Filter The NoiseBlog

We blog about design, technology, internet marketing and business on the web. As the name implies, we aim to "filter the noise" and share only the most relevant information. Feel free to chime in anytime with your thoughts and comments. Established 2004 in Colorado Springs, Colorado by HighTouch Web Design and Internet Marketing.

Website Re-Design: Make sure your Web Designer Sweats the Details

Dave Kolb - Monday, November 08, 2010

Most of our business comes from clients who already have websites and are looking for an upgrade to a modern content management system like Adobe Business Catalyst. That said, I find myself looking at a lot of other web designer's work. What amazes me is the lack of attention to detail in the work.

First, this is not intended to bash other designers and developers. For the most part (and there are definitely exceptions), the code I see is good and the layouts are fine. What's missing is the attention to detail, specifically, the boring stuff!

Details, details, details

Here are some examples of details so-called professional web designers often overlook:

  • Optimizing browser page titles
  • Optimizing page URLs
  • Optimizing H1 tags
  • Using ALT tags for all images
  • Spelling errors (ok, I admit...I'm bad at this one, but I try)
  • Clearly defining "who you are and what you do" IMMEDIATELY on the homepage
  • Linking the logo "back home" (not necessarily a rule, but it's expected by most users)
  • Including COMPLETE contact information (personally, I like to have at least a contact link and phone number on each and every page.
  • Including a tag line near the logo (not required, but helps define "who you are and what you do"
  • Not customizing error pages and messages for when things go wrong. Nothing is more annoying than seeing the "stock" error message.
  • Not having a CLEAR call to action and more importantly, not finishing the job by including a well-written auto-responder (with contact information) and friendly landing page (with possibly some up-sell information). 

I'm sure there are other details I'm forgetting, but these are the obvious ones that should be included in the design and development cycle. I know many designers consider "optimization" as part of SEO, and "usability" as part of strategy...which is just code for additional billable hours down the road.

These details, if addressed during the design and development cycle are much easier to do and should be built into the initial estimate. Cutting corners to force-fit a budget is not worth it in the long run.

Please feel free comment on this, or contact me with questions.

At HighTouch, we sweat the details.

If Your Own Dog Food Tastes Bad, Tweak The Recipe

Dave Kolb - Monday, August 30, 2010

As a small business owner, the easiest, yet often overlooked question you can ask yourself is: would I buy my own stuff. In other words, does my dog food still taste good? Asking this question should NOT put into question "why you are in business" but rather, "is your business headed in the right direction."

It's a question, if asked, will shed light on the value of your products and services...especially in a down-cycle. The key to having a successful brand of dog food is to stay steady in both good and bad times; and the only way to achieve this balance is to eat your own dog food often, oh and by the way...pretend you are paying for it. Evaluate this regularly and adjust accordingly.

Do you even eat your own dog food

Say you've developed an online accounting web application, but use Quickbooks to manage your business. Why? Because you always have, not enough time to convert, too complex, or "the classic", our product was not designed for businesses like ours? Really? If YOU don't use your own product, it's NOT GOOD ENOUGH for me...end of story.

Try becoming a "real" customer

Say you charge $49 per month for your service. Try becoming a customer. No really...become a paying customer. Go through the sign-up process and have your account debited every month for $49. How does it feel when you get your credit card statement? Does it hurt? Do you cringe, or is it a no-brainer? You'll know if you're charging too much or too little, but one thing is certain.

Eating your own dog food brings perspective and might just jumpstart your business out of a down-cycle. It will reveal your strengths and weaknesses in a heartbeat, and might just be the best elixir you've tasted in years.

Web Designers and Realtors can learn a lot from each other

Dave Kolb - Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A couple weeks ago I was working out on one of those fancy elliptical machines with a built-in TV. I usually watch ESPN or CNN, but it was a slow news day and I was sick of hearing about the LeBron Decision. Anyway, I surfed on over to HGTV, where I watched an interesting program on how to stage your house to sell it.

Many of their recommendations could be applied to a website re-design:
  1. Consider the curb appeal. You want to make sure your house looks great from the outside. First impressions count. Yard should be mowed, trees trimmed and sidewalks washed. No need to invest in expensive trees, shrubbery, etc.

    Designer's view: Your homepage needs to be clean and inviting. I wouldn't invest in any Flash intros, or fancy animations. People will just walk buy, or ignore them.

  2. Get rid of the clutter and de-personalize. Your house should show like a new home builder's model home. Promote negative space and keep the decorating neutral. Less is more. You want the buyer to focus on the home, not the furniture.

    Designer's view: Whitespace is good and you shouldn't feel compelled to fill all 960 pixels. Most websites have too many distractions and it's hard to simply find a phone number, price, or information about the products or services.
  3. Watch where the eyes go. Walk around your house with a friend or family member and watch where their eyes go. Chances are, they are either going towards something they like, or a flaw they've found.

    Designer's view: Look at your statistics and find out where people are going. If you find they spend a lot of time on the site looking at a lot of pages, chances are—they didn't find what they were looking for. If a lot of your visitors are clicking a conversion button, but not converting—you might have something wrong with your conversion page.
  4. Hire a professional. You're personally invested in your home and it will be very hard to step away and follow simple staging guidelines. You'll also probably spend too much money because you don't know where the deals are and what will get you the most bang for your buck.

    Designer's view: If you are considering building a new website, or are re-designing one, hire a professional. Define your budget up front and find someone to work with who can work within a pre-defined budget. Remember, websites take ongoing maintenance so make sure you budget for that to. Nowadays, a Content Management System, or a Blogging Platform can be implemented so you can do most the maintenance yourself.

Now here's a hint for all the Realtor's out there:

Go look at your website. Is it staged properly? Most Realtor websites I go to are cluttered, unorganized and look like they were designed by SEO Specialists, not Web Designers.

My advise to Realtors is to eat your own dog food. Follow your own advise on staging to get your websites to look and function better.

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