Colordance Design

Searching for Your Website


Often there are questions from business owners about how to best optimize their website, so it is easily found and ranked as high as possible when viewers search for their products and services. This process is often called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

There are a number of factors a search provider takes into account when they rate a website. The actual ranking criteria are proprietary to the search company—they will not reveal the specific methods they use to rank a website. However, they will provide guidelines in a published document. For example, to read Google’s Webmaster recommendations you can visit, https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769

Website owners need to realize that search results can vary widely depending on what other websites exist in their particular category. For example, if there are a number of websites selling purple polka dot ice cream, it is not reasonable to expect that a new website (which also promotes a similar product) would rank above the others, since the existing businesses have most likely already optimized their sites for a high ranking.

Focus on Unique Aspects of Your Business

What is important is to focus on the unique aspects your business offers. Your viewers are likely to enter these distinct attributes as key words in an internet search. Two examples include the physical location of your business, and the very specific type of product or service you sell or promote. Suppose as a pet store owner you sell a popular fancy dog collar and your store is located in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. You would then need to make sure that the key words “fancy dog collar” and “suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia” appear in your text headings, text body copy, and metadata of your website (metadata is information embedded in the HTML code that is commonly not visible on the website). A word of caution–be careful to not over optimize your site so that it appears that you only sell fancy dog collars in Atlanta, Georgia. A common fault of some SEO vendors is that the changes they might suggest for your website defeat other optimizations you have done.Sol Sana Studio Website

As an example, consider Sol Sana Studio which offers small classes for participants to explore their artistic creativity in Naperville, IL. The website is content rich. It has been optimized with descriptive text and headings on each page. When a Google search is made using words like “artistic creativity in small classes in Naperville” there is a good probability the site will be found.

Content Rich Sites Promote SEO Ranking

It is ever so much easier for search engines to properly evaluate a website if it is content rich. Below is a list of ways to ensure you have a content rich site:

  1. Provide accurate page titles in the html code
  2. Make sure your HTML metadata description contains descriptive words and is concise
  3. Use descriptive tags on image “alt” tags on all images.
  4.  Provide a good amount of written content on all pages

Then make sure the content you use includes the key words that you might expect someone enter when they use a search engine (like Google or Bing).

Exchange Website Links for Optimal SEO Ranking

Secondly, you increase your search engine ranking when other sites link to yours. An effective strategy is to work with your colleagues and other business owners to exchange website links.

In summary, you don’t need to pay a lot of money to optimize your site. Rather you need to understand your market—the products and services you sell –and your target audience. Select key words that your audience is likely to use to search for your site and embed those words in your text, headings, and meta data. Finally, work to increase the number of other websites that link to your site by exchanging links with other similar website owners.

 

Best Practices for Web Site Usability – II


Minimal & Consistent Navigation

It is important to organize your content and links so the eye is not confused about where to look. The link names and the order of the links on the page should be designed to allow your viewers to get to the most important and most often needed information quickly and efficiently. Main navigation headings should be broad, one word headings, limited to 7-9 words, consistent in color and location on every page. Typical main navigation headings may include: About, Services, Calendar, Shop, Gallery, and News, or variations on these broad categories. Secondary navigation can be handled in drop down menus or in a consistent place on subsequent pages, and can be one or two words.

All links, whether they are navigation headings within the web site or links to other sites, need to be one consistent color and style throughout your site. This makes it easy for your viewer to scan the page and read your copy. If they have a difficult time navigating your site, or if links are broken, it gives the impression that you don’t care about your business or audience.
RUAHCenter

Audience Preferences

Viewers do not like too much scrolling so keep its best to keep content concise. Use “Next / Previous” links to continue a long article on multiple pages. Music on web sites can be distracting and unwanted unless the user can control when it plays. Often web sites are viewed in settings where music would disturb others, for example, in libraries, coffee shops or other public places. So, if you must add music to your web site, make sure there is an on and off button.

A series of animated images can be helpful to tell a story, either on your homepage or secondary page. Yet, it is important to remember that the eye is drawn to movement. Be careful not to pull the viewer’s eye off the page, and avoid swipes. Fades are preferable to swipes for photo transitions.

Build a Content Rich Site

Post content of interest to your viewers to create reasons for viewers to return to your site. This meets their needs for additional educational information, easy sign up for events, opportunity to view your calendar, quick access to your hours and location, ability to shop online, as well as tips for how to do things. Viewers are more likely to bookmark your site, and recommend it to their friends when it meets their needs. This could be accomplished with:
• short movie clips,
• an online shopping cart,
• a workshop/class registration page,
• educational news/blog posts,
• or an online payment option for services/tickets
RUAHCenter-cal

Keep it updated too!

Scanning vs Reading

Unlike a book, web site pages are scanned for the pertinent information required. Short paragraphs and sentences with concise explanations help viewers scan your web site content. Heads, sub heads, bullets and numbered lists are also effective.

Key Words

Finally, make a list of key words your audience would use to do a Google search to find your site. These words may be descriptive adjectives as well as practical geographic terms. Keep the list nearby when you are writing your web site copy. Embed these words in your headings and text. It is okay to be redundant, since most viewers do not read your web site pages from “cover to cover.”

Keeping these points in mind, you will have a user friendly site.

Best Practices for Web Site Usability – I


It makes smart business sense to create a website that is easy for your viewers to use. You want them to quickly grasp what your business is about and easily find the information they seek. Since most viewers scan when they are on the internet, they often spend an average of 10 seconds on a webpage. Thus, there are best practices that will make your site a pleasure to use and enjoy.

These include:

  •  Present an engaging, visual concept on your homepage of what your business is about; as the saying goes “ a picture is worth a thousand words”,
  • Continue this engaging visual theme on your secondary page, adding more content/text to create a unified design,
  • Place the logo at the top left corner on all web pages,
  • Employ meaningful imagery throughout your site to increase reading comprehension,
  • Limit main navigation headings to 7-9 words, one word preferable
  • Organize  your hierarchy of information (content),
  • Take into account audience preferences for minimal scrolling and elements that can distract their eye such as photos overpower the text or page layout,
  • Use lists and short sentences to assist with scanning
  • Embed key words in your headings and copy -keep this list nearby when you write your text,
  • Refrain from filling the blank space with text as the eye needs places to rest.

Harvest Pow Wow Homepage

Home Page As Visual Introduction

Your home page is your viewer’s first impression to what your business is all about. It needs to be primarily visual, as research indicates the human brain processes imagery instantaneously.1 Providing meaningful imagery on the home page gives the human brain what it needs to quickly assimilate your business messaging.

In contrast to written text, people may actually think in pictures, according to Mike Parkinson. In his article, The Power of Visual Communication, Parkinson cites research in which the human brain grasps the ingredients of an image immediately and needs more time to comprehend text, as the brain must process language in a step-by-step sequential process. 2 Another author, Amanda Sibley, in her article Why You Should Include Visual Content In Your Marketing Data, cites research which indicates viewers process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.3

Heat mapping studies indicate that viewers are scanning rather than reading line for line on the internet,  so you don’t want to clutter your pages with verbose text.  Instead, brainstorm a visual concept with one meaningful image or a series of images arranged in a photo collage. This will engage to your viewer’s curiosity and creativity.

Unless you’re specifically building a web portal, avoid putting too much information on multiple topics on your home page.  Viewers are not likely to find key information you want to convey when it is hidden in a sea of disconnected text, links and images.  Use your site’s main navigation to point the viewer to the right information quickly.

To this recipe add the following home page elements:

  •  Business logo/logotype in the top left corner on all pages. Viewers expect this on websites and appreciate consistency.
  • Summary paragraph about your business with embedded key words for Search Engine Optimization,
  • Contact Information and links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Join Our Mailing List.

View the home and secondary page design on the Harvest Pow Wow website.
Harvest Pow Wow Secondary Page

Secondary Page – Unified With Home Page

The secondary page design is the place to add more content/ text with less visual imagery. Yet, it needs to capture a similar design as your homepage in terms of layout, color scheme, visual concept.  Use plenty of white space (negative space) to give the eye a rest.  A unified web site design creates  visual harmony and keeps your viewer engaged with your site.  Wherever possible you want to avoid a “busy” look. Color can often be used to focus attention.

Meaningful Imagery

Research shows that appropriate imagery placed near related text increases recall and comprehension. It may do this by engaging viewer curiosity and creativity, since we may think in pictures. Read more.

Resources Consulted

1. Amanda Sibley, 19 Reasons Why You Should Include Visual Content In Your Marketing Data, Inbound Hub, Inbound Marketing (August 6, 2012) http://blog.hubspot.com/
2. Mike Parkinson, The Power of Visual Communication http://www.billiondollargraphics.com/
3. Amanda Sibley, 19 Reasons Why You Should Include Visual Content In Your Marketing Data, Inbound Hub, Inbound Marketing (August 6, 2012) http://blog.hubspot.com/

Cultivate A Productive Web Site – Part II


Part I presents an overview of what is involved in creating a web site to impact and “Wow” your viewers. You need to start the process by identifying the purpose of your site, incubate your conceptual ideas, research the culture of your target audience, organize your hierarchy of information, and to achieve the most professional look collaborate with a graphic designer to evolve your identity components.

View a PowerPoint presentation on the nuts and bolts of web site creation.

Create a Content Rich Site

A content rich site is a good idea for several reasons. Visitors tend to bookmark and return regularly to information rich sites, and reference it for others to view. Useful, information rich web sites also increase search engine rankings. Review your web site content and ask the question, if I were a customer, do I have reason to:

  • Bookmark this site?
  • Visit it often as a reference?
  • Forward links to this site to others?

Ask yourself, what content do you have already and what do you need to create? Do you need to photograph your artwork for an online shopping cart? Display photos for a portfolio gallery? Or, do you need to write more copy that helps your viewers decide to use your services?

Added content provides the value your customers are looking for. This includes:

Midwest SOARRING Foundation web site

Rotating Native American quotes on http://www.midwestsoarring.org.

  • Short interview movie clips
  • “How-to” white papers or web content
  • Calculators
  • Tips and educational content
  • PDF’s of event flyers, PowerPoint presentations, or product sheets
  • Rotating inspirational quotes
  • Thumbnail photos with enlarged views of images
  • Streaming audio and video
  • Integrated blog
  • Integrated photo gallery
  • Animated homepage splash bars
  • Pay Pal/Buy Now
  • Shopping Cart

Domain Name & Web Hosting

You will need to reserve your domain name with a domain name registrar. This typically requires a small annual fee. It is best if you purchase your domain name yourself.

Choose a domain name that is easy to remember and preferably not too long. If your business name is not available, consider using your tagline for your domain.

Next, decide where to obtain web hosting. There are many reputable small companies to choose from. We also provide web hosting as a service for our clients.

Voila! There you have it – the nuts and bolts of inspiring website design.

 

 

 

 

Cultivate A Productive Web Site – Part I


So, you need a web site. One that will impact your viewers, creatively market your services or artistic endeavors, and advertise your products, activities and events.  What steps do you need to take to “Wow!” your audience and engage them with what you have to offer?

Website Purpose

First, identify what you want to accomplish with your website. Do you plan to sell items online? Or, educate and promote your services and events? Do you need online registration or advance sales for tickets? Would you like to make frequent news posts along with photos and videos?

Incubate Ideas

Second, give yourself time to be inspired. Incubating a distinct business identity takes time and thought. Talk with others whose input you value.  Research what is already out there on the web, both in your line of work and unexpected sites you discover. Notice the promotional signage in your favorite stores. Browse through magazines related to your business. What colors, images, and themes standout in the written copy and imagery? Look around your office and work space. Often you will find a detail(s) you have collected that can lead to a larger theme.

For example, stained glass artist and business owner Amy Potvin asked Colordance Design to create an artistic website design inspired by her favorite stained glass window. The design that emerged is captured in this short animation:

View A Touch of Glass complete website.

Research Your Business Culture

Think about your audience and the age group you plan to attract.  What style drives the culture? Casual? Rustic? Elegant? Playful? Contemporary? Corporate? Youthful? Alternative? The website design needs to appeal to their tastes, not necessarily yours.

As you research websites and advertising geared towards this audience, what metaphors or themes do you see?

Hierarchy of Information

What broad one word navigation headings best organize your website content? Think about file folders with general labels, with more specific information inside the folder.

The folder names would be headings such as like “About/Bio/Artist,” “Services,” “Portfolio,” “Shop,” “News,” and “Calendar”.  More specific information underneath each general heading could be included on each page, or additional pages, with secondary navigation or a drop down menu bar.

What does your viewer expect to see?  Organize your content (from most important to least important) with this natural flow in mind.

Identity Components

If you don’t already have one, you need a memorable business name, brand mark or logo which appeals to your audience. If you don’t have a logo, here’s where a skilled graphic designer’s touch matters. Often a tagline is helpful to further describe your business and distinguishes you from the “forest.” Some small businesses use their tagline for their website domain name, as long as the slogan is easy to remember, and not too many syllables.

If you already have some of these elements, you are ready for the next steps.

Collaborating with a Graphic Designer

You want your audience to remember you, and you want to stand out in the forest. A graphic designer is trained to help develop a distinct business identity that will impress your audience.  To etch your business messaging in your viewer’s minds, your identity components should be consistently repeated throughout your media and print advertising.

At Colordance Design, we gather your ideas and content and get to work creating a conceptually designed website template which consists of a custom home and secondary page.  Revisions are made while you gather your content.

 

 

Multimedia Personality & Imagery


Today our digital world is in the throes of a visual revolution. Illustrations, photographs, and artistic graphic elements compete for our attention—in our mail, in the stores we frequent, the roadways we drive, and in our homes and businesses. We are surrounded by digital media – in the web, PowerPoint presentations, and spontaneous, media rich hand-held devices.  The key question is, how can we leverage  multimedia imagery to effectively communicate our message in this sea of images?

Imagery Aids in Recall and Comprehension

Before written language, ancient peoples etched drawings into the rock walls of caves and cliffs throughout the world. While the meaning of rock art remains a mystery, it is clear that people were moved to communicate visually. In many ways the world has not changed, it is just more complex. Now, both the written word and visual imagery compete for our attention, in an ever ending stream of communication.

Rockart from Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Perhaps our ancient ancestors knew something we are only now discovering. Did you know that visual imagery actually aids in recall and comprehension? Researchers have discovered two separate channels that operate in our brains—a verbal system of language and a nonverbal system of images1 In addition, some studies indicate that pictures are more likely to be redundantly stored and encoded, which may make them more important than text in communicating memorable information.2

Research investigating imagery and text has found that visual images placed near text can positively impact recall and learning, whether the images are static or dynamic.3 This may be one of the reasons for the popularity of a well done PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint, as a multimedia application, combines imagery, animation, and bulleted information to convey complex content in a way that assists in viewer comprehension.

Given that young people are a growing target audience, research indicates that many children and teens tend to prefer animation and find dynamic images motivating.4 Moving pictures may also increase reading comprehension.5 This is particularly important given that this demographic is a critical market segment for many businesses. By including effective animation with your website and PowerPoint presentations, you can facilitate greater recognition and understanding of your business messaging.

Ten Second Threshold on Web Pages

According to web usability studies, there is a ten second threshold to capture viewer interest once they have landed on your web page. Within those ten seconds, your viewer’s eye scans the page, starting at the top left corner (in the western world) and progressing to the right. This is why the top left corner is the hot spot for logo placement on both home and interior web pages. It lets your viewer know where they are. During this initial ten second period, it is critical that your web page grabs the reader’s attention and interest. Then they will take the extra time required fully grasp the message you are conveying. The imagery you choose plays a key role in quickly capturing their attention.

Effective Imagery Gives Your Website Personality

Meaningful imagery can also add personality to your identity. It is essential to promoting products and relaying a story. Ancient people may have created their rock art to map out local resources (antelope, deer), to identify a clan household above a doorway, to plot celestial happenings, or to experience the creative power at work in the world.

Rockart above dwelling entrance from Puye Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico

Just as ancient people evoked geometric shapes and line drawings as a means of conveying immediate information, our digital pages can provide well designed animation which provides instantaneous in-depth messaging. Since your average visitor spends about 27 seconds on a web page, clever animation that effectively communicates or imparts new learning can take advantage of this finding.

Consider a sequence of animated images on a website home page which tells a story. For example, the Flash animation on Creative Wings Studio website provides an overview of process painting workshops at Creative Wings Studio. Another example conveys seasonal change over time on The Growing Place website, illustrating the wide variety of garden plants and creative landscape displays possible at The Growing Place.

Look at the clever example of market messaging revealed with an animated wiper blade for the commercial cleaning company, Enviro Resources Inc.  Or, if your business mission includes educating and inspiring viewers, wisdom quotations can be shared through a series of animated quotes. If captivating photography enhances the services you offer, memorable imagery can rotate each time a viewer navigates a page. To view an example, visit musician Bill Buccholtz’s website.  Or, consider appealing to the needs of a diverse target audience. Different styles of horseback riding are captured in a series of alternating images on The Riding Store home page.

Perhaps you would like to freshen up your digital media presentation. Thoughtful animation on you website home page can provide a new look. PowerPoint templates can be customized with imagery and effective animation. At Colordance Design, we work together with you to add personality to your multimedia.

Animation Limitations – Flash, Java Script, PowerPoint

There are several limitations with animation. While websites designed in Flash may be beautiful and interesting to view initially, they can take longer to load given the animation and navigation techniques. Viewers get impatient waiting for animation. Flash, in particular is not supported at this time on many mobile devices. Also, the entire use of Flash for a website has significant drawbacks. Unlike a site created with HTML (HyperText Markup Language), Flash is a proprietary format. Search engines often have a difficult time extracting keywords and content useful for search engine ranking. This means your site may not easily be found by the major search engines given appropriate keywords.

Flash’s proprietary nature means that many mobile devices and smartphone operating systems do not support it. Blackberry, iPhone, and iPads are not compatible with Flash. With no Flash support, the growing number of mobile users will be unable to view your site on their handheld device. In addition, any changes to an all Flash website require significant knowledge and expensive software.

Java Script can also be used to animate web pages. However, a viewer must have Java Script enabled in their computer for this to work.

We have all seen “over the top” PowerPoint animation creating a busy and/or labored presentation. These limitations can be mitigated through careful design and layout.

Multimedia Messaging Enhanced with Meaningful Imagery

While our ancient ancestor’s lacked our digital acuity and written word, they understood the power of simple shapes and line drawings. Likely, they were able to communicate a wealth of information in their time, not unlike our modern digital print and media today.

Rockart from Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In our contemporary culture we admire well designed static and dynamic imagery. When this is integrated with text it adds personality and interest in either application. Discriminating animation on a website homepage and PowerPoint slides can increase viewer understanding and recall.  Eloquent, humorous, or inspiring imagery can accompany the messaging for added impact.

Since “A picture is worth a thousand words,” your media presentations can make use of research findings to deepen your connection with your audience. Perhaps this is why we visit ancient sites. We gaze in wonder at the ancient drawings on the rocks.  Our interest is peaked.  We want to comprehend their messaging about what life was like then.

Resources Consulted

  1. Paivio, A., (1971), Imagery and Verbal Processes. New York, Holt, Reinhart & Winston, Inc.
  2. Kobayashi, S., (1986), Theoretical Issues Concerning Superiority of Pictures Over Words and Sentences in Memory. Perceptual and Motor Skills. Vol. 63, pp. 783-792.
  3. Ayersman, J.D., (1996), Review the Research on Hypermedia-Based Learning. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 500-519.
  4. Houts, P. S., Doak, C. C., Doak, L. G., & Loscalzo, M. J. (2006). The role of pictures in improving health communication: a review of research on attention, comprehension, recall, and adherence. Patient education and counseling, 61(2), 173-90.
  5. Kim, S., Yoon, M., Whang, S.-M., Tversky, B., & Morrison, J. B. (2007). The effect of animation on comprehension and interest. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(3), 260-270.

 

Copyright 2014, ColorDance Design, All Rights Reserved.