The Scary Side of Do-it-Yourself Websites

As professionals, we’re poignantly aware of the fine balance between cost, time, and quality. For every progression in one of these categories, a concession is made in the others. The key to any successful project is determining which of the three is finite and then maximize the remainders optimally. In most scenarios, budget is finite, so it becomes the key factor upon which we determine what quality we can target and how much time we can use to accomplish that quality.

Given those facts, the DIYer has to make similar considerations. If we’re short of a budget for our project, then how much time do we have to commit to it? Further to that, given our current knowledge and experience with web technology, what realistic level of quality can be achieved given our time constraints? In the example of a DIY website project, it might seem reasonable to believe that you have the time to build the website, but there are many considerations that must be made to determine whether this new website will even serve its purpose as a marketing tool by the end of the project.

Most importantly, what is the goal of the website? Is it simply a space to publish thoughts or is the intention to have an online storefront for your business? Are you running a digital campaign to improve your online reach or visibility? How will the website meet the functional requirements of this campaign? What technological considerations must be made?

There is a vast body of knowledge required to be an effective web developer; some of the hot topics these days are responsive design, search engine optimization, accessibility, conversion rate optimization, etc. Each of these technological considerations greatly affects the effectiveness of your website as a marketing tool.

This discussion begs further discussion around the digital marketing strategy, namely user profiling and market research. What’s the point of a marketing tool if it is not serving the needs of your direct target market(s)?

  1. Who will be the users of the website?
  2. Will they be on desktop-only, mobile-only, or both?
  3. Will the users potentially have accessibility needs that need to be addressed by the website?
  4. What is the conversion goal?
  5. What do you want users to do on your website to get them further along the purchase life cycle or deeper into your marketing funnel?
  6. Will your new website be returned for relevant searches?
  7. What are the relevant searches?
  8. How do you target those keywords and continually optimize?
  9. Will you have traffic and usage data from your new website?
  10. What does this data mean?
  11. How do these data points translate into whether we are getting closer to or farther away from achieving our marketing goals?

These are just technological considerations, and this is a short list of considerations. For every question, you should have a strategy for how you’re going to address these considerations. Otherwise, you are potentially relegating a part of (or a whole) target demographic of your business.

Beyond these technological considerations, there is the issue of design. A stat that most web developers love to throw around is this:

“94% of site visitors state that bad design is the main reason they mistrust a website.”

“10 Web Design Statistics.” WebIntel by Ironpaper. IronPaper.com, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2015. <http://www.ironpaper.com/webintel/articles/10-web-design-statistics/#.VCye2ktEyRD>

Technology is a very minor obstacle indeed when contrasted with design. Technology is minor in the sense that it can be learned given time and commitment. Design, on the other hand, is something a little more ethereal in the sense that good design can follow principles, but ultimately great design is a product of creativity and innate talent. So what is your awareness of good design principles? How is your design going to avoid ostracizing up to 94% of your visitors? Further to generally good design, there is some overlap with technology, particularly in the case of conversion rate optimization. How much do you know about the subtle psychological and visual cues you can give to users to grease the wheels towards them completing a conversion goal?

After you have committed to doing the website the DIY way, and you hit a roadblock (and you will hit a roadblock – even the best web developers hit roadblocks from time to time), then what is your plan? Commit more time? Hire someone? Give up? Giving up is not usually an option, especially in the case of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the types that refuse to acknowledge the existence or meaning of the word “quit.”

There three major fronts upon which our considerations are based:

  1. Marketing – First and foremost, a website is a marketing tool, so how do we optimize the marketing potential? Marketing is the deeper consideration with every other consideration we’ll make.
  2. Technology – What technology needs to be leveraged to accomplish our marketing goals?
  3. Creativity – Good strong sales copy and great design are paramount when trying to align to a greater marketing goal.

This article is not intended to scare you away from DIY websites so much as it is to educate you on the true breadth and depth of a website project when undertaken by professionals. Professionals are very often considered solely on cost, but remember our balancing equation from the beginning of this article: with quality comes time and with time comes cost. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, “How much does my time cost?” “What could I make with the same time commitment targeted towards running my own business?” As we know from experience, everyone’s time is best spent doing what they’re best at, and if that is running your business (which hopefully it is if you’re in business for yourself), then that is where your time should be spent.

Before we start a website project at CurveFront, we perform a comprehensive requirements analysis/fact-finding investigation to make sure we know and understand the marketing goals. Then we can translate those goals into technological and creative considerations that must be made before we even quote on a project. Our goal is for our customers to successfully access their customers through digital channels. Before undertaking any website project, we want to know what it will take to produce a valuable marketing tool for our customers.

If you’re interested in discussing your digital marketing goals, we’d love to hear from you! Head over to our contact page to drop us a line, and we’ll get back to you on the double.

This article was written in response to Richard Darell’s article available at http://www.bitrebels.com/technology/good-bad-ugly-diy-websites.

Learn the Lingo: What’s most important to your web presence?

Building a strong web presence isn’t something we should put off. In our last publication, we discussed the keys to digital marketing success in 2015 and, supported by some interesting statistics, we explained why those items were so important. With your web presence becoming a deciding factor in customers’ purchase decisions, your web presence should be a major focal point of your marketing for 2015. In order to better understand your existing web presence and to help you evaluate options for improvement, it’s important that you become aware of how to build a strong web presence and the terminology used in the process.

Hosting/Domain

Every website consists of a bunch of files. These files describe the layout, look and feel, functionality, and more of your website. These files have to be accessible to users on the Internet, so the files must be hosted on a server somewhere that enables this function. Hosting the files that drive your website is a key component of your web presence, and it’s an important point of discussion, since not all hosting is created equal. When evaluating hosting options, keep in mind the skill of those in charge of your hosting, whether there is an uptime guarantee or not, how/when security fixes get applied and who is responsible, the customer support quality and, of course, the cost of the service.

Another key part of your web presence is your domain name. The domain name describes the address which users will use to access the files stored on your hosting server. It is your “www.whatever.com.” It’s also an important factor in your search engine optimization, which we’ll discuss later. There are associated costs with domain names, since you are reserving the rights to that domain name for your own use. The business through which you will register your domain name is known as a “domain registrar.” Domain registrars all offer pretty much the same service, so it’s really just a matter of finding the best price.

Content Management System (CMS)

All of our clients have inquired about the ability to update content on their website at their own discretion, on the fly, without additional help or costs. The software behind a website that powers this sort of functionality is known as a Content Management System. There are many options when it comes to choosing a CMS, but a quick Google search on the topic will give you the stats you need to know to decide which CMS deserves your trust.

Web Design vs. Web Development

Web design and web development are often used interchangeably in conversation. However, in reality, they refer to two different processes within the grander process of building a website. Web design refers to the process of visually designing the look and feel of a website, while web development is taking that design and building it. Not all design is equal, so don’t be fooled by whatever title is on a business card. Browsing and comparing portfolios is your best bet for finding a great web designer.

Mobile-site vs. Mobile App vs. Responsive Design

When Internet-enabled mobile devices first came into existence, websites had to have entirely separate pages to support mobile browsing. This eventually changed as smartphones and mobile apps grew in popularity.  However, a business still had to have a completely separate codebase developed to create the mobile app, which was cost prohibitive for many. More recently, we’ve hit the age of “responsive” design, where the website being viewed responds to the device it is being viewed on and readjusts itself for an optimum viewing experience. This really broke the cost barrier and opened the doors for many small businesses to have a mobile optimized website (which affects search engine ranking on mobile searches) without astronomical costs.

Accessibility

The Ontario government has published their plans for a fully accessible Ontario by 2025. This includes all public, private, and not-for-profit companies and their websites. The website accessibility guidelines set out by the government are detailed in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Within these guidelines, there are three different levels of accessibility ranked ‘A’ through ‘AAA,’ with ‘AAA’ being the highest degree of accessibility. Included in the WCAG 2.0 are guidelines for ensuring proper content structure, sufficient contrast, captions for multimedia objects, keyboard-enabled browsing, sufficient time to complete website tasks, optimization for screen readers, avoidance of blinking lights, sufficient form validation and feedback, and more.

Our mantra while building web presences for our clients is “remove barriers, build trust.” This refers to the relationship between our clients and their customers. We believe very strongly in the importance of removing barriers to avoid alienating any potential customers. Although responsive design is trendy at the moment, we encourage our clients (and all other businesses) to seriously consider early adoption of the WCAG 2.0 as a gesture of inclusion and acceptance for their customers who have accessibility requirements.

Conversion strategy

As business owners, you’ve probably all heard the word “conversion.” In terms of website design, when we speak of a conversion strategy, we are speaking about how we’re going to get a user to do what we want them to do on your website. This can be anything from getting a user to sign-up for your mailing list to making a purchase decision on the spot. There are some key strategies for improving conversion. Working with a web developer who knows these strategies and knows how/when to use them will be a significant advantage for your business, as it greatly increases the return on investment (ROI) for all of your other marketing efforts.

Validation

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sets out coding standards to enable a universal understanding of written code between web developers and web browsers. Ensuring that the code written to produce your website meets these standards greatly increases the likelihood that all browsers will be able to view your website as it was intended to be viewed. Code validation can also affect your website ranking by search engines and thus is another component of your search engine optimization strategy.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Many people think about where their page will rank in search results as the only significant piece of search engine optimization. However, equally important is how your page will display in search engine results. With Google’s new Structured Data Markup (SDM), we can control how results will appear for a specific result type within Google. Some of these result types include articles, reviews, events, products, businesses, and restaurants. Having a website optimized using Google’s SDM will create eye-grabbing search results, which will maximize the number of users who land on your page from Google searches.

As for your website rank, as we’ve seen, just about everything involved in good website design and development affects your search result rank. There are some other important aspects of ranking in search engine results, including the quality and freshness of your content, the optimization of your content to be returned for specific searches, the amount of links linking back to your content (backlinks), etc. Since the release of their Penguin search algorithm, one very important key to ranking with Google is to avoid black-hat SEO techniques and simply focus on the quality of both your website and your content. As marketers say all the time, “content is king.”

Analytics/Metrics

As a web marketing agency, we never build a website without giving our clients a way to track usage/performance stats. What good is any marketing effort without a way to measure its effectiveness and adjust it as needed to maximize your results? It would be about as useful as fishing without a line in the water. The industry standard tool for measuring website analytics/metrics is Google Analytics. Through Google Analytics, webmasters (those who are in charge of administrating a website) can see how many people landed on their page, which page, from which source, from which geographic region, using what search terms, and more. This information provides imperative insight to ensure we optimize our site to the people who want to find it.

We hope you have found this article informative, and we would be happy to answer any further questions you might have via phone or e-mail. It’s very important to us that our business community become empowered with the knowledge required to make informed purchasing decisions when it comes to their web presence.

3 Keys to Web Marketing Success in 2015

With 2014 in the books, many business owners have their eyes set on the New Year. Many will resolve to make business changes that will lead to their “best year yet.” Sadly, a resolution is only as good the longevity of the commitment made toward its achievement. Regardless of how hard you may work toward that resolution, it may be a waste of effort unless that resolution involves one very important key to growing your business.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s begin with some simple statistics: 78% of potential customers will research your product or service online before making a decision whether to do business with you (85% if you’re in business-to-business sales). That’s a staggering amount of your business potential controlled completely by one gate. In today’s business environment, it is absolutely essential to have a strong web presence that maximizes its own potential through a strong web marketing strategy. This document will describe the three most important keys to maximizing your business success through a powerful web presence.

1 | A Functional and Beautiful Website is Key!

The keystone to your online marketing mix is your website. Some might question the effectiveness of a website when it’s quite simple to create a Facebook page, Twitter page, or Google business page. When used strategically, these are all important components of a strong web presence, but ultimately they benefit Facebook, Twitter, or Google. They all lack the freedom and flexibility necessary to create a true representation of your business’ brand that will build trust with your customers.

Paramount to a good website is its visual design. Studies indicate that 94% of website users either trust or mistrust a company based solely on the visual appearance of their website1 and a further 67% of users stated that they are unlikely to engage in a transaction with a company whose website has not been optimized for mobile devices2.

Web page load time and the number of clicks required by users to find the information they desire are key factors in website conversion rates, both of which will effectively drive away users if care has not been taken to mitigate potential issues.

So what do we gather from this? We live in a world where mobile web browsing is equally as important as desktop optimized browsing and where visual design, page speed, and information organization are pivotal to your business’ success.

2 | Drive Traffic

Let’s assume for a second that you have a fantastic website with powerful conversion strategy, beautiful design, mobile browsing optimization, page speed, and search engine indexing. How do you maximize your return on investment (ROI) for your website by utilizing it as a pivotal piece of your business’ overall marketing mix? Put simply: you maximize the number of qualified leads who land on your website.

Your existing marketing efforts are a great start! With your new website, you’ve gotten a lot closer to maximizing the ROI on your existing campaigns. It won’t take long before your marketing metrics reflect the impact of your new website, and you will feel confident that your advertising dollars are paying off. Hopefully this confidence will help you pursue advertising more boldly and lead you to explore new channels. There are many online advertising channels that offer powerful demographic targeting to ensure your message is put in front of the right people to further maximize your advertising dollars.

An important channel that is too often disregarded as “too much work” or “too difficult” is to use social media to drive traffic. Your customers want to trust you and your business. What better way to build trust than to engage those potential customers with valuable content, discounts, and conversation. There is certainly a commitment required to maximize your social media effectiveness. Knowing and utilizing social media marketing strategies, developing and syndicating useful content, and continually refining those strategies by utilizing metrics is a great start.

3 | Use Metrics

We’ve mentioned metrics a number of times now and that is an indication of their importance. As many business people know, data is a superpower when wielded correctly. Measuring our successes/failures with key performance indicators (KPIs) and utilizing our data to empower our future efforts is how we succeed. Effective online marketing can be achieved only through tracking and monitoring key data points and continually improving where possible. Gathering useful data, determining the most important key data points, and deciding how to act upon that data are the factors that will enable your business to achieve online marketing success.

That might sound like a lot of work that you simply don’t have time for. Thankfully, that’s where a good digital marketing agency comes in – an agency that has a strong grasp on marketing concepts, keeps current with the trends, and possesses the technical know-how, creativity, and skills to achieve marketing success for your business. They bring a relentless commitment to your success and achieve it with caring and friendly practices that make you feel as if they are a natural and integral part of your team. They work with you to create a roadmap that is budget-wise and evolves to ensure your marketing efforts pay for themselves. They enable you to access your customers.


1 Corritore, Cynthia L.; Marble, Robert P.; Wiedenbeck, Susan; Kracher, Beverly; and Chandran, Ashwin, “Measuring Online Trust of Websites: Credibility, Perceived Ease of Use, and Risk” (2005). AMCIS 2005 Proceedings. Paper 370.

http://aisel.aisnet.org/amcis2005/370

2 “What You Need to Know About Mobile Internet Users and Their Shopping Behavior.” ConversionXL. N.p., 30 May 2012. Web. 05 Jan. 2015.