4 Essential Web Design Features for
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For those of you who are looking ahead for your annual website update in 2017 (you are planning an annual website tune-up, right?) we’ve got a list of some essential features that you should be considering.
Many of the trends that have shaped web design best practices in 2016 have accelerated. More and more users are accessing websites through mobile devices. Visual media is increasingly taking the place of written content. Users’ attention span (or, alternatively, their patience for irrelevant content) continues to shrink. While off-the-rack website builders still can’t entirely compete with the functionality of purpose-built websites, they’re definitely making it easier to get a flashy-looking website on the cheap, which has raised audience expectations for quality websites.
One of the most important recent trends has been the emergence of virtual assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa) along with increased demands for 508-compliant websites. Both of these developments point toward new imperatives for how the data beneath a website is structured. We’re moving rapidly into a future where humans won’t be the only users navigating the Internet.
With all this in mind, here’s a quick (by no means exhaustive) list of features to think about when you next get under the hood of your website.
Many website owners are still working with an Old Web mindset. Once upon a time, you could be forgiven for having an outdated website, because putting one together was so costly and expensive. Those days are done.
With the ever-expanding range of turnkey design/build/host platforms for websites – and the subsequent explosion of sleek, modern navigation – the bar for entry level web design has been finally and undeniably set.
In order to stay current (even if your website isn’t using the latest parallax-scrolling layout) your website needs to be easy to modify as you learn more about your audience. If your team can’t make basic changes in order to incrementally tailor your website to your target audience, in-house, quickly and effectively, you’re probably getting left behind by your competition. Consider streamlining your layout. If necessary, sacrifice some bells and whistles (not at the expense of core functionality) to make your website easier to tweak. Users are more impressed by relevant content and straightforward navigation than by (probably outdated) visual parlor tricks and flowery content. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Speaking of visual parlor tricks — web design is entering a weird, seemingly paradoxical phase, in which visual elements are both increasingly important and potentially obsolete.
If that sounds confusing, don’t worry: many web designers who learned from the old school are finding it challenging to thread this particular needle.
We’ll get to the importance of visuals for fully-abled human users further down. For now, consider the threefold demand being placed on contemporary websites: they must be accessible by older devices, mobile devices, and (increasingly) non-visual devices. All at the same time.
The best and possibly only way to triangulate between the demands of these three user groups is to build your website’s main infrastructure around a double-solid core of HTML.
Web design has traditionally focused on graphical interface — the parts dictated by the CSS style sheet — to structure information. By now, the Internet has evolved to the point where looks aren’t the most important thing. Layout still needs to be visually appealing, but a website’s structure must also be meticulously organized and signposted at the HTML level.
Again, like the previous section, the solution to this is to simplify the site’s design. Think about what your website’s most important functions are from a user perspective. Make sure those functions are neatly laid out on the back end of your website. Once the foundation is clearly defined, the visual elements of the site can be added on. But the site’s functionality should work independently of its graphical interface.
508 compliance for websites has even more specific requirements than this; if your website needs to be ADA compliant, IMM offers 508 compliance evaluation services.
While making accommodations for users with desktop computers is important, (this is a rapidly shrinking group of users) websites need to be optimized for mobile users in order to stay current. In the past few years, this has gone from a benefit to a necessity. Over 60% of users worldwide currently access the Internet through mobile devices; that percentage will only increase.
Fortunately, effective mobile optimization or responsive design dovetails nicely with the other best practices described above. Navigation should be straightforward and intuitive. Written content should be brief. Visuals should prioritize quality over quantity. Scrolling should be used in place of complicated drop-downs and link lists as much as possible.
This might seem to contradict the earlier point about core HTML design, but visual elements — images, infographics, and videos — are becoming more persuasive than written content.
Audiences are losing patience for time-consuming content: no matter how clever or well-written your page content is, people are almost certainly skimming it, simply because of the huge demands being put on their attention from every other media channel pointed at them.
Strong visuals break up long stretches of text. They keep viewers engaged in a dynamic way. They communicate in a more immediate way than does writing.
The trick is that visuals need to be high quality in order to be effective. Low resolution visuals that look like pixelated garbage on high-def devices are a death sentence. The same goes for discount stock images and videos with poor sound quality. It’s worth the extra cost to invest in professional quality visuals that are unique to your brand.
(The caveat, as described above, is that all visual elements need to be accessible for adaptive reading devices and non-visual users. That means quality alt text and descriptions for images, reliable subtitling for videos, and well-constructed HTML. IMM can help you navigate these requirements with our 508 compliance evaluation services.)
Odds are, your website isn’t performing for your audience in exactly the way you think it is, and you’re ignoring vital feedback if you don’t have an analytics service for your website. Services like Google Analytics are now free, and with minimal training, your team can stop guessing at what your audience wants and start making strategic decisions based on real usage data. Metrics like Bounce Rates and Average Session Duration are invaluable for understanding how well your website is working. If you’re going to the trouble of maintaining and updating a website at all, this is one of the least costly and most effective ways to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.
Article By Ryan Miga
508 Compliance and Google Analytics Specialist
It goes without saying that we’re in the middle of a huge shift in the way digital media is incorporated into everyday life. However, not everyone has realized how much the building blocks of digital space — particularly websites — will fundamentally change in the next few years.
Two of the hottest issues in the technology industry right now — 508 compliance for websites and screenless search — are pointing toward a future in which users have a radically different relationship with their devices. Today’s Internet was built on a set of assumptions that tomorrow’s Internet will make obsolete. The growing movement to improve digital media accessibility for users with disability is the first step toward that future.
“508 compliance” refers to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and was updated in 1998 to include digital media.
The notion that physical public spaces should include accommodations for those with disabilities has been generally accepted for decades. People expect to see buildings with wheelchair ramps; “talking crosswalks” that use sound in addition to visual cues for guiding pedestrians are becoming more common.
We often take these accommodations for granted in our physical space, but this logic has only just started being widely applied to virtual spaces.
Most fully-abled users will be reading this post on a device with a screen, with a visual interface translating data into words. Their browser will feature buttons with symbols representing different functions; obviously, these aren’t physical buttons, but graphical representations with spatial organization — all of which are very difficult to navigate for people with disabilities.
Until very recently, visual cues for computing — “graphical interface” — was the standard approach to designing digital media. Graphical interface was a major step forward in the early days of computing. Layering a graphical interface over an operating system gave users visual cues and shortcuts to use in place of typing out complicated command strings; program icons, multitasking desktops, and data illustrations made computing more accessible for non-experts. As the World Wide Web began to take off, this reliance on graphical interface (in the form of websites) became the standard way to access information.
Generally, Old Web design assumed that the primary user of a website would be a fully-abled human — and we’re getting to a point where that assumption is being undone.
508 compliance for websites means that digital media must be structured so users can access them with adaptive devices. This generally means that a complete reliance on graphical interface isn’t enough: the information itself has to be structured so that a non-human device can access it directly and meet WCAG ( Web Content Accessibility Guidelines ). Websites can’t just look pretty. The data behind the website needs to be signposted for access with a non-graphical interface.
While the move toward non-graphical interface is a huge benefit for users with disabilities, it’s also the direction in which technology for fully-abled users is heading as well.
Graphical interface has always been a work-around — a substitute for interacting directly with data. Graphical interfaces, along with screens and keyboards, were developed as a way of giving commands to computers in a language they could understand. Limited technology meant people couldn’t talk directly to computers. Computers couldn’t talk to one another without people.
That’s all changing, quickly.
The next era of the Internet could be one designed primarily for machines. Smart-home devices like the Amazon Echo relate to information in a similar way to the adaptive reading devices made for users with disabilities. In both cases, the device has no use for the visual representations used to make data appealing to human users: the device is looking beneath the pictures we would see on a screen to read and interpret the raw data. The device then translates the information to the user, either through something like a Braille embosser or a voice like Siri or Alexa. No need for a screen: the machine will tell you everything you need to know.
Google is already pushing enthusiastically toward artificial intelligence that would allow users to talk directly to their computers. While current virtual assistants are limited by their ability to understand complex requests, the technology is improving every day. We may only be a few years away from a truly intuitive personal assistant that makes graphical interface obsolete.
This means that virtual assistants will need to understand website data in much the same way that adaptive devices currently work for users with disabilities. Graphical interface might not be made entirely obsolete by screenless devices — but it will no longer be the standard. Web designers and website owners will need to think very differently about who (or what) is accessing their information online.
Regardless of how far we are from having personal Star Trek-style voice computers, we’ve already reached a point where graphical interface can no longer be the status quo. Computers and the Internet have become such a fundamental part of society that they can no longer be designed for a small group of fully-abled users. The Internet should be universally accessible — which means being more flexible and imaginative in the way information is presented for users.
A number of initiatives are already underway to broaden accessibility for online search. Users with disabilities are winning class-action lawsuits against companies with poorly-designed websites that limit accessibility. The combination of pressure from human users and the demands of artificial intelligence is forcing web designers to do more than make data look pretty. The future of search means that “websites” as we know them, spangled with photo carousels and animated dancing robots, will fade away. More and more, digital information will need to be read by devices. We can improve accessibility for human users now, and also prepare for the future of search, if we start thinking beyond websites.
Google Analytics provides digital marketers with a wealth of essential data about traffic patterns and conversion rate, and other metrics of website performance. But what good is knowledge without the ability to process it? With these 5 tips, you and your business can avoid making analysis errors, and get the most out of the useful tool that is Google Analytics.
In our age of changing technologies and the emphasis on content marketing for business, it would be easy to forget one of the most important elements of content strategies: branding. Effective branding does not just happen automatically. It’s not as simple as a logo or a catchy jingle. Branding must be integrated with your SEO content strategies in order to increase the reputation of your brand in a positive way. It must include the most important elements of your brand while also addressing what the search engines want in terms of SEO and content. How do you do this?
Here are five tips if you are just getting starting with your online content strategy that will help get your brand noticed while addressing the key elements of sound content marketing:
1 – Write for people first. Remember that the content you produce is for people, not machines. And while you are also inserting key words that search engines will pick up, the most important element is your content, and it should be rich in information. You should focus on giving visitors something valuable when they visit your site, so that they will be inspired to return. Engaging visitors on a regular basis with sound, quality content is the best way to increase your engagement and conversions.
2 – Write for SEO. Secondly, you need to keep in mind that, while Google has lowered the importance of keywords somewhat due to their latest changes, key words do still have importance in the search process. So, as a business owner, you will want to think about what key words (including long-tailed key words) people will use to find what you have to offer. For example, if you sell farm equipment, you may want to rank for “farm equipment.” But this is very general, so in addition, you will want to include terms like, “John Deere farm equipment” (if you sell John Deere products), “farming irrigation equipment,” and other terms. You need to think like the searcher so that you get quality leads and visitors who are wanting what you have to offer.
3 – Include a great design. Google has emphasizes that there is more to good rankings and content marketing than just great content. Content IS king, but Google Analytics considers your logo, design, and branding almost as important in terms of site quality. This is partly due to the fact that there are so many mobile users online today. Your site must be responsive to mobile users, as well as traditional desktop users and it must look and function well in all contexts. So focus on your design, which will not only improve your brand’s image, but your Google rankings as well.
4 – Engage your viewers with social media. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Social media is the single most important thing you can do to increase your visitor interest and engagement and spread the word about your brand. Many companies are now hiring full-time social media managers to fill this need so that they can handle the comments and interactions that occur daily via social media networks. This is also a part of reputation management and is necessary to levelize problems that can crop up on social media with bad product reviews.
5 – Get in touch with your brand’s philosophy. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple after being fired by a hostile takeover in his company years ago, one of the first things he said to the board of directors was: “We need to get in touch with who we are again.” What he meant by this is that a brand must know their philosophy and what drives them to excellence. What makes your company unique? What says to someone, “I just have to have one of these?” Your brand’s ideals will drive your success if you go back to the roots of what your business is all about. So be authentic and get in touch with your roots, as to why you started your business. This will show in your brand.
SEO and content marketing strategies are still important in today’s digital and social media world. But we cannot forget how this is all tied in with branding. Branding is the embodiment of your company’s face to the public. What do people think of your brand? Is your design reflective of your company’s philosophies? Can people tell when they come to your website that you have pride in your brand? If not, your site might need an overhaul. You need great SEO, you need great engaging content, social media presence, and a great design. Tie it all together and you have what you need to drive a successful digital marketing campaign.
Article by Jonathan Meyerhoff
Not to get insulting but if you are running a business and making decisions about marketing for your company but haven’t heard of SEO, we’re guessing you are still using a rotary phone and change the channel on your TV by standing up and walking across the room. That wasn’t kind but it does illustrate how important Search Engine Optimization means.
For years Google’s algorithm loved keywords and linking. So businesses built websites that were written for Google and not for their customers. Thankfully Google figured this out. Google’s algorithm has gotten much better at understanding natural language and is hip to black hat techniques for getting higher rankings. Black hat techniques are underhanded ways to get your site higher up in search results i.e. hiring a company from overseas to build links into your website to try and make your website appear important . Google hates them.
So how does all your content marketing help your SEO? Your business needs to identify what keywords or searches are important to your business. An SEO business (like ourselves) can help you identify words that fit your business needs but aren’t impossible to penetrate. They can also help you identify words that should never be in your materials.
Once you know your business keyword list, make sure that each piece of content marketing addresses only one of those keywords.
If customers or potential customers share your content on social media this adds to the authenticity of your brand. It acknowledges that you are an expert and once again, Google and Facebook reward that.
Jonathan Meyerhoff if the founder and CEO of IMM
On average, users often linger on websites for only 10-20 seconds before deciding whether to move on or not. In those few seconds, you need to clearly communicate your message and spark your visitors’ interest so they feel compelled to “stick” to the site for a while – the better your site “stickiness” the higher your conversion rate. You may already know the basics of a sticky site – good content, design and user experience – but in order to increase the time spent on your site, you will need to infuse a little creativity.
Humans are social creatures and they will invariably want to share useful information and opinions. Use this to your advantage. Don’t simply throw information at your visitors; find a way to actively engage them. This can be as simple as adding social share buttons on every page of your site or allowing customer comments/reviews on your products or services. User-generated content builds a sense of community among your users and improves your credibility if a lot of people share or leave positive reviews. Today, 94 percent of Americans fear that bad things can happen to them while online. Clever placement and use of customer reviews can be a great way to assuage these fears. You can also use social to gain the trust of new visitors, as people are more likely to trust sites their friends recommend. The more you build your credibility, the more repeat visitors you will receive.
The most successful sites allow their users to interact with the site whether it’s playing a short game or viewing a product from all angles. Take Buzzfeed, for example. There are numerous personality quizzes you can take that will match you to a certain character or location. They’ve also included a combined slider that allows you to compare two images without scrolling down to another picture. See if there are better ways you can present your information in a fun yet easy to absorb manner. Slideshows are a very simple way to increase visitor interaction as it provides them with short bursts of data coupled with images. Don’t stop there though. Add some clickable areas on the photo that provide even more information when pressed. There are plenty of interactive features you can use to your advantage like surveys, polls, directional infographics and more. See which ones make the most sense in terms of your brand, brand voice and mission. Otherwise you might end up confusing your visitors.
Keep it Simple
As the saying goes “Less is more.” Keep your site as clean and simple as possible. Clearly mark your navigation menu so users know exactly where they are going when they click the link. Browsing through your site should be effortless and fast. The more complicated it appears the more likely users will avoid your site and label it a waste of time. This applies to every aspect of your site. Your content should be easy to digest and avoid unnecessary technical jargon that your average visitor will not understand. Length plays a big part in simplicity as well. If you can use fewer words to say something, do it. The easiest way to do this is to keep your headlines and content focused on their respective themes. When visitors are scanning your site for information, they want to know exactly what to expect before they click on any links.
Make it Sticky
Just like any marketing strategy, creating a sticky website doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to do some experimentation to see what works best before committing to a certain strategy. Also, don’t ignore the power of a name. Does your site name properly reflect your business? If not, brainstorm a new one or try a brand name generator for some ideas. Just updating your name could have a huge impact on your business.
Article By Jonathan Meyerhoff – Founder IMM
With each update to Google’s algorithm, Facebook’s edge rank, and consumers use of new and ever changing apps, how companies marketing to their customers continues to change. Once upon a time, a well-designed logo and a print ad would suffice. Then radio happened, than TV happened than the Internet. When companies first started advertising on the web, they created websites affectionately known as “brochureware” – they might have paid a designer to design a banner ad and had their ads run across sites.
This history lesson could go on but now we are in the age of “content marketing”. So what do we mean by content? Content can be an e-book that helps potential clients know more about your business, or it can be a downloadable PDF that your B to B customers can use with their customers. It can be an infographic, blog posts just like this one, or even developing social contests. So content is a big umbrella. Your job as a company is to figure out what kind of “content” your ideal customers need or want. We forget a very important content type that appears to be evergreen, and that’s email.
Each piece of content should be shared on social networks, sent directly to your client email list or gated behind a landing page. So how do you pick the right kind of content for your customers and clients?
First you admit there is no formula. There are no magic bullets. Second, you need to understand that content marketing is a long game. Very few potential customers will see one infographic that you’ve produced and pick up the phone to book business with you. Once you understand these two rules, you need to experiment. You can also go back to another evergreen marketing technique and host a focus group.
So what’s your Internet Marketing Game?
Jonathan Meyerhoff is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing Magicians LLC
by Eva Havle
The term “brand” is often misused by alternating it with design, advertising, or marketing. All are indeed components of branding, but not the sum. These improper utilizations have caused much confusion in the business world as to what branding is and how it works.
So what exactly is branding? It is your company’s personality or voice that you present to the world. It can be authoritative, cutting-edge, funny, sentimental, hip or traditional. In order to successfully determine what personality you want to project, you must first understand your target market, competitive landscape and above all, your customers and prospects needs and wants. Every communication with the public – web, print or broadcast – needs to convey how your product or service provides a solution to a problem or challenge for your customers, and the value that your product brings. Successful brands live within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the aggregate of their experiences and perceptions.
Once you make a decision on what persona you want your company to convey, the question then becomes “What’s next, and how do I do it?” A brand is composed of many different elements. Together they capture the interest of your customers and prospects. Some of the components are tangible and definitive, such as banner ads, direct mail, logos and broadcast or print advertising, but branding is also in large part intangible – ideas and emotions represented by visual and verbal communications. A successful brand will achieve the following objectives:
Studies show companies that market their products or services without first establishing their brand identities are not likely to achieve return on investment. So before you invest another dime on marketing or advertising, think about what your company, product or service stands for. If you can’t define your brand, your customers will not be able to either and any marketing investments are very likely to be a waste of your money.
IMM-LLC offers internet marketing services with a focus on regional outreach. As a full service interactive marketing agency, we provide a suite of services from web development and design to SEO and social media marketing.
As with any project IMM completes, we work with our core team and bring in fantastic outside talent to round out assignments.
What do you mean by regional outreach?
We love working with clients that want to be found locally. For small to mid-size businesses, we can effectively lower costs for region specific clients because we believe in partnership marketing. Through competitive analysis and parallel markets, we’ll help your business identify other brands that will be effective co-marketers. While we hate the word “synergy” it does convey the “magic” that we look for when we develop solutions that use the web to build your business.
IMM’s founder and CEO Jonathan Meyerhoff will be participating in a team panel for Cornell’s 2015 Pre-Seed Workshop. The Cornell University Institute of Biotechnology is looking to help foster entrepreneurialism within the community by hosting an event that will inspire people to turn their ideas into sustainable businesses. The Pre-Seed Workshop (PSW) will allow potential new business owners to vet their technology ideas to determine their commercial viability by spending two and a half days speaking with local experts to answer key business questions.
A Bright Tech Idea
Do you have a creative or innovative business idea? Are you considering launching a new technology company but you aren’t sure where to start? These questions are the basis of Cornell’s PSW. Many people have innovative technologies or ideas they think will be revolutionary but they don’t know if their idea is viable. These entrepreneurs are looking for advice but they aren’t sure where to go for information. This leads to potentially lucrative businesses never getting off the ground or failing because the business owner didn’t receive the right information at the right time.
Ask the Experts
In developing the PSW, the Biotech Institute wanted participants to be able to receive real answers to specific questions. Therefore, instead of finding a series of guest lecturers, the Institute developed teams of experts who will work with entrepreneurs in hands on sessions during the workshop. These members are experts in the fields of technology, business, finance and legal.
As a team member, Jonathan Meyerhoff brings 20 years of entrepreneurship and sales experience to local entrepreneurs, as well as an understanding in Internet and off-line marketing. He will help evaluate business proposals presented at the workshop to determine their viability.
If you are interested in speaking with Jonathan Meyerhoff about your business idea, Click Here and fill out the IMM Marketing Interview.
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