Category Archives: Website Design

Use Video for Increased Effectiveness and Better SEO Scores!

Web Video  University

Web video dramatically increases website effectiveness. Consider these statistics:

Visitors are 144% more likely to purchase a product after seeing a video. A web page with video is 53 times more likely to achieve a page one listing on Google.

Videos in search results have a 41% higher click through rate than text results. And Google rewards web pages where visitors stay longer. On average, visitors stay 2 minutes longer on web pages with videos.

Can you really afford NOT to use web video (especially if your competitors are)?

Video training is available at Web Video University. Visit their website at Web Video University to find out how you can learn to produce and develop your own high quality web videos for only $99/month.

Upgrade Your Site’s Typography

Recently there have been some very exciting developments in website typography. We are no longer limited to the fonts currently installed on the viewer’s computer! We’ve always used different fonts within images, but these are not accessible by search engines such as Google or Yahoo, so they are of very limited value. For the great majority of copy we were limited to so-called “web-safe” fonts which is a very limited list indeed.

Today we have no such restrictions. There are many paths now to a cornucopia of fonts that may be used freely throughout the website… well, freely may not be the correct term, as some of these sources charge for use of the fonts though several do not. But before we look at fonts, let’s consider the concepts and techniques involved in producing a website with great typography. The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web (yes, that’s the website title!) offers great advice on how to properly use fonts to their best advantage. Read it carefully – there’s a lot of great advice there.

Now, for using non-websafe fonts. Non-websafe fonts must be setup on a font server. There are several font servers available – here are the best font servers:

Each font server has fonts available but you can also upload additional fonts to most of them. Be careful that the fonts you setup on your font server are legal to use. Here are a few sources of free, legal-to-use fonts.

Optimizing Web Pages

This article discusses some of the basic concepts of optimizing a web page to make the web page load quickly – or at least, more quickly. It is for the benefit of those who are not technically oriented, but need to have a means of discussing these concepts with their web developer.

Reduce the amount of data required to display the page

A web page consists of html, scripts, style documents, and media such as images and videos. These components should be reduced in size as much as possible to shorten the time required to download them. Images typically represent the greatest opportunity for optimization. Browsers cannot display image resolutions higher than 72 dpi, so there is no point in loading anything of higher resolution. Additionally, the images should be sized to the size being displayed rather than having html resize them. The html code itself should be concise and correct. The code should be validated to ensure that it meets the requirements of the document type. All presentation elements should be moved to an external css style sheet. On a website with many pages, there should be a fundamental style sheet and then a separate style sheet for each page. Smaller websites should have only one stylesheet. Finally, css and javascript files should be ‘gzipped’ (compressed) and/or ‘minified’ which removes non-essential characters without changing the functionality. If you have a WordPress site, the W3 Total Cache plugin will do that for you.

Reduce HTTP Calls

The next important key step to increasing web page loading speed is to reduce the calls to the internet within your web page (reducing HTTP calls). There are several aspects to this issue: combining scripts and style sheets, using image sprites, and avoiding redirects or frames. These are critical areas in which your website performance can be improved.

Content Distribution

If your audience is widely distributed geographically and you make extensive use of graphics and/or video files, you should be using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). These are systems with widely distributed servers that are optimized for content delivery. Also, loading your videos and images on a different domain (such as a CDN) allows browsers to load your content more quickly. Amazon S3 is the most widely used CDN and certainly the most cost-effective. You might also use a second domain on your webhost to store the style sheets and javascript elements to allow them to load faster, especially if you use cookies. Content should always be delivered from a domain that does not use cookies.

In violation of concepts above, the home page will benefit from having style and javascript elements within the page. This works because it reduces the http calls, but it should only be used on the home page. In this case, a gzipped version of the style elements must be placed at the top of the html page within the head section and the javascript elements – just those required for the home page – placed just above the closing body tag.

Network Issues

If your optimized website still loads slowly, you will need to evaluate your webhost and your ISP. If your webhost is slow, your website will load slowly. You will need to upgrade your webhost. Or it may be just that your ISP speed is slow in which case other people will see your website load quickly, but you will always see it load slowly. Time to shop around for a new ISP.

These are just a quick general discussion of the aspects of website optimization. Please contact us if you have further questions.

Hiring a Web Developer Part 04

Interviewing Your Prospective Web Developer

Effective techniques in interviewing a web developer can make the difference between success and disaster for your website project.

If possible, interviews should be performed on a face-to-face basis. In my case, most of my current clients were referred to me and I have met only a few of them face-to-face because they are spread all over the US and Canada. I have, however, participated in several face-to-face interviews and much prefer them to telephone or Skype interviews. All the individuals who will be involved with the project should participate during the interview, both to add their perspective to the hiring process and to evaluate the quality of communication between the web developer and the project members.

Working with a web developer covers a broad range of communication issues. Design concepts and ideas, copy concepts, SEO keywords and phrases… all are areas which require effective communication to produce the desired result. A common complaint among those who have hired web developers is that they never hear from their developer. Be specific in stating your expectations and preferences in the level of detail, means of communication and frequency of status updates. This is an essential aspect of the RFP, but it must be addressed during the interview as well.

Discuss the developers’ level of experience with the specific requirements of the project and their ability to accomplish the project within the timeframe specified in the RFP. Determine whether they work alone or as a team. With whom do they work and what kind of relations do they have with their associates? What associates or groups do they belong to?

Discuss their primary tools, languages or technologies. Ask them to discuss how that particular technology is suited to the project at hand.

Discuss their working standards. Do they observe the W3C standards? Are they familiar with them? How do they comment and/or document their work? If they get hit by a bus, is someone else going to be able to pick up the project and continue on, based on their documentation and comments?

Discuss methods they use to reduce the load time of a web page. If you are not familiar with these methods, please read our blog post on Optimizing Web Pages. Also discuss their techniques for cross-browser testing to ensure that your browser is properly presented regardless of what browser your audience may be using.

Ask about post-development support. What hours are they available for support. What communication processes do they provide for addressing updates and other issues. If your website goes down for some reason, how quickly can they respond?

After the interview, discuss the interview with your team and ask each team member for their thoughts and feelings about the prospective developer. Score the prospective developer. As a starting point, utilize the Basis for Award of Contract portion in the RFP. We recommend using a spreadsheet laid out so that you can compare the prospective web developers side by side on each point.

Finally, Contact the owners of the websites that are in the web developer’s portfolio for their thoughts about the developer and whether they have continued their relationship with that developer. Ask about the topics discussed above and how effective the developer has been in each case. Update the spreadsheet with their feedback.

After all the prospective web developers have been interviewed, assemble the team for a detailed discussion of the relative merits and demerits of each developer. If one of them appears to meet the requirements for the project, hire that developer. If you are still not comfortable with the developers you have interviewed, do not hire anyone. Invite more developers to participate and continue the process until you find someone in whom you have confidence.

Hiring a Web Developer Part 02

Evaluating Your Prospective Web Developer

You have assembled a list of at least three web developers. You may have looked at sites you liked and obtained the name of the developer, or you were referred by people you know who were satisfied with their web developer or you just did a search on the internet… however you did it – preferably not the third option – you have at least three web developers you want to look at. Now, how to evaluate them prior to inviting them for an interview…

What Does Their Own Website Design Tell You?

First look at their own website design. It should offer a professional appearance and be free of errors such as misspellings and malfunctions. A web developer’s website should reflect their expertise. Based on their website, are they an actual business or is this something they do in their spare time?

Evaluate the Websites They Have Already Created

Do the websites in their portfolio appeal to you? Granted, their clients have dictated the styles and color schemes, but they should still reflect a high level of quality and attractiveness. Visit those websites – are the designs reflected in the portfolio still being used? Contact the site owner and ask for an honest appraisal of the web developer.

Special Requirements

If you have particular requirements such as e-commerce or that you be able to update the website yourself, does this web developer have experience with those issues? Look at the websites in their portfolio for examples of how they managed those issues.

Next step – Click Here to learn about preparing your RFP (Request for Proposal).

How to Hire a Web Developer Part 01

Web sites are not optional for the vast majority of businesses anymore. Without a website, no one will find your business because no one uses the Yellow Pages anymore – they go straight to Google or BING or whatever their favorite search engine is that week. And even if they did find you in the Yellow Pages, they want to know what you’re about, what kind of services you offer, how you differentiate yourself from your competition.

But what kind of website do you need? What must it accomplish for you?

That depends on who your clients and prospective clients are and what they are looking for. This is the starting point of designing your website. It doesn’t matter whether you are building a brand new website or updating an existing website, these are the critical questions. No matter how flashy and technically astounding your website may be, if it doesn’t meet your clients’ needs and expectations, it’s not going to accomplish the hoped-for results.

Step one of hiring a web developer has nothing to do with the web developer – it’s knowing what you need. Your site requirements provide fundamental insight into what kind of web developer can meet your needs. And any web developer of merit will have to ask you these questions at the beginning of the process anyway, so let’s get them out of the way before that conversation begins.

To facilitate this gathering of information, we have provided an on-line form which will ask all the right questions. So click here to open the Project Description form and take some time to fill it out thoroughly. Careful planning at this stage of the game will save a great deal of anguish later!

In the following post we’ll discuss the next step of hiring a web developer – evaluating your prospective web designers. Click Here to read that article.