Entries with tag web design .

5 Elements of a Successful Home Page

Would you like to have a website that sets you apart from your competitors?  Of course you would!  Read on to learn how to create a successful home page by incorporating these 5 elements:

  1. Use Mobile Responsive Design.  By this, we mean that your website should automatically change to fit the screen that an individual is viewing it on.  This will present your products and services in an aesthetically pleasing way, preventing users from leaving the site because it didn’t render well on their mobile device.  With nearly 50% of people using smartphones to visit sites, this should be your top design priority.

  2. Keep It Above the Fold.  The most important elements on your home page should remain above the fold, meaning that your site visitors should be able to view these items on your page without needing to scroll.

  3. Include Several CTAs.  A CTA is a call-to-action.  Essentially, it tells your site visitor to take a specific action (i.e. “Try us free for a month,” or “Sign up here for our newsletter.”).  By failing to include CTAs on your home page, you’re missing a huge opportunity to attract more blog readers, sign up people for your newsletter, have your demo downloaded, etc.

  4. Use a Bold Supporting Image.  The web is a highly visual medium.  Select an image that reflects your brand’s spirit and makes visitors want to learn more about your company.  For instance, Inbound Marketing Agents cites the Ralph Lauren website as a great example of this.  The site consistently wins awards for its visuals, because the company does such a great job of embodying the brand’s style and elegance.

  5. Write a Compelling Headline.  According to Hubspot, visitors will assess your website in a mere 3 seconds.  For this reason, you need to write a clear, simple headline that immediately conveys what your site has to offer.

Is Your Website Ready for a Surge In Traffic?

With the vast increase in the number of people shopping online, it’s more important than ever that businesses prepare for traffic surges around the holidays.  Is your website ready?  Not sure?  Read on to find out which steps you should take to handle holiday-related traffic spikes:

  1. Compress and Resize Images.  Images can significantly reduce page load time, particularly large, high-resolution images.  Check your site to make sure images are optimized, especially on those pages that see the most traffic (your home page, for example).

  2. Keep the Site as Static as Possible.  Although dynamic content is more engaging to users, it also requires a lot of memory and processing power.  By reducing dynamic content on those pages that users are most likely to enter your site on—landing pages and the home page—you can make the user experience more enjoyable without having to completely overhaul your site for the holidays.

  3. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN).  If you’re expecting heavy traffic, you may want to offload it to a CDN.  A CDN is a “large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers across the Internet.”  Essentially, CDNS have the capacity to handle heavy volumes of traffic more effectively than smaller hosting providers.  See our previous article for further explanations.

  4. Perform Load Testing.  Load testing allows you to create a simulated environment to see how well your website responds to various requests.  This will give you an idea of what is likely to occur when holiday shoppers visit your website.  If you’re using Visual Studio Ultimate, it has built-in load testing capabilities. Alternatively, you can try Yahoo’s YSlow or Google’s PageSpeed.  Both of these tools will analyze your website to determine page load times and provide recommendations on which action steps you can take to improve your site’s performance.

Creating a Landing Page that CONVERTS

If you market your business through email, then you’re probably already aware of the importance of landing pages in obtaining conversions.  But do you know how to make a great landing page?  Below we’ve identified some of the top tips you can use to take your landing page from so-so to successful:

  • Create a Short, Attention-Grabbing Headline.  Your headline is one of the most important elements on the page.  For this reason, you want to make sure it is captivating.  To accomplish this objective, aim to write a headline that is interesting, identifies your product or service, and makes people want to learn more.
  • Write Great Copy.  The best copy is direct, written in an informal tone, addresses the audience as “you,” handles any objections that people are likely to have (for example, “this product is too expensive”), and answers the question for readers, “How can this product or service benefit me?”  We also recommend using short paragraphs, subheaders, and bullet points to quickly communicate key ideas.
  • Offer Proof.  Do you have research, studies, or testimonials about why your product is so valuable?  If so, be sure to use them.  These can often sway people who are on the fence about taking advantage of your offer.
  • Use Attractive Images.  Images should be large, relevant, and visually appealing.  This is not the time to go cheap by using free graphics that you stumbled across online. 
  • Create a Persuasive Call-To-Action (CTA).  Your call-to-action is a directive, telling the prospect which action you would like him to perform.  This could include things like signing up for a trial membership, purchasing your product, downloading a free e-book, etc.  When creating your CTA, make sure that it is easily visible (contrasting colors work well), short, and explicit.  Additionally, avoid the tendency to have multiple CTAs on a page—this can actually reduce your conversion rate.

3 Ways People Develop a First Impression of Your Website

Does your website attract or repel first-time visitors?  Not sure?  Below we have some guidelines for maximizing your site’s appeal so that it leaves visitors with a good first impression:

1. Great Design.

Research shows that 94% of first impressions come down to website design.  For this reason, businesses should consider investment in a good design to be money well-spent.  Well-designed websites use appealing graphics, consistent fonts, and unified themes.

On the other hand, poorly-designed sites often look busy—there are a number of distracting elements which create confusion, because the eye doesn’t know where to look first.  Oftentimes, unappealing websites use fonts that are difficult to read, distracting backgrounds, and jarring colors.

2. Text.

The best websites not only showcase engaging content, but they also do so in a way that’s appealing to people who want to read key points very quickly.  Paragraphs are approximately 2-3 sentences, bolded subheaders separate topics, and bullet points convey information in an easily digestible format.

3. Navigation.

Is your website easy to navigate?  Would a first-time user quickly be able to identify what your company does and which products and services you provide?  A first-time visitor doesn’t want to have to hunt for that information.  The best websites offer a robust search engine, intuitive navigation, and an up-to-date site map.

As you can see, great design is of the utmost importance because it is the primary determinant of whether someone develops a favorable impression of your website.  Review your design—as well as your content and navigation—like a first-time visitor would to evaluate its appeal.  Then, make changes if necessary.  Doing so will improve the look of your website, making it far more likely that visitors will return, rather than write your business off.

4 Small Business Trends to Watch for in 2014

With the advent of the new year, now is a great time to look ahead and see what important trends small businesses need to be aware of in 2014:

  1. Mobile-Optimized Websites

As smart phones and tablets become increasingly popular, it’s becoming more and more important for small businesses to have sites that are optimized for mobile, including mobile-optimized checkout.[1]  Offering a well-designed mobile site to appeal to your customers will become necessary to keep up with your competitors as the number of smart phone and tablet users continues to rise in 2014.

  1. Expanded Use of a Virtual Workforce

By 2015, it’s anticipated that 1.3 billion people will work virtually.[2]  Couple that with the growth of freelancing websites like Elance and oDesk, and small businesses are expected to turn to freelancers more frequently in the future.  Hiring freelancers offers small businesses the opportunity to reduce health care costs while using a pay-as-you-go model for work, ultimately lowering expenses.

  1. Increase in Content Marketing

Content marketing—a strategy that focuses on producing creative content to drive sales—is expected to become more popular in 2014.  In fact, a recent study shows that 82% of companies plan to invest more in content marketing this year.[3]  To take advantage of this trend, you may want to consider attracting new customers with content that drives traffic and interest—think blogs, webcasts, podcasts, social media, etc.

  1. Digital Divide Grows

Research suggests a performance gap between small businesses that use technology successfully and their competitors who don’t.  This indicates that small businesses that fail to use technologies well—particularly cloud, analytics, and mobile—will be disadvantaged in 2014.  On the other hand, businesses that display technical savvy are expected to be able to use technology to cut costs while gaining market share.[4]

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