Monday, 15 December 2008

Building a Successful Website

Now that you know how to design a website, here you will learn a few aspects about building one.

In order for a website to be successful it needs to be found, not only the site itself but its content too. You might be thinking that if you find a website, the content is just there, right? Not necessarily. For the normal user, this might be the case, but there are circumstances where it’s not as straightforward.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

A web page has basically two elements: design and content.

There are different ways to build a page, but they all use the same language, HTML. HTML is the web based language and all websites end up with it. It is a very simple language and not difficult to learn, however to use it appropriately takes time and experience, so if you don’t have either, leave it for the professionals.
The design and content of your page come together in this language, and if the right approach is not used, you might end up with a page that is cluttered with unnecessary code. That’s where Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) come.

CSS is file that contains the rules for formatting your content. Any part of a page can be controlled by a CSS sheet in a very powerful way without cluttering your page with unnecessary code and leaving your content clean and still looking good.

There are several advantages of adopting CSS:

  • Easier to maintain – one sheet can control a whole web site, if you decide to change the font colour in all pages, for example, with a css file, you only need to change one file
  • Flexibility – css is a very powerful tool that can create some stunning effect, that is light and compatible on most browsers
  • Accessibility/Search Engine Friendly – it separates the layout from the content, by far the most important aspect

Accessibility

Nowadays, as technology advances, the types of users accessing the Internet are becoming wider. Visually impaired individuals are using more and more the Net to make purchases and find information on services they require, so your site must be accessible to them.

The biggest issue here is that the software/browsers used by these individuals (and normal users) might vary a lot, and without standards in place, they might follow different rules when reading the code on your website, for this reason the W3C has been created. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the organ that sets the rules on how websites should be built. By following their rules, your site should have a structure that is easily read not only by regular browser but by those used by disabled people. 

Search Engine Friendly

By being accessible, a website also helps search engines. Robots now have millions of websites to scan on a regular basis. 10 years ago, when there were not even half of this amount, it was easier for them to scan them all, now, they are becoming more strict on what they go through or not and if your site does not make their scan easy, they are very likely not to return.

For you as the owner of a website, you want it to pass your company’s or personal identity, the look and feel you love, and that is necessary, but most of the users looking at your site, are more interested in what you can offer than what it looks like. Several reports on web usage have shown that the most popular sites are actually very simple in their design, but their content is well written, clear and easy to follow.

All search engines want is to find the right content for their users, to give them the right information, they depend on that for their survival. Clean content makes easier for search engines to find the information they want. You give them that, and they will find you.

If you have any questions about our website development please contact Art Division.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Designing a Successful Website

Web design involves creating the look-and-feel of your website. It requires creativity but don’t engage just ‘any’ graphic designer, or person you know who has a creative edge – you need someone who understands the principles of designing websites which produce results.

A good web designer will firstly give the website the right image to the business to create a positive first impression, but also convince new customers to visit it again.

There are a number of design principles that are crucial to achieve a website that works, namely;

Consistency
Ensure your website reflects the branding of the rest of your business. Many companies have a strong physical business with very strong branding, but then choose a website that does not reflect that branding.

Navigation
Secondly, visitors to your website will need to be able to navigate quickly to where they want to go. If you confuse them you will most likely lose them. Clear and consistent navigation is strongly supported by placing important navigation elements in ‘standard navigational’ areas on the design. You can do this by making sure your website is template-based.

Templates
What is template-based mean? Many companies are adverse to the thought of having their website based on a template. They base that on the fear their website will look just like every other website. What most do not understand is that a template does not determine how a web site is going to look, but guides where the different information is going to be located on the web page. For example; the company’s logo will most likely be located in the top-left corner and that the visitor will be able to navigate using a menu either at the top or left-hand side of each page.

Imagine what it would be like if every time you jumped into a different car the controls were in different places. Templates have helped standardise the web and everyone’s experience of using it.

White Space
Cluttered web sites are both harder to read and to navigate. It is important not to communicate too many different ideas on the same page or to confuse it with too many offers and messages. This comes down the purpose of the web site. If you want your viewer to read the main ‘content’ and then call you for more information, then avoid putting more ‘call to action’ messages on these pages.

Avoid Heavy Images
Try to keep the number of images on the page to a minimum. Designers who know about the use of style sheets will allow them to create something visually impressive without needing images that compromise your websites loading speed and search engine ranking. On average your website must load within 8-10 seconds before it risks losing visitors because the website is too slow in loading. Mixing graphics with actual text from the code will maximize the final result of the website.

Appropriateness
Your website needs to look appropriate for the products or services it is promoting. A website has the difficult job of building trust and credibility with its visitors will immediately give the wrong impression of the quality of your work to your visitors. But be careful, even very expensive looking websites may also put off customers who can’t afford to spend more than the average expected. Make sure your website projects the right image for the target market you are after. It should “look” like it has had some time spent on it by a professional web site designer, the investment is crucial; it is after all your shop window for the online world. Just make sure it draws the attention of those who pass by it, for all the right reasons.

If you have any questions about our design processes please don’t hesitate to contact Art Division.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

How To Find And Sell To Your Target Market

It is very surprising how often business owners have no idea who will buy from them, or assume that 'everyone' will. Such can leads to wrong decisions as well as strategy.

The most successful small businesses understand that only a limited number of people will buy from them. The task then becomes defining, as near as possible, exactly who those people are, and aiming their business's marketing toward them.

You, too, can build a better, stronger business, by identifying and serving a particular customer group – your target market.

One of the first things you need to do is to refine your product or service so that you are NOT trying to be a jack of all trades but to become a specialist. This will not only give you a niche but it could also expand your market in a way that competitors could not take advantage of.

People purchase products or services for three basic reasons, 1) to satisfy basic needs, 2) to solve problems, and 3) to improve an existing need. You can then assess which of these categories your skills are the solution to. Your service may fall into more than one category, of course.

Creating an effective marketing strategy is to focus on to your target market by using Market Segmentation.

First of all, is your product salable at local, national or international level? For example, if your primary market is local or national, and that you live in a community with a population of 25,000 people. You will first need to research the demographics' of that community by dividing it into market segments including, age, income, gender, and so on. The information should be available to you through your local council but the more detail you can get your hands on, the better.

Then you will need to segment the market. B2B companies will also need to consider the types of industries available, their number of employees, sales, location, and stability. In addition, you might want to find out how they purchase: seasonally, locally, by volume, plus who makes those decisions. Unlike consumers, businesses buy products or services for three reasons only: to increase revenue, to maintain equilibrium, or to decrease cost. If you fill one or more of these needs, you have found a target market!

At this point you should have an idea emerging of who you think your perfect customer is. Based on your research you may even know the number of these potential customers. It is possible that a percentage of them will be committed to a competitor but not all, especially if they have not even purchased your product or service even from a competitor yet.

Most of your potential customers would not even know of your company, nor would tell the difference between yours or a competitor. Once you know who your ideal customers are, target them even if you have competition. You may also decide that you would like to widen your target market to include others you may be successful in capturing a larger stake of the market.

Just remember, there is both a market and a target, for everything.

If you have any questions about our design processes please don’t hesitate to contact Art Division

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Boom or Doom?

Whilst the credit crunch continues to grip the purse strings of businesses all over the globe, it seems to be that those of us who own and manage small business have only one option: cut all expenses and ride the rough seasons out- however, has anyone considered what the alternatives are?

As suggested in July’s blog, businesses could actually BENEFIT from increasing their marketing and sales budgets: competitors and rivals have suddenly gone into remission so what better time to take advantage of the quiet market and increase awareness of your own services?

Consider reinventing your website or online references - this is often the first point of reference for new customers. Investing time, effort and a little money into producing a website that is professional, smart and easy to use will allow you to reap the rewards not only in the short term, but in years to come.

However whilst your expanding your net for new clients, don’t forget the old ones! Customers are MORE likely to return to companies they know than take a risk during times of financial difficulty. Maintain regular contact via inexpensive communication tools, such as email to keep them interested!

If you have any other tips or ideas that may be of help to small businesses during the credit crunch, please feel free to share them!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Marketing and PR vs Recession – join the battle!

Isn't it strange how we drive ourselves into a recession by only just talking about it? British Chamber of Commerce predicts 3 months before we hit a recession, something, which was announced over the radio. Gordon Brown however stated that the economy in Britain is still strong with low unemployment rate, obviously trying to steer us out of it...

I urge you business owners... increase your marketing budgets and start spending!

Logically businesses should try to increase their sales by going into new markets, launching new services or products or just bringing in new customers. It’s time for a change as those who are still stuck to the ‘old’ ways or marketing and sales will soon find themselves in trouble.

Statistically, during such economic climates, businesses cut down on costs as much as possible in order to survive, including their marketing and PR budgets, even though this is the time when it’s VITAL to spend more on advertising! How else would one reach a wider audience and generate more sales?

There are plenty of buyers out there, the question is how to reach them in a most cost effective way and what product or service of ours would they like to buy at this moment in time... so business owners, lets start a trend and take advantage of the current economic gloom by inventing new ways to reach more clients.

Please share your marketing ideas, which you think will help.

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