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Monday, Nov 28th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
It's The Most Digital Time of the Year

We're making a list of E-Commerce Holiday Do's and Don'ts and checking it twice. Today marks the official online kick off of holiday shopping season with Cyber Monday, the web equivalent of Black Friday. This year more than ever, customers are avoiding the chaos of shopping in store and opting instead to hunt down bargains from the comfort of their couches. This holiday season, digital sales are expected to increase by a whopping 25%, leaving your brand with one crucial question: is your website ready? Tis the season....to prep your e-commerce site for the holidays.

DO: Be on the lookout for 2016 Marv & Harry's
The characters behind holiday hijinks now operate in a new realm: online. Cyber security needs to be a top priority for any website, but most importantly ones dealing with private consumer data like banking and credit card information.

DO: Complete a security audit.
One customer with a bad experience could destroy you with online reviews. Doing a security audit early on in the holiday shopping season ensures all transactions and access points are secured, and can prevent your customers having an experience that sends them running to Yelp.

DO: Reassure nervous shoppers.
Have yourself a merry little purchase. Include a trust seal for customers so that they can feel confident their online purchases are secure.

DO: Embrace the holidays.
The holidays overflowing with eggnog and themes (as if you couldn't tell from this blog post), and the perfect opportunity for marketers to get creative. Top retailers take advantage with specialty landing pages promoting holiday offers and products, and capitalizing on these easy themes.

DO: Include customer reviews.
The little drummer boy wants to purchase new drum sticks, and heads to two websites to compare products. One website has ample reviews, speaking to the quality of the drumsticks and providing a four-star rating. The other has no testimonials and he has no indication of the quality of said drum sticks. Which ones do you think the little drummer boy is going to purchase?

DON'T: Skimp on descriptions.
Do you hear what I hear? Customers might not understand how a product is described, so make sure there are enough pictures and information included included in every product listed. Providing accurate, informative, extensive information about products is crucial to making online sales.

DON'T: Lose customers at checkout.
I'll be home for Christmas and so will your presents. Many companies lose customers on the checkout page because of lengthy shipping times or high costs. Companies can benefit from charging lower costs for shipping or building that cost into the product. Don't pay the price of losing customers because you didn't want to pay the price of shipping.

DON'T: Forget to take into consideration the type of product your buyers are looking at. According to studies done by the Nielsen Group, shoppers looking at thumbnails of bookcases were studied carefully, while thumbnails of flat-panel TV's were pretty much ignored. The use for the product is different. One was studied for the look and feel, while the other was purely studied for function and the usefulness could be conveyed through text.

DON'T: Forget to provide a clear value proposition on your website.
Shoppers visit countless websites when shopping for holiday gifts. The items that stand out are ones that showcase their value! What can this product do for me? I don't want to purchase speakers, I want to be rocking around the Christmas Tree. I don't want wireless noise canceling headphones, I want a silent night. The crucial elements of a good value proposition are: clear, simple language that showcases the promise of value with a product. Shoppers need to understand the features, advantages, and benefits of the item!

Wednesday, Nov 16th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
5 Design Disasters & How To Avoid Them

Designers do not get enough credit for their work. It takes research, restraint, and ultimately a good eye. Any average person may look at a website and think, "Hey, I can do that!" Setting to work building your website from a source bursting with templates and options, you end up falling prey to the many pitfalls of poor web design. You don't need to use every plugin option. Trendy isn't always the best answer. And simple elements may get overlooked without planning. Below, we take a closer look at the problems that many DIY web designers encounter and how you can fix them.

Too Many Bells & Whistles
The Problem: You want your users to know what your site offers, what they can find there, create value, direct where to go next, build SEO into your content, reinforce your Adwords, and tell a story about your brand. You want to have it all! Well, you can't. Not on your homepage at least.
The Solution: Less really is more when it comes to your homepage. Slow your roll, and just include the intuitive elements that will lead visitors to the next, more informative sections. Don't get me wrong, its important to do all of these things on your website. But for the homepage, you only have a few lines of text and a simple graphic to do so. Throw the kitchen sink at the visitor and they won't know where to look, rendering all that "useful information" useless.

Not Enough Bells & Whistles
The Problem: In your scramble to spin up a website, you forgot to include some key elements to make your users experience better. No search bar, no call to actions, and an unorganized content layout create a poor experience for visitors.
The Solution: A search bar should be easily found on your web pages. It saves visitors time and simplifies navigation. Keep your pages simple enough to quickly scan, with a clear hierarchy to guide your eyes through the page. Using call to action buttons to direct visitors to the next sections are invaluable. Planning this before starting to design is a key to success.

Endless Scrolling
The Problem: You designed a stunning website...on desktop. You completely forgot that that paragraph of text will extend to the length of two IPhones when viewed on mobile. Who is going to read all that?
The Solution: To create an effective responsive design, or web design that has been optimized for mobile, ensure that the horizontal grids created on your web page can collapse into vertical lists when a user is operating on a mobile device. Grouping or reorganizing content can help prevent the endless scroll that results from poor designs.

Hiding Contact Info
The Problem: Failing to put a phone number, address, email, or contact information in several, easy to find locations. You put all that time and energy into trying to direct users to your website, and then once they got there, you never included how they can actually reach your business!
The Solution: Your business should be everybody's business. Providing multiple ways that users can contact you caters to their specific preferences. Make sure that this information is on every page.

Being Antisocial
The Problem: Forgetting to link your social network sites. This is a HUGE bugaboo for me. I once received an email blast from a company with no Instagram link at the bottom. Curious as to why such an established company didn't have an Instagram page, I went searching for it. It was glorious. And I almost missed out on seeing it because of an oversight! (Yes, I did email them back and tell them it was missing. Marketing looking out for marketing).
The Solution: Many people, like myself, go searching for more than just the basic information listed on a website. We want the story and the background that makes a brand what it is. Forgetting to link your social media is a major fail.

Tuesday, Aug 30th, 2016

Jesse Nagelberg

Jn
A Few Words On Wordpress

In the role of a web developer who's worked on numerous projects involving Wordpress, and as someone whose friends and colleagues are seeking advice on the best web framework to choose, I often express the same opinion to them. I'm not a fan of WordPress. I believe that in several cases there are options that people overlook because WordPress is such a household name, and they assume that it's their only option.

I've been spending quite a bit of time lately wrestling around with WordPress. With an ever-growing competitive landscape in the web framework market, the options for your site are endless, making it difficult to choose the right one. As this isn't my first rodeo, I'm here to help guide you into making the right decision for you and your business.

I'm going to lay out the pros and cons of WordPress, my experience with it as a developer, and broadly cover some alternative services.

Everyone Has Heard of WordPress, But What Is It?

Built back in 2003, WordPress is currently the most popular framework with around 15,886,000 websites on the web and boasting an impressive 17 posts published every second on WordPress sites worldwide. WordPress.com gets more unique visitors than Amazon (126 million per month vs. 96 million per month) and WordPress.org powers some well known, highly trafficked sites such as CNN, Spotify, and TechCrunch.

It's important that I state that there is a big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, here's a great resource on explaining this further. Simply put, the .com is the fully hosted version of the framework where there is no coding required whatsoever and you can pick from a range of themes and customize the designs yourself, much like SquareSpace which I'll mention later. You pick a theme and they handle the technical aspects for you. The .org version is the self-hosted version where you can install custom themes and plugins to get a more customized and feature rich website. In this article I'm mainly going to be talking about my experience with the .org version.

Wordpress is a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to create, edit, and publish web content through their web interface. Out of the box, one would consider it a very useful product, offering inexhaustible numbers of themes, plugins, and options for integrations with 3rd party services such as MailChimp and contact forms. You would have everything you would need to build a basic website and the ability to create a far more advanced one if you so choose. These numerous features available to you are designed to take the whole development (i.e. coding) aspect out of your way by allowing you to create and edit content and utilize other tools on both the front end (visual aspect) and backend (data) portion of the site. An example of this could be dragging and dropping rows of text and images via tools like Visual Composer or creating, editing, and deleting blog posts that are created through your backend web interface.

Most importantly, WordPress has a huge developer community. In fact, it's an open source platform, meaning that the core code used to power the CMS is open to anybody to use and develop. Many developers can create their own themes and plugins to share and sell with the community making it an opportune choice for people to hop on the bandwagon and contribute.

This Sounds Great, But There's A Few Problems:

Despite its vast popularity and widespread use, someone simply uttering the word "WordPress" aloud stirs up several emotions and groans amongst developers and non-developers alike. WordPress is essentially the Regina George of CMS's in that it's really popular as the statistics have proven, but relies heavily on the work of the open source community, so can you really trust her? Would you reference stats from Wikipedia in a PhD thesis? You probably wouldn't, so why develop your site on the same foundation with WordPress?

Due to the nature of having this large open source community, there is a serious saturation of themes and plugins, inevitably meaning some bad apples in the group that lack in quality. "At this point in time there are over 44,000+ WordPress plugins which are downloaded more than 1.2 billion times." With these kinds of numbers it's unrealistic to be able to police the creation and sale of said tools because of the size and scale of the community. What this means for users is that they really can't feel comfortable choosing the right tool for their site, and usually have to resort to purchasing a "premium" plugin which will end up costing them extra money. Decisions... decisions... decision fatigue.

In my own recent experience working on WordPress sites for clients, I came across several speed bumps that made my development experience unpleasant. This includes, but is not limited to: broken tools, intrusive workarounds to get small customizations to work, visual bugs, and web interface bugs. WordPress is highly customizable, but has a steep learning curve and doesn't play nice when you want to make customizations.

Ultimately I feel that WordPress would be cumbersome for those that want to launch a new business quickly and without any setbacks, but may be appropriate for those with more time on their hands and who really want to gain a better understanding of CMS's and coding in general.

What About The Competition?

SquareSpace, Shopify, Weebly, Wix, Drupal, Joomla. No, I'm not just making noises with my mouth, these are some alternative services and web frameworks to WordPress.

These alternative services are similar to WordPress in a few ways, namely offering out of the box solutions for generating quick websites with a front end template and a database. These services don't require any development experience and are also customizable through their web interfaces. Take SquareSpace for example, with the main difference lying in the fact that where WordPress is an open source community, SquareSpace is not, meaning that their in-house development team produces all of it's tools specifically for it's users. SquareSpace would be a direct competitor of the .com version of WordPress.

These services both new and old are gaining traction, especially amongst millennials that want cool looking sites with minimal time and assistance required in building. In my next post I'll be talking more in depth about SquareSpace and my thoughts and experience using it.

Is A WordPress Site Right For Me?

The .com version would be the better choice if you're looking for something quick and easy that you can start building right away. I think there are so many other great services nowadays that it can't hurt to try a different one if you're looking to build a more advanced, customized site.

Thanks for reading and be sure to look for my next post taking a closer look at the pros and cons of SquareSpace.

Wednesday, Jun 15th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
Time For A Redesign? The Importance of Updating Your Website

First Impressions: Make or Break
A website has between 2-4 seconds to engage with a new visitor before they navigate away from the page. 2-4 seconds for a user to determine: Is this site professional? Does it have useful information? Does it meet my needs? While the benefits of a well designed website are clear, (making your business accessible to anyone, reflecting your organization's brand, and serving as the best and most effective advertising), operating with a website that hasn't been updated recently could be driving away users and potential customers. Changes to the web occur at such a rapid rate that even a website that was created a few years back could be in need of some serious updates. If a user doesn't feel your website is interactive, functional, and informative, they won't hesitate to hop over to your competitor's page. So how can you design a website that meets the users needs and prevents those defectors?

What is "Good Design"?
There's an episode of Modern Family where Cam reorganizes his mother in law Gloria's kitchen "so it makes sense." While in the midst of cooking, Gloria asks Cam where the cutting board is, to which Cam responds, "where would you want it to be." This is the simplest description of an effective UI/UX design. Elements unfold in a simple, intuitive manner with one step leading the way naturally to the next in order to get to the desired end result. In the case of Modern Family, the cutting board goes to the left of the knives. In the case of UI/UX design, it means that a BUY NOW button shouldn't smack a user in the face if the price of the product is buried at the bottom of the page. Designs aren't about good screens, they're about good experiences for users. Modern interface focuses on the needs of the user, with trends being dictated from necessity.

UX design, or user experience design, considers how the product feels and whether there is a logical flow from step to step. When you first open the page, do you know what to do next? A good user experience requires logical steps within the application, like simple input methods, navigations, and menus. UI design, or user interface design, primarily focuses on how the product is laid out. A good UI includes things like designs that are consistent throughout the application. These components have to work together to provide an instinctive path for users to find the info they're seeking when navigating through your website.

How Do I look?
A website is often the customers first impression of your business, so it makes sense that this is where your business should look it's best. While users won't typically acknowledge a well designed website, they will always recognize a poorly designed website. In 2015, users spent an average of 2.8 hours a day on their phones. Even if your company has the most stunning website design for desktop, if your site is not optimized for mobile, you could be bleeding users. Your site needs to be optimized for a variety of different screen sizes, so that this smooth user experience can function just as logically on both mobile and web. Think of clutter on your website as the enemy of logical design. When you are designing your website to fit in the palm of your hand, having unnecessary text and useless elements is a big no no. While what constitutes good design is often up to interpretation, a few telltale signs can indicate that your website is in need of a makeover. Your website may be out of date if: It includes glossy or multicolored buttons, if white text dominates a black screen, or if an aggressive musical feature pops up as soon as a user navigate to the site (yikes). Beyond the aesthetic aspects, a few hints can indicate that your users think your website is out of date, like a high bounce rate. A bounce rate looks at the percentage of peeps who pop onto your website and just as quickly pop off, without navigating to a second page or clicking on anything. No clicks indicate that they couldn't find the information they were looking for. This could possibly be because they clicked onto your website by accident, but more likely indicates that your websites functionality is clunky, poorly structured, or filled with unnecessary features. We can glean from this click rate that the way your website communicates information is not clear and effective. Some simple changes can be made to update your website, such as including copy that is simple, on target, and effective. Some other changes require a more comprehensive update, such as making sure your website interacts with mapping and location technologies (especially important for brick and mortar businesses).

Do I really need to spend the money?
On the fence about updating your website? The cost can sometimes seem daunting, but the cost of not updating could even more detrimental to your business. When considering whether to pull the trigger on a new site design, we put together a little checklist for analysis. If you answered NO to 5 or more questions, seek immediate technical attention!


  1. Do the images on your website reflect your businesses overall message?

  2. Is your website responsive and mobile friendly?

  3. Does your site interact well with mapping and location technologies?

  4. Is your site quick, nimble, and easy to navigate?

  5. Is your website focused, providing users with easily accessible information?

  6. Does your website reinforce your businesses overall branding?

  7. If your user experience designed around the flow of a person?

  8. Is your website organized with some hierarchy to help highlight common choices?

  9. Is your websites design easy to digest, with clear, easy to read copy and no explanations needed?

  10. If your content fresh, up to date, and modern?