Testing is one of the most important aspects of creating new web design. If you have a current website and think you can improve upon it, how shall you go about it? You should test new designs against your old design and see which one performs better.
There are two types of website testing that are popular and recognized by most industry experts: A/B testing and multivariate testing. Which one is right for you?
In general, it depends. However, I think A/B testing is appropriate for most circumstances.
A/B testing is where you take one component of your web page and you test it against a new version of it. For instance, you take your page headline and tweak it slightly then present an A/B test to see which one users like the most. The A version is usually the current web page published. The B version is the one with the new headline. You don’t test any other components on the page.
Multivariate testing allows you to test multiple components at the same time. You can add a new headline, move your lead photo from the right to the left side of the page, and make your sidebar wide and narrow.
Testing multiple variables at the same time can give you an idea about different versions of your page, but it won’t necessarily tell you which variables users are attracted to. In the above scenario, for instance, users might like version B of your web page more than version A, but do they like it because of the headline, the image or the sidebar? All you can is they like the combination of elements better.
This is why I recommend A/B testing over the multivariate testing most of the time. Still, it’s OK to use multivariate testing because the end result is a better website that visitors love.
Google recently announced the publication of a new webmaster cheat sheet. So if you just built your first website and want to know how you can get it to rank in Google’s search engine, you should download this PDF right away.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s just a basic overview, not a full tell-all. In other words, it isn’t comprehensive.
The PDF essentially offers the following advice:
- Write a concise, informative page title
- Chose a domain name that is descriptive and easy to remember
- Write unique meta descriptions for each page of 160 characters or less
- Give images short and descriptive file names
- Write a keyword-based alt tag for each image
- Include an informative and descriptive caption for each image
- Keep your website’s content up to date and unique with fresh regular blog posts
This advice really isn’t earth-shatteringly new. Reciprocal Consulting has been giving this same advice for years. And remember, it’s still basic information. There is a lot more you can do to help your website rank in the search engines. For instance, you should build some inbound links to your site by sharing it on social media, encouraging your site visitors to share it with their friends, and writing guest articles and blog posts on niche-related websites.
It’s nice to know Google affirms what we’ve been saying for years now.
Let’s face it. We live in a world where beauty matters. I have seen ugly websites get a redesign and improve visitor interaction immediately. The website’s bounce rate lowers, its unique visitors increases, and conversions increase. The same thing can happen to your website.
There are some very simple things you can do to improve the look and feel of your website. Here are 3 ways to improve your web design easily and reap the benefits.
- Associate your brand with colors – Not too many. Pick two or three colors that you want site visitors to associate with your brand and use those to design your website. Over time, those colors will be associated with your website and brand. Make sure you use specific colors by hex code and not just generic colors like “red” and “yellow.”
- Write content for the web – People don’t read the same way online. Make your paragraphs short, use bullet points and subheads, and use short and simple sentences. Make your content “scannable.” People will stop and read what they find interesting.
- Use graphics – “Gray” content might be interesting, but it’s going to be a lot more interesting with graphic enhancements. Use images on your content to break up the content and to add a visual element. Be sure to choose images that correspond to the content.
If you improve your website’s visual design, then you’ll see a huge difference in your conversions and how visitors interact with your website.
When I ask clients what they think the most important element of web design is, I usually get one of several responses.
- The header
- Usability, or functionality
- Shopping cart
- Conversions, or calls to actions
- Search engine optimization
These are generally the most often stated elements by people who don’t design websites. Even web designers will often repeat one or more of these often spoken responses. But the truth is, the most important element of web design is none of these.
So what is the most important element?
In a word, it’s content that speaks to your ideal customer.
Notice that I didn’t just say “content.” That’s because content in and of itself is just a tool. It can be effective or ineffective. It can be the right content for your target audience or the the wrong content.
If the content on your website isn’t written to attract your ideal customer and then close them, then it’s not good content. Period.
The bottom line is, you have to lead your ideal client to the sale. That means your content has to be targeted to appeal to the ideal client and convince them that you have the answer to their most pressing questions. In other words, it has to solve a problem. If your content doesn’t convince your ideal customer that you have the solution to their biggest problem, then you won’t get the sale.
That’s why content that speaks to your ideal customer is the most important element of web design. It’s what gets the sale.
As you get into managing your pay-per-click campaign, you’ll want to ensure that your landing page is optimized for search, draws the visitor in, and makes the sales pitch seamlessly with a strong closing statement – also known as a call to action.
Designing your landing page for PPC requires that you keep a focus on quality. Your quality score will determine where your ads are placed and whether or not your landing page receives respectable organic search rankings.
Here are 5 solid principles to keep in mind when designing your landing page:
- Attractive Page Design – Let’s start with design. Your page has to immediately be attractive to a user. If it isn’t, they’ll back out and go somewhere else. Make sure your images don’t obscure the text, make it easy to navigate or scroll through, and be sure you choose the right fonts and graphics.
- User Experience – Site visitors will not wait for pages to load. Make sure yours load fast. Also, include Buy Now buttons that are easy to use and functional. Every element of your page must be easy to use and encourage interactivity.
- Keep It Simple – Get rid of any unnecessary elements. Everything must point the user to the final sale. Include plenty of white space around the Buy Now button to make it visible.
- Grab Your Visitor’s Attention – Use big fonts and eye-catching colors for headlines, subheads, and calls to action. Make sure your Buy Now and Order buttons are clearly visible. Draw your site visitor’s eyes to those parts of the page you want them to focus on.
- Make It Social – Include social share icons on your pages to encourage visitors to share your page. And show your social proof badges as well. People respect marketers who can prove their social worth.
The best way to succeed – at anything – is to exercise continuous improvement. And the best way to do that is to measure what you do. Figure out what works and what doesn’t and change what doesn’t. That’s what Website Optimizer can do for you.
Google’s Website Optimizer is a method of testing and tracking your online marketing experiments so you can see what is working and what is not. You can use it to test your landing pages using an A/B testing model or conduct a multivariate testing experiment. Which model you use depends a lot on your marketing campaign.
The Website Optimizer is particularly effective with pay-per-click advertising campaigns. It lets you know how your campaigns are working.
If you have a desire to increase your website traffic or sales conversions, decrease bounce rates and CPA (cost per acquisition) rates, determine the best website design, or see which landing page is most effective, then Website Optimizer is a handy tool.
It’s imperative to test what you’re doing to see if it is working, whether you are engaged in a social media campaign, search engine optimization, or pay per click. Once you figure out what works and what doesn’t, it’s a matter of tweaking until you get it all just right. Think of it as making small adjustments until you get the right mixture of the right elements in your online marketing plan.
One of the most important parts of search engine optimization is also the part that is most often downplayed by the SEO community and by webmasters in general. Almost everyone is fixated on the technical aspects of SEO – keyword research, keyword density, meta tags, alt tags, etc. But you don’t often hear about how important creativity is in the SEO process.
When I speak of creativity, what I’m really talking about is bringing something unique to web pages. That’s something unique in the web design as well as in the content delivery.
Creativity is important in the SEO process because it makes your website unique, not only to visitors but also to the search engines. You want to feed the robots with information the can’t find somewhere else. You can do that in one of two ways.
The first way to be unique in your content is to provide information that no one else provides. That’s a bit difficult, but it can be done. You want to look for opportunities to bring to light information that no one else has access to or has left ignored. If you can do that, then you can take advantage of the creative aspect of search engine optimization by providing unique information.
The second way to present unique content is in the presentation. This one is much easier to implement than the first method. You can take care of the presentation by focusing on web design, site structure, or content presentation elements on the page – for instance, use of videos, infographics, or other interesting visual and non-visual content delivery elements. You can also add rich snippets to your page to increase your search engine optimization possibilities.
Creative SEO can be handled in any number of ways, but it’s a very important aspect to SEO in the 21st century. Make your website unique.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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.
You could call 2011 The Year of the Panda. Panda in this case is a reference to Google Panda, the algorithm update that killed hundreds or thousands of websites instantly, many of them big name websites. It also did in some microsites.
And that makes us ask the question, are microsites good for SEO?
My answer is, they can be if done right. The problem so often is that website designers do not often do them correctly.
So, What’s A Microsite?
You can build a microsite that targets a narrower niche within your broad company website’s niche. But what has killed many SEOs trying to use microsites is they linked them all together in a massive link building scheme. Google caught on and all their sites were de-indexed. Rather quickly.
If you build microsites, build them as standalone webites, not as link satellites for your larger site.
The Real Benefit Of A Microsite
The real benefit to having multiple microsites is not that you can use them to build links to your major corporate website. The real benefit is that you can use them as separate websites that achieve search engine rankings on their own.
If you have three microsites that each target their own specific keywords, that’s 6 times the number of opportunities to rank well for the keywords that you are targeting. That’s in addition to the ranking opportunities of your main website. And that’s if you don’t link them together.
You have to make sure your microsites aren’t associated with each in any way. Treat them like separate businesses and promote them as such.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
One question that often arises when a company decides to build a new website is, Should we include an online media kit or an About Us page? It’s a good question and a distinction should be made between the two.
The About Us page is typically a page that describes your business in such a way that potential customers can analyze and determine the benefit of doing business with you. It’s written for potential customers.
By contrast, an online media kit is written for journalists, reporters, and media organizations. Its purpose is to give the media professional some background on you and your company and to serve as a source of information for their initial background questioning. If you are on the lookout for publicity, then any media professional will be interested in calling you and asking specific questions about you, your background, and your qualifications. The purpose is to establish you as an expert in your niche.
Your online media kit should answer those questions so that you don’t spend too much time on the phone with media professionals answering questions that they should already know the answers to.
So, should you have a media kit or an About Us page? For many businesses, it would better serve your web design needs to have both.
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 design your website. It’s better to head it off at the pass than to wait until your rankings decline in the search engines.
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.
Internet businesses have become their own entity. Even if your online presence is an extension of your real world business, it would be wise to consider a separate business plan for your website. Here are 5 key things to think about before starting your Internet business.
- Branding – There is a lot that goes into branding a business. Even an online business. Should your domain name be keyword-based? Many branded online businesses aren’t (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, just to name a few). Nevertheless, it is important to think about how you will brand yourself online.
- Search engine marketing – This includes search engine optimization as well as your paid search options. How will you ensure your website receives its just deserts at the search engine table?
- Social media – You’ll have to think about incorporating social media into any new business you start online. That includes which social media websites you’ll use and how you’ll use them.
- Traffic conversion – Traffic conversion is more than simply driving traffic to your website, though it does include that. You must think about how you will drive traffic, what methods and techniques you’ll use to perform that function, including possibly video marketing techniques, and how you will convert that traffic once you get it to your website.
- Web design – Central to any Web business is your website design. In truth, all of the above considerations will be integrated into your website design. You might as well consider how each of the above initiatives will be included in your web design right from Day One.
Every business is unique. By the same token, every Web business is unique. You must consider each of these five initiatives for your business right from the start. Don’t settle for any cookie-cutter plans because your business is not a cookie.