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It used to be that all you had to think about when building your landing pages was how to optimize your titles and headlines, images through alt tags, keyword usage, and a having strong call to action. Is that all you have to think about today or is there more to it now?

I think that landing page optimization has changed and primarily it has changed because users are more savvy now than they used to be.

For sure, Internet users overall care more about design and layout today than they used to. At one time an ugly landing page could still make money, but because most niches now are embattled in some pretty stiff competition, if your web pages don’t meet a certain design standard, then your competition is going to win. Users will bounce from an ugly site to a more attractive site and make a purchase there even if your product is better.

For that reason, web design is much more important today. You want your site to be optimized well and have a strong call to action, but you want it to be beautiful too.

Aside from that, you also want to pay much more attention to metrics. What are you measuring, and are you sure you’re measuring the right things?

For starters, you should know how much of your traffic is converting. You should also measure your social signals, e-mail opt-ins, and anything else that could potentially lead to a conversion. You have to know what web design elements are working for you and eliminate any that aren’t. This often requires A/B testing or multivariate testing in some form.

By testing your landing pages for better optimization and conversion you signal to the world, and your in-house team, that you are serious about building your brand. It all starts with effective web design.

If you want a sure-fire way to kill your website and ensure that it doesn’t get traction in the search engines or that visitors stop by for a quick look and leave, then follow these web design principles.

  1. No social media icons – Leave off the social media icons. No one’s going to share your content anyway. Truth is, people do share content. And they’re sharing it more all the time.
  2. Don’t include graphics – No one likes pretty pictures. Fill your web content space with nothing but text. Lots of it. Heck, go even further and don’t break for paragraphs. Do everything you can to make your web pages gray.
  3. Noindex, nofollow – Add the meta tag “noindex, nofollow” to every page on your website. It won’t get crawled or ranked by the search engines and no one will ever find you. You’re sure to live out the rest of your life in obscurity.
  4. Talk down to your readers – You’re smarter than they are. Show it. Readers love it when web content talks down to them, puts them in their place. You’ll get lots of repeat visitors to your site with that. Not.
  5. Don’t do any internal linking – Links are overrated. Why would you want your web pages to link together? Why encourage site visitors to visit more than one page? They came to your site to see the page they’re on, so keep them there. Actually, studies show that website navigation is one of the most important things for site visitors.

If you noticed the inherent sarcasm in this post, good for you. Now, don’t you think it’s time to learn how to really design web pages?

There are several mistakes that website owners make when it comes to navigation menus when they attempt to use their navigation for SEO purposes instead of focusing on user needs. And all of these are fixable.

  • Multple navigation elements – I’ve seen websites with a fancy navigation menu at the top of the page and the same navigational elements in the sidebar followed by navigation links in the footer. Why? Pick one method of navigation and stick with that.
  • Too many pages in the navigation element – Do you really need links to your archives, categories, tags, author pages, and related content? Some of this is overkill. Usually, if you nofollow your navigation links to your archives, categories, and tags pages, then you’ll get much better optimization.
  • Complex site structure – Keep it as simple as possible for the type of website you have. That’s easy when your site is only 10 pages. But what if it stretches out to 100 or 200 pages? Or worse, to a couple of thousand? It’s OK to have different navigation menus for separate sections of your website, but keep the navigational elements simple. Don’t overcomplicate them.
  • Over-Optimization – Generally speaking, any time you include a navigational element solely for optimization efforts, then you are setting your website up to fail. Ask yourself if it helps your site visitor? If not, eliminate it and look for other ways that you can optimize your website.

Navigational menus are established for users, not search engines. That doesn’t mean you can’t optimize them, but optimizing your navigation menus is really simple. Use the best key phrase for each page on your website and use that key phrase as the link in your navigation menu. If your on-page optimization is spot on, then that should be good SEO. If not, you might need to re-write your on-page content or pick another key phrase to optimize for.

WordPress once was thought of as nothing more than a blogging platform. It was considered – and still is – the premiere blogging platform on the Web. There’s good reason for thinking of it that way. No other blogging platform offers the same level of design flexibility with search engine optimization benefits and maximum functionality.

Today, however, WordPress is thought of as more than a blogging platform. It is a blogging platform PLUS. And that plus is a big deal.

It is being billed today as a content management system. That means you can use WordPress to upload all of your website’s content and you can build a full-fledged website using it to manage your content from beginning to end. However, there are some pitfalls.

As an example, if you use WordPress’s media upload features and you decide to move your website to a new server or host, then you’ll have to migrate those photos and images and if you aren’t careful you could lose them. It’s much easier to make a website transfer with a traditional HTML website. You simply drag and drop your folder to the new server and you’re done. It’s not that easy with WordPress.

That’s just one example. Designing WordPress also comes with its own set of headaches. For instance, are you going to use an off-the-shelf template? Be careful because a lot of them are not optimized correctly for the search engines.

You could use a premium framework, but those cost money. You could end up spending as much money to design with a WordPress site as you would to pay for a custom HTML design, and have fewer headaches.

While I wouldn’t say don’t use WordPress for your next web design as an absolute imperative, it’s important to know the dangers and pitfalls before you make that decision.

The best time to start thinking about whether your website is mobile ready or not is when you start developing your site. One tool that comes in handy for a savvy website developer intent on building a mobile-ready website is mobiReady.

So what should you incorporate, or not incorporate, into your website to make it ready for mobile browsers?

For starters, strip your website of all Flash elements. The won’t be visible in most mobile web browsers. Also, frames are difficult to parse for mobile browsers as well, so dispense with them too. And while you’re at it, strip away any code that bloats your website and makes it load slowly. If your website is too large, mobile web browsers will have a difficult time seeing it.

If you’re building your website on a content management system, try to find a module or a plugin that converts it for mobile browsers or makes it easier for mobile browsers to parse. Again, test your website on a mobile test page before making it live.

Mobile browsing is here to stay. And with smart phones becoming more and more popular, it will some day be as common as browsing the web on a home computer. You might as well get ready for that day now.

If necessary, design a separate website for mobile browsers that looks like your company site but is built just for mobile users.

There are a lot of website design companies online that purport to build you a custom-designed website, then use an off-the-shelf web template. Sure, they modify the template, but that’s hardly “custom.”

A custom-designed website is one where the web design company takes your concept and builds you a website from scratch. The language used for the website is immaterial. It can be PHP, CSS, JavaScript, ASP, or a combination of the above. Or something else entirely. But they code the website from top to bottom. And they do it with sound search engine optimization strategies in mind.

Web design isn’t rocket science, but it’s not exactly Cracker Jack box thinking either. There is some creativity involved.

A good web design company can take your company image, your logo, your brand, and design a real website that captures the personality and essence of your brand. It is unique. It is custom designed in the truest sense of the word.

When you are in the market for a custom web design, take the time to interview companies first. Find out what their web design strategy is. Do they take an off-the-shelf template and modify it or do they truly build you a website from the ground up?

UGC stands for user generated content. If you use it, it means less work for you, more monetization opportunities, fewer time management hurdles, and possibly even better content. In most cases, it also means more website traffic.

User generated content can be solicited in any number of ways, however. And it can take on many forms. It can be straight textual content, other graphical content, photographs, videos, social networking content, or a mixture of the above. But how do you get people to send you their content to start with?

First, you should build your own content and get the pump primed. Once you’ve attracted a certain level of traffic, start building your platform. Then, put a call out on your website, in your e-mail blasts, and in forums within your niche.

You should make it easy for your website visitors to upload their content. Add a membership feature to your website and give each member the means to add content within their own community profile area. That content can be anything they desire, but you should encourage content that compliments the content you’ve already loaded to your site and that attracted people to it in the first place.

User generated content is how savvy webmasters build communities today. But you must build the platform.

Last Christmas shopping season was a record-breaking season. In fact, Cyber Monday (November 29, 2010) was the biggest online shopping day in history topping $1 billion in sales. Are you ready for this year?

Whether or not we’ll surpass that landmark day in online sales this year is a big question, but it’s not out of the question. In fact, it’s quite possible.

Online sales have increased year over year for the past three or four years. The trend is developing. More and more people are getting comfortable shopping online and the Christmas season is the time when they are most likely to break down and whip out their credit cards. Online merchants should be ready. And if you’re not ready by now, you’re not likely to be ready.

What’s it take to succeed in online commerce? You have to have a website ready to take orders. That means you need an attractive web design with clear and easy navigation and a safe and secure payment system. The No. 1 factor in whether online shoppers are willing to buy from you or not is whether you build trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.

Cyber Monday is just around the corner. Are you ready? Let the shopping begin.

It’s pretty much agreed upon by all web designers today that social share buttons are a necessity on your web pages. What we might disagree on are how many and which ones are necessary. But there are three that most of us would agree are essential.

  1. Facebook Like – Facebook is the most trafficked website online. Chances are, you’re using it and your friends are using it. That alone is reason enough to have a Like button on every page of your website no matter what niche you serve.
  2. Tweet/Retweet – While Twitter isn’t as popular as Facebook, and may never be, it’s still popular enough that you should consider a tweet/retweet button for every page of content you create.
  3. LinkedIn – Again, LinkedIn isn’t Twitter or Facebook, but if you are business that serves other businesses, then you should consider a LinkedIn button for your website.

Another up and coming social service that bears looking at is Google+. With rapid growth, Google+ looks promising, though the jury is still out which niches might benefit most from the service.

Other social share buttons might be helpful for your site as well. If you run a technology website, look for services with a high level of technology sector participation. The same goes for whatever niche you serve. Look for social media sites where people in your niche tend to hangout.

Whatever your niche, social media is in. Make sure you encourage sharing by adding those buttons to your website.

These days, just about title=”website content”>every website has an About Us page. But they are largely misnamed. The page isn’t really about you at all. It’s about your customers and when you write it you should go to great pains to make it all about your customers.

How do you do that, exactly?

For starters, you don’t have to write it in second person. I’m not talking about that. What I am suggesting is that you make your About Us page content focused on the needs of your customers rather than on your need to talk about yourself.

Here are five ways to ensure that your About Us content answers your customers’ – or potential customers’ – questions about your company:

  1. Tell them what year your company started, and when you started working in your sector if your company is new. They want to know what experience you have to solve their problems.
  2. What inspired you to start your business? Were you trying to solve a particular need?
  3. How is your business unique? What sets you apart from the competition? Drive these points home. They are your selling points.
  4. Define your service area.
  5. What causes and charities do you support? People want to know so don’t be shy about telling them your community service hot buttons.

If you answer these 5 questions on your About Us page, you’ll go a long way to meeting the expectations of your website visitors and potential customers.

Many small business owners spend so much time worried about web design concerns they often forget about the importance of web hosting. That’s a fatal mistake and it could cost you.

It’s not that web design isn’t important. It’s very important, but let’s draw an analogy. Should you design a nice big and beautiful house and start building it before you’ve bought the real estate to put it on? What if you design a house that requires a half acre lot, but you’ve bought a 1/4-acre lot instead? See the problem?

With web design, your problems can often be just as bad. Design your website and choose the wrong hosting for it and it can hurt you in the long run. You could have frequent service outings that take your website off line for periods of time and frustrate your customers. Or you could see your website getting hacked often because of lax security. All because you chose the wrong hosting company and the wrong hosting service.

When you are in the planning stage of your website, consult your web design company for their recommendations on web hosts. You could save yourself a lot of headache down the road by picking the right hosting company to begin with.

Should you design your next website with HTML or a content management system (CMS)? To be sure, each has its pros and cons.

    HTML – We are on the dawn of a new age with HTML. HTML 5 is currently in development and some website development experts have already started using it, either in purity or in conjunction with a CMS. New developments in the Web’s basic language make it extremely attractive, especially for pure website designers who want to build a website from scratch.

    There are many good reasons to design your website with HTML, but you’ll always be relegated to updating your website one page at a time. A CMS doesn’t have that disadvantage.

    CMS – While a content management system has its flaws – decreased security, for instance (and even then they have come a long way to defeat breaches) – a good CMS can make your life a whole lot easier. Instead of focusing on design with every website update you undertake, you can focus on the implementation of your content and save yourself oodles of time in the process.

    There are free open source CMSs available that can make your website look like a world class website. And there are systems that you can pay for that will do the trick as well. Either way, a good CMS can offer many of the same advantages as HTML.

So which is right for you, HTML or a CMS? That sounds like a question a web design consultant can answer for you.

One of the most important aspects of SEO is page load speed. It’s easy to overlook this if you are new to search engine optimization. If you do your own SEO, then you might overlook it completely. If you have an SEO firm, be sure to ask them to check page load speed.

Page load speed is important for one reason and one reason only: Your site visitors expect it.

It’s true that Google places emphasis on page load speed for search ranking purposes. The reason they do this is because page load speed is important to website visitors. If someone conducts a search and finds your website in Google’s rankings, then they visit your site, and the page loads slowly, they will likely place blame on Google for sending them to a sub-par web page. That’s why Google rewards pages that load fast and penalizes those that don’t.

The time to think about page load speed is when you title=”web page design”>design your website. It’s better to head it off at the pass than to wait until your rankings decline in the search engines.

Things that can affect page load speed are photos, videos, and multimedia presentations, CMS with heavy code, themes and skins, JavaScript and other extemporaneous code, and a number of other factors. You owe it to your site visitors to ensure that your pages load quickly. You also owe it to yourself.

The debate has been going on a long time. Some proponents of web design prefer to design their website using HTML. Others prefer a content management system, or CMS. But which is better?

I think it depends.

First, some CMSs are better than others so you have to be careful which one you use. Do you go for a paid CMS that you have to spend oodles of money on or do you opt for the paid open source version?

Here are some things to think about before deciding to use HTML or a CMS.

  • Security is better with an HTML website
  • Designing a website from scratch is usually easier and quicker with a CMS
  • You have more control over design with HTML
  • A CMS can be enhanced with plugins and add-ons
  • Traditionally, SEO has been more effective with HTML, however, many CMSs now rival HTML with search engine optimization
  • CMSs are often code heavy and can slow down your website, which diminishes your SEO effectiveness
  • You don’t have to know any coding languages to work with a CMS
  • If you design your website with HTML, it can be very tedious; one character out of place can mess up your entire website

There are pros and cons to using either a CMS or title=”HTML website design”>coding a website with HTML. Weigh your options and choose the one that is best for you.

When it comes to web design, not many people can do their own. It requires special skills such as knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, and maybe even other Web languages. But many small business owners and community service organizations are beginning to design their own websites now with WordPress as a CMS. Is that a good idea?

Actually, it’s a great idea, but don’t think that using WordPress is going to absolve you from having to know any programming languages. You can build your own website using WordPress, but there are some functions for which you might need professional help.

For instance, if you want to include your Twitter stream in your blog, where’s the best place to put it so that it doesn’t get in the way of your reader’s enjoyment but still provides the content benefits that you are looking for? Do you know how to map an image inside of your header? A lot of people don’t.

Special knowledge aside, there are plenty of benefits to using WordPress as your web design CMS:

  • It’s flexible
  • It’s free
  • You can tweak it and customize it to fit your needs
  • Built in search engine optimization
  • Cuts down on time when designing a website

While the benefits are there for using WordPress as a CMS, you can still get more out of it if you let a professional web designer build your site then teach you how to upload your own pages. You won’t have to pay for ongoing design and management, but you can get a good looking website right from the beginning. Then, when you want to add to it, all you have to do is log in and write your pages.

When building your small business website, the one you’re going to use for promoting your local service business, should you include affiliate links and promote products that aren’t yours?

There are two ways to think about this question. The first way is to consider those affiliate links exit holes. Anything that causes the site visitor to leave your website is an exit hole and it means you lose a sale. Does the commission you’ll make on that affiliate product make up for the income you’re going to lose by not acquiring that customer? If not, then you shouldn’t use the affiliate link.

Another way to look at this is that you’re going to lose some of your site visitors anyway. Not everyone is going to buy your product or use your service. They may not be in the market for your service right now or they might not be the right target for your service. Either way, you’re not going to make the sale anyway so why not offer them something else instead?

Both of these points are valid. You’ll have to decide which way of thinking appeals to you and decide to use affiliate product links based on your own goals and desires.

If you do decide to use affiliate links on your small business service site, do so with these things in mind:

  • Use them sparingly.
  • Don’t make the affiliate products the main focus on your site – that should be your services.
  • Place affiliate links where they won’t draw undue attention to themselves, but will be attractive and get clicked on by people who aren’t interested in your service today.
  • Think about your web design first. If affiliate links and widgets won’t look good with your website, then don’t use them.

One of the most useful website analytics tools is a heat map.

A heat map measures your traffic and its actions by showing you a colorful representation of that traffic. For instance, the hottest part of your website – the part where most of your traffic is navigating toward – will appear in red. Still hot parts of your website, but less hot than the red, will appear in yellow. It gets cooler from there.

Let’s say you decide to use a heat map and discover that you have a page on your website that shows the hottest part of the page to be on the top right, but a link that you really want your visitors to click on is on the top left side of that page. Based on the information you see on the heat map, you should move that link over to the top right side of your page so that you can increase the number of visitors who click on it. More than likely, after you move the link, you’ll see that click-throughs have gone up.

Heat maps are an essential tool of metrics that any website owner can use for improving website development. You simply watch your visitors, see what they do, then tweak your website to match their expectations. Pretty simple.

Just when I thought that everyone online had given up on free web-based hosting, I bump into someone who swears by it. Really. I was shocked.

The reason this person liked the free hosting was because it was, well, free. But that was about the only benefit. He did go on to say that he was happy with the search engine optimization benefits he was getting (I checked and his website was ranked No. 2 for a great keyword and a geotargeting add-on). He was also impressed with the design features, the fact that his host could add a blog to his site, and the analytics available for his website. All of that was good news.

But there is one big overriding risk to using a free web-based host, and that risk is too great to accept any of the benefits. What if that host disappears overnight or decides to shut down?

This happened to long-time free host Geocities. Remember it? It was owned by Yahoo!, then Yahoo! decided to shut the doors. All those website owners had to transfer their websites to other hosts. NOTE: Free web-based hosts are not compatible; you have to download the content, then copy it back to the new free host. It’s not easy.

If you have a traditional hosting company, any time you build a website and you want to transfer it to another host, it’s just a matter of transferring files to your hard drive and then uploading them to the new host. Easy.

Word of advice: Stay away from the free web-based hosts.

HTML 5 is in full development mode and I believe we’ll see the first iteration go public within the next year, maybe two. One of the most interesting changes from HTML 4 to HTML 5 is how page sections will be used during the design phase of website development. Here are 10 web page sections HTML 5 offers that will lead to better and more efficient website design.

  1. Body Element
  2. Section Element
  3. Nav Element
  4. Article Element
  5. Aside Element
  6. H-tag Elements
  7. Hgroup Element
  8. Header Element
  9. Footer Element
  10. Address Element

Most of these are new to HTML 5. A few, like Body, H tags, Header, and Footer are currently being used by HTML 4. While HTML 4 offers a way to include a navigation element on your web pages, HTML 5 changes the design process by including the Nav Element in the HTML and giving it its own code structure.

I’m particularly excited about the Section Element, Article and Aside Elements, and the Address Element. These HTML features will allow any website to be laid out in classic magazine style.

The Article Element will make it easier for web developers to add content to a web page that can be easily syndicated. The Aside Element will allow web designers to add sidebars to web pages easily and without fanfare. The Address Element will give content authors a way to provide contact information for each content element they produce.

HTML 5 is going to be a major new development in web design. I hope you’re looking as forward to it as I am.

Is there such a thing as the most important web design element? Doesn’t it depend on your Web marketing and web design goals? Yes, it does. But it also depends on what you can use your website for and the current conventions. Right now, there is one Internet marketing channel that is considered the most effective channel of all.

I’m talking about e-mail marketing. Since it is the most efficient and most effective means of conducting online marketing, it makes sense to put an opt-in form on your website. I consider it the most important web design element.

Of course, you should put a lot of careful thought into the placement of your opt-in form on the page. Where do you want it to appear and what do you want it to look like?

Your e-mail marketing opt-in subscription form should be eye catching. You want the reader to notice it. But you don’t want it to be so noticeable that the site visitor fixates on it. It should be visible and inviting so that you increase your opt-in subscribers. But you don’t want it to take away from the information on your web pages.

>Website design is a creative science. Nothing is absolute. However, if you consider that e-mail marketing is still the most effective means of marketing online, then an opt-in form for your e-mail marketing campaigns is an essential element for any website.