In the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to look at hundreds of WordPress themes for my clients. Generally the client has a smaller budget and a WordPress pre-designed theme is an affordable alternative to a more expensive custom design.
Wordpress themes come in two categories: free and premium. The free WordPress themes are decent, and this is a great option for startups and newbies who just want a web site up fast. The downside is that the selection is fairly limited.
Premium WordPress themes, however, are generally of much higher quality and have better customization features. And there are lots more of them. So if you want a custom web site design, but can’t afford the pricetag of a custom site design, a premium WordPress theme can at least make your web site look like it’s got a custom design. Most premium WordPress themes cost about $35, and there are a bunch of good web sites that offer them. You can see a list of web sites that offer premium WordPress themes on the E-Marketing Connection web site.
At least, that’s the intention.
Recently I’ve been noticing that the vast majority of WordPress themes, even the premium ones, are all starting to look alike. They all appear to offer some variation of the following sequence: header, navigation, image slider, feature boxes, content columns, and a big thick footer. That’s the home page. Beyond that you get a gallery or portfolio page, some basic content pages with two and three columns, a contact us page with a built-in form, an about us page, a blog page, and sometimes a separate products and services page.
It would seem that all the newest WordPress themes are targeted to design firms or other creative types. If these firms or individuals are so creative, why don’t they create their own custom web site designs? Because they don’t have the skills to code it, that’s why. They’re artists, not developers. I get that. My concern is that not all people who want a pre-designed WordPress theme are creative types. Forget the gallery, my accounting firm client doesn’t need it. They don’t need the slider or the portfolio. They need nice-looking, easy-to-read content pages and a way to put stock images on those content pages — that’s all.
This is simply yet another manifestation of the shiny new object syndrome. Image sliders are the cool thing, so everyone wants one. Even one of my clients who is a career development coach wants one, even though the site doesn’t need it. It might even be a distraction from the important content on the site. It’s just cool-looking, that’s why web site owners want it. So that’s what the theme designers are making now. What will the next fad be? Whatever it is, when it comes around, these slider-heavy web sites will be overused and boring, like the pop song that plays over and over on the radio until you can’t stand hearing it any more.
It could be just me, because I look at so many of these. It’s hard to say. You, the consumer, someone who’s not “in the business” may not notice this. If so, let me know, because I want to give my clients what they want, but I also want to give them what they need, whether they realize it or not. It’s hard to argue with cool.
A lot of importance is placed on deliverability in email campaigns. What this refers to is the percentage of emails that actually make it into the subscribers’ inboxes.
But another important metric is the actual mix of email clients your subscribers are using to view your emails and how each of them displays your message. Even people who have been doing email marketing for a long time sometimes don’t pay enough attention to this.
For example, many email clients (“email client” means Gmail, Outlook, Eudora, etc.) will have a default setting that turns off all graphics in the preview window. The reason for this is spam-related, the details of which are beyond the scope of this post. And since most email campaigns have graphical banners at the top, those banners won’t load when graphics are turned off. If you’re not aware of this, and you don’t design your email template the right way in order to compensate, your viewer might see just a big blank box in their preview window. Clearly not what you want!
Some people might say, “But isn’t that why we also include a text-based version?” While it’s good to include a text version, the reason for doing so is not what you might think. The text based version is for people who specifically need text-only emails for accessibility or bandwidth reasons. HTML is text too, from a technical standpoint. Turning off graphics in an email client still renders the HTML properly, it just doesn’t download and display the images rendered via the HTML <img> tag.
Here’s one final tidbit to seal the deal… mobile devices do not load graphics in the email program, at least my iPhone doesn’t. It doesn’t even LET me load graphics! And guess what? The iPhone is the second most popular email client for one of my lists. My ESP (E-Mail Service Provider), which is MailChimp, tells me what email clients are used to view my emails. Take a look at the chart, Gmail is #1 and iPhone is #2. It would behoove you to check your own list to see what your email client mix is.
Another activity you should consider is email client testing. Any time you change your email template, you need to retest it on at least the top five email clients that are used by your subscribers. It’s easy enough to create accounts for yourself on these different clients, and send tests to those accounts and just view them. View them with graphics turned off and then on. View them in the preview window and the full reading window. View them on different devices if you can (Windows vs. Mac vs. iPhone/iPad, etc.)
Yes, this all sounds like a bit of a pain, but isn’t it worth it if it means just a few more of your subscribers will actually have a better reading experience? For all you know some of your readers are opening your email just to see a blank box (your header) and with 100 other emails waiting to be read, yours might just get passed by.
I don’t want that to happen to you any more than you do. If you need help, or have a question about this, just post a comment and I’ll be happy to respond with more details.
Our EMarketingConnection.com web site has had the same “Newsflash” Drupal theme for a year, and I’ve hated it since a week after I chose and installed it.
But at the time I decided to let it go — it was done, and it worked, and I was OK with that. It allowed me to put in all the basic content I felt was needed to kick start the site, so it was “good enough.”
We have been working on a redesign since February but, like the cobbler’s children who don’t have any shoes, E-Marketing Connection has kept it’s ugly old design — until today!
The redesign is now done (although I still need to tweak a few buggy little things). I’ll be announcing it in my newsletter later today.
An unfortunate side-effect of the delay in implementing this design is that I was hesitant to really punch up the content until after the new design was put in. I honestly didn’t want to attract too many people to the site yet, so why add a bunch of content that would just get stale? Maybe that was an excuse for not doing the work? Perhaps, but whatever it was, it’s no longer an excuse .
So… now that the design is ready… now the content build-up begins in earnest.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think of the new design. Many people worked very hard on it!
I’m feeling rather guilty that I haven’t posted in over a week. But I have a good excuse, I promise!
Last week I went on hiatus in order to put the finishing touches on my recently released E-Marketing 101 Video Training Course. Basically the technology needed to be fixed in order to deliver the lessons automatically to each subscriber every week.
And I did it!
Yup, I finished the job, and in celebration, I have posted an amazing offer on the web site. Until the end of this month, you can get the program for just $47 per month for five months. It’s a 21-week program that teaches you step by step how to plan and implement a complete e-marketing program for your small business.
The best part is it’s totally risk-free! If you cancel within 60-days you will get your money back. You can watch every single video and implement everything you learn and even keep all the handouts that come with it, and we’ll still give you your money back. You don’t even have to tell us why. Just cancel your account and ask for a refund and you’ll get it. It’s that simple.
You can’t lose!
How can we offer you this? Because we’re convinced that you will see the same amazing results that our other participants have seen who have gone through the program.
Check out the web site at www.LearnEmarketingNow.com.
If you have any questions, post them here and I’ll answer them as quickly as possible. Or email me directly at lpecunia[at]avarrasolutions[dot]com and I’ll answer them privately.
Who doesn’t love seeing those words? “FREE EBOOK!” We are all thirsty for knowledge and at the same time wary of spending money to buy a book and then realizing it’s not what we’d hoped.
As a consumer, I love free eBooks because I can look at the content and see if it’s what I need. If not it’s no big deal, I just delete it and move on.
As a marketer, I also love free eBooks. For one, it helps get my name out there, and positions me as an expert in my field. It’s a great credibility boost, as I mentioned in last week’s radio interview with Dale Little. For another, it can be a great motivator for a call to action on a landing page or web site.
Some may disagree, but using a free download of any kind is a great way to get people to sign up for a mailing list. As we all know, getting people to opt-in to our lists is no easy task, and is near impossible if they see no clear and immediate benefit to doing so. Having a free eBook to offer just makes it all that much easier.
In fact, I got an email from a young university student in the UK yesterday telling me she downloaded my ebook and wanted to include it in the bibliography for one of her research projects. Even though it’s academic, it’s still a form of sharing, and as such it adds a social element to the ebook.
Free ebooks can take another form. This kind is completely free with no restrictions except the reader is not allowed to plagiarize the book or accept money in exchange for it, or any part of it. It’s freely distributable, and the author/publisher does not require an email address or mailing list sign up or the submittal of any other information about themselves in exchange for accepting the book. The purpose of this form is to promote yourself, or a product or service you provide.
I created three types of eBooks recently.
In January I published a complete guide for small business owners to help them understand what goes into the process of designing a good web site. This book is available in the Amazon Kindle store for $4.
Then I cut out the details and left only about half the content, which included the core concepts and a little bit of meat, but not too much. I also added more promotional content at the end of the book, to include more information about how the reader could benefit by using my services (or reading my pay-for book). This version is called the abridged version, and is available for free as a gift when the reader signs up for my mailing list.
And finally, I made a completely free version of the same book, which anybody can simply download from my web site and freely distribute. This version has the most promotional information in it. I completely cut several chapters, and a lot more of the meat. I sprinkled various promotional messages throughout the content which tell the reader how they can get more info about that particular topic at various and sundry online locations. Those web sites further attempt to sell the visitor my services.
This last book just came out two weeks ago and I have not done a good job of promoting it… yet. But you can get it here if you want.
So you can hopefully see the various levels of usefulness for each of these different types of eBooks. Try them all to see what works for you as a marketer. You may get different results depending on the type of customers you have, but you won’t know until you try.
EMarketingConnection.com is the place to go for support, community, and resources for your internet marketing programs.
Focusing completely on small businesses, EMarketingConnection.com is a membership site exclusively for those of us who understand the power of the internet and want to successfully leverage it to promote our business and boost sales.
With three membership levels (starting at free!) there is something for everyone at EMarketingConnection.com.
See you there!