CATEGORY: Websites

Focus and Align your Business: It starts with the right SEO keywords.

We love picking Troy Olson’s massive brain. He’s the SEO guru over at JEMSU, and from one interview came three great videos. Here he talks about how easy it is to focus your business. It begins with knowing the keywords that describe who you are and what you do. Because, when you think about it, that’s how people will find you…and it’s how your customers will become interested in what you do.

The Insightful is supposed to be posted here every Wednesday, and offers information and advice to entrepreneurs and business ninjas. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for regular informative and entertaining videos.

Secrets of SEO with Troy Olson of JEMSU: The Insightful Ep. 2

We’re doing a weekly show featuring tested experts in the fields that matter to you: marketing, search engine optimization, startups, management, podcasting, video and anything you can suggest. Really, if you’d like us to get someone on camera to share their ideas, let us know. Although if it’s your friend “The Cat Lady” wanting to show how to wean kittens, then maybe not. Although cat videos are pretty huge.

Still, though, we’ll stay focused on the following thing:

1. Videos that help you succeed.

Here’s one, and it’s uber-helpful: All those little tricks you need to know about SEO (and it has a lot to do with who you already are: an expert.)

Things Your Website Should NOT Do: Name.com’s Facebook Friends Focus Group

At name.com we do domains, websites and hosting. You get a domain and some hosting and then you’re all set to burst onto the web, but before you put a whole lot of work into a snappy Flash intro, or have your friends in the bongo/zither duo make some awesome home page music, pay heed to what some experienced web users have to say about what NOT to do:

Do not do this to your websitewebsite don'tswebsite don'tswebsite don'ts

Like a free focus group and you didn’t have to provide finger food. Although we’re not sure what a couple are talking about, and I think Kelley Bryant is actually selling auto parts, but this is good info to keep in mind for the best presence on the web.

 

iWeb is going away, but your site doesn’t have to! Check out Name.com shared hosting plans

Apple iWeb going away.

You don’t have to lose everything.

You finally found a super easy way to get your website looking right and online…and now it’s going away. Apple has announced that iWeb publishing, MobileMe Gallery, and iDisk are all being phased out by the end of June. Things are not as awful as they may appear. Apple is encouraging users to migrate over to iCloud, which is a bit more expensive. We wanted to let you know that we have an awesome shared hosting platform that could be a great fit for you. Take a look at our website hosting plans, and below see a tutorial on how to move your Apply goodness.

  Click here to get started.

Our team is standing by to help make the migration as seamless as possible. The video below should help you get started and if you run into any questions our support team is only a phone call or email away.

Click here for a tutorial from Apple on how to move your iWeb to another hosting provider.

User Experience Part 3: Getting Down the Bones

In my last UX blog post I discussed defining the strategy of a project by inquiring about user objectives and company objectives. I’m sure you all went out and immediately started scheduling stakeholder meetings, agreed on a strategy, and then looked around at each other with that “now what?” look.  Is that what happened? If so, worry not! The next step is straightforward and obvious – write it down.

writing down your user experience

Have a developer take a look at your notes to make sure you’re not delusional.

Putting the strategy and the flow on paper ensures that you don’t forget it. It also serves as the first section of every product manager’s most beloved (and simultaneously most detested) aspect of his or her job–the scope of work. Call it what you will–the scope, the SOW, the spec (this is what I call it), technical specifications, the scoping document, etc.  The bottom line is you need one in order to actually get the product you want to get.

After you have a strategy, define functional specifications, which specify requirements for the project, how the product will function, and criteria for user acceptance. Functional specifications are typically written out and are accompanied by content requirements.

Page content usually has to do with information. You define content requirements by compiling a list of all of the places that messages will need to be communicated to the user through page titles, headlines, error messages, calls to action, etc. Have you ever seen a cryptic error message on a website that is too technical for you to understand? Brainstorming a list of all the required content will prevent issues like that. It assures that you have thought through every possible scenario your users can arrive at.

As soon as you have functional specifications and content requirements you can start scoping out the structure of the product. Wireframes are very helpful in this phase of project planning. Wireframes detail the layout of pages in a bare-bones image. They provide a guideline for the skeleton of the page and are essential reference materials for designers and developers who will actually work on bringing the product to life.

Finally, when the team has agreed upon the functional specifications, content requirements, and layout of the wireframe you can create Mockups in Photoshop

user experience wireframe

I use Balsamiq for wireframe. Ashley leans towards Gliffy.

or in actual HTML/CSS code that illustrate the visual design and ensure that standard site elements are being used on the page. Creating a mockup also demonstrates information and functional design elements for the team to examine.

Putting strategy, functional specifications, content requirements, wireframes, and mockups together in a document will give you a spec that your project team can work off of in a sane manner. It is not a simple process, but it makes development move faster because most of their questions will have been answered in a clear way and there is reference material to go back to if key stakeholders are absent.

User Experience Part II: Prepare or Die (or at least be extremely frustrated)

This is the second post in a series about User Experience design. Catch up with the first here.

UX design, as I aptly described (with metaphors and all) is about creating products that people want to use and can use easily. Realistically speaking, there are a lot of fluffy books and schools of thought out there about UX design that completely ignore real world constraints. I could give you a number of recommendations about user testing in labs and surveys and disregarding existing processes and systems, but then I’d be misleading you. My goal is to provide you with an overview of how a real-world UX design process works. I’m not going to say it’s 100% perfect, but it’s a great place to start. Today I’m going to discuss project objectives.

building your user experiencePlanning a project with user-centered design in mind is no picnic. UX design requires a lot of insight into who will use your product and what they’ll use it for. Understanding your users is fundamentally important in web development. User personas are a clean and concise way to keep track of the user base that you are targeting.

You can use your personas to create use cases. A use case is a list of intentions and interactions that a user will have with a page based on their characteristics. For instance, a business owner will land on the Name.com homepage to get a web presence. They might or might not understand the difference between a domain, a hosting package, or a website builder that includes hosting so we need to focus on providing them with the information that they need and the calls to action that they expect.

Beyond understanding what a user wants to do with a product it is important to understand what your organization hopes to get out of the finished product, whether it’s increased revenue, more account creations, brand awareness, or a smaller bounce rate. It might seem like the company objectives are obvious, but you’d be surprised how often different team members have different objectives for the same project.

It is quite easy to make sure that everyone involved with a project has the same objectives for it; all you have to do is organize a meeting with the stakeholders of the project and discuss the objectives. However, it is important to maintain organization and efficiency in these meetings because there are often a lot of people involved and it’s easy to fall into the “too many cooks in the kitchen” dilemma. Before walking into the meeting prepare distribute an exhaustive agenda so that everyone has a chance to think about the items on it before discussing it. Checklists to ensure that you cover everything you need in one sitting are helpful as well.

name.com meeting about domains hosting and websites

Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Defining user and company objectives is known as defining the strategy of a project. As soon as the strategy is defined the project-planning ball can really get rolling. Once you have a strategy you can begin to scope out the user flow and wireframes of new pages, features, etc. From there the documentation process begins, but that is going to be its own post because it is so important.

The main objective behind this blog post is to ensure that you understand that UX design requires planning up front and defining what you want your users and the company to get out of a project. Without these requirements it is very difficult for the project planning process to go anywhere.

SEO Series – Part 9: If You Build It, They Will Come!

And here’s the final (for now) installation of our series on SEO

Working to build successful inbound links to your site, is one of the keys to success in SEO. The more inbound links you have, the higher quality links they are, the more popular and successful your site will be. When you have a successful marketing strategies and build a quality SEO-optimized site, you are sure to have many quality backlinks to your site.

SEO backlinks

You’re the green ball.

The more quality backlinks you build, the better your PageRank (PR) will be. However, the links have to be high quality. Otherwise, the traffic for the site will not increase. Only the most relevant, top quality links will serve the purpose of being seen by the latest page rank algorithm.

There are a variety of different ways to improve site traffic with quality backlinks. Some of these include; fresh press releases, directory submissions, linking to other blogs, posting in online discussion groups or forums, and many others. Traffic increases with backlink building can be built organically. Here are some of the ways:

Posting niche articles – Posting well-written and informative articles to the right niche directories is a surefire method for improving PR. Not only will it improve the PR of the ranked directory itself, but it can also help to generate relevant backlinks to your own site.

Quality content – Giving your readers added value and solid information is sure to be relevant. The better the information, the more viewers your site will attract.

Comments – By providing ample text space for comments by the users who link to the site, you are inviting backlinks from the right niche’ audience members.

Stimulating visuals – When a site has good color design and uses still or video images, that is a great way to encourage backlink building and invite more traffic.

Bloggety, blog blog – Writing excellent content for your own site and for other sites is always helpful for SEO. Keep the blogs fresh, informative, and original. Be sure to submit any of your blogs to the top-ranked blog directories.

Survey says. . .Online surveys with meaningful prizes are very enticing. Just be sure to keep them short and easy to fill out. It is a fab way of increasing site traffic by encouraged interested parties to stay on your websites longer.

This woman is happy she learned SEO

You’ll be this happy you learned SEO.

 

These are just a few ideas about how to build things on your site that invite the top PR ranking backlinks. Remember, that quality counts! So, work towards establishing your site as a credible, high traffic source. Once you get started, you will soon keep building and building and building until your PR reaches the top!

User Experience: Just Like Riding a Bike

I used to have this bike back in college that I rode everywhere. It baffled my friends that I chose to ride a bike, not because the concept of “green” transportation was bizarre or unfamiliar to them, but because of the particular bike that I rode. It was terrible. The gears on the back wheel protruded too far from the bike and they would snag my pant legs and rip them apart.

name.com has a good ux user experience.

Bad user experience can be painful.

By now you’re probably thinking “duh, roll the pant leg up” because most bikes will do this if your pants are flared enough at the bottom, but this bike would cut and scratch my leg if I didn’t make a conscious effort to bow it out. So, I had a bike that caused my physical pain to ride, unless I was willing to sacrifice some pants en route. I think it goes without saying, but this bike was horribly designed. It looked really nice (so nice, in fact, that some poor sucker stole it from a bike rack on campus) but it was a nightmare to ride. The designer spent a lot of time thinking about the aesthetic appeal of the bike and forgot that it’s a bike that someone will want to ride.

Why am I ranting about my long lost collegiate bicycle? User experience. Every interaction that you have with a product is a user experience. It doesn’t matter what the product does, whether it’s a well-intentioned mobile app you can’t login to, a crockpot, or even your bicycle. The experience I had on my bike was bad.

User experience, or UX, is a big deal in the world of websites and apps. If a user cannot figure out what you expect them to do on a website how are they going to be able to purchase your product? Too often companies focus web development efforts on aesthetics rather than functionality, and their users become frustrated and bounce.

User-centered design attempts to correct this issue by redefining the planning and implementation process around projects. Aesthetics and system foundations

a better user experience blog series from name.com

Much better.

are not the pillars of user-centered design, functionality and usability are. That is not to say that designers can’t create both, but if the designer who created my bike had focused on usability I probably would have been able to ride it without needing to disinfect my leg after each use.

Here at Name.com we dabble in user-centered design. We are by no means experts at it, but we are trying to improve our process and develop products that our customers actually want to use. We have learned a lot in our journey to improve the UX on our website and I think you could learn a great deal from our ideas, initiatives, and mistakes.

And just like that, I’m kicking off a blog series on the UX design process. This post is just an introduction to the concept with many more posts to come.