Archive for August, 2009
Business owners have lots of questions about Web sites, but often don’t know who to ask. We asked Rick Anderson, an architect from Edmonds, WA, to pose some questions to us that he’s always wanted to know about Web sites:
1. How do I select a Web site/marketing consultant?
At the core, you should make sure the firm or person your hire understands your project, has quoted you a competitive price, and has a track record of doing similar work. Understanding the project means that the person you are speaking with can explain the project in their own words and can make meaningful suggestions on how to make it better. You can determine a competitive price by speaking with other similar companies and verifying that the price you are quoted is within an acceptable range and is a price you can afford. A proven track record can be determined by reviewing a portfolio of work. It is isn’t important that they have done your exact project before, but it is important that whatever work they have done is of sufficient quality and met the needs of whatever clients they are showing you. I’m also curious how other folks answer this question in the comments below.
2. What kind of Web site do you need?
There are several types of Web sites. Each one serves a different need, and mainly people have some of more than one:
- Brochure Web site: This is a site where you describe what you do, where you are located, your approach, and give people a way to contact you.
- Extranet/Intranet: This is a site for use by your employees and staff (or in some cases clients or customers) use to share information, such as work plans, employee manuals, etc. Use of this site is restricted by location and/or username and password.
- Ecommerce Web site: This is where you have product to sell and people can buy it online.
3. What should I expect to pay initially and on a continuing basis for a viable marketing Web site?
Almost all of the work on most Web sites is “upfront” work — that is, it is completed before the site goes live. Likewise, you should expect to pay most of the money during that time period. More information on how much Web sites costs is located here. You’ll also need to buy Web hosting, which can cost $5-$25 per month for a shared account, and $100+ for a dedicated server.
4. What resources – besides cash – do I need to develop and maintain a viable Web site?
Time. Most business owners don’t know that hiring a Web site developer isn’t like buying a box of cereal. You need to give initial information to the developer, and then give feedback throughout the process.
5. What do I need to plan on doing to maximize the return on my Web site investment?
Once you have a fantastic Web site, you need a plan or strategy to get the Web site in front of the right people so that they can be convinced to buy your product or service. One approach for developing a Web marketing plan is discussed here.
You could have the best Website ever created, but if people can’t find it it’s of no use to you. Here’s 7 simple ways for you to create your own buzz – just by utilizing the contacts you already have.
Step 1: Start by visiting the site yourself. Look at it with the eyes of a newcomer. Do you like what you see? Do all the links work? Is there something you’ve never really liked about your site, but you let it slide figuring that the rest of the site is OK? Fix it now, because if you don’t like it chances are that your customers won’t like it either. Once you’re satisfied that you have the very best site for your business, it’s ready to move on to the other steps.
Step 2: Ask 2 family members to visit your site. Ask for their honest opinions; no one will be as honest with you as a family member can be. What do they like best? What do they like least? Be sure to ask them to navigate the site and let you know what works for them and what doesn’t. You’re not just looking for critiques on your site’s appearance.
Step 3: After you’ve addressed your family’s concerns, it’s time to ask for input from 10 of your friends. So that you don’t put your friends in the seemingly awkward position of critiquing your site, give them a specific task. For instance, ask a friend unfamiliar with your location to find the driving directions on your Web site and follow them – you could meet them there for lunch to reward them for their trouble! Or, ask another friend to find a specific product on your site and attempt to purchase it.
Step 4: When your friends’ suggestions have been implemented, it’s time to start the actual work of creating a buzz for your site. It’s hard to believe in this age of communication that many of us don’t know our neighbors well – or at all. Visiting 5 of your neighbors to let them know about your site is an excellent way to expand your network, reminding your neighborhood acquaintances of who you are, or as a way to make new acquaintances.
Step 5: Reach out to your mentor. Most of us have a previous boss or co-worker that we look up to, receive advice from, and owe a great debt to for making us who we are. Let them know that your new site and your business couldn’t have happened without them.
Step 6: Utilize your social network. Tell 10 people from your place of worship, your gym, service club, or sports club about your site. Give them your card and share with them how your site can help them in their daily lives.
Step 7: Contact 10 businesses. Get in touch with 5 businesses that your company could hold a mutually beneficial relationship with, by inviting the owner or general manager out to coffee (don’t forget your business cards). And, reach out to businesses which you already frequent (your dentist, dry cleaner, etc.) to remind them of what you do.
These steps might seem elementary, but it’s surprising the number of people who don’t follow these steps when revitalizing their image or business. By quantifying the number of contacts you make within each category you will be encouraged to choose the relationships who are best equipped to reach your goals. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if you are able to revive dormant relationships and succeed in expanding your network. What’s more is that you’ll spend very little of your marketing budget – what’s the real price of a cup of coffee with a friend, or lunch with a mentor who dispenses excellent advice? And, if you’re seeing the dentist anyway, what’s an extra minute of your time with the receptionist (maybe you’ll even score a new toothbrush and dental floss for your trouble). The point is – reaching out to the people and businesses you already know is an inexpensive and mutually beneficial use of your time and resources.
Graphic Designer Amy Reisman helps Curvine with various projects as a contract designer. She also owns Call Me Amy Design. We asked her to share her thoughts about choosing fonts wisely:
I often get a question similar to this when working on a website design, so what a great time to explain!
With the advent of computers, fonts became much easier to create. Thus, today we have millions at our disposal, most of which we can find for free, or they come for free with our computers. You may only use 2 or 3 of them on a regular basis, but many people have a favorite. As a designer, I have over 4,000 on my computer. Do I use them all? No! But I like having options.
Unfortunately, when it comes to web design, there are not a lot of options. We are pretty much limited to 5 fonts for any text:
San Serifs: Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet
Serifs: Times New Roman, Georgia
To make sure we’re on the same page, “Serif” fonts have feet, or embellishments on the characters. “San Serif” fonts do not, hence the “Sans”.
But yes, we’re really limited to just those 5. Let me explain why. We start with 2 major computer types: Mac and PC. Both have a different set of fonts they come with. From there, we have several different web browsers: Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and a few others. Internet Explorer is no longer available on the Mac, and Safari is new to the PC. This is where we start having problems.
Since each browser is created by different companies, and on different platforms, they interpret websites differently. So you might see a website look one way in Internet Explorer on your PC at work, but look completely different in Safari on your Mac at home. Its because of this problem, that these 5 fonts are commonly considered “safe” to reproduce most similarly on all computers and in all browsers.
In reality, there are a few more fonts you can get away with, but I always stick to these 5. Also, there are some methods to getting around this problem, using things like Flash and other fancy methods. But still, not really recommended.
So what do you do? First look at your logo. Does it use a serif or a san serif font? If it uses a serif font, you can use either Times New Roman or Georgia to match as best as possible. Same with Arial, Verdana or Trebuchet for a san serif logo.
Does your logo use both serif and san serif? Then I would suggest using a san serif font (usually Arial) for the site. Does it use a completely different font, or something out of the ordinary? Then you’d probably be OK using any of the 5 options, but again I’d usually lean towards Arial to minimize any clashing.
Another thing to consider, is what feel you want the site to have. I like to use Trebuchet for a more modern look. Georgia for something a either more old-style, or classy. San serif fonts tend to feel a little more casual, while serif fonts feel more professional.
As you can see, the font game is not an easy one. But I hope that this gives you a little more insight as to why we are so limited on websites, and how you can decide what your best option is.