Make your site easier to navigate

Navigation is very important for search engines

The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly fid the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.
Although Google’s search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site.

Plan out your navigation based on your homepage

All sites have a home or “root” page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (e.g. root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)?

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Site structure

Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?

404 (“page not found” error)
An HTTP status code. It means that the server could not find the web
page requested by the browser.

Ensure more convenience for users by using ‘breadcrumb lists’

A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page (1). Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as the fist, left-most link and list the more specific sections out to the right.

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Breadcrumb links appearing on a deeper article page on your site

XML Sitemap
A list of the pages on a particular website. By creating and sending this list, you are
able to notify Google of all pages on a website, including any URLs that may have been
undetected by Google’s regular crawling process.

 

 

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Building Your Mailing List with Downloads

A mailing list is the lifeblood of your online business. The old adage “the money is in the list” cannot be true enough — if you had a targeted list of prospects to contact each time you have a new product, you will be able to save a lot of effort by marketing it to your existing list of targeted prospects.

You can actually build up a targeted list of prospects that are interested in your products by offering a relevant download on your website. For example, let’s take a look at a very good example — apple.com. When you download the free iTunes and Quicktime software from their site, they will ask you to fill in an optional name and email form so that they can send you offers on songs that you can purchase via — guess where — iTunes!

In reality, you do not need to offer such a “heavyweight” download such as a full-feature software like iTunes. You can attract prospects equally well with some quality freebies such as a simple report, a free wallpaper, and so on. The important thing is that your download offers enough value for the prospect to be willing to give away his/her own email address to get it.

However, slapping together a simple download and putting a link on your website won’t be enough to attract qualified prospects. You will have to do some homework in order for your lead-generating mechanism to work well for you.

First of all, you must place your download form prominently on your website. Preferably, dedicate a page to it and link to that page from every other page of your website. That way, there is no way your visitors cannot find the download page, and when they do, you’ll get some of them converted into your prospects!

Also, you have to put a little effort into promoting your download. Explain and elaborate on the values of the download, and why your visitors should download it. You might think why would anyone want to pass on a freebie, but most of your visitors would be too lazy to take the effort to download it because most of their downloads just sit on the harddisk collecting virtual dust. It is hence important to show your visitors why they should download your freebie.

How To Have Websites Built For You The Cheap Way

Normally, if you want to have professional designers custom build your site, you must be prepared to dish out at least a few hundred dollars. All this can change if you know where to find the best deals, the best designs for the lowest price. Here’s a rough guide:

First, you must understand that it is a rip off to get companies to design websites for you. Have you ever seen those advertisements in newspaper classified ad sections that offer a 5-page website at $500? These companies are established companies with physical locations, therefore they have to increase the amount they charge to pay off some overheads: office rent, designer’s wages, advertising costs and so on.

Therefore, it would be wise to find freelance designers who work from home. These people are often working from home so they do not have a high operation cost like that of a company. On the other hand, they will be able to design images with quality similar to those of designers from big companies, so it’s a “no-brainer” choice.

However, choose freelancers with care. The best way to do this would be to go to elance.com. There, you can post the abstract of your project and get thousands of freelancers to bid on your project, so you will surely get the best deal. On top of that, you will be able to choose the designers based on their experience, past transactions and ratings, so your value for money is secured.

Another route you can take is to design your website yourself. Think about it, if you only need 5 simple pages to present some simple information, why waste hundreds of dollars for it? Just spend a little time to sit down and do it yourself. You’ll be able to design your own sites even if you do not know a single line of HTML code with the help of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) programs such as Microsoft Frontpage, Macromedia Dreamweaver and so on.

How To Generate Traffic Using Only Free Methods

Putting up a company would of course require a lot of things, to get straight to the point, you need a capital. To make money requires money as well. But of course, with the versatility the internet offers, there are many ways you could find that could help optimize the potential of your site or business in generating traffic.

While there are ways to jumpstart your traffic flows, many sites don’t have the resources that others have to generate more traffic for your site. Well, you don’t have to spend a cent; all you need is the proper mindset and a lot of eagerness. You also must have the drive and perseverance to do hard work and research to generate more traffic for your site.

How sweet it is to have more traffic for your site without spending a single cent. Now it’s a sure thing that many sites have articles that offer tips and guidelines in how to generate traffic using only free methods. Because it is possible, you don’t need to speed a single cent, it may take time, to say honestly, I’m not going to beat around the bush with you. You get better chances by paying for your advertisements, but at least you get a fighting chance with some of these free methods I’m about to tell you.

Take advantage of online forums and online communities. The great thing about forums and online communities is that you can target a certain group that fits the certain demographic that you are looking for. You can discuss about lots of things about the niche that you represent or offer. Another great advantage is that you know what you are getting into and you will be prepared.

With online communities and forums you can build a reputation for your company. Show them what you are made of and wow them with your range of expertise about the subject, with that you can build a reputation and build trust with the people in your expertise and knowledge.

You can also make use of newsletters. Provide people with a catalog of your products and interesting and entertaining articles. If you make it really interesting and entertaining, more people will sign up for your newsletter and recommend it to other people. The more people who signs up for your newsletter, the more people there will be that will go to your site increasing your traffic.

Another great idea is trading links with other sites. You don’t have to spend a cent. All you have to do is reach an agreement with another webmaster. With exchanging links, the efforts both sites do will benefit both sites. Every traffic that goes to the site could potentially click on the link of your site and visit your site as well. This works well especially when both sites feature the same niche.

Write articles that could pique the attention of people that have interest in your product. Try writing articles that will provide tips and guides to other aficionados. Writing articles that provide good service and knowledge to other people would provide the necessary mileage your traffic flow needs.

Many sites offer free submission and posting of your articles. When people find interest in your articles they have a good chance of following the track by finding out where the article originated. Include a link or a brief description of your company with the article and there’s a great probability that they will go to your site.

Write good content for your site. Many search engines track down the keywords and keyword phrases your site uses and how they are used. It is not a requirement that a content should be done by a professional content writer. You could do your on but you have to make content for your site that is entertaining as well as informational. It should provide certain requirements as well as great quality.
Generally, internet users use search engines to find what they are looking for. Search engines in return use keyword searching in aiding their search results. With the right keywords, you could get high rankings in search engine results without the costs.

All of these methods and more will drive more traffic to your site for free. All it takes is a bit of effort and extended man hours. Learn all you can about the methods depicted here and you will soon have a site with a great traffic flow without the usual costs that come with it.

Identify the Best Software for Words & Images

WYSIWYG vs. HTML Software

The two most common types of design software are WYSIWYG and HTML, which is used to build a Web site with Hypertext Markup Language. Better software combines both, automatically converting your visual design to HTML.
WYSIWYG (say “wiziwig”) makes Web-building a lot easier for those of you new to the whole thing. It’s an acronym for What You See is What You Get –you watch your site come together on the screen while dragging and dropping its pieces into place.
But if you’re building anything more than a basic Web site with limited functions, HTML is the way to go.
The code isn’t hard to learn, if you have the time, and gives you endless flexibility and options, and better control over every element of your new site and how it looks online.
A blend of both is best and usually offered in higher end – more expensive – design software.

Best Values

But cost is a serious factor, you say. You don’t have thousands or even hundreds of dollars to plunk down for software, and can do fine without all the tasty functions of sites like Yahoo, MSN or Amazon – although taking some pointers from Amazon’s site is a good idea for any level Web designer.

Here are some well-regarded, solid, meat-and-potatoes software choices. All get the job done and, with one exception, for less than $50. You can download the software from their Web sites, where you should look for more detail:

  • Microsoft Office Live Small Business Basics. If a simple, straightforward Web presence is all you need, you can’t beat the price – free. That includes a domain name and hosting (including 500 MB of space), basic Web design tools, 25 e-mail accounts for your company, and a $50 credit toward search engine advertising.
  • CoffeeCup HTML Editor. Both WYSIWYG and HTML, as well as more advanced options like DHTML scripting, live chat, blogging and loads of graphics. Buy add-ons for more functions. Free to try, $49 to buy.
  • Web Easy Professional. WYSIWIG/HTML. Flash animation; SEO; real-time visitor analytics; RSS; e-Commerce functions; Web color selector; fades, wipes and other special effects; 85,000 images and lots more. Free to try, $49.95 to buy.
  • Web Studio. WYSIWYG/HTML, flash animation, video, music, full-featured shopping cart, HTML e-mail, large graphics library, comprehensive user manual and two hours of video tutorials. Free to try, $169.99 to buy.
  • WYSIWYG Web Builder. WYSIWYG/HTML, image maps, photo and graphics libraries; ready-to-use Java scripts; ActiveX; flash animation; Windows Media player, Quicktime, Real Audio and other plug-in support; PayPal shopping cart; online tutorials. Free to try, $34.95 to buy.

Some Tips on ‘Deals’ to Avoid

As you shop around online for business Web design software, be careful about certain great looking “deals.” Here are some to avoid:

  • Software that allows you to use both WYSIWYG and HTML, but not at the same time. While you can switch between them, you can’t use them simultaneously. That’s a big disadvantage if you’re managing your own Web site, want to do it right and are pressed for time.
  • Packages that play up design templates, graphics elements and images, but downplay functionality – because there isn’t much.
  • WYSIWYG software with little or no HTML editing ability.
  • Many ISPs – internet service providers – like Verizon, Quest and Earthlink, and giants Yahoo, AOL and Google, offer free tools and server space for personal Web sites – but not enough for even basic small-business needs.
  • Avoid programs that aren’t aimed at small business owners.
  • Avoid software that doesn’t let you make easy changes quickly and easily.

Top-of-the-Line Design Software

As you might expect, top-tier Web design software is much more sophisticated – and costly. It’s harder for novices to control, and even if you learn to use their professional design tools, you may still need a pro to put it all together, make it work and maintain it.
But it will serve you well as your business grows, and your Web design needs grow with it. Here are some of the most popular examples:

  • Microsoft Expression Web, $299, free trial
  • Adobe Dreamweaver, $399, free trial
  • NetObjects Fusion 10.0, $199
  • Microsoft.com/SilverLight, free download

Even at this level, the software doesn’t include hosting or advertising services, your domain name or Web address.

What’s the buzz about AJAX?

AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) technology is the new buzzword in Web site design. So what is it and what makes it so cool. Simply put, AJAX is a Web development technique used for creating interactive Web pages and applications.
The intent is to make Web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, so that the entire Web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user requests a change (e.g., changes the font or inserts a block of text).
This is intended to increase the Web page’s interactivity, speed, functionality, and usability.

Make Key Design Decisions

Having a clear definition of your target customer will help guide many of your decisions when the specific work of designing your new business Web site begins.
Doesn’t everybody want basically the same things from a Web site? Well, yes and no.

Graphic Design
Graphic Design

Any visitor wants to know quickly what your site is about, what you have to offer that’s of value to them, a well-designed system to move them through its pages and freedom from sensory assault by unexpected, unwelcome noisy and flashy graphics which can slow page load times.
Remember always: Your Web site is there to serve your customers and their needs. If you’re turned off by endless popups, grating audio and graphics that look like they’ve been lifted from the Vegas strip, then you shouldn’t expect your Web site visitors to react any differently.
Your target customer may also have special needs that should be included in your site design.

The same features that are meant to serve them may also be just as welcome to a general audience. We’ll prepare you to move forward with briefings and resources in three parts:

  • General Design Principles
  • Getting Around On Your Web Site
  • ‘Seniors’ and Special Needs

General Design Principles
Don’t be a showoff. That’s another way of saying what we’ve stressed before, and will again: When it comes to Web design, as in so many other things, simple is better. Of course you want photos and other graphic images to tell your company’s story in the best way. And without some eye candy, any Web page is blah.
But use only what’s needed to enhance your central message and tell it quickly and clearly in an attractive setting.

Never make your customers work to get the information they need.
As you move ahead in building your site, stick to these basic design rules:

  • Keep it clean. Empty white space on your Web pages is itself a design element. Use enough to keep each page uncluttered and uncramped. Do the same if you decide to use a dark background.
  • In the dark. Never use dark text on dark backgrounds, or for that matter, light colored text on a white background. Black-on-white is a safe bet.
  • Gray blocks. Because you’re already keeping it simple, make your text as concise and straightforward as possible. Don’t waste words – they waste your customers’ time. And break up long paragraphs. What the eyes see in a split second – about all it takes for a Web user to split from your site – is a big, challenging block of gray text. Give it some air.
  • Choose colors carefully. You wouldn’t wear red plaid pants with an orange striped shirt (we hope!), and you should use the same design sense in picking the color palette for your Web site. There are even free tools to help.
  • Use successful models. The things you like or hate about other Web sites are probably the same for most other users. Take notes on what works and what you’d like to imitate. Better yet, save a screenshot in your design file. It’s easy:
    • With your cursor anywhere on the Web page you’ve chosen, hold down the Alt key and press the Print Screen key.
    • Nothing happened? Don’t worry, you just couldn’t see it.
    • Now open a blank document page in your word processor or Microsoft Paint, right click anywhere on it and choose Paste. An exact duplicate of the Web page you selected will appear!

Getting Around on Your Web Site
Easy navigation through your site is absolutely essential to a successful design. If the path you lay out for your customers to follow is long, twisted and forks off without reason, they’ll get lost – and you’ll lose the sale.
As part of planning in Step 1, we asked you to draw a simple diagram of all the pages on your future Web site, beginning with the home page, then connect them in the order you expect customers to follow.
Did it get messy? Too complicated? That’s your draft. Now you’ll refine it.

Try the same exercise by starting with the last page on your site diagram and working back to the home page. A lot of designers find that much easier.
Now, is every page linked directly to the home page like spokes on a wheel? That can work, but it requires your customers to go back to the home page every time they want find more information, more page links.

Do you have patience with that kind of back-and-forth?

7 Pages every Web site should have
Don’t look now, but your Web site might be missing a few pages—very important pages.
You’re not alone. Most small-business sites are a work in progress—constantly being revised, improved, and updated. So invariably, something is always missing. But some pages are so important that not having them could hurt your bottom line.
Here are seven pages every business Web site must have, and where they need to be:

  1.   Contact Us. Every small-business site should have a Contact Us page and it should offer visitors a complete list of ways they can contact you – from e-mail addresses to toll-free numbers to a physical address.
  2. Testimonials. Many companies skip the Testimonials page because they consider it too self-serving, While having a page like that may seem self-promotional, people will look for it. And when they don’t find it, they might begin to make assumptions.
  3. FAQ. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are frequently forgotten, too. Why is an FAQ page so important? Mostly, they’ll ensure you won’t have to answer the same questions over and over. But it also is a convenience for site visitors.
  4.  A “gimme” page. Want readers to sign up for your newsletter or regular special offers? Add a section where users can be persuaded to give up some of their personal information (such as their names and e-mail addresses) in exchange for … well, something else. In many cases, this is an informative report, a keychain, a chance to win tickets to a ballgame, or a cash prize.
  5.  About Us. But just because you can do business with people you might never meet doesn’t mean they don’t want to know about who they’re doing business with. The most effective About Us pages are succinct and use no jargon.
  6. Confirmation. A decent confirmation page that acknowledges an order and thanks the visitor for his or her business is essential—and often lacking.
  7. Privacy Policy Page. Most businesses have this page lacking. This page is a trust builder and increases confidence in the product offered.

Every one of your Web pages should have an obvious link back to home, and many companies use their logo (with an embedded link) for that purpose. But it’s not enough.
Persistent navigation is much better. As long as one or more of the following elements appears exactly the same way in the same place on every one of your pages, your customers will be able to go wherever they want from any page on the site without first heading back home. Here’s how to do it:

  • Menus. Every Web user is familiar with menus and how they work. Often found on the left side of Web pages in vertical format, they may include clickable buttons linked to products or categories, blog pages or glossaries, size charts or shipping tables – anything that appears on the site’s other Web pages.
  • Tabs. Amazon.com was the first to use a horizontal row of “file folder tabs” at the top of its Web pages to give users an easier way to find popular content on the massive Web site. The fact that you now see tab-navigation everywhere on the Web is proof of its usability.
  • Site map. This can a simple text list or a more visually appealing diagram that shows where everything lives on your site. But if you have a large site, the diagram can become unwieldy. Just be sure your site map includes everything on your Web site with links to each page. You don’t need to put the map itself on every page; just link to it from your menu. This can also help you with your SEO efforts.

‘Seniors’ and Special Needs
As a businessperson, you should already be well aware that the Baby Boom Generation is here, it’s clear – get used to it.
This gigantic market segment not only is a consumer wonderland, but Boomers know what they want and how to throw their intimidating collective weight around to get it. When they were coming of age, they turned this country – and much of the world – on its head. Now they’re doing it again.
They’re older, of course. So they’re changing the definition of age. When one of the icons of Gen-Boom, feminist Gloria Steinem, was asked how she felt at age 50, she replied, “Exactly like I did when I turned 40,” or words to that effect.
The point is that 50, 60, 70 ain’t what it used to be. Unlike their parents, among other things, Boomers aren’t afraid of new technology and are flooding onto the Web. But they want it the way they want it – easy to read, especially with eyeglasses; mellow instead of jarring; and definitely free of (how would they put it?) crap.

at least a question, the user won’t be drawn to jump through the hoop.

As you design your Web site, also think about customers with impaired vision, hearing loss or other disabilities, and their special needs. The Web site Accessibility Initiative is a great source of tips and design techniques for doing this.

Some high points:

  • Audio and video. If you intend to use either to assist your customers – instructional videos, product tutorials, testimonials – be sure transcripts, captions and video descriptions are also available.
  • Clarity. Pay attention to contrast and sharpness, not only in your images, but throughout your Web site.
  • Color. Important for “décor,” but don’t use it to convey your message. A portion of your potential customers may be visually impaired and will miss the point.
  • Flicker. It amazes us that so many big, professional and otherwise good Web sites intentionally assault their users with flashing, flickering, strobe-speedgraphics as “attention-getters.” Not only is flicker extremely annoying, it can touch off seizures in some people with epilepsy.

5 Mistakes every Web site should avoid.
But let’s go beyond bad font choices, graphics, and animation. What are the biggest usability mistakes that aren’t as obvious? Here are five, with tips on how to avoid them.

  1.  Having a confusing or counterintuitive site structure. Nothing drives users away faster than a site that forces them to click around aimlessly until they stumble upon the right page. An expert user should be able to get where she wants to be in no more than three clicks.
  2. Making the menu too complicated. Menus are the rough equivalent of a Web site’s spine. You want to keep them clear, straight, and strong. Navigation is normally found running horizontally across the top of a page in a tab-like orientation or stacked vertically along the left side of the page. No funny coding. No funny scripts.
  3. Lapsing into industry jargon. An overabundance of marketing-speak and technical or industry jargon is a very common mistake. Your goal should be striking that balance between efficient search engine optimization and easy-to-read copy.
  4. Overpromising, or even under-promising, what you can deliver. A Web site becomes unusable, and thus irrelevant, when it tells users that it will do something and then does not do it. That will drive those visitors away. Permanently.
  5. Not closing the sale. If the site doesn’t call the user to some sort of action, whether it be phoning, faxing, e-mailing, or forming an order or

This article is brought to you by Carra Lucia LTD Software and Design