CATEGORY: Websites

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.

DDOS Attack | Picked a bad time to come back from vacation

But a few days ago I was building a sand castle on the beach with my two little boys. Actually, I’d build it and they’d knock it down. It was hilarious fun and could have had us featured on a brochure for contentment. I’ve been thinking fondly about those days, and hoping I was savoring every second of it, because I had no idea that at that very moment my work was getting spanked by the biggest DDOS attack ever to come barreling at Name.com.

Paradise is great customer support

There would be waves at work too.

In short, some very large and very powerful Chinese entity was not happy with one of our customers. The owner of Boxun.com has been publishing news about the scandal of the former Chinese political superstars Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai. It’s a story involving murder, corruption and the widening gap between China’s rich and poor. This story deserves some serious media attention, but instead many involved have been silenced or locked up.

So here we are, this little but growing company in Denver, suddenly a target of some ticked off Chinese elite. This is where I show up, breezing in happy and as tan as paste can get, and receiving applause for returning to work.  Let me warn you, when you come back to work and people applaud, it’s not because they’ve missed you. It’s because they’re thrilled to have someone else take some bullets. I was quickly briefed on the situation, “Yah, it was bad, there are some pissed people,” and I swear there was an actual skip in her step as she walked away. I should give her more credit than that. It was Ashley, our Marketing Something or Other, and she and the entire staff did an amazing job of handling what could be the equivalent of a Honda getting sideswiped by the moon. DDOS attacks are common, and we have an awesome crew that regularly handles the onslaught, but this was the kind of mauling that inspires international treaties.

All our peeps are back to their regular scheduled programming, we’re still talking with Boxun.com for the best results for them, and I’m still on Hawaiian time, alternately staring out the window and at Google Translate. I think 你的母亲的气味像猪 isn’t good, and not once has anyone here at work offered to bring me a piña colada or rub sunscreen on my back.

It’s OK, it’s what I do, be the public face to these situations. At Name.com it’s easier than places that take more time glossing over things than they do being open and honest about them. So for that I’m happy to be back.

consistency at name.com

Your future at Name.com looks to be pleasant.

SEO Series – Part 8: It’s All Logical… No Voodoo Here!

Get caught up on the rest of the SEO series or get right into this quick lesson on SEO strategies. 

While SEO experts would like us to believe that there is some sort of voodoo or black magic involved with the process, that really is not the case.

SEO companies do not just place a magic spell, dance around a bonfire, and light a candle, hoping that site ranking improves.

There is a logic and a science to it, which is easy to understand.

Rituals to approach SEO strategies

And through the night, they danced for Lord Google

Much of the confusion is due to unethical SEO companies using black-hat strategies. The thinking behind “black-hat” strategy is that businesses need to trick, deceive, and outsmart the search engines in order to improve rankings. While “white-hat” SEO strategies use knowledge of the current algorithms to find a strategy that works with the search engines.

When you use “white-hat” strategies and work with Google, you will find that Google actually tells people openly (in its blog) about which strategies work in improving their SERPs. Just remember that Google’s founders and workforce are very clever people. This means that in order to improve your rankings, there is actually a lot of work involved.

Link building is one of the best ways to optimize a website. As we discussed, there are considerations for which sites to link with and not link with. In addition, backlink building takes time, effort, and energy.

Now, obviously, if your business creates thousands of spam links by using automated software, then you are trading links for quality content. According to Matt Cutts of Google, the best way to climb up the rankings is with a steady supply of fresh, quality content, not with spammy links. That is the logic.

When you follow Google’s advice and work by using “white-hat” strategies, your site is sure to logically progress up the ranks. And that is no mean feat!

SEO Series – Part 7: Strong links are the backbone of your site!

Get caught up on the rest of the SEO series or get right into this quick lesson on backlinks.

Not only are strong links the backbone of your site, backlinks are what the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) love to find. When you have a basic understanding of what backlinks are, how they work, what they do, and how backlinks are one of the most important factors in getting your bidding directory rank high, then you are definitely on your way to cracking the code that is SEO.

When you have a strong backlink campaign for your site, it is much easier to rank high in the SERPs. As you may or may not know, a backlink is a link from another site that points to your own site. It is important to choose wisely in determining who/which site to get backlinks from. You need backlinks from sites within your niche’ which also contain the keywords you are highlighting. In other words, be like Mr. Spock and use logic!

Search Engine Optimization backlinks

Backlink your way to the top.

To begin acquiring backlinks you can use, it is imperative that your keywords are chosen specifically for their long and short-tail value. Ideally, your keywords will become the anchor text for any backlinks you are attempting to acquire. For example, if you are looking to rank high for the keyword phrase “Daisy Hill Puppy Farm,” then you need to find other relevant sites to put a link labeled “Daisy Hill Puppy Farm” on their sites. The idea being that if enough backlinks are built, a web site will rank #1 for that specific term.

The next consideration of successful backlink building is the page rank (PR) of the site you will be placing the backlink on. The higher the PR rating, the stronger that site will be in the SERPS. Obviously, a backlink from a PR 1 site will be weaker than a PR 7 site. You want your site to be ON page 1 of the search engine browsers, but you do not want a PR 1 rating. If you are able to receive 10 to 20 backlinks pointing to your site, but they are all from a PR 5 or higher site, then you can easily expect your SERP rating to improve and your own PR score to go up.

Acquiring the higher PR backlinks can be a tricky process. Sites with a high PR score,

Larry Page, inventor of Page Rank

PageRank is named after it’s founder, Google guy Larry Page.

know and understand how valuable that truly is. That is why many people begin building backlinks from sites with a lower PR. The good news is that when you place a link on a lower PR site, then, depending upon the backlinks the site already has, that site may improve their PR ranking by having your link on it. So, your link helped get you a link to a higher PR site.

The starting point for any successful backlink campaign is to research thoroughly and find a PR 1 site that has backlinks on higher PR pages. Then, when you decide to put a link on that PR 1 site, you are placing it on a site that is fertile ground for a higher PR. So, get out there! And start researching your keywords to build the strongest possible backlink campaign.

Stay tuned as we continue our series on Search Engine Optimization, now made easier with Name.com’s SEO Tutor.

SEO Series – Part 6: Holy Toledo, Batman! We need some juicy data!

Get caught up on the rest of the SEO series…and then get into this pep talk about Data.

Let the Google Bots find your Data

Like a hot centerfold of the Information Age.

Data governs everything that occurs on the web. No matter how minute or gigantic the topic, there is an unfathomable amount of information available. The internet has opened all kinds of barriers and, nowadays, the discovery of new knowledge or information occurs instantly and is shared by millions. That’s why it’s critical to have both good data to put online and use solid data to measure what is put online.

Search engines demand a steady stream of high quality, high standard information that is constantly being refreshed in our Web 2.0 world. Yet there is constant scrutiny of how it is being used. Information is now dynamic, fluid, and processed and managed constantly.

Once this process is understood, it is easy to measure and quantify the information that is flowing. When you know how to use the data properly, it is simple to understand the factors behind this information explosion. Then, it is also easy to project long term implications of this phenomenon. The good news is that both the cost of producing and moving data is being reduced. So is the cost of data storage. That is because the amount of data that is produced and used in consistently on the rise.

With analytics so easily available and easy to use, there is no reason why all companies, businesses, and industries are not using them. Information is no longer only the bits and bytes of data, but is also the right metrics and analytics to show where all this data is flowing.

Your website is part of this data chain. Now, instead of growing indiscriminatingly (and often ridiculously with overwritten attempts to snare the most of SEO), growth is being managed deliberately and purposefully. That is because internet users are more savvy and demanding about their quality. The search engine algorithms change regularly to ensure the quality of online information. That is why it is incumbent upon you and your website developers to provide authentic and accurate data.

humans for search engine optimization educational series

These humans are keen on the Internet.

But it is also key to remember the humans! The bots are great, but why would an actual flesh and blood visitor come to your site?

There are many specially developed instruments to provide the right statistics, metrics, and analytics to determine the number of visitors a site gets and what specific content they are looking at. Knowing that data is important is the first step. The next step is finding the right reports that will give the best information about how to increase traffic and improve your site organically.

SEO Series – Part 5: The Visible (online) Man

We’re already at Part 5? Catch up with all of our series on SEO!

Having online presence is different from having charisma or stage presence. Online presence can actually be taught and even enhanced with specific techniques. Maintaining visibility online is easy, once you know how! It just takes knowing the necessary underpinnings to get it all going on.

Are you visible online?

Are you there? Increase your online visibility.

The backbone of any online efforts is having the right hosting service. Your hosting service should be able to provide many different components and capabilities for your website, all while allowing you to stay connected to others online. The first critical function is to have the right domain name through your IP, so that your presence is always successfully online. That way, continuing on with extra services like database management and back end programming is easy to do. In addition, there are other online enhancements, which are included like: security systems, marketing tools, and payment gateways to further boost online presence.

Web acceleration is a tool which many hosting services offer. This is software that allows a website to load in a much quicker period of time. That way, the time it takes for your site to load moves more quickly. If your site has an excessive number of images, Flash presentations, and other “bells and whistles,” then it may be difficult to connect with customers due to slower loading. Web acceleration is just one of several tools that will help in reducing load time while increasing online reputation.

flash enterprises

No.

In addition to web acceleration, enhancing the overall look and feel of your website in an attractive, integrated design. When there is faster upload time, there is the ability of adding in whatever your site requires to create a brilliant first impression. That way, customers can see that your site is legitimate, professional, and easy to access. When this is taken care of, it is much easier to add in extra materials through the main server and onto the site.

the yes button from name.com

Yes.

Having the right backbone and foundation of a website is just the beginning of taking the right approach for full online visibility. By adding in the right services and opportunities, you will be able to have even more options for increasing online visibility and enhancing your online reputation. When you have more options for your site, it allows you to take approaches that are more creative with your online presence and further enhance brand reputation and reliability.

SEO Series Part 4: What the Spiders Like…

Look, who’s crawling up my wall SEO How To
Black and hairy, very small
Now he’s up above my head
Hanging by a little thread

Boris the spider
Boris the spider
-THE WHO

While the Google searchbots may not all be named Boris, they do like to crawl. They are also very particular about where they crawl. When your site attracts ol Boris, then your site becomes more recognizable, branding is enhanced, and your business’s ROI is substantial. Here are three ideas for attracting the attention of those pesky searchbots:

Compelling Content – By having original content which is relevant to your business, you are making your site irresistible to Boris. It’s the easiest way to attract site traffic and retain both readers and searchbots. Just be sure that the Meta Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Page Descriptions are well-matched to the page content.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords – While informative and engaging content is key, it is also important to use the right keywords. Current best practice suggests using 4-6% of your content as keywords. If the percentage is lower, the site will not be found. If it is higher, it will be identified as spam.

Technicalities – In addition to refreshing and updating your keyword-rich content, there are a few technical aspects to consider. For example, try to use more content and less images. Mainly because images make a site file heavy and therefore unreadable by the search bots. Check and be sure there are not any broken links within the site itself. Also be sure that any images or icons used have both an alt tag and a text link. And, finally, be sure to add a site map or even place multiple site maps.

These are simply some general guidelines to make your site more appealing. Every business is unique and, therefore, every SEO campaign is also unique. However, when you keep these three basic ideas in mind, your individual SEO campaign is sure to succeed with our friend, Boris.

Bo has been cranking out some great SEO content. Here are the first three articles.