About The Blog

Ross Johnson co-founder of 3.7 Web Designs, looks at things YOU should know about web design and the internet before starting your web project. Designed around providing information to companies who want a webpage but know little about it.

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Web Design oriented towards your visitors...

4/18/2006

Create a web page tailored to your visitors

All websites are designed towards your visitors, but how many sites are actually designed towards the visitors specific? Very few...

This might not make much sense at face value, why wouldn't you create a web page that is tailored to your visitors? The question is not why wouldn't you, but why aren't you?

If you study the statistics, you can be set free...

The truth of the matter is that most web pages are designed towards what the owner wants, not the user. They focus too much attention on the appearance, or nit pick the details, but fail completely to consider what would cater enough to the visitors.

That is not to say that the design or details are not important, only that at the root of every decision you should ask "Is this what would be best for a visitor of my site?".

Let's start by looking at the appearance

Most designers focus a lot on appearance. In some instances, having a very appealing design is important. Those in the industry of creating design/art, for example. However, people do not visit websites because they look pretty. They visit websites because the site offers services, information, or content that is valuable to them. Because of this, that should be your main focus not the design.

If not the design, what about the copy?

This is where it gets tricky. I already said that the design is not important, the content is. This is true, however most users do not read all of the content on a web page, they simply scan.

So now the design isn't important, and neither is the copy?

Yes and no. The copy is more important than the design, but highlighting and bringing focus to the key information is more important than both. That is why it is very important to take advantage of headings, italics, bold, and color changes to shift focus to the key phrases that you want people to read.

Make your site easy!

Think about the average user of your site, and figure out what they would want to get out of visiting the web page. Then make those elements as easy to get to as possible. This often includes office hours and contact information/forms on every page, a sitemap with detailed information on every page, the first element on a menu is the focus of the site, unburied and featured content, etc...

If you tailor your site to your visitors, it will be a success!

Remember, every decision for your site should be tailored to your target market, and towards how your target market uses the internet. People want information fast and easy on the internet, and any time delay will often turn people away and towards your competitors.

posted by Ross Johnson at 12:11 AM | 0 comments



Using email to market creatively

4/10/2006

The average employee corresponds to other companies via e-mail over ten times a day

Ten times a day is a rather frequently, especially when you look at it over the span of the whole company. Even a small company with 5 people, you are sending out fifty e-mails a day. Now consider turning your email into a subtle marketing campaign. That is fifty potential advertisements a day, possibly more. Even if you are responding back and forth with the same people, each time they see the advertisement they are more likely to be interested. Think about how many times you see the same commercial on TV before you buy a product/service/etc.

So now the question is what can you do to turn your email into a marketing campaign.

The best way to go about it is to be as subtle as possible. People are very sensitive to spam now days, and if you make an e-mail full of images and HTML they are likely to be turned off quickly. My best recommendation is to use your signature, insert links to pages of your site where you have affiliate links, services, products, etc for sale. That way every time they read your e-mail they are likely to see them. However - this is not a new idea, and you may already be doing this. There is a twist, and that is how you are labeling your links and additional text that you can put with it. Instead of just putting "Joes Plumbing" and linking it to your website, think of some aspect of your website that would interest people into going. Change the link to "Why pay a plumber to do a five minute job?" and link to your page where you have some basic how-to's. Further, you can add additional text to help increase the interest of every person who reads your e-mail. Every week put a different quote in the signature below your link, taken from an interesting part of your website. For example -

Why pay a plumber to do a five minute job? <--- Link to the site "Most drain clogs are simply the result of food backup in the drain, with the right house hold tools you can dislodge the backup..."
I try and avoid images in my signature, simply because a lot of email clients don't show them by default to avoid possible virii and scripts. The result is your e-mail looks bad, and the information you want to convey through the image is lost.

posted by Ross Johnson at 9:32 PM | 0 comments



What you should know BEFORE you start a web design project

4/06/2006

Many companies start their web project with contacting a web or graphic designer. This is far from the best way to go about it! You should start your project well before you go into the phase of actually getting it developed. There are THOUSANDS of websites out there in your field, if not MILLIONS, an unplanned website is not going to be successful.

Ultimately a website is a sales tool

Your website on some level or another is trying to convince people to do, buy, or think something.
  • Convince them of an ideal, or thought
  • Sell a service
  • A product
  • Convince them your site is worth visiting (Ads & Links)

And with this strategy...

"If you fail to plan... you plan to fail"

So how do you do make sure your website is a successful sales tool?

First and for-most you have to figure out what your website is selling After you figure out what your website is selling, you can begin thinking of how to market it. As I mentioned earlier, a web page that simply spews information about your company is going to be ho-hum unless you are in the most exciting of industries, in which case you probably don't need a website. Usually my first step is to decide if the site needs to be found by people searching on search engines. This seems odd, because almost all people want traffic from search engines... However not all sites have content people would search for. For example, the famous tuckermax.com, very few people are going to stumble upon the site searching for "Funny drunk stories" (or whatever would pull the site up). It is more word of mouth.

If you are going to focus on search engine traffic, start planning the following

  1. The #1 Key phrase that you want search engines to refer to your site
  2. Secondary keywords that are also important
  3. Start to write and massage your copy
  4. Start including the key phrase and words into the copy, with out it sounding wordy

After Search Engines... Decide what your webpage is going to offer

Think about all the webpages YOU go to. What do they offer? Again I doubt you would visit joesplumbing.com on a regular biases if it just described his hours and phone number. How-ever, if joesplumbing.com offered weekly tips on how to solve small plumbing problems... you might go there quite often. Some may think that this would actually hurt his business, but I disagree greatly. Those who are actively searching for free plumbing solutions will find it on someone's website, if not Joe's. Through posting these tips, he is already establishing himself as an expert. Further, if the plumbing tips don't solve the users problem, who will they most likely call? Who would they recommend to others? In most cases, that's right... Joe. So use your knowledge and skills, the more you help people and give them reason to visit your site, the more customers and traffic you will get.

posted by Ross Johnson at 2:20 PM | 0 comments



Start you Search Engine Optimization EARLY!

4/05/2006

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, you need to start NOW!

Through working with companies with Search Engine Optimization strategies, it has become apparent that the earlier you start your SEO the better. It can take months for your site to get listed on goggle, and even longer to start building a worthwhile page-rank.

Many companies promise listings with in days, top ranking sites with in weeks, and the number one ranking for life. What companies will soon realize as this industry grows, is that those are buzz words for SEO con artists. They want you to pay them, and they claim they will get these results, but the truth is that NO ONE CAN GET THOSE RESULTS!

You can't buy your way to the top, it takes time and effort. There are plenty of strategies and techniques to increase your pagerankings, and that is why it is important to employee a SEO company. However - if it were that easy to get the number one position, everyone would have it.

So because you can't just buy your way to the top, or quick results, you have to start early. If you have a lunch date for a website, you should start at least a month before on your search engine strategy. This is especially important for sites that have sales time in mind, such as Real Estate Developments, Online Shops, etc

This seems impossible to do! How do you start optimizing before you have a webpage!?

It actually is quite basic and simple. Create a very simple front page, with the sole purpose to act as a press release. Fill it with a few paragraphs of optimized copy, and give it a title that also is keyword rich. Chances are no one is going to stumble upon it, as it is not going to be showing up in search engines at this point anyways. This way the search engine will already start indexing your site for some keywords.

From there, you can start submitting articles, gathering back-links, etc to point to that page. People who do go there will read about what is to come, and your PR starts to rise.

The end result is by the time your page is live, it is already searchable by engines. You don't have to wait three months before it does you any good.

posted by Ross Johnson at 11:21 AM | 0 comments



Things you should know about design mock-ups

4/04/2006

I received a call yesterday from clients of mine (technology consulting, not web design) asking a few questions about web design and appearance. They are in the process of getting their website redone, and while they were very excited about the design mock-up the actual HTML version of their site was not pleasing them.

This points out several potential problems with doing a mockup with out actually developing the HTML version. First off there are almost always going to be compromises that are to be made in some shape or form when going from a bitmap layout to an actual XHTML/CSS layout.

However, a design should not be developed that can not be replicated logistically on a webpage. This is why it is important that the person doing the actual graphic design has a good idea of how web pages work. It also is important that the person doing the coding has enough design sense that they don't butcher the appearance.

Now it sounds like ideal the person doing the design and the coding is the same person, that way all the limitations are known as well as the design elements. However this is not always logical for time reasons, and for skill reasons. A great coder might not be a great designer, and vice versa. My own company 3.7 Designs rarely has the same person doing everything on a project. However, we work closely enough together where there is no confusion.

Secondly - It points out the lack of knowledge about flash, by both web designers and users. In the design industry most people generally accept that a site all in flash is a big no-no, but some companies insist due to the animation and scripting that can be done.

However - in this case it is simply to make formatting the site easier. Something that should be able to be done easily with XHTML/CSS. This way you don't run into the accessibility, and search engine problems that plague flash. They are not taking advantage of 90% of the benefits of flash, and getting 100% of the downfalls of flash.

I would like to leave on this note, companies looking for a web developer. Remember making a website is not terribly easy, when you are doing it properly (CSS/XHTML/ETC). That is why it is important to make sure the company you are working with is not just different divisions - design and programming - because they go hand in hand, they need to work together.

posted by Ross Johnson at 8:26 AM | 0 comments



Updates, Easy Content Management

4/03/2006

I havn't updated much because I have been quite busy -

I often struggle with companies that are developing websites that are not doing a great job or are less prepaired for the job. Obviously I am going to be biased, but I really work towards making the best site possible for my clients. I spend most of my days working and learning, so that I am better prepaired to help my client.

However, I am working on several big projects lately. I just finished Hideaway Lanes, a condo/townhouse development in Ann Arbor. I will be working on Dwell Realty and Developement, an Ann Arbor Real Estate Company. Finally tomorrow I will be working on a website for Kingsley Lane Lofts, a loft living development for downtown in Ann Arbor.

In the meantime, I also wrote an article on easy content management design using server side includes.

posted by Ross Johnson at 4:27 PM | 1 comments