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Socially Aware

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facebookHi 2011. MySpace.com was around in 2006. Youtube.com hit mainstream in 2007. Facebook.com generally came on the scene in 2008. Twitter.com blazed in 2009. A bunch of people tried to follow in 2010.

Social sites are great.

These sites are great. Self generated content that you can post so that anyone can see. For the first time, regular people can post stuff on the internet. You don't have to be a huge business, you don't need to pay a webmaster, you don't need to wait for someone to get back to you. You just need to sign up for an account and post your heart out. People love it. At least some.

If you are a small to medium sized business owner, you're busy. This social networking stuff is seen as a waste of time. Especially when there are customers to attend to.

You can't beat them.

But you need to realize that social networking is not going away. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter are here to stay. You have to join them because you can't beat them. Ignoring them is not an option.

Don't separate, incorporate.

Some people try to separate this. Here's my web site. Here's my Facebook page. Here's how you can follow on Twitter.

I've said this before but here it is again. Your site needs to incorporate this, not shun this or separate this as an individual item away from your web site.

As an example, we've done this to the right of this page.

Example & Challenge.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you did this on your company web site? Postings on Twitter would automatically show on your site. Facebook friends would show on your site.

Over the next few days think of how you can incorporate your Twitter and Facebook into your web site.

Simple Sells

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craigslistI suppose simple designs on web sites is becoming a reality because of the mobile revolution. When I explain this in person, I usually say there's two ends of a spectrum; the craigslist.com end and the google.com end.

The Spectrum.


googleYou probably have been to both of these web sites. Craigslist.com is what I call the dog's dinner design. If you throw enough slop up there, the users are so hungry they will evently find it and eat it up. The google.com is the opposite. You are removing everything from page except what you want the user to do. In Google's case, this is search.

Simple Sells.

Simple sells. Instead of giving the users 100 menu items to choose from, give them a few and hide the rest. Instead of overloading their minds with extra info, give them the only info they are looking for. Remove all the distractions from the page so that they don't get lost.

Free Consultation.

If you take a look at multi-million dollars sites, they usually arrive at the same conclusion; white background, black text and small logo at the top left of the page. Why don't you take their advice? What if you did this with your design? What would really be missing?

Challenge.

Often as a business owner, making our web sites simple is hard to do. We know too much and want to share our info. Over this next week, think about how you can make this a reality. Think about what you can take away. Keep in mind, simple sells.

Avoid Flash

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chickfilaI remember one time I was talking to an elderly woman about computers. She wanted to copy something and paste it somewhere else. I told her that she couldn't because it was Flash.

"What is Flash?" she asked.

I was stumped.

How do you explain Flash to someone who doesn't know? I'm not sure I do it well but I'll give it my best shot.

Flash is an object similar to a picture. But Flash moves. Sometimes Flash it just a small item. At other times, it's the entire web site.

An example of Flash is the Chick-fil-a web site.

Flash gained a lot of steam over the years because Flash can't be copied. This means I can create something in Flash and no one else can copy it or reverse engineer it to claim it as their own.

One more item about Flash. Flash is a proprietary technology. This means one company, Adobe, creates it and supports it.

The problem with Flash is that it doesn't work on mobile devices like iPhones, iPads and Palms. The issue is that mobile devices are quickly becoming the leading way people are surfing the internet.

So what would happen if you were out and about, you got a little hungry and wanted some Chick-fil-a? You went to your smartphone to chickfila.com hoping to get their you could find the closest one. Nothing happens. You just get a big blank area stating "This site requires the Adobe Flash Player."

This could produce angry customers wanting to eat somewhere else.

Since you don't want to turn business away, stay away from Flash.

Big Is In

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Google Goes Bigger.I'm not certian to why it took so long for this to become a trend and catch on with large companies but finally it has. I suppose it started with television sets years ago.

TV was the forefront.

We can see the people but we can't see their facial expressions until the camera is zoomed onto their face. Is that a laugh or a cry?

Consequently, over the years, some actors and actresses have seemingly ever growing facial features; large mouths, large eyes, etc. These features might seem strange on a friend if you met them in person but to our adorned stars luck, we never see them that way. We only see them on screen.

Big is in.

Big is in and while this has been true for tv for some time, it's starting to hit web sites. It's happening for the same reason though. People can't see. The buttons and the words are just too small. Especially if you're trying to use a smartphone to view the web site.

Google sets an example.

For the past two years Google has set an example and made their logo larger and their search box larger. New sites like Twitter has built their site bigger.

Imagine.

Imagine what it would be like if we made are words bigger. People would have an easier time reading. What if we made our pictures larger? People would be able to see them clearer.

Challenge.

Over this next week, think about how making your site bigger may help your customers and clients.

Mobile Availability

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mobile_availableIt may have happened to you. I know it's happened to me. You're out and about somewhere, you either see a web site on an advertisement or you hear of a web site in conversation. You whip out your trusty smart-phone and start typing away. The web site pops up but it's so tiny you can't see it.

There's probably a way to zoom into the web site because you saw someone do that one time but you don't remember how. Beside if you're like me, you don't have the dexterity to move about the web site. You simply give up convincing yourself that you'll check it out later. But then you never do.

We live in a world where smart-phones are everywhere. People have Immediate access to web sites.

Your web site needs to be mobile available. Having your web site mobile means people can get to it on their smart-phones and that it looks good and reads good without them having to zoom. This typically means your web site will look different on the laptop than it does on the smart-phone.

Is your web site mobile available? Does it work so that the average person can get it on their smart-phone? Does it work without zooming?

Imagine what it would be like if your company was heard in conversation at dinner. The people brought their smart-phone and typed in your business web site. Your site came up, it looked good and they could easily read it. You may have just gained another client.

2011 Web Desgin Trends

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treeI'm a voracious consumer of information. Who isn't? In a world like today we have more outlets to information than ever before. Not only do 'traditional' outlets like TV, radio and newspaper exist but also new outlets like web sites, mobile sites, tablet apps, RSS feeds, Twitter feeds and Facebook feeds.

One of the items I've noticed in these outlets is people's predictions on 2011 trends. This is important because despite the fact that I think this obvious, I see new material being released all the time going against these trends. So before you waste your money in the wrong direction, pay attention to the items below.

Mobile Available.

In case you haven't noticed, web sites need to be mobile. This means they must work on smart phones and tablets. This is more important than having fancy moving stuff flying across the screen with music behind it.

Big Is In.

This is correlation with the mobile item from above. Big buttons, big words, big text input boxes are all items we see growing. Google made their change in 2010 with a larger logo and a huge input box, most people should continue to follow suit in 2011.

Avoid Flash.

Flash is technology that allows movement on web sites. So things like Farmville and Cityville on Facebook are built on Flash. I don't hate Flash, I actually like it. But until mobile devices like it as well, stay away from it.

Simple Sells.

The days of cramming all info items on one page are over. People can't handle the overload. Simple designs are going to rule in 2011, making it easier for people to live. This, I'm thankful for.

Socially Aware.

Again, I think this is obvious but new web sites being release in 2011 are missing this and they shouldn't. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter are here to stay. Your site needs to incorporate this, not shun this or separate this as an individual item away from your web site. (Notice I've underlined and italicized the some words in this paragraph.)

CMS Domination.

If a web site hasn't been replaced with a CMS by now, it will be in 2011. Content management systems are web apps that handle the information on businesses web sites. They allow regular people to post info easily. This domination started a few years ago but will continue. The days of building from scratch with DreamWeaver are over. If your site is being built without a CMS, run.

You.

You made my list. You are going to be a huge trend this year. You have lots of ideas and opinions in your head, you need to share them with the world. If you are bottled up from your customers, it's time to open the bottle. It doesn't have to be a big deal everyday, just resolve to spend 10 minutes a week. And remember how I started... with a simple thought I read somewhere, "Just because it's obvious to me, doesn't mean it is to everyone else."

These items are items that you should be aware of as a small to medium sized business owners. Items that you should apply whether you choose to do your site with SailfishWeb or with another company.

Not paying attention to the items above will hobble your web project, force customers away and result in the loss of business.

Imagine what it would be like if you implemented these short items into your web project this year. Twelve months from now you can tell how you made your site mobile this year, how you started a blog, how you started to interact with your customers even if it's on a simple level. You'll be able to post information yourself.

So this next week would you spend a few minutes and embrace 2011. Remember the trends from above and figure out how to incorporate those into the next 360 days.

Side Business Difficulty

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Side businesses or hobby businesses are the most difficult for web companies. Why?

Well, usually they have very little budget to work with and they push to save costs. On top of this, demands are high.

I have an award winning colleague in California that says, "Why is it that those who spend the least, shout the loudest."

Recently, we had a hobby business come to ask for help. We usually turn them away but at the recommendation of a friend we spoke to the person.

They wanted a custom web site:

OK, that starts at $3500.

They don't have that much.

Then you'll be limited to a template web site. But you can change the colors to match your existing brand.

Can you send over some ideas?

Ummm.... OK.

The client knew what they wanted in their head but couldn't get it across with words. Three times we heard that they wanted to use polka dots and lost of pink. They also wanted the logo to be the largest item on the site.

The logo claim is a common small business error. So common advertising experts are starting to make fun of the request with videos like:

We sent 3 professionally built ideas but none of them were to client satisfaction.

In the end, the client wanted a custom built site but only wanted to pay the template price. They ended up leaving and going with Quicken/Intuit template sites.

It made me think of this video:

What is the Total Cost of a Web Site?

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old_cash_registerThe problem with coming up with the price of a web site is that it depends on the combination of the three items below; design, hosting and service.

If the design is a template, you want us to host it and we provide no service then it's one price. If the design is custom, you want to host it yourself and we provide service then it's another price.

I'll follow other web developers in other parts of the country. The complaints are usually the same. "I had a client ask how much it would cost for a few pages and a little functionality." Without knowing too much, that leaves the web company stranded. The web company asks more questions but the client has told everything they know.

In addition to all of this, consider that it has to make sense to the customer as well. Unfortunately, in our experience, it usually doesn't make sense to a business owner.

Businesses have a problem. They need an active web site that they can add and make simple changes if they want to. They need a web site that interacts with their customers. Lastly, they need a web site that is mobile capable.

This is why we prefer that we design, host and co-service the site all for a straight monthly fee. This makes sense for a business. Businesses can then predict and budget their costs. It's more affordable than hiring a full time in-house person but has all the advantages of having a web designer on the team.

The Small Stuff

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busy_womanYesterday I was on the phone for about 3 hours helping people out for free.

I've been in the technology service for more than a decade. The number of times that I've helped someone out for just a few minutes is staggering, absolutely staggering. At one point I had over 50 points of contact everyday. Quick math tells us that's a little under 10 minutes per issue and that doesn't include things like lunch, bathroom breaks and quick chats with my wife.

More staggering is that most of these issues were freebies. "How do I...?" and "Could you just look at ...?" I was working primarily for free. While I don't mind providing service and I've volunteered for more than 15 years, I can't make a living not charging, even for the small stuff. And that's when I got out of doing primarily technology service.

You have a problem. You want quick service and you want this service plus questions answered immediately.

If I have a long relationship with my clients, then doing the little stuff and answering the little questions become easy. I know I can "wrap it up." But If I do projects and hand them over, then receive calls about those projects that I have to support pro bono, you can see this scenario is going anywhere.

To be able to provide the quick service, answer the questions, pick up the phone, I've decided the best option is to provide the best service to a limited number of clients who agree to a monthly charge. This ensures you have someone on your side and ensures I can answer the little questions.

Service: Is Your Web Site a Project?

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Is your web site a shooting star?
Is your web site a shooting star?
In a traditional sense of a web site project, a web site company builds a web site and, more or less, hands it over to the client. Sometimes the web site company will say they'll host it for such and such an amount and if you want any changes, let us know and we'll make them and bill on a case by case basis.

This is a silly way to approach your web site. What happens is that over time, things change; people come and people go, people get older, new technology arises. Meanwhile, the site is stuck in a frozen state of time which always happens to be a few years ago. And it shows.

You as a small or medium sized company has to change with them. For example, the number of web sites that aren't mobile possible is staggering. The number of sites that don't include any type of social media is staggering. The number of sites that look like they were built a decade ago is staggering.

All of these changes must happen as the technology proves it will be around for awhile (think Twitter). And be removed when the technology is no longer accepted (think MySpace).

Your web site is not a static project. Your web site must constantly change. You need a constant web site company.

If we think of the web site as a project, we think of it as a 24 month constant project and accordingly, charge per month for a full 24 months.

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