Monthly Archives: June 2017

Website Navigation

Navigating Through the Grocery Store is the Same as Navigating Through a Website.

  • Navigation affects traffic: how high you’ll rank, how much traffic you’ll get from search
  • Navigation affects conversions: how easy the site is to use, what percentage of visitors convert into leads and customers

I’ve been shopping at this particular Meijer every week for about seven years. I know where the groceries and products are located and I could probably walk blindfolded to many things I commonly buy. But what if I normally shop at Kroger and this was my first trip to Meijer? How overwhelmed would I be? Meijer is huge and the store sells everything from milk and paper products to bathing suits and auto supplies. If this were my first trip I would be utterly overwhelmed by the variety of products and the size of the store. Meijer has obviously considered this because their ceiling provides an easy to use map of the store layout and it quickly navigates you to core locations (or departments) within the store. Need baby products or kitchen supplies? There is a sign for both and they even offer an image for those of us frantically looking for diapers in a late night store run. Think about how convenient and customer friendly this is for visitors.

These are design ideas and tips along with examples of what to do (and what not to do) with your website’s menu.

1. Be descriptive

  • Descriptive labels in your navigation are good for search engines
    The navigation bar is a key place to indicate relevance to search engines. Since your navigation appears on every page, descriptive label shows Google that you are truly about that topic.
  • Descriptive labels in your navigation are good for visitors
    Your navigation bar is visually prominent, so it communicates instantly. When it lists your main products or services, it will be obvious, at a glance, what your company does up front, so they’ll know they’re in the right place.

2. Avoid format-based navigation

Navigation labels such as “videos,” “photos” and “whitepapers” tell visitors the format of the content, but not the topic. People don’t go to websites looking for videos or whitepapers. They visit websites looking for answers and information.

3. Avoid drop down menus

  • Good for search engines: Drop down menus can be difficult for search engines to crawl. Depending on how they’re programmed, they may lead to problems.
  • Good for visitors: Usability studies show that drop down menus are annoying. Here’s why: visitors move their eyes much faster than they move their mouse. When they move their mouse to a menu item, they’ve likely already decided to click and then you gave them more options. It’s a hiccup in the mind of the visitor.

4. Limit the number of menu items to seven

Fewer items in your navigation are good for search engines
Your homepage has the most “authority” with search engines because more sites link to your homepage than to your interior pages. This authority flows down to deeper pages through your navigation.

5. The order of your website navigation is important

  • Primacy effect: Items at the beginning of a list are more easily remembered.
  • Recency effect: Items at the end of a list (or things that just happened) are more easily remembered.

Website Visitor

Website visitors, however, do not offer than same continuity. Unlike my best friend, the average visitor gives you about 30 seconds before they make a decision and put your website and company into a box. Your box can quickly become the “expert”, the “clueless”, or worse yet, the “has been”. Website visitors have short attention spans, multitasking lives, and they simply have to much data thrown at them to weed through useless rambling and ill contrived text.

When I sit down with a prospective website design client, I always ask about visitor personas. A visitor persona is simply a box for your website visitors. It helps segregate your web traffic into manageable groups similar to what I do in my personal life. Personas help define your target market and helps web designers formulate a design that direct a more precise marketing message to the various personas.

Why would a web designer or company want to segregate their web traffic into boxes? So the marketing message can be tailored to each persona or group of visitors. Once you have your personas defined, you can create unique messaging targeted to those personas, you can better articulate your offering, and thus convert more web traffic. Once you’ve defined your personas, put yourself into the box. Think about why your visitor might land on your home page, what might they be looking for, and what might they need to hear to encourage them to take action.

Two Very Different Website Persona Examples

  • B2B Example – Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of B2B technology companies. There personas many times get defined into boxes that include IT, finance, users, and the c-level team. I don’t care what service or product you offer, those four groups digest and respond to information differently. They also have very different “pain points” or needs. Different pain points mean completely different marketing messages.
  • B2C Example – Since I’m a technomommy, my B2C example would be cereal. General Mills has placed their target market into boxes. There is the kid box and the mom box. Kids want to hear tasty and see colors and chocolate. Moms want to hear nutrition and see grams of sugar and see value. Both are your demographic and both have to be targeted from a marketing prospective. Let me just say, I’m certainly not buying Lucky Charms for myself, which proves the five year is a clearly defined persona.

I so strongly believe in website personas, I will not even consider the aesthetics of a new website until I do a deep dive into your marketing requirements. If I don’t know who we target or how many boxes we will have to satisfy, I can’t begin to think of possible web design options. It just isn’t possible.

Professional Website Design

 Contrary to what you’ve read recently, professional website design is not dead. In fact, the professional website designer is alive and well and business is thriving. Do you wonder how I can be so confident in these statements? It’s simple. We’re human and we need humans to help create an environment where other humans can emotionally connect.

We’re Only Human

The internet connects people and businesses across the world and usage continues to grow with each month, season, and year. While desktop website usage has gone flat, overall internet usage as a whole continues to grow at staggering rates. Users have moved beyond the desktop and are using tablets and mobile phones to keep them connected with the world.

And as device usage changes and internet adoption grows, content is becoming more diverse and engaging. The internet of things is connecting humans and machines and virtually everything around us.

Artificial Intelligence and Templates Cannot Solve Human Problems

Each week my team and I help companies with WordPress development projects, but in doing so we don’t just build a website. Anyone can build a website these days. In each and every website design project our goal is to help businesses solve real-world problems. These problems can be traditional sales and marketing issues or they can be problems of our client’s customers.

The objective professional website design is to identify an issue and use the power of the internet to solve the issues at hand.

I keep seeing advertisements and articles about the new grid type of website development. No designer needed they claim. Let software solve your design issues by reviewing your content.  A grid system that is focused solely on images and text cannot solve business problems, because it is not constructed to do so. It is simply there to be a quick fix to a low budget website development project.

It is focused on the website owner’s view of technology and doesn’t begin to actually address the website owner’s problems, goals, or objectives. If you’ve ever been part of a structured website development project you’ll know there is no simple solution. It’s a process that starts with discovery to identify objectives and uses best practices and experience to derive at a solution.

A grid based website design package may seem nifty, but it doesn’t ask the questions that really matter. It doesn’t ask website owners about their target marketing, product or service offering, project objectives and goals, desired traffic flow, or how the project will ultimately be deemed a success.

Professional Website Design Reaches Far Beyond the Grid

Go to a website design conference and listen to the speakers or discussion amongst attendees. They’ll be talking about design best practices, perfecting the user experience, and solving real-world problems for their clients.

What they won’t be talking about is grids, artificial intelligence, and automating the design process to remove the human element.

And that’s because it isn’t a solution. It’s just cheap alternative to real web design.

Here are a few examples of what professional website design offers:

  • Messaging
  • User Personas
  • Call to Actions
  • Search Engine Optimization

There are many more examples I could present, but I think the few I did discuss clearly show automation and website design do not mix. And they will certainly not provide the same outcome.


Trials And Tribulations of Website Developer

48 Hours of Real-World Trials and Tribulations

Meet Sally

Sally is a prospect that arrived as a referral from another WordPress developer. She spent $50,000 on a website that was built with a page builder she can’t really use or modify. The rebuild of her website took her search traffic to virtually zero and her sales funnel has dried up into nothingness.

Meet Charles

Charles is my SEO consulting client and I’ve been helping him with keyword research, site mapping, and content creation for the last few months. This has been taking place while he had an outside designer and website developer build out his new website. He recently sent me the URL to his development website so I could check it out. Friday morning I had the unfortunate task of telling him what I found in just a few short minutes of review.

Each page has a whopping 10+ h1 headers. You’re only supposed to have one per page. This is basic coding and anyone with a adequate level of coding skill would know this requirement. His page URLs don’t match what we had planned and were simply defaulted to page titles. This means they are not really following his instructions and don’t value his focus on SEO. And what made me most mad was basic elements like phone numbers, which should be set to click to call, are coded in as images. That works great for search engines and users on mobile devices.

I sent Charles a note through our project management software to alert him of some of the issues I found. I offered to do another and more thorough review once I know the developer has finished coding. I’m not a coder, so if I immediately see issues with coder, you know something is seriously wrong. And I felt bad. I surely don’t want months of SEO work to be derailed by someone else’s horrible coding.

Meet Paul

Paul is a returning website development client. We built him one website a year or two ago and he is back for another one. Paul isn’t unique. We’ve run into lots of people with similar experiences. All of these three people are educated, smart people, who were simply caught up in the cloudy world of website development.

My Tips and Suggestions for Hiring a Website Developer

You might be asking yourself why I’ve taken the time to document these experiences and share them. It’s because I want to educate people on what happens when you hire the wrong website developer.

Through education you can force change and through change you can find success. Let me give you some of my tips and suggestions for hiring a website developer that will deliver as promised.

#1 – Do your research.

I only meet about 10% of our website development clients in person and when I do it is a rare treat. We sell internationally so clients come from a variety of sources. The distance does not mean that the client cannot do his or her own research into us. If you can’t locate information on your website developer outside of their own website, be suspect. Be very suspect because there is a reason they are flying under the radar.

#2 – Know that bargains aren’t really bargains at all.

This is a big one because we often find the source of website development disasters started with a discount, bargain, or sale. Good website developers have full project calendars and they don’t need to offer discounts. They set a fare rate that aligns with their qualifications and experience.

When you find a developer who is eager to throw discounts out, they are racing to the bottom and doing so because they have to reduce prices to survive. The discount will end up being paid to another developer who will clean up the code the first developer botched. It happens time and time again. No one wants to clean up someone else’s spaghetti code. When we do, it takes us a lot longer than it should which means the client pays a lot more than they would have if they simply started with a quality coder at the beginning.

#3 – Articulate your project and define your expectations.

If I have a prospect who cannot articulate their needs or provides short or vague answers, I have red flags going off in my head that cannot be quieted. This is because I need to understand your project to be able to quote it and deliver to it to your level of satisfaction. If the prospect cannot or is unwilling to define their needs, it makes it difficult for me to deliver what is required for project success. I’m happy to help define these needs together, but I need cooperation and an active participant. Collaboration before and after the sale is what delivers results.

#4 – Expect a lot of questions and embrace them.

I ask a lot of questions. To the point that I know I drive some prospects crazy. But I do this with purpose. The more questions I ask, the more I understand what the prospect needs and wants. This means I can have clear expectations defined for my team on what steps are needed to deliver during design and development. Without questions, I’m forced to make assumptions. Assumptions are never good, because they can be incorrect. And when assumptions are incorrect, someone is left with disappointment.

#5 – Stop hiring friends of friends and family.

Just because your nephew took one college class in HTML, this doesn’t mean he can design and code a fully functional website that can support the sales funnel for a business. He may be cheap or even free, but you’ll pay dearly for this relationship. And that pay will be financially and emotionally based. Friends and family do not make good developers, designers, or webmasters. Keep business as business and family as family.