Posts Tagged ‘website redesign’

More Great Resources for Copyright-free Images

Monday, December 10th, 2012

I’m always on the lookout for excellent sources of free, public domain images to use on my blogs and for my clients’ websites and other electronic media.

One of my favorites is Compfight, which enables you to search hundreds of thousands of images available for use through Flickr Creative Commons. You can search by keyword and find a host of creative illustrations uploaded by talented photographers, amateur and professional, from around the globe.

It’s important to always include credits to the photographers as specified in their Creative Commons license. My preferred method is to paste all the information about the image and usage license into the image’s ALT tag—so that I can be comprehensive without cluttering up the page. Others choose to put a credit in small print at the bottom of the post.

Just recently, I discovered another great site, The Public Domain Review. A non-profit project of the Open Knowledge Foundation, PDR is “dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available online.” Archives include films, audio, images and texts, with a bias toward items that are unique, curious or whimsical. Again, be sure to include appropriate credits and read the fine print about usage before posting.

Here you can find a 1918 film of Tarzan of the Apes19th Century samples of Chinese ornament, a copy of The Practical Magician’s and Ventriloquist’s Guide (1867) and onboard recordings from Apollo 11, to name just a few treasures.

Plenty of material to illustrate your online works, and much to mine for ideas.

Of course, there are also many government resources for public domain images. You’ll find a few places to start in this post I wrote back in July 2011, Your Tax Dollars at Work: 5 Great Government Resources for Free Images.

Happy hunting!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Extreme Web Makeover IV: Music & Memory

Monday, November 26th, 2012

If you have any experience with a loved one who struggles with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, you know the great challenges and sense of loss for all involved. But what if there were a medication-free way to help your loved one reawaken to the world?

It turns out there’s a simple and elegant solution: personalized music playlists. Hearing personal favorites on a device like an iPod can tap deep emotional memories and enable many of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other cognitive challenges reconnect socially and feel more energized and upbeat.

I’ve learned all about this amazing process from Music & Memory, a non-profit based in metro New York that trains nursing home professionals how to set up and manage a comprehensive personalized music program for those in their care. For the past three months, I’ve been helping their great team revamp their website and create a professional, easy-to-navigate user interface designed to boost donations and subscriptions to their webinar training series. The new site went live on November 19.

Capitalizing on a Viral Video

Music & Memory’s challenge was an enviable dilemma: Last April, a video clip from a documentary about their work went viral. The clip told the story of Henry, a 94-year-old with dementia, who is non-communicative and doesn’t recognize his daughter. But as soon as he listens to his Cab Calloway favorites on his iPod, he awakens to his surroundings and can express himself quite effectively.

Nearly 7 million people have viewed the video, which has aroused tremendous interest in Music & Memory’s great work. The non-profit has sought and enjoyed extensive media coverage from major news outlets, including the New York Times, NPR and CNN, among others.

Converting from an Organically Grown Website to Strategic Web Content and User-Friendly Design

But Music & Memory’s website was a jumble of information and calls-to-action that did not effectively represent or explain the quality of their program. The site had grown organically, using a free template. Content was written from the organization’s point of view, rather than the user’s. Benefits were not clearly articulated. Navigation was cluttered and confusing. In addition, Music & Memory was in the process of switching over to Salesforce, a sophisticated contact management system that required a better web platform.

Working with the Music & Memory team and web developer Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I took these steps to upgrade the site:

  • Defined key target audiences and established a hierarchy of calls-to-action, with donations and enrollments in M&M’s webinar training series at the top of the list.
  • Researched keywords that would boost search; salted these keywords throughout the site, in text, title tags, tabs, headlines and subheads, urls, ALT tags, search result descriptions and keyword tags.
  • Revised and wrote new content for the entire site, creating a conversational, unified tone throughout.
  • Reorganized content into a logical site navigation.
  • Selected the StudioPress Streamline theme template as the starting point for the new design; this template includes options for a hierarchy of multiple calls-to-action, essential for the site.
  • Selected images from Music & Memory’s documentary stills for the featured image within each main section of the site.
  • Laid out all page content within the template, unifying styles.
  • Integrated testimonial quotes throughout the site, including a rotating sidebar widget, a main Testimonials page and forms.
  • Using the Premise plug-in, wrote and designed a vertical sales page for the webinar series to expand the inquiry pool for this important revenue stream.
  • Wrote three Resource Guides—how to run an iPod donation drive, a guide for elder care professionals who wish to bring Music & Memory to their facility, and a guide to creating a personalized playlist for a loved one at home—that serve as free lead-generation downloads.
  • Served as project manager of the site build, in coordination with Ed Booth and Music & Memory staff. Oversaw completion of all details for the site visitor interface.

Ed built the site and added in many modifications to the template, enabling Music & Memory to fully realize their vision. Working closely with M&M tech pro Melody Ward, he integrated all forms with Salesforce. As always, he worked his magic on every technical challenge and request for greater functionality that we threw at him. He also patiently fixed whatever broke or jammed, all the inevitable problems that arise in a complex site build and launch.

Promoting the New and Improved Website

Whenever a site goes live, it’s always a thrill to see it in action. We coordinated the site launch with a year-end appeal letter that is scheduled to arrive in people’s homes today, November 26. Next steps for Music & Memory include an emailed site launch announcement tied to the annual appeal and a targeted email campaign to drive elder care professionals to the webinar training landing page. We’ll be following Google Analytics results to see how the site performs and making any needed modifications in the weeks and months to come.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to help such a great organization strengthen their ability to attract more donors and reach many more people who can benefit from this affordable, uplifting form of personal care.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Why Bother with a Website If You Have Good Word-of-Mouth?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I know a small business owner, a specialist in computer repair and Internet security, who doesn’t have a website. Ironic, he admits, to be in the business of helping others have safe and effective communication online while lacking an on-line presence. But he does great work and has an excellent network of person-to-person referrals, and he’s been very busy.

The problem is this: Last year, someone across the globe pushed a scam over the Internet using the name of his company. If a potential customer looks up his business online, the first thing they find is the thread of warnings about the scam. You have to know him and type in his name to get to the real information about his business on his LinkedIn profile. Last time we spoke, he was planning to create his own website, but I have yet to see one.

Maintain Control of Your Message

Now, just because you don’t have a website for your business doesn’t mean you’ll end up with this kind of dilemma about your good name. But the point is, just about everyone checks you out online these days before they try to contact you to do business. And you want to be sure to have the upper hand in controlling what they read about you when they do.

According to Google, 97 percent of consumers go online to find local businesses. So if you’re relying on word-of-mouth for your business, like my friend, chances are you have a clientele that is primarily local and possibly regional. If people hear about you from trusted sources, they may call, but they probably will look you up, too. If they don’t find you online, this is what can happen:

  • They won’t fully understand your work and the range of options you offer for helping them solve the problem that’s brought them to you in the first place.
  • They may make assumptions about your qualifications that aren’t true.
  • They may make assumptions about your pricing that aren’t true.
  • They may wonder if you take your work seriously.

At the least, answering any of these questions or doubts can cost you time, having to explain yourself and your work in detail whenever you get an inquiry. At most, your lack of a web presence can cost you more business.

Expand Your Referral Network

While it’s wonderful to have a strong word-of-mouth network, you expand your odds of getting more business through your website. As any solopreneur soon learns, there are unpredictable cycles of feast or famine. If you’re just relying on a local personal network for business, you can find yourself without work at the most inopportune moment. Building a strong referral network online begins with a solid web presence that is your main reference point.

Clarify What You Do and Why

One of the great benefits of creating a website for your business is that it forces you to clarify for yourself what you do, the value of your work and why you do it. You may already have good answers for all of the above, but until you sit down to put it into words, you won’t realize what you’re missing from your pitch and how you could make it better.

Simply put, even if you have a strong personal referral network, a professional website that presents you and your great work in a way that resonates with those you hope to reach is well worth the time and investment to ensure you that you’ll continue to have all the business you need.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

What Goes Where on Your Home Page?

Monday, October 15th, 2012

There’s a lot of important information to include on your home page: your brand, site navigation, search, email sign-ups, main content, links to social media, your blog roll if you have one, testimonials and other social proof of the quality of your work. The list can go on and on.

So, how do you know what goes where?

A good place to start is with a proven template. I’m a big fan of StudioPress, if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a custom design. These templates include the underlying Genesis framework, which takes WordPress one step better and protects your site from hacking—a liability of WordPress open-source code. With the help of a good web developer, you can customize the templates to your own taste. But the basic structure provides a sound foundation.

Whether you choose an existing template or work with a designer, here are six key points to keep in mind for home page design:

  1. Place your brand in the upper left corner, unless you have a good reason to do otherwise. Users tend to look at the center of the page first, then the upper left corner. Web usability studies that measure eye tracking show we spend a fraction of a second glancing at the middle of the page, then move to the upper left. This has a lot to do with what we’re accustomed to finding: a logo in the upper left that identifies the site. There are other viable options for logo placement, as long as your brand is easy to spot at the top. Some web designs are now using full banner headings, like a newspaper. On my own site, my logo stands out from a clear field of white across the top of the page.
  2. Put the most important information at the top. Users look for a hierarchy of information, going from top to bottom. This just makes sense. When a page loads, you see the section “above the fold” first—the top chunk of the webpage, just like the top half of a folded newspaper. So decide what’s most important and be sure that’s at the top of your homepage. Use consistent styling of headlines and subheads to help users determine priorities.
  3. Place navigation in a horizontal bar across the top of the page. In the past, many websites vertically stacked the nav bar in the left-hand margin, but this set-up is not as flexible as a horizontal navigation with drop-down tabs. Whatever you do, never use vertical navigation with sub-navigation that shoots sideways across the web page. It’s clunky, blocks important content and is just plain confusing.
  4. Explain what your site is all about, front and center. When visitors come to your site, they want to know, within a few seconds, what it’s about, whether it’s what they’re looking for and what’s in it for them. Don’t make them search for this information. Key messaging, with informative, skim-friendly headlines and subheads, should make up the bulk of your homepage above the fold.
  5. Use compelling graphics, but don’t overuse them so they compete for attention. Just as you establish a hierarchy of text with headings and subheads, do the same with images. Your most important graphic should be the largest. Other supporting pictures or icons should have some uniformity of size and placement so the user intuitively understands their relationship to the text and relative importance.
  6. Place supporting content and links in a side column or in multiple columns below the fold. How you do this depends on the template you’re using. Again, however, think in terms of priorities. What do you want the user to see first? second? third? That’s the order of placement. If everything you want to include seems equally important, take a step back and rethink your priorities. Who is your ideal client and what’s most important to her? For example, do your latest blog posts establish your expertise, or would your visitor rather see testimonials from clients about your work? Put yourself in her shoes to determine your hierarchy on the page.

For more about good home page design, check out these links:

6 Design Tips That Will Have Your Audience Licking Their Screens—Copyblogger

Design 101| 7 typographic Resources, and 1 Type Joke—Big Brand System

F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content—Jakob Nielson’s Alertbox

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Ten Best Reasons to Upgrade Your Website . . . and the Worst One

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Here it is, almost 2012, and you’re really sick and tired of your old website. You’ve had the same site since you started your business, and you’ve read that websites should be redesigned every two to three years to stay current. Your site is only a few years old, but you can’t stand the layout and the navigation and the language and . . .

There are a lot of good reasons to upgrade your website, and one really bad one to watch out for.

Here are the good reasons:

  1. Your content is dated, inaccurate or doesn’t really address the needs of your ideal client.
  2. Writing is dense and stilted, grammatically garbled or lacks a conversational tone. Text needs to be reworked for easy skimming.
  3. Your site design looks amateur and doesn’t properly reflect your professionalism or convey your authority.
  4. Your site has grown organically, navigation is clunky and your visitor gets stuck in dead-end loops.
  5. Your homepage is so crowded and confusing that your visitor doesn’t know where to look first, misses your call-to-action and clicks away in seconds.
  6. You don’t have a call-to-action.
  7. Your site content and code are not optimized for search.
  8. You’re using Flash, so your fancy image rotation comes up as a big blank at the top of your homepage on iPads and iPhones.
  9. Your site doesn’t show up well on mobile devices.
  10. You’re paying a fortune for custom content upgrades when you could be managing the site yourself through a contact management system (CMS).

And here’s the really bad one:

You’re bored with your site.

It’s the classic stumbling block, especially at a time when Internet media evolve so rapidly and you want to look up-to-date. But if your site is actually working well for you, if the answer to all of the above is “no,” if your ideal clients are comfortable using your site to get the information, products or services that they need—then save your time and money, and stick with what you’ve got.

Of course, you can always tweak content, find some fresh images, refine your current site design to improve your visitors’ experience and sharpen search optimization.

But the basic rule to follow with a business website, which is an investment when done properly:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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