Tag Archive: website design

  1. Picture This: The Big Benefits of Original Imagery and Design Over Stock Photos

    It may seem unnecessary—maybe even wasteful—but budgeting for custom photography and design is money well spent for your content and brand. It creates a level of credibility and authenticity with your audience. Simply stated, it’s been proven that people respond better to original images.

    Don’t get me wrong, though. Stock photos are very purposeful if you have budget or time constraints. But, it can be pretty easy to recognize stock in print and digital—images can look very polished, almost too professional and too generic in subject matter. They can also be easily recognized as stock because everyone else on the planet has access to that very same image. You might have seen the same model on an insurance billboard, an attorney’s print ad and your chiropractor’s website. Even worse, some stock photos look cheap and generic. And don’t get me started on the ever-present group photos of business professionals.

     

    stock photo

    A stock photo staple

    Mike Dobies said it best: “When is the last time you’ve seen a teenage Asian girl, a hipster bearded twenty-something, a middle-aged professional Black woman, and a savvy-suited elder businessman all in a conference room together? Few offices represent 100% of America’s melting pot.”

    If you ask any designer or art director how many hours they have spent searching through stock photos for that perfect shot, they will probably roll their eyes and tell you how it’s shaved years off of their life. They’re being paid to spend hours searching for the perfect image—one that they’ll probably have to spend time reworking later just to make it fit in a layout. Yes, Photoshop is a powerful tool that can create magic when used by the right hands. But, sometimes the end result still doesn’t hit the mark.

    For example, when you say, “Let’s take this model and put her into this environment,” the altered image may not look quite like you envisioned regardless of how much time was spent editing. So, now you have invested time and money with nothing to show for it. (And, it’s important to note that the high-end, more unique stock images aren’t cheap, to begin with.)

    The beauty of hiring a photographer to capture your own original images is that you avoid the “Frankenstein” approach (in other words: patching pieces and parts together to see if they work). When a design is created with custom imagery, the concept feels more complete because every element of it was intentional. And when art directors and photographers work together, that’s when the magic happens: Your brand evolves into a cohesive, visual experience that takes the viewer on a journey.

    When it comes to your brand, your first impression is critical. So, take a second thought before using your own DIY designs, or hiring the family member who took a design class at the local community college. Hire a professional. Whether it’s photography or graphics, using custom imagery can increase engagement and conversions, as well as boost your overall brand experience. And trust us–that that extra time and attention to detail is priceless.

  2. Top 3 Website Trends to Watch For in 2019

    2019 Top Website Trends

    There’s no mistaking that we’re facing a period of transition in all things digital. Artificial intelligence, visual search, and practically anything with the word “smart” in front of it is getting all of the attention right now, and rightfully so–it’s exciting. In fact, just the other day, I kept saying “Alexis” when I meant to say “Siri” and I just couldn’t believe I live in a time where I am already getting my servant robot names mixed up.

    While companies are starting to get serious about how machine learning can solve business challenges, increase sales growth and give them a competitive edge, it makes me wonder what this all means for websites.

    I’m still a big believer in the importance of having a great website and stand firm in the belief a poor user experience could diminish brand perception and be a make or break factor when converting site visitors into paying customers. So, let’s take a look at what’s in store for websites with three of the top trends to watch out for in 2019.

    1. Chatbots. Ok, so I’ve already contradicted myself here a bit by blurring the lines. A “chatbot” is artificial intelligence (A.I.) software that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural, conversational language. In short, it returns a predefined instant response based on input from a user. Why are they so important? Chatbots streamline interactions between people and services, enhancing and personalizing the user experience. At the same time, they offer companies new opportunities to improve the customer engagement process and even improve a company’s operational efficiency by reducing the typical cost of customer service.

    Chatbots certainly aren’t new–ever since Facebook invited developers to start making bots via its Messenger App, we’ve seen the number of bots significantly grow. Companies like Sephora, Whole Foods, and National Geographic have implemented them into their marketing with impressive results. Today, chatting with bots has become second nature, but as advancements in machine learning continue to drive forward, expect to see smarter chatbots on websites really take off this year.

    2. Site Speed. Humans are flighty and impatient, and attention spans are dwindling by the day. If you have ever asked yourself how much time you get to make a good first impression with a potential customer online, the answer is less than three seconds. That’s right, that’s all you get! That’s about the same time spent reading a billboard while driving down a road. In studies done by Akamai and Dynatrace, 50% of users expect that when they click on a site, it should load in two seconds or less. They will abandon a site if it takes three or more seconds to load.* A slow site not only impacts the time visitors will spend on your site, but it could also impact your organic search rankings as well. In fact, Google has begun prioritizing rankings for sites that load faster than others, meaning site speed and SEO go hand-in-hand.

    What does this all mean? Essentially, your web design process needs to take speed into serious consideration. Gigantic photos, uncompressed videos, and bloated Javascript are over. This doesn’t mean that large pictures and videos are gone from the web, but they need to be incorporated in such a way that doesn’t slow down loading time. You may want to even consider what is called “flat design,” a technique that uses contrasting bright colors and illustration, with simple imagery and sans serif fonts, for a quick-loading, data-light user experience.

    3. Accessibility. This one is less of a trend and more of an absolute requirement in 2019. The web is an important resource in all our lives so it’s important to make sure it provides equal experience and opportunity, regardless of how it is being accessed. Over the past year, government organizations have worked to make their websites accessible, and now it’s time for everyone else to get on board. Companies that aren’t compliant are starting to receive lawsuits for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. In fact, companies such as Glossier, AllSaints, and Beecher’s Cheese were all hit with lawsuits in 2018.**

    So, get your website components up-to-code by following common accessibility guidelines like WCAG 2.1 and WAI-ARIA. While the laws are still murky outside of government organizations, it’s just not worth the risk and your audiences will be thankful.

    Though we may not be welcomed home by Rosie the Robot just quite yet, advancements in all areas of the digital landscape are advancing at a breakneck rate. Websites are no different, from chatbots to site speed and a renewed focus on accessibility for all users. At its core, these trends boil down to a key tenet of web design that brands would do well to never forget: user experience is critical to your company’s success on the web.

    Sources:
    *TheeDigital’s 2019 Web Design Trends

    **Forum One’s 2019 Design Trends for Nonprofits

  3. Microcopy: How Small Phrases Can Have a Big Impact on UX

    microcopy

    Buy Now! Confirm Purchase! Subscribe! At this point, anyone who’s joined an online newsletter, bought a book off of Amazon or secured airline tickets on Expedia has seen these short call-to-action phrases that plead for them to seal the deal. That is called microcopy and it may be short in length, but it is intrinsic to your site’s user experience (UX) and can highly influence whether potential customers buy your product or service.

    The purpose of microcopy is to inspire user action. Whether that action is to add a product to a digital cart, subscribe to a weekly comedy podcast or submit credit card information to begin a free trial of Netflix, there is always a button begging to be clicked.

    Where the strategy comes in is the endless variable that is human psychology. In around three words or less, how can I convince you that clicking this button is worth your time, that entering a search term in my marketplace will yield the results you need, or that tapping “buy” on a checkout page will secure your purchase? Well, there are quite a few important factors to consider.

    Following an extremely helpful guide by Udit Gupta for UX Design, we have compiled and simplified three primary thoughts you should have before carefully crafting your microcopy.

    • Anxiety is the Enemy: As someone with admittedly high levels of anxiety in his personal life, the last thing I want is a case of the nervous sweats before I hit “confirm purchase” at checkout. To battle that stress, effective microcopy will provide supplementary information that puts users’ minds at ease. For instance, maybe an “Add to Cart” button will be paired with microcopy underneath explaining “You will not be charged until checkout.” A little clarity and reassurance go a long way. 
    • Calm the Shock: Would you give your credit card info to a stranger? Of course not. This is the challenge many companies encounter when asking for sensitive information from potential new customers. Explaining exactly why this information is needed is vitally important. Why do I have to enter my phone number in checkout? Why do you need my credit card information when signing up for a free trial? If you can provide some answers, you can calm the shock and knee-jerk “no way” response many people will have to these questions. For example, being upfront about a subscription fee if the user doesn’t unsub before the end of the trial period is vital to not only being ethical but gaining trust.  
    • Ask it Nicely: Though the question itself is important, there’s a lot of power in how you ask it. Microcopy is brief by nature, but that is no excuse for it to be curt or cold. Instead of “Rate Us!”, why not try “How Was Your Experience?” Little touches like this are invaluable to improving user experience and creating lifelong fans (and return customers).

    Microcopy in Action

    What good is advice if we don’t practice what we preach, right? With that in mind, check out how we incorporated some key principles of effective microcopy into our own website to attract new clients and newsletter subscribers.

    microcopy

    1. We spell out our intentions: Findsome & Winmore wants to start a dialogue with you in order to see if we can be of service and potentially begin a partnership.
    2. We ask nicely: Instead of coldly saying “Contact us” or “Inquire for more information,” we ask visitors to “Tell us where you’d like to go…” (which plays off of our exploration-themed branding and is far more welcoming).
    3. We explain what you’re getting: Instead of just saying “Subscribe to our newsletter,” we go into just enough detail to entice and explain what people can expect from us, namely, marketing tips and advice.

    At its core, good microcopy delivers by putting users at ease, explaining what they’re getting into by clicking and making requests nicely. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to insert more personality into your messaging. Though it may be tempting to go with a less-is-more approach, I implore you to take a second to strategize before slapping “BUY NOW” on that digital button and calling it a day. You may not have much room to work with, but with a little creative thinking, you can really maximize your limited word count and make your user experience that much better.

  4. How Long Should Your Website Last?

    website redesign

     

    Change – it’s often referred to as the only constant in life. While I don’t claim to be a philosopher, I can speak to the validity of this concept when it comes to the longevity of websites. Many businesses are under the unfortunate misconception that once a website is complete, they can toss up their hands in victory, pop the champagne and never concern themselves with their website again. That is, until it becomes abundantly clear that a website redesign and/or redevelopment is not only recommended but a requirement to maintain a proper digital connection with customers and prospects.

    How do you know when the time is right? Especially if you are not a designer or a programmer. For many, it is difficult to know what looks desperately outdated and what appears to be fresh and new on the web. It is even more difficult for the layman to understand the complexities of back-end code that acts as the wizard to your website’s Oz, pulling the levers behind the curtain.

    That said, reasons to update may vary, but a few key warning signs let you know when the time is right for a fresh take on your brand’s digital home.

    Top Signs It May Be Time for a Website Redesign

    Time:  The simplest metric when deciding on the right time to redesign is, well, time. How long ago was your site built? Much like anything in the digital realm, the technology running your site is constantly being updated to be more secure and more efficient. Add to that the ever-changing design trends and your site can begin to demonstrate warning signs for a redesign in as few as three years.

    Engagement:  The proof is in the pudding, and if your site is no longer getting the results you intended, it may be time to look to a website redesign. After some in-depth analytics research, you can approach a redesign understanding exactly why your current site has fallen flat with your audience and what must change.

    To understand engagement, you must also have a clear definition of your brand’s goals and mission. If these have changed over time, your website must change as well to realign with the new focus and engage from a new angle.

    Usability: Tied very closely to engagement, usability and user experience are extremely important in order to achieve desired results. Your website should prioritize ease-of-use above nearly all else. After all, how frustrated would you be if it seemed like a website was actively fighting against you? If your visitors can’t get to what they want (and fast) they leave and find the information, service, or product elsewhere.

    An incredibly important aspect of a site’s usability is its responsiveness. Do you own a smartphone? How about a tablet? And a laptop? All of these devices vary in display size and interaction methods (touchscreen vs mouse and keyboard). If your site is only designed to be used on a laptop or desktop but your audience prefers to visit it on their iPhones, you could be in trouble. Plus, in order to provide the best search results, Google has cracked down on how non-mobile-friendly websites are treated in search results. If you have to pinch and zoom to view your site on your phone, Google is penalizing your site in favor of mobile-friendly sites.

    One method of determining your site’s usability is through what’s known as user experience testing (or UX testing). This is an extremely helpful method of testing just how intuitive your site’s layout and functionality are, which could help you decide the extent of redesign needed on your site.

    Tech: Without getting into code talk (you’re welcome), what’s running your website is just as important as it’s user-friendly facade. Over time, your site’s code can become outdated, leading to crashing pages, link issues and general bugs that can hinder user experience and page loading speed. Additionally, your site may have duplicate content, missing or inadequate meta descriptions, broken internal or external links, and missing ALT titles and title text on images. All of this adds up to a site that runs more poorly with every passing technological update.

    Though not technically a “tech” issue, per se, search engine optimization (SEO) can play a substantial role in the success or failure of your site. If your site and its content were not crafted with SEO in mind, you may struggle to be found.

    Branding: Has your company completed a brand refresh? Even if your target audience remains largely the same, a website redesign is necessary to maintain the brand consistency we always strive for as marketers. You may think an old logo on your site after a brand refresh is a minor detail, but the devil is in those details and every single change matters.

    We understand the trepidation that comes with considering a website redesign. You worked hard, invested the time and money and maybe even grew attached to your site’s look and feel. But as I stated earlier, the only constant in life, and in websites, is change. You can either plan accordingly or see your brand’s online presence suffer for it.

    That’s not to say that a website redesign is always the solution. There may be smaller, iterative changes that can be done, such as refactoring the code, homepage redesigns, content, SEO updates and more. Be sure you review all of your options and compare the pros and cons before you engage in a website redesign.

    You can be sure your website isn’t collecting digital dust cobwebs that can stifle your online presence by reviewing the age of your site, investigating visitor engagement, ensuring usability is at the forefront of your design, confirming the code is up to date, and maintaining brand updates for consistency.

  5. Web Content Done “Write”: How to Craft Web Copy

    How to Craft Web Copy

    Whether you realize it or not, you’re a writer. From a catty comment on a Facebook post to the embarrassing email you almost (tragically) forwarded to your boss, in one form or another, you’re committing words to page or screen.

    Fortunately, many considerations taken when writing even the most trivial of texts can directly help you better understand how to craft web copy for your next website. Stay with me here: When texting a friend, responding with, “lol, omg,” may be acceptable. However, when writing an email to a colleague, the same message may be better suited as, “Oh my goodness. That’s hilarious.” You are crafting your message not just for the audience (formal vs. informal), but also the delivery vehicle (email vs. text). At its core, these are also the salient considerations when crafting effective web copy.

    Understanding the above point, it should come as no surprise that writing web copy like you might write a blog post or company newsletter will not fly. Crafting web copy is its own unique beast. Before trying to conquer your website’s content, consider the following factors:

    • Who are You?: What is your company’s persona? Is it clearly defined? If your company were a person, do you know what’s on their Spotify playlist, what car they drive and who their favorite Beatle is? Though it may sound (and feel) a bit silly to get this granular with your brand’s persona, it helps to clearly paint a picture of how to craft web copy in a voice that’s pitch perfect. Whether it’s playful, formal, whimsical or a mish-mash of all of the above, defining your brand’s persona is key. For example, Findsome & Winmore is generally characterized as professional, yet with a touch of whimsy and approachability.

    • Who are They?: Second only to knowing your own brand’s persona is knowing your audience’s. In all forms of writing, you must know your audience. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, chances are you’re writing for no one. Especially when writing web copy, there is a natural tendency to write towards one’s own interests instead of serving the target audience. Do not fall into this trap. Your audience should be top of mind at all times and take precedence over personal preferences. I may love early 1990s hip hop, describing Findsome & Winmore’s services as “phat” just won’t play for our target audiences. 

    • What’s the Point?: Though this is partially to do with the larger discussion of website design, you must ensure that every page of your site has a purpose. Moreover, ensure that this purpose is served by the content provided therein. Make your intentions known early and with gusto, especially if the page’s primary objective is to get them to click a link, “buy now,” or otherwise jump through a fiery hoop. Call to actions should never be subtle. Our site opens with a simple, direct question in all caps and red font that nearly glows off of the page: “LOOKING FOR A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY TO HELP YOU FIND AND WIN NEW CUSTOMERS?” If so, you know to read on.

    • Keep it Short: Brevity is the soul of wit. Though most creative writers are guilty of getting a bit overly verbose for the fun of it, a website is not the place. Your audience is rarely looking to read a novel. Instead, it’s your job as a content writer to walk the tightrope between conciseness and creativity. If you proofread your web copy and think the same message can be conveyed in fewer words, chop chop chop. In promotion for our newsletter, we wrote, “Our monthly e-newsletter, HOT AIR, is chock full of advice on how to FIND and WIN more customers.” Balancing our defined voice with conciseness, this single sentence conveys that 1) we have a newsletter 2) it’s called HOT AIR 3) it’s full of marketing advice 4) you should subscribe (pushed by the subscribe button just adjacent to the copy).

      But hold on – there is one notable exception to this rule. Though conciseness is often golden, there are some notable SEO benefits to long-form content as well. Such content has been shown to sometimes rank higher in search engines, produce more backlinks and increase conversion rates, according to one article from 2015. The solution? Consider including a bit of both shorter and longer content to your site, monitor your performance and decide the best length for your audience moving forward.

    • Work with Web Design: Design and content face the same quandary presented with the chicken and the egg: what comes first? In best-case scenarios, both are developed in tandem, allowing both the form and function of the site to fit the content within it (and vice versa). However, if the design is already built, ensure that you are writing with this context in mind. Copy should fit the page like a glove.

    Even for well-practiced writers, writing for the web can be a real challenge. Take a deep breath–we promise, it will all be OK just as long as you keep a firm grasp on who you are as a brand, who your website content is targeting, and what the purpose is of each page. Then, you can edit for length and ensure the copy matches the design.

    Last, but not least, always, and I repeat, always, have someone proof your website copy. The internet is as big as its memory is good. From one writer to another (even if your specialty is texting), you have it in you to craft copy that works for the web. However, if you need help along the way we may be able to {Findsome} one up for the job.

  6. The Dawn of Mobilegeddon: The Scoop On Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm

    Remember all of those times that we and other web developers and marketing agencies just like us told you how truly important it is to have a mobile-friendly, responsive website? If you didn’t believe us then, you probably do now. Because Google’s Mobilegeddon is upon us, and there is nowhere to hide.

    What Is Mobilegeddon?

    In a nutshell, Google finally put its foot down and announced that IT KNOWS. It knows if your website isn’t responsive or mobile-friendly. It’s watching when your users are frustratedly shaking their phones and gesturing toward the heavens for an answer. Google is here to tell us that if your website does any of the following, it will negatively affect how you rank on mobile SERPs:

    • Uses software that is unfriendly on mobile devices (like Flash)
    • Makes your users pinch, zoom, scroll, feverishly tap, and throw their phones into a river just to see/read what’s on the page
    • Places links so close together that your users have to press the back button 14 times in order to get to where they want to go; that is if they don’t give up first and visit one of your competitors’ mobile-friendly websites

    How Will This Affect My Rankings?

    On desktop it probably won’t do much, to be honest…for now. This algorithm mostly affects the search results on mobile devices and tablets…for now. A few weeks ago, if you ranked number one on desktop for any given keyword, you were mostly likely floating somewhere close to number one on mobile too. Today, that is no longer. You may stay number one on desktop, but depending on how mobile-friendly your website is, you could completely disappear from mobile SERPs. Don’t think this matters to you?

    Well, in 2014, 60% of all online searches were made from mobile devices. A hefty ⅓ of all organic traffic came from mobile devices. And guess what? It’s 2015; this number is only projected to increase every year. Pretty soon people will be searching from their kitchen sinks, and then where will your website be?

    Ok, I’m Listening. So What Do I Do?

    Mobile DevicesAre you really listening? Because this is important:

    The only way to survive the mobile device apocalypse is to listen to what Google is suggesting. Your website shouldn’t be an afterthought, it should be an investment. It is your digital storefront — the first thing your customers and clients see when they find out about you. As your mother always said, first impressions are important.

    All is not lost. Google is rolling out these changes today, and if your website still doesn’t satisfy Google’s mobile-friendly guidelines, it’s never too late to give your website a little TLC.

    Don’t know if your website satisfies Google’s appetite for mobile? You can find out with their handy mobile-friendly test. If what you see on that page disturbs you, your website may need a makeover.

  7. What Is The Value Of A Website?

    “I want a new website, and I want it cheap.” Trust me, many people do.  Plus who doesn’t like a bargain deal?  But, maybe there’s a reason why cheap isn’t always better.

    Maybe you’re a new company, or perhaps an existing company — but you’ve realized you need a new website.  When thinking of the cost and what you might need, it may be something that you imagined to be fairly quick, simple, and low budget. 

    Companies that typically try to get the best bang for their buck end up spending more in the long run.  Why?  Well, that picture perfect website you imagined only ends up working on one platform, such as Internet Explorer, and unfortunately it wasn’t designed to match your brand.

    There are many reasons why investing in a well-crafted website is a must:

    Get it right, the first time.

    Use a reputable company with great experience.  An agency that focuses on design to best represent your brand is a first indicator that you’re on the right track.  Consistency  is key in marketing your company and building credibility.  If your site ends up looking like something completely different then your business, then it wasn’t built for success.  Your website should visually encompass your brand. 

    Using an agency that cares and takes the time to ensure that the design meets your business standards is the first measure in incorporating a well-made site.

    Just because it’s pretty doesn’t mean it works.

    Sure, it looks great.   And yes, I’m sure you’re thinking “didn’t you say it was supposed to match my brand?”

    An innovative and contemporary design is great, but what’s great about a website that doesn’t function on all browsers and devices?  Design and Programming are best friends and work together like Jack and Sally.   You want a user-friendly site that is easy to navigate, fast loading, clean and concise, and works on all supported browsers and devices. 

    A site that was thrown together like paper mache, won’t give you the benefits of programming for all platforms, browsers and devices that our everyday users are consumed with. 

    Building the site with SEO in mind will help in your search rankings.   Web developers that take the time to do this will help you benefit the most with your search by adding title tags, alt-tags, keywords and making the page(s) SEO optimized.

    Testing of the website is another big factor that many businesses tend to forget or don’t think about when factoring in the build of a website.   Just because it’s built, definitely doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.   That’s like building a house but not having anyone check the foundation or inspect the wiring.   Taking the time to view and utilize the website as a user would on each device is important.  Occasionally, the site may look flawless on a laptop, but may be buggy on an iPhone.   Troubleshooting to make all elements correct on each device may take longer than scoped, but it’s worth the time to make it right.

    Why I Ought To.

    A well built, up-to-date site will give your company the validation that it deserves.   Your site can provide information to your clients 24/7.  Being accessible when your clients want to obtain information about your company is key to marketing effectively.  These days, we are instantaneously driven to find out information about a company, place, or thing as fast as we can.  It’s crucial that you’re there readily with that answer.

    Your website can also help you gain new leads by providing an email sign up or contact area.  This is another marketing tool that you can eventually use to your advantage.   Give your customers a reason to want to be on your email list or to provide you with their contact information. 

    A site built with great imagery allows you to demo your office, explain where it’s located and introduce the people that work there.  This helps to promote familiarity.  People like to know that you’re real and who exactly they’re working with to create a trusting relationship. 

    Being able to build your website the way you want, allows you the flexibility to be creative and original – to show off why you’re different from your competitors.  

    So, how much…?

    If you’re wondering how much to invest in building a site or rebuilding a website, there is no clear cut answer.  In fact, a website scope typically alters as the building occurs. However, before assuming what it may cost, have a digital marketing agency give a proper look at your overall needs and see how to best optimize your site to give a proper assessment.

    Keep in mind that the question isn’t always, “how much is the cost?”, the question should be “how much value will my website provide me?”.