Nothing too small

Adelaide Hills web designer

It doesn’t matter how small your initial idea is, it may grow.

A great website does not need to be expensive.

Done right, you can begin with a small, simple site, and add on features as your business grows.

Call me on 8339 5728 to discuss how a website can help your business to grow and flourish.

Deadly Click-Bait

Adelaide Hills web designer

Click-Bait is the term used for those annoying headlines that promise something amazing, but lack any substance when you follow the link.

Examples include:

  • You will never look at ice-cream the same way again when you see this!
  • He called the police – but it was the next call that really turned things around!
  • He changed his name for a horrible reason, and now he is telling us why!
  • She made a sex tape but she never expected this!

(You will notice, there is always an exclamation mark at the end)

However, as anyone who has ever used the internet can verify, these sorts of headlines are almost always misleading and lack any real substance. In short, they do not provide the information they promise and, from a marketing viewpoint (well, any view point), breaking promises is bad.

Audacious titles and headlines give a false impression to people and sensationalise blogs and articles.  When that happens people who click on the links will be disappointed with the content and less likely to return to your website.

So why do people do it?

Why add click-bait to your site?

Click-baiting is used to bring a constant flow of traffic to a web site, but the reality is that it is often traffic that may not even be useful in the long-term.

Click-baiting is one of the bad side effects of an old fashioned approach to SEO (search engine optimisation) and site content marketing.
It originally started as a practice to hook readers and get them to click on your link from a social media site and visit your page.
The tactic was most prevalent among sites that rely of advertising placement for their income, such as UpWorthy, BuzzFeed and Distractify.
The idea was to show their own advertisers impressive traffic statistics.

Click-bait headlines aren’t clever and new any more, and for most people they are just annoying: just another form of spam cluttering up their lives.
Today, with some social media platforms like Facebook actually penalising it and Google reported to be looking at ways to drop sites that use it excessively, it is not even so much that click-bait might spoil your online reputation – it might even soon get your site blacklisted!

As with all bad practices, clients of self-styled “social media gurus” and “SEO experts” soon begin to realise that the traffic click-baiting is driving is not of any value to their business, but often they have invested thousands of dollars in these dodgy practices before the realisation dawns.

The cruel fact is that people who are attracted by catchy headlines are invariably not the customers that you are looking for anyway.

In summary, this is why you should avoid click-baiting:

1. Click-bait makes you look less authoritative
Click-bait tactics are not used by respectable companies or newsrooms. We do not see Apple or Microsoft using click-bait techniques.  Nor do we see the ABC, the New York Times or the Guardian using catchy titles to attract traffic. Their quality of content attracts their traffic – and that is how it should be.
When you use tactics like click-baiting, you look like a desperate novice who is trying hard to grab attention and it backfires.

2. Click-bait attracts the wrong kind of traffic
Those who are attracted to catchy titles expect something sensational. Unless you are releasing a genuinely astounding innovation you should not indulge in sensational advertising because you are about to break a promise the moment your reader clicks. When they see your article lacks the substance you promised they leave your website disappointed.
Those who are NOT attracted to catchy titles are put off your business and look at you with disdain.
So, in the end, you get nothing at all.

3. Click-baiting is a fad that has passed its prime.
Click-baiting depends on terms and trends that reflect fad in our societies. They are attractive and are catchy only for a certain demographic and for a certain period of time. When the trend shifts, your content becomes irrelevant and no-one will bother to go back and read it again.

You cannot possibly create timeless content when you all you rely upon are catchy and trendy titles.

Timeless solutions depend on the quality of the content and the seriousness of what is being published.
If your article depended on titles to attract people, you probably are writing the wrong way.

Focus on your content so that it speaks for itself.

If you cannot write well, hire content writers who are efficient and talented. They should be able to write well without resorting to tactics such as keywords or click-baits, ensuring there is a certain level of quality to what you publish.

Aim to be respected as as business that is of high quality and be sure your writing reflects that aim.

20 Years on, what’s new in web design?

Adelaide Hills web designer

It’s no secret that I love web design!

I fell deeply, head-over-heels in love with the internet 20 years ago and changed the course of my career in marketing to specialise in this new technological dream.

It’s now 20 years since I produced my first website – a rather simple, single page for CPS Credit Union (now Beyond Bank) that would take less than 5 minutes now, but back then took many weeks!

That first foray into web design lead to a passion. I loved the complexity of the coding and the challenges of graphic design. That first web site had to render well on monotone screens as well as colur because, believe it or not, colour monitors were only a new product at the time.

To say that web design has changed a lot in 2 decades is stating the obvious. But one of the thrilling things about being a web designer is that you constantly need to stay abreast of new trends, changes and technologies.

So, what major trends are influencing web design today?

There are 3 major factors that are currently affecting web design:

1. Google standards
2. Variety of screen size displays
3. Touch screens rather than mouse
3. Better speed to load

Google now ranks websites that are optimised for display on multiple screens (phones, tablets, desktops etc) higher than sites that are not. In Australia, between 81-83 percent of all internet access is now via a phone or tablet (Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2014).

THIS IS TURN HAS LEAD TO OTHER INTERESTING CHANGES.

The trend to viewing on a small screen means that in terms of graphic design websites have become clearer and cleaner with pared back graphics.

Logos (headers) are smaller and simpler and using complex background images now makes your site look old fashinoned.

Flexibility is king and anything that gets in the way is removed.

Having a video on your home page, once a sign of class, now means you will put people off, especially if it is set to play automatically and has a soundtrack. Firstly because this means your site takes longer to load on a device that is using a roaming signal (like an iphone) and secondly because, if you are in public, it can be really embarassing if someone’s ad starts blaring from your phone.

Fixed percentage width and centre aligned sites are making a come-back.

The was a short lived trend for full width sites, where no matter how narrow or wide your screen was, the site would fill from one edge to the other. Unfortunately, this lead to the edges being blurry on some devices, so the trend has returned to widths that leave a sophisticated small border again.

Stock images are dead! Yay!

Recent analysis shows that stock images, and especially those ones of “professional people at meetings”, rather than giving the impression that a business is dynamic and competent, actually makes a business look rather dodgy. People recognise stock images for what they are and using them makes it look like you are hiding something. Better a photo of your staff taken on a phone camera than using fake people.

People like the personal, not the corporate. They want to do business with real people and these days the use of stock photography is likely to give the first impression that your website is some sort of scam. After all, that’s what scammer’s site look like.

Responsive Web Design (RWD)has been around for a while. Up until recently, most design emphasis was placed on making the site look great on desktop devices, and just ok on mobile and tablet devices. RWD has moved toward making every experience look great no matter the device.

With this move, we are starting to see design elements that begin from the point of taking what works on mobile devices and implementing it site wide.

Menus are where you expect to find then – in the upper right of the small screen and horizontally across the top on the big screen. It’s really quite odd when you think about it, how website menus move about and can sometimes even be difficult to find!

This would never happen with a book, would it? You always know that in a book the content will be in the front and the references will be at the back, so why hide these things in tricky places on a web site?

If you produced a web site because you wanted people to read about you or your business, don’t be tricky and hide your content. That’s just silly.

And while on the topic of hiding your content, gone too are those irritating, slow loading, “just wait while I draw it” graphics. Really, nobody has time for that sort of self indulgent twaddle and nothing else attacts a back button push quite like being expected to wait in order to see something.

Mouse-over images are also gone. With over 80% of all internet access being via a touch screen, mouse-over images are clunky and redundant.  They slow your site and don’t work anyway if you aren’t using a mouse.

Bigger text, even huge text, is sensibly making a come-back.

Maybe this is due to the ageing of the generation X web designers who these days need glasses themselves, but it is a welcome change, especially on small phone screens. And incidentally, if your text is considered too small, Google will now penalise you by dropiing your ranking.

Your viewer wants to get a preview of all you have to offer right on the first page so the trend is towards home pages that are much longer in order to create a dynamic interaction between the website and the viewer. So the first sentences should be who we are, what we do and where we are.

Scrolling is not an issue on touch screens, but using menu links may be. Over 90% of visitors to a wen site never go past the first screen, so get your details there!

Skeuomorphic design is being replaced by flat design.

Skeuomorphic design refers to the trend to take objects from the physical world and render them on a screen, such as making objects like “buttons” look 3 dimensional, so that the user “presses” them when they click.

This design trend began in the mid 90s because websites mirrored the buttons people were familiar with on household objects.

Similarly, in the 90s there was a trend for websites to have notes that looked like bits of paper, paper clips attached to the borders, 3D effects like drop shadows and notice boards that looked like pin-up boards.  However, twenty years on, internet users are completely familiar with the online environment and visual clues suggesting what to “press” are no longer necessary.

 

Does My Website Look Big in This?

Adelaide Hills web designer

Does My Website Look Big in This? Responsive Websites

Once upon a time, everyone had the same size computer screen.  Remember those big, heavy, box shaped things that sat on every desk?  Back then, web design was simple.  If the site I made looked good on my screen, it looked good on everyone’s screen.

Then along came laptops, mini-laptops, mobile phones, smart phones and eventually tablets of every size and shape.

Today, a website needs to work, look good and be easily navigable  whether it is on a big, medium, small or tiny screen, in both landscape and portrait orientation.

The term used in web design for this feature and ability  is “responsive”.

A responsive web site will cunningly reconfigure itself like a contortionist, to fit any size screen or device.  So if your site looks good on your office PC you can be sure it also looks great on your customer’s mobile phone.

But how to be sure?

We cannot possibly all own every size and configuration of screen to check our websites on, but it is possible to get a good idea by using a service such as Cybercrab or Screenfly.

Most websites older than 5 years are unlikely to be responsive, so it’s a good idea to check. Older websites were “static” and while the screen size shrinks down when viewed on a mobile, it may well be too small to see or navigate  easily.

Remember, if your customer cannot see your website clearly on their phone you may be losing their business.

Changing an existing static website to a responsive one should be a simple job for a web designer (we charge $200) as long as there is ready access to the server your site is hosted on.

Unless you require significant changes to the graphic style of your site it shouldn’t be a major inconvenience or cost much to make it responsive.

Of course, if you have hundreds of pages of content it will take a bit longer and cost more. However, your old, static site can remain visible to the public until the new site is completed and ready to launch.

So check your site today. Is it looking good on all devices? If not, give me a call.

Want to discuss changing your website to responsive? Call Jane on 8339 5728.

What are people saying about you?

Adelaide Hills web designer

Google Alerts

Know what people are saying about you or your business anywhere on the web (or what they are saying about your competitors for that matter) by using Google Alerts.

You can set up Google Alerts to keep tabs on any person, place, or thing.

Google Alerts sends you an e-mail whenever your key phrase appears anywhere online.

Google Alerts are easy to set up.

  1. Go to https://www.google.com.au/alerts#
  2. Enter your search query.
  3. Choose the kind of results you want. By default, Google Alerts
    will give you “everything,” but you can also narrow the search to
    blogs, books, discussions (within Google Groups), news, and
    video.
  4. Decide how often you want the alert.

You can use Google Alerts to track a key phrase on a single website if you wish. For example, if you want to see what people are saying about Malcolm Turnbull on Facebook you simply type this:

site:facebook.com “Malcolm Turnbull”

As you type, you will see a preview of the results. This can help you tailor the query to get exactly the kind of information you want.

With all your choices made, click Create Alert.
Bookmark your Alert-management page so you can edit or delete alerts as needed.

If a particular result seems out of place, you can click “flag as irrelevant.”

spam!

Adelaide Hills web designer
Once the spam filters learn of a spammer they block them.
But quite a lot of people have to suffer from their spam activity first.
I remember Steven Fry on QI asking what the bulk of internet traffic was and the answer was over 90% spam.
So if there was a solution I think someone would have become a billionaire with it by now.You know that old saying “there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes”?
I think we need it revised for the 21st century to
“there is nothing certain in life but death, taxes and spam email”
While there are numerous spam filters available, nothing really works 100% all the time, and any spam filter comes with the risk that you will potentially delete emails from new customers, there are some things you can do when spam gets overwhelming.

These are some useful suggestions that are worth knowing about:

  1. Take advantage of the Junk E-mail Filter in your email software   which automatically evaluates incoming messages and sends those identified as spam to the Junk E-mail folder.
  2. Use you “block sender” option to block any firther emails from a sender.
  3. Block pictures in HTML messages that spammers use as Web beacons. By default, this feature blocks automatic picture downloads and other external content in messages if the content is linked to a server. If you open a message that has external content when this feature is turned off, the external content downloads automatically, inadvertently verifying to the server that your e-mail address is a valid one. Your e-mail address can then be sold to a spammer. You can unblock external content for messages that come from sources that you trust.
  4. Turn off “read and delivery receipts” and automatic processing of meeting requests. Spammers sometimes resort to sending meeting requests and messages that include requests for read and delivery receipts. Responding to such meeting requests and read receipts might help spammers to verify your e-mail address. You can turn off this functionality.
  5. Limit the places where you post your e-mail address. We all need our email addresses on our web sites, but unfortunately whenever you list or link to your e-mail address, you increase your chances of being spammed.
  6. Review the privacy policies of web sites and only join those you need and trust such as online banking, shopping, or newsletters.  Look for a link or section (usually at the bottom of the Web site’s home page) called “Privacy Statement,” “Privacy Policy,” “Terms and Conditions,” or “Terms of Use.” If the Web site does not explain how your personal information will be used, consider not using the services at that site.
  7. Watch out for check boxes that are already selected. When you shop online, companies sometimes add a check box that is already selected, which indicates that it is fine with you if the company sells or gives your e-mail address to other businesses (or “third parties”). Clear this check box so that your e-mail address is not shared.
  8. Don’t EVER reply to spam. Never reply to a spame-mail message — not even to unsubscribe from a mailing list. Answering spam just confirms to the spammer that your e-mail address is an active one.
  9. If a company uses e-mail messages to ask for personal information, don’t respond by sending a message. Legitimate companies will not ask for personal information to be sent in e-mail, so be very suspicious if they do. Such a request could be a spoofed e-mail message disguised to look like a legitimate one. This tactic is known as phishing. If the possible spam appears to be sent by a company that you do business with — for example, your credit card company — then call the company to verify that they sent it, but don’t use any phone number that is provided in the e-mail. Instead, use a number that you find by using other means, such as directory assistance, a statement, or a bill. If the request is a legitimate one, the company’s customer service representative should be able to assist you. The Junk E-mail Filter also includes phishing protection to help identify and disable suspicious messages.
  10. Don’t contribute to a charity in response to a request sent in e-mail.  Sadly, some spammers prey on your goodwill. If you receive an e-mail appeal from a charity, treat it as spam. If the charity is one that you want to support, locate their telephone number or Web site to find out how you can make a contribution.
  11. Don’t forward chain e-mail messages. apart from the fact that by forwarding a chain e-mail message you might be furthering a hoax, you also lose control over who sees your e-mail address.