are understood, and the feeling that someone is looking out for their interests.  It also helps that they are provided with easy access to products or services they may not have know about that align well with their needs at the time.

What Makes A Good Experience

A good user experience is vital to the success of any online interaction with a brand.  Seeing the same advertisement several times across the web after you visit a website once does not leave a positive impression.  Users don’t like to feel as though they’re being followed by a pushy car salesman.  Showing your ad, or connecting with a potential customer at the moment they’re looking for what you have to offer should be the goal every time.  Twitter users expect a response from a brand within 30 minutes in a customer service situation, so acting fast is just as important as meeting the customers needs.