When I start a new web design project, the first question I usually get asked is “When can I see some designs?”
I try to set realistic expectations from the very beginning. I explain the design and development process by providing a basic, easy-to-understand list of web design project milestones. The list is broken down into three stages: Content, Design, and Development.
This phase of the project consists of compiling a complete inventory of the current content of all of the business’s marketing materials. Once we have the inventory we analyze it and categorize it and create a taxonomy.
The process of analyzing and classifying the content is described in detail in my eBook, The Small Business Website Design Guide.
While we are analyzing the content, a basic site structure naturally emerges from the content categories. We then use this to start creating basic page layouts, navigation, keyword placements, and buyer segmentation strategies.
Also during this stage, we define all the “behaviors” and interactive features that the user will experience while interacting with the site.
Then we put the layouts, navigation, and behaviors into a format called “wire frames.” These wire frames are simply black and white sketches that represent the structure of the pages within the overall site concept. Large development projects have very complicated wire frame layouts. We keep ours fairly simple – they are really just a tool to document the design and help the client understand the site structure.
Once the client has reviewed and approved the wire frames, we apply the graphic design talent to the project. This is when we come up with the graphical theme of the site. This includes things like color selection, imagery, navigation schema (e.g. tabs vs. buttons), fonts, iconography, and scripted elements.
This is what the client wanted to see when they asked me that first question, “When can I see some designs?” Clearly it’s not as simple as whipping up some pretty colors and nice fonts and images and turning it around in a few days.
This is the boring-for-you-but-fun-for-me part. I love seeing a site start to come together and become real.
Sometimes it needs a lot of back and forth between the designer and the programmer to make sure the site looks like it’s supposed to. Programmers aren’t always good at deciding when something does or doesn’t look like the original concept vision.
In some cases, the designer has envisioned a feature that is difficult to implement technically. In this case there’s a re-think/re-negotiate process that has to take place. There’s usually at least one, sometimes two, of these issues that come up in any given project. The bigger the project, the more issues there are at this stage.
Finally, the client gets to look at the site and play around with it. We might have to tweak a few things here and there, but essentially the site is complete. Pushing the site to production is the last task, then it’s up to the client to promote it and make it work for them.
So the next time you hire out your website redesign project, I hope you’ll have a better understanding of how the whole thing is supposed to work. I hope you’ll also see a red flag if your designer says, “OK, we’ll have some designs ready to show you in a few days.” Run the other direction.
Have you recently started a blog? Maybe you’ve posted a few entries and you’re starting to get the hang of it.
Now is the time you want to start thinking of some of the other things you can do with your blog to make it a more robust experience for both you, the small business blogger, and your potential readers. Here are a few things to start with:
You can use both categories and tags on your posts.
Categories provide a way to arrange your posts into topic groups. This helps your readers more easily find what they’re looking for. You may need to activate the category listing feature on your blog’s settings page. It will then show up in your blog’s “sidebar” and contain a list of clickable category names. This becomes part of your blog’s navigation. You can choose multiple categories per post.
Tags are much more specific, and help both users and search engines better understand the relevance of the post. They’re a little bit like keywords.
For example, if you were writing a post on how to make Chicken Cordon Bleu, your category might be Chicken or French Recipes. Your tags might be chicken, ham, cheese, tarragon, oven roasting, etc.
[Checklist Image by Filomena Scalise.]
Most blogs come with an automatic About Me page already started, which you simply fill in. This page is included in your blog’s navigation menu. It’s pretty simple and highly useful. Remember to add your nice professional head shot picture.
Add images to your posts. It’s a fact that people are more likely to read a blog post if it has an interesting image in it. Just make sure the image is related to the post content, and adds value to the visitor’s comprehension of the topic.
Remember, this is a small business blog, the primary goal is to get found by your buyers. Your keywords are critical to this process!
When you’re writing your posts, you should always be thinking of your keywords. Using your buyer persona‘s language in your content means they will more likely 1) find it and 2) connect with it.
Use keywords in your title, content, image alt tags, excerpt (or summary), and meta description tag (see below for more on this).
Have you ever heard of a web ring? A blog ring is very similar — it’s a list of blog sites that offer similar or related content on a specific topic. Belonging to a blog ring can bring more readers to your blog. Each member of the ring has a ring navigation widget on their blog that allows readers to navigate to the other blogs on the ring.
You can find blog rings to join by looking for blogs that contain content similar to yours and seeing if it is a member of a ring.
If you can’t find one, create one! Check out this Squidoo lens for more info on how to start a new blog ring.
Create a page on your blog that tells your readers about the products and services your organization offers. This is similar to what you might have on your own web site. It’s just another place to talk with people about how you can help them. You might also include a link back to your website or Facebook business page.
You should always remember to set your meta tags on every one of your posts. Search engines will reward you much better if you give them the information they need to find your page and understand what it’s about.
Both Blogger and WordPress give you options on your Edit Post screen to add your meta tags. The most important one is your description. This is just a sentence or two (no more!) about what readers will find in this post.
Depending on the platform you use, you can also add keywords, an intro, a subtitle, and other meta tag items. Add them all if you have time, but at the very least add the description.
Post your comments here if you have any questions. And be sure to include a link to your blog, I’d love to read it.
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!