Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reasons Why Not to ReDesign Your Website and Reasons Why You Should

Most companies undergo a redesign every 6 months to 2 years. However, according to studies, pproximately 1/3 of marketers were not happy with their last website redesign. Even worse, 38% of companies' website performance did not improve after a redesign. So, why go through all the pain with so little gain?

With an average cost of $43,000 for a large company redesign, this should only be undertaken for the right reasons.

Here are 10 really bad reasons to redesign your website.

1) "It's Been 8 Months Since My Last Redesign. I'm Bored With It."

Just because you see your website a hundred times or more a day doesn't mean your visitors do. When you see your own website so often, it's easy to get sick and tired of seeing it. You start to notice little things, which turns into a lot of little things, which makes you believe that you need to get rid of it all and start over. While it's not a bad idea to have your designers and developers work on improving the visitor's experience or your site's performance, doing it for the sake of boredom will eat resources very quickly.

2) "Because the CEO Said So"

While the majority of the responsibility of a redesign is on the marketing team or agency, many companies have an executive team that has the final say.

Sadly, very few CEOs have a strong internet marketing background or in-depth knowledge of what really makes a website tick. Many times they look at it primarily from a branding point of view. This isn't all bad -- branding is an important part of any website. But so is actually generating revenue from it. After all, pretty pictures and brand statements don't always bring in the cash.

Be sure to test different designs, then present those to the  higher ups so only the best designs are implemented.

3) "My Website Lacks Flare"

There are times when web designers are asked to add fancy elements, such as sliders, rotating images, scrolling logos, etc. -- just because it looks better. Or, a redesign is requested because the current site isn't using the latest and greatest technology like HTML5.

Flashier isn't always better. Especially when it doesn't add any actual value to the visitor.  Media elements and complex graphics, as cool as they may seem, can actually get in the way.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen website redesigns get stuck because the homepage "slider" isn't sexy enough. Your visitors aren't coming to your website to see what's inside that slider, trust me.

4) "It's Not Pixel-Perfect"

It's important to care about quality. But I've seen many owners and marketing teams obsess over every square pixel of their site (or email, or banner ad, etc.). They think that by making it pixel-perfect, it's suddenly better.

Steve Jobs once said, "Great design is not how it looks, but how it works." Instead of obsessiong over whether the coded site is a pixel perfect match to a mockup designed for print, by someone not familiar with how a website really works, obsess over how your redesign is going to make your website effective at attracting traffic, converting leads, and closing customers.

5) "I Want It to Look Like Apple"

Ever see a great website that you just had to make your web designer copy? Getting inspiration is a great thing, but redesigning your site "just because it needs to look more like Company Y's"? Ummm ... not so much.

Just because a certain design worked for one company doesn't mean it will work for you. While it is a great idea to pull inspiration from other sources, especially as you do research before a redesign, implementing those same design factors because they are liked (without serving a real purpose) will only deliver failed results.

6) "The Competition Just Updated Theirs"

You probably visit your competitors' websites more often than you care to admit, right? Instead of caring about their website, go do something they are not doing. Let them redesign their website while you instead build resources of highly valuable content that attracts leads and fans. Do it ... I dare you.

7) "We Need to Improve Our SEO"

One of the top reasons for a redesign is to increase web traffic. Traffic is, after all, important to a site's performance because without visitors, you can't generate leads and sales. But redesigning a site primarily around search engine optimization is just silly.

Sure, if you launch a more search-optimized website, you may see a pop in rankings and results. But it won't last unless you build a regular content foundation. Search engines love websites that utilize blogging, fresh offers, and valuable content that is written for people and not robots.

8) "My Site Needs More Product Information"

Are the products on your website not selling themselves? Perhaps better product pages is all you need. Or maybe your website isn't highlighting your core strengths and unique advantages enough? I know! A redesign is the answer!

Very few marketers launch a redesign to improve its overall user experience. As a result, most websites tend to be product-centric instead of customer-centric. The goal of a website is to answer questions or solve problems by giving visitors the information they need for where they are in the buying cycle. You see, people don't remember the pitch. They remember the experience. Why not surprise them?

9) "I Want to Look 'Bigger'"

If you're a smaller company that competes against the "big guys," then the only solution is to look big, too. Right? Or maybe the opposite is true, maybe you want to "look smaller" to attract those niche buyers for what will be seen as your "boutique" products.

Looking bigger or smaller isn't suddenly going to make your website more effective. Looking professional is what is important.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Web Design Trends for Your Small Business

A well-designed, concise website is an extremely important tool for attracting potential customers for your small business.

With constantly changing web design trends, it is important to understand what items are essential, as well as being within your small business budget.

The following are the some of the top web design trends for 2013, as chosen by Website Magazine:

Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design has become increasingly important, due to the rising importance of tablets and mobile phones and their use by potential customers to access your website.

When transitioning your current website over to a responsive site, you need to consider how it will look for both a wide screen laptop, a handheld tables of multiple sizes and mobile phones of different types and platforms. While you may have many pictures, text and videos on your full website, you might also want to think about the importance of a mobile experience with easy navigation and fast loading times. A responsive website should also include a clear call-to-action button or link at the top of every page, as well as any social media links to allow potential customers to become a fan or follow your company.

Your small business responsive website will look picture-perfect on any device if you keep these cost effective things in mind:

Image Tiles

The image tile display, made popular by Pinterest, has spread to many other websites, including Ebay and even Facebook. Its visually-appealing layout and ease of use reflect the way people digest content: in the 'now', with the ability to discover and share, and is something people are accustomed to seeing on the screens of their tablerts and smart phones.

An image tile layout may not be the easiest technology to implement onto your new or existing site, but the principles are simple:

    Aesthetically pleasing colors
    Organized Layout
    Reduced text
    Familiar Icons
    Everything "above the fold"

Social Feeds

Social media has revolutionized the way people make purchases, and the way companies influence that decision. Most websites today have links to their various social media channels, and the latest design trends are including this social interaction directly on company websites through the use of live feeds.

An active social feed from your business social media outlets will allow you to display credibility. This is a great first-impression with communicating the benefits of your services or product offerings.

Publishing social links on your website is a transparent way to gain trust. Users can scan your posts, evaluate your offers, and potentially become a long-term fan with one click.

By building followers, likes, and fans, and adding value to the conversation with quality content and responsive dialogue, you will open up opportunities for the occasional promotional post to display your services, specials and products, ultimately increasing sales.


A website is a long-term investment, so it is important to get it right.

There are many design trends you can spend your money on, but it is important to understand the difference between the essential and unessential, the cost effective and the impracticle expense. As a whole, trends are moving in the direction of simplicity and ease of use.

What can you take away from all these trends for your own website?

    Concise pages for fast loading times, easy navigation      
    Organized layout
    Focus on images and icons over text
    Strategic use of text size for info hierarchy
    Social Badges to engage long-term customers

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Are you forcing your designer to be guilty of any of these web sins?

While your web developer will try his or her very best to provide you with the design and functionality that you desire for your website, don't be guilty of insisting that your designer commit one of these web design sins in the name of good customer service.

1. Does your website need a Search Box?

The web is like a big store of information. Whether it’s a business website or merely a blog, a search box might be necessary. The visitor might be in need of some information that is hidden within the website that is not easily found on the navigation bar. If a search box is included with the website, visitors will be able to access the information they want by typing in keywords in the search box.

2. Is your website cross browser compatible?

Having a website that can be browsed only with Internet Explorer is not a good business decision. Today, users are switching to different web browsers like Firefox and Chrome. And if your website design limits your pages to work only with IE, you’re more likely to lose your market share. It is also a bad idea to place a banner at the top of your page that carries the message that the page is best viewed with a specific browser. Visitors would like to choose from a set of options and don’t like to be restricted.

3. No meaningful or recognizable URLs

If your website has pages with meaningless URLs, it is difficult for users to understand what the page is about. The same holds true for Google, Bing and Yahoo. They too find it difficult to understand, and make your website SEO UNfriendly. Each page should contain an URL that is relevant to the keywords or titles of the page. For example instead of having a url like http:// you can use best-sports-equipment, which is more meaningful and SEO friendly.

4. Using latest technology for no good reason

Any website owner would like their designer to implement the latest technology. But if you are using advanced technology on your website that doesn’t work well with all the browsers that are used to visit your site, you’re likely to lose your potential customers rather than attract them. If you want to use the newest technology, it should only be applied to those elements that are not vital to the page as a whole.

5. Sound or video that starts automatically

Although people appreciate the use of sound on websites, they don’t want it to run automatically. They may be engaged with their own music or may be in a place where the sound from their computer is disturbing others. If your website puts someone in trouble with their higher authorities, they will never come back to your site.

6. Poor readability and legibility

Readability and legibility are crucial elements of web design. Easy readability will draw the visitor’s attention to your content; visitors should be able to read the text in order to access the required information. Some owners request that their designers use strange fonts styles and sizes in their websites which make reading very difficult and frustrate visitors.

7. Poor Navigation

Navigation within a website should be smooth and easy. Users should be able to explore your website easily. If text is used for navigation, it should be short and to the point. If hyperlinks are used, they should be differentiated from the other elements of the content and in standard "link" colors. Visitors will be frustrated by links they can only find by mouseover. Dead links should never remain on any web page. This makes the user confused and wastes their time.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Are You a Bad Web Design Client?

We appreciate every web client we have the opportunity to work with. Once in awhile, unfortunately, we do get that client that makes us reconsider the relationship we have with them. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of a bad web design client:
  • Expecting more design services than you have paid for, or are included in your contract
  • Expecting every design task to be turned around immediately, regardless of time of day or night
  • Last minute requests always needed ASAP
  • Extremely vague about design preferences or requested feedback
  • Asking your designer to copy someone else’s web design exactly as is
  • Threaten to take your project overseas to someone cheaper
  • Disappear for weeks or months without notice when design feedback is required
  • Offer a payment that is far less than what you’ve been quoted or that you are contracted for
  • Try  to each web design best practices to your web designer
  • Completely switch design direction after approving design compositions, and want those changes made for free
  • Treat your web designer like a low skill, replaceable employee
You probably get the point by now. Don’t get us wrong, more often than not bad web design clients don’t start that way. They become bad clients as a result of the web design companies they have dealt with not properly doing their jobs and communicating the right expectations upfront. Most bad web clients we have come across we have inherited, and have been created from their experiences with past designers.

To help everyone, clients and designers alike, from avoiding these kinds of situations,  we are providing following checklist to produce positive web design project experiences.

Before a project starts, clients should always:
  • Request to see the designer’s work that is similar to the kind of project they require
  • Clearly understand, and agree to, all design costs and prices, and review all contract documents completely
  • Provide at least 5 samples of web design projects you like, with explanations of why you like them
  • Provide any and all logos, photos and content that you would like to be used in the design
Prepared, responsive clients lead to motivated, enthusiastic designers. Motivated, enthusiastic designers are more likely to include some design work for free.

It is our responsibility to properly manage your project expectations and produce a happy client. Whether you think you’re a good or bad web design client, if you are relying on an ineffective, outdated website to grow your business or support your non profit organization,  then we want to help.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Are Photoshop Mock-ups for Custom Designs a Necessary Evil? Or Just Evil?

Photoshop mock-ups for web designs are very common, and are also one of the reasons why businesses complain so often about not getting the results they wanted once their websites have been completed. Mock-ups are commonly used in a custom design situation with the intent to show a graphic version of how the final product will appear, or to give a client a choice between multiple design options in a graphic format.

There are multiple disadvantages in providing Photoshop mock-ups for web design clients. Photoshop mock-ups are expensive and time consuming. They are not made to scale, as the mock-up design may or may not be compatible with the final system being used to implement the design (html5 or one of multiple CMS platforms). A Photoshop mockup shows none of the functionality of a website design; i.e. jquery sliders, RSS feeds, etc. Not enough detail is displayed, and it is difficult for clients to understand the concepts with a flat mockup rather than in interactive html site.

Additionally, a very complicated Photoshop mock-up, while attractive as a static image, may or may not be easily translated into a final functioning coded website.  This issue crops up most ofen when a designer, someone skilled in Photoshop, is not a person skilled in CODING a website; their mock-up design concept in Photoshop  may not translate well to the web, and the final site may not completely duplicate their original design concept. And while we do have those clients that insist that their website duplicate pixel by pixel the Photoshop mockup they present us with, they are made to understand that this kind of time and effort comes with a price. A steep one.

In the same amount of  time that it takes to design and create one mockup in Photoshop, an actual first working draft of a functional HTML site can be designed and developed for a client's review. A "live" site can be tested and reviewed for functionality and cross browser/device compatibility as well as looks. It can be displayed on a development site for edits and changes instead of wasting the client's time and money on flat Photoshop mock-ups. What is the point of editing and re-editing (and re-editing) an image (mockup) when you can review and test an actual website and make any changes there? You are more than one step ahead in the process.

We have many clients that come to us with a PSD that has been provided to them by a graphic designer, and it is our task to take that PSD mock-up and create a functional working website. This can be successful as long as there is communication between the client and the web designer, and the understanding exists that not all mock-up designs will look identical to once coded into HTML or Wordpress or the CMS of choice. Not being involved in the editing and re-editing and re-editing of that image cuts down on our time and our costs, but eliminating that part of the process completely saves everyone time and money.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lessons Learned

We don't normally use this venue for the "airing of grievances", especially outside of the traditional Festivus holiday season. But there are lessons that have been learned from a less than positive client experience that should be helpful for all.

HockeyGurl Designs took on a small side job that consisted of the editing of three small sites; there was no contract, no agreement, no 1099. They were small text and graphic edits and additions to existing websites and existing shopping carts, with no analysis, development or design on our part.

Sadly, we have learned the hard way that even those small types of projects need a written agreement of services.

As the designated web editor, we received updates, content, etc. via email from this particular client, and we processed each update as instructed. As she was very particular and exact, we needed to stick specifically to her very precise instructions in each and every email and attached word document. We then invoiced her for each batch of work, whether it be for content edits, content additions, photo editing, or social media posts. These invoices were very detailed and specific, reflecting the instructions she had originally sent via email.

It became apparent to our staff, although not to our client, that her websites needed some major work as far as redesign and reconfiguring, as they were very "old fashioned" and the setup of her ecommerce sites were more complicated and were hindering her ability to do business on line. Each and every one of our suggestions to make these kinds of changes, with an estimate of time and cost involved, were refused because she did not believe anything was wrong with her sites. She also indicated that she could not afford the changes we recommended, and at the already 1/2 price hourly rate we had given her out of courtesy for her situation for the changes we WERE making, as well as the many hours of work we did not bill her for at all, we did not feel it was good business to offer these higher level services for free. There are many things we do to help our clients, but offering high level, time consuming, expensive services for free is not going to be one of them.

Late in the game, after we once again offered an opinion about what REALLY needed to be done with her sites, she called GoDaddy, her hosting company. And while they were very clear on what needed to be done, and, strangely enough, agreed with what we had already told her needed to be done, they did no one any favors by what they did next.

GoDaddy, in the name of "customer support" found it necessary to tell my client that "any decent webmaster" would have done "this and this and this and that." And while that may be true, and while those things, "this and this and this and that" were things her previous webmasters should have done when advising this client at the beginning of her design and development process, and while it also may be true that these were also things that we had tried to suggest throughout our association with her and were rebuffed, upon hearing these same things we had suggested from GoDaddy (rather than us), this client deemed these same things we had already suggested to be GoDaddy Words of Wisdom from Above. (And yes, I fully intended to capitalize that entire phrase.)

After all, GODADDY told her it needed to be done. And the fact that "any decent webmaster" should have done it to begin with made all these issues OUR fault because we did not just step in and make all of the wholesale changes that needed to be made. Regardless of the fact that the setup and development of these sites went back several years and multiple webmasters. Regardless of the fact that this was not what we had been tasked with doing, and regardless of the fact that when we suggested these exact changes we were rebuffed.

And most importantly, with the very important lesson to be learned, WE HAD NO CONTRACT. We had no contract, nor did we have any agreement, any discussion or even a request to do the type of things that GoDaddy had now suggested and told our client that any "decent" webmaster would have done anyhow. When we had requested that a contract be written up, even for the basic web edits that we were doing, this client was outraged and insulted, questioning why "good people" needed contracts, what was wrong with the world today, people didn't trust each other.... well, you can guess the rest.

You all know what came next. The accusations and abusive emails began. We were terrible people, we didn't do all these things GoDaddy said had to be done, we didn't correct all the errors of judgment made by previous webmasters in the design and development of her sites, on our own, for free. We didn't ignore what she demanded and instructed us to do, since she didn't know what was really needed and we, as webmasters should have known better. And we didn't OFFER to make all those changes for her, FOR FREE, once GoDaddy bagged on all of her previous webmasters and told her what needed to be done. Not only were these major changes to her three websites and the setup of her ecommerce systems now demanded, we were accused of fraud for charging her anything at ALL for all those editing tasks we had so meticulously completed at her direction, since all these additional things were things we "should have known about and should have fixed".

As we were only tasked with making her very specific edits, at $10/hr, you can guess that as a group we were a bit taken aback by demands for $45/hr work, without a contract, and for free at that. After all, as GoDaddy said, any "decent" webmaster should have known these things needed to be fixed, and out of the goodness of our hearts, we should have offered to make all those changes and fixed all the misdeeds of all previous webmasters. For free.

As kindly and professionally as possible, we informed this client that that was not going to happen. This unleashed a tirade, a series of very long abusive emails attacking us, our business, our expertise, our principles and values. How we were "under contract as her webmaster" and were obligated to fix all these things. Oh, but there is the rub. There was no contract. There was no agreement. And in spite of her new claim that we were her employees and were to do as we were told, we were under no obligation to do anything other than the edits agreed to in email after email of very particular and specific instructions.

I apologized to her for the misdeeds of her past webmasters and the situation she was currently in. I also pointed out that with a contract in place, for a price, I would be happy to correct the problems she was now facing, but only with a written agreement that that was what I was tasked to do, and in return, she would abide by our recommendations.. But I informed her that while I was sorry for the position she was put in by her former webmasters, we were not going to take the rap for them. Nor were we going to "fix" them for free. When this unleashed yet another tirade, I respectfully requested that she no longer contact us.

The emails continued, with threats and accusations and name calling such as I have not seen in my professional life.

We have, of course, blocked all emails from this ex-client. And we are taking the necessary measures so that her uncalled for accusations and threats are not damaging to our company and our professional reputation.

And sadly, we have learned a very important lesson. There may NOT be any room in this world for the kind of trust and blind faith in humanity that this particular client demanded, to be given regardless of her strange and in the end, frightening behavior. There is a reason for contracts and agreements and complete disclosure on terms of services offered, no matter how small.

So, in closing, my team is sad to hear that I am now demanding contracts for the very smallest of jobs, even if it entails content editing for a three page website that consists of a few changes in punctuation and a new paragraph of text. They liked even less having to go through this particular clients 1000+ emails, matching each of her requests with our very specific and detailed matching invoices.

And to those clients who ask, "Why do we need a contract? Don't you trust me?" I am sorry, but you will get an answer you might not necessarily expect.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why do we need a contract? Don't you trust me?

Why does a web design or content management project require a contract? A contract between you (the client) and someone like me (the designer/developer) is mutually beneficial to both parties. Neither party should build a site without one. Why? Below are the main points as to the importance of a web design/development contract.


Although there are several ways to pay for design and development services, most web projects require a deposit and subsequent payment(s). A web design/development contract should outline what is payable—and when it is due. It legally commits both parties to the project, preventing the web designer from pulling out—and the client from stopping the project and refusing to pay for the work done thus far.


Contrary to popular belief, in some countries (including the UK) the copyright for design actually stays with the designer by default. What the client pays for is the right to use the commissioned design work in a particular context (i.e. your website). A good web design contract will state in no uncertain terms what belongs to which party. If you don’t wish to be held hostage by your web designer, you should ask him or her to include transfer of the design copyright to you in the contract.

Amendments, Revisions and Alterations

To protect the web designer from doing endless rounds of edits, a contract will cap the number of design/development iterations and time spent on amendments. This is beneficial for the client as well, as you are aware from the outset how much time you have to work with and how many rounds of revisions you are allowed within the context of the contract without additional billing.

Supplying Content/Errors in Content

A contract should also make the client agree to exercise due diligence when writing text and providing content and  images for the site. They must be able to substantiate all claims and representations and be responsible for all trademark, copyright, etc.

If you are being trusted to manage some of the content for the site via a CMS,  then the web designer will use the contract to make you responsible for any content you add. Many times, a contract will include a clause about additional costs involve if something you, the client, updates that causes damage to the site design. Please be aware of this possibility when you are making your own updates.

Maintenance, Support and Backups

Once the site is live, who is responsible for maintaining the site, backing it up and offering support? Don’t assume that you can rely on your web designer free-of-charge indefinitely. Agree a post-launch plan with your web designer and pay for it accordingly. This plan may be included in your original contract, or in a post launch contract specific to maintenance and support.

Do you need a contract? Yes. It protects your web designer as your service provider, and more importantly, it protects you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why Your Website No Longer Needs a "Splash" Page

Splash pages are those pages that a visitor to your website sees before they actually get TO your website; typically, they  have been Flash and offer some kind of introductory animation.  Some are static image pages that say "Welcome" or "Enter". The visitor needs to click "Skip Intro" or "Enter Site" before actually entering the home page of a website.

While clients continue to request these types of pages, the following are reasons why they should no longer be used:

Search engines will spider your "splash" page instead of your website's real content
Search engines look at the text on a page to determine what the page is about.  If your page is entirely in flash or some other kind of multimedia, search engines won't be able to spider any text on it.  This will result in your page not ranking for the terms you want, and the spidered page having a description next to it in the search results that says "Welcome" or "Enter".

Search engines  may not be able to spider beyond the splash page
If your splash page is done entirely in Flash or with some other kind of multimedia plugin, the search engines might be unable to spider your content, and your content will be absent from search results. 

Most visitors will immediately click "skip intro"
Most people will  admit to immediately clicking "skip intro" before watching the animation they are presented with.  "Newfangled" researched their access logs and had this to say about their findings:

The number one reason for getting rid of our splash page was that it turned away at least 25% of our site visitors, sometimes more. This percentage has actually been researched and it turns out that at least 25% of site visitors will immediately leave a site as soon as they see a  message for a Flash splash screen (even if there's a 'skip intro' link). Our access logs confirmed this for us and this over all the other reasons caused us to get rid of it. The opportunity to improve our creativity was not worth the loss of such a high percentage of visitors.

Slower connections will have to wait for the page to load
Even though the majority of users now have some kind of high speed internet connection, there will still be a lag time for loading any animated or Flash presentation. This will be especially annoying to your visitor when he finds that there is no purpose for his wait other than to see a pretty "welcome" animation.

"Click to Enter" is redundant
By visiting your website they've already agreed to enter, why do they have to do it again?  It would be like visiting a business and opening the door that says "Enter", only to find a second door that says "Ha ha. Fooled you. Enter Again."

Minimizing clicks
Your main purpose should be minimizing the number of clicks needed to reach the information or products you have to offer. Having an extra click from a splash page does not align with this idea.

Content from the splash page can work on the home page
In most cases, a splash page can be trimmed down and worked into the homepage of a website.  This is an effective compromise between client and Webmaster, as it retains the graphic idea of the splash page while following best practices for SEO and site navigation. Most splash pages don't have the same primary navigation as the rest of the site; many have no navigation at all. Some splash pages are drastically different in design than the actual website, which confuses visitors who not only do not find persistent navigation, but might believe that they have visited two different websites.

Time to let go of the out-dated idea of a "Splash" page.