Boost Results with a Landing Page

landingA landing page is a stand-alone Web page that, when executed correctly, can drive sales goals getting site visitors to “click-through” to your organization’s high-value destinations like:

  • Product Purchases;
  • Registration;
  • HTML Email Signup; and
  • Facebook “Likes.”

In most cases, your business wants the target market to land on a page that’s 100% dedicated to one product, idea, or message.  It’s less confusing for your potential customer to act when there’s a single choice to make (read about Costco’s brilliant model).  Also, it’s easier on your organization to track results and tweak to “optimize for conversions.”

Optimizing for conversions means that when a visitor does finally arrive on your landing page, they’re more likely to purchase therefore you should see a better statistical return (more product sales, more email signups, more seminar registrations, etc.).

Creating a landing page for your organization’s select products and/or services can also make you successful in increasing rank position on search engines.  Google LOVES “long-tail” topics (specific messaging) that landing pages excel at, so having one could significantly help your firm increase its Organic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) performance as well.

HTML5/CSS3 vs WordPress: Part 2

WordPress-Themes-Vs-HTML-TemplatesFirst, let’s take a moment to quickly define what HTML and WordPress are before making distinctions, shall we?

HTML (or Hyper-Text markup Language) is officiated by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and forms the foundation for Web sites in general (versions vary, for instance there’s HTML 5, HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0 and others). HTML doesn’t need a third-party media player to handle image and video content and is cross-platform, meaning it can be used on a mobile phone, laptop, or tablet. In addition to HTML, most sites will also use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for presentation.

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and describes how HTML elements are displayed on screen or in other media. CSS saves a lot of work since programmers can control the layout of multiple Web pages at once with this code.

HTML sites may also use a Content Management Systems (CMS), which will use HTML, CSS, programs, scripts, and databases to provide a system where content can be easily updated by non-technical users.

Conversely, WordPress is a freely distributed CMS or blog platform that, at this time, is singularly responsible for over 30% of all Internet sites worldwide. Again, WordPress is open-source, meaning its source code is free for anyone to modify and update as they wish.

I made the case in an earlier post (WordPress vs HTML5/CSS3: Part 1) that WordPress has, “its limitations,” enough to make a professional stop and think.  In this post, I’d like to quickly present the more compelling reasons why one would choose to build beautiful, amazing Web sites using HTML5/CSS3.

1.    Security
With hacking going on everywhere, all the time, online security issues are important. An attack stresses your business and has the potential to cause a great deal of time and financial loss. HTML doesn’t leave holes for malfeasance to exploit, immediately bringing risk factors down for a successful attack.

2.    Little Maintenance Requirements
Because HTML is NOT a database, there is no need for you to perform the monthly (or more often) updates WordPress requires.

3.    Organic Search Engine Optimization
Once again, because HTML is not a database, it is naturally easier to apply organic optimization techniques and keyword phrases to your Web site.  FYI, search engine’s like Google can’t “see” through databases which is why WordPress (which is a database) needs “plugins” to enable features that are otherwise natural to HTML.

4.    Fast Download Speeds
HTML Web sites require less coding than WordPress sites and sites with more coding are more complex weighing more, these two factors combine to slow the speed with which files can download to your device.  Now that Web page load speeds are a primary rank factor with Google, an HTML5 static site becomes much more attractive than WordPress.  HTML sites are smaller by nature while WordPress requires all sorts of plugins and workarounds to get even slight improvements in page load speed.

5.    Easy Server Requirements
Unlike WordPress that requires the Host server to support PHP and MySQL (databases), HTML has almost no requirements at all.

6.    Flexibility
HTML5 is a programming language itself and can be used to create everything on a Web site. So, a design can be applied to branding elements, backgrounds, admin areas and the like. Nothing is fixed and everything is changeable.

In conclusion, while there are times when producing a Web site using WordPress makes perfect sense, for most of the development challenges presented, HTML/CSS is the best choice.  It’s very stable while also being substantially less vulnerable to hacking, all without sacrificing any functionality whatsoever.

WordPress vs HTML5/CSS3: Part 1

As Clint Eastwood famously coined in the movie Dirty Harry, “[a man’s] got to know his limitations.”

Akin to Clint’s insight, WordPress has its limitations too…lots of them actually. Afterall, at its core WordPress is a blog platform and, though it can work pretty darn well as a Web site, constraints can really get in the way.

As the owner of a business designing/marketing Web sites for almost two decades, responsibility falls to me to choose the best software for building custom sites. For the most part, WordPress is not my go-to, HTML5/CSS3 is because it makes the most sense for clients.

In part-one, I’ll discuss some of the more compelling reasons why NOT to use WordPress followed by part-two detailing the benefits to using HTML5/CSS3 coding instead.

1.  WordPress has real security issues that aren’t going away.

WordPress sites are often the target of what’s called; brute force attacks where bots (software apps that run automated scripts over the Internet) repeatedly try username/password combinations on your login page until a successful break-in.

Even though the WordPress platform has been built and tested by a centralized development team, not so the thousands and thousands of WordPress themes on the Internet. A WordPress Theme modifies the way the site is displayed or designed, without having to also modify the underlying software.

The same holds true for the 55,512 WordPress Plugins currently on the market, where quality is questionable.  A WordPress Plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress site. They can extend functionality or add new features.

Plugins are known to expose weaknesses for hackers to exploit since, as I’d mentioned earlier, quality can’t be controlled.  And sure, while security vulnerabilities can be managed, one needs to ask at what cost as this work takes constant monitoring.

2.    WordPress software upgrades are never ending and automatic upgrades aren’t always a good thing.

WordPress releases regular (frequent) site updates that can be set to run automatically.  Only there’s a problem…it’s not unusual for incompatibilities between the update and existing sets of dozens of plugins to occur breaking your Web site and causing stress, time, and expense to remedy.

3.    Plugins: Conflicts, insecurity, and a slow down.

So, if you’ve read this far, you’ve learned that plugins can be a culprit.

Plugins have the ability to conflict with each other and core software too. As we learned previously, there are quality issues that can leave holes for malicious types to take advantage.

What’s more, poor quality plugins can and will slow the performance of your Web site affecting its ability to rank well on Google (the 800lb gorilla of search engines).

4.    WordPress software may be free but ownership is NOT cheap!

As you might have gathered so far, keeping a WordPress site in good operating order might not be a cheap proposition!  Site maintenance requires time and time costs money.

WordPress requires lots of:  frequent core software upgrades, plugin upgrades, theme upgrades, and the quality assessment testing that goes along with all of it.

5.    Support is not available from WordPress.

WordPress has a huge DIY support community online but no dependable, professional support apparatus for site owners or developers to access the development team.  VIP support fees start at $15,000/year, not really a practical expense for most small businesses.

A visitor to your Web site may not care at all what technical ‘magic’ is making it work, right?  But, if you’re a small business owner contemplating a new company Web site, selecting the correct coding platform matters quite a bit.  Choosing correct technologies to build with can significantly affect the cost of maintenance and the viability of your site’s performance into the future.

Be sure to check back soon for the next installment!


gdpr-data-protection-laws-hotel-marketingThe European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR authorizes steep fines for companies that don’t comply with new privacy rules aimed at giving Europe-based users more control over the data companies harvest and hold.

GDPR, aims to safeguard data-privacy rights by requiring companies to get consent before using personal data and requiring them to store it safely.

Though businesses were given ample time to implement the new regulation (it was adopted in 2016) unsurprisingly, many companies here and abroad have not prepared for the change (likely due to cost).

Forrester Research Inc. said it had anecdotal evidence that large firms allocated on average $20 – $25 million, while smaller companies budgeted $4 – $5 million to become GDPR-compliant.  As of the May 25th rollout date, firms that violate the EU’s privacy rules risk substantial fines as high as 4% of their global revenue.

In fact, U.S. Web site’s did go dark in the EU last Friday. For instance large media player Tronc Inc. (publisher of the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News and other U.S. newspapers) was among those blocked from access to the European marketplace.

These are some of the safeguards the GDPR provides:

1.    Companies are required to report data breaches within 72 hours.
2.    Businesses will often need to obtain users’ consent to process their personal information.
3.    Customers will have the right to see the data companies hold on them.
4.    Customers can make a request for some of their personal data to be deleted.
5.    Companies are responsible for demonstrating compliance.

But, this is a move happening in Europe, how does it affect online businesses here in the U.S.?  Multinational companies (like Facebook, Google, etc) conducting business in the EU will naturally implement GDPR here in the U.S. too.

Also, if you’re a large enterprise interested in acquiring small startups using personal data, you might decide against launching the service in Europe due to concern the startup could expose the parent to huge fines.

What Will Learned About Marketing

In a recent article written by Katie Carroll, veteran actor Will Smith  spoke about a marketing epiphany that came through, of all people, his 15-year old daughter Willow who has been on a world-tour promoting her hit “Whip My Hair.”

While in Cannes, France recently, Mr. Smith commented that he remembered back in the 80’s and 90’s when he was obsessed with winning.  “I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win, versus promoting something because I believed it was helpful.”  He continued, “I started to taste global blood.  My focus shifted from artistry to winning.”

His confession shows a great deal of clarity and wisdom and hits on a central notion that marketers confront…are you producing to win at any cost or to satisfy a spirit of excellence in your craft? Which do you think will win the most success?

While on the tour, Willow decided that she was ready to go home–and shaved her hair to make the point!  No matter what her Dad could say, she was done. As he said, “There was no sales pitch I could make to her because she didn’t want it.”  That’s when he had his “Aha” moment…the great big idea…the epiphany…“selling, marketing, creating cannot be about me.”

“The lesson for marketers is clear: If you’re not listening to your audience, your promotions will fall on deaf ears.”



*&#! SPAM

spam-keyAren’t there laws against Spam?  Glad you asked!  Yes, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003) established the United States’ first national standard for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.

This Act regulates, to some extent:

  • Commercial email,
  • Establishes requirements for commercial messages,
  • Gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and
  • Spells out tough penalties for violations.

While it obviously didn’t stop spam, it did make it illegal and hopefully, ultimately, less attractive to spammers (like I said, we can only hope!).

There are also many other laws and regulations around the world surrounding electronic marketing. If you live or work in Canada, or mail to folks who do, you’ll want to be sure to collect and catalog express consent as outlined in the new Canadian Anti-Spam Laws (CASL) as well.

Design Rules!

That is to say, there are rules to great design and the rules matter. While breaking rules in art can be a good thing (and has been known to produce some fabulous and innovative compositions), for the most part, you need to at least be aware of industry best practices first before heading into this delicate territory!no

Here’s some basic rules designed to guide you away from some of the more common mistakes.

  1. Use Consistent Fonts:  In the same way you carefully consider your campaign/brand’s color palette, you should also think about font families.  Fonts evoke “feelings” just like colors or imagery. Prevailing wisdom is to limit a composition to a maximum of 2-3 fonts.  When selecting fonts, try to chose those that compliment each other. Check out this Design School article for more on the topic!
  2. Don’t Use Display Fonts for Body Copy:  Using display fonts in the body copy defeats the purpose of using display fonts!  They should stand out and be different than the body copy.  Usually display fonts are larger, bolder, and/or a bit more flamboyant that body copy.  But, if it’s used too much and inappropriately, the copy just becomes that much harder for the reader to comprehend.
  3. Please, Be Aware of Color Clashing:  Color clashing is where two colors together create either a muddy effect or a strange ‘vibration’ when read.  Might be an excellent effect if working on a museum art project but when creating marketing graphics, online or off, clear communications is key and that should always involve an easy readability factor.
  4. White Space IS NOT Empty Space:  When there’s too many visual elements on a page, your eye has difficulty focusing on anything.  Contrastingly, white space (when used correctly) can help to focus a viewer on exactly the important part(s) of a page…successfully delivering important messages.
  5. Don’t Follow Design Trends:  Hello?  They’re trends!  By their nature, a trendy design will trend itself right out of vogue and then you’re stuck with a site that looks dated much before it’s time!  Web sites and supporting marketing campaigns require too much time and energy to have to re-do before its natural life-cycle is met.

Google’s “Mobilegeddon” Has Arrived!

Google's Mobilegeddon Update

If you’ve spent time working to improve your Web site’s organic rank status with Google, you’ve probably learned about algorithms and are aware that Google makes small changes to its algorithms fairly often over the course of a year without impacting established rank structures too much.

The BIG new is that today Google released an update, widely referred to by the press and industry folk alike as “Mobilegeddon,”  that’s meant to significantly change things!  They’ve decided to push the World-Wide Web of sites to resolving better on mobile phones where (starting this year) 50% of searches occur.

Starting today Google plans to penalize sites that are not responsive to mobile/tablet devices.

The “Mobilegeddon” update will give a significant boost to mobile-friendly sites leaving those not-so-friendly sites so far down in mobile search results that, for all intents and purposes, it’ll disappear.

Responsive Web sites (like my own are built with code that detects which device (iPhone, iPad, laptop, desktop) is calling it and literally changes the layout to tailor to that particular landscape.  While being responsive isn’t the ONLY thing a site needs to rank well, it has become a very heavily weighted criteria.

As I mentioned, there’s been lots of press about this, here’s a good Wall Street Journal article explaining things titled, Websites Prep for Google’s “Mobilegeddon.”

Find problems early!

KeepCalmSaveIn the Web design business (similar to the construction industry), time is money.  That’s why you’ll always find that professionals place such an emphasis early in the project life cycle on creating a strategy or game plan for the work.  It pays to find problems early!

Some interesting statistics to consider:

  • It’s just 1x the cost to make changes to your Web site project during the planning/strategy/design phase.
  • It rapidly goes up to 5x cost to make those same changes during the development/coding phase.
  • That’s right, it sky-rockets to 25x cost to make changes when the site is mostly complete and undergoing formal testing pre-publication.

You can’t afford NOT to find problems early!

Researchers at Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Hughes Aircraft, TRW, and other organizations have found that purging an error by the beginning of a construction (in our case, at the beginning of a Website project) allows re-work to be done 10 to 100 times less expensively than when it’s done in the last part of the process, during system test, or after release.

User-Centered Design: Where It’s At!

Are you enthusiastic about Interactive Design like I am?  User-Centered Design is the process I use to help achieve the best results possible in a Web design project.  But, what is it?

User-centered design (UCD) is a design philosophy that puts the user of a product, application, or experience, at the center of the design process.

planThe three basic principles behind UCD are:

  1. Early focus on users and their tasks.
  2. Evaluation and measurement of product usage.
  3. Iterated design.

Articulated in an overview piece by Patrick McNeil, the UCD process/flow starts with the (1) Definition of a project where one assesses project scale, generates documentation like site maps, determine content inventory, and the like.  Once the site is defined, it’s then possible to develop  a (2)  Concept.  This is where we interpret the documentation to develop solutions.  A shift occurs from listening to problem solving including building wireframes and user testing.

Once the concept is in place, the project moves next to (3) Design. A design deliverable consists of fonts, colors and interface elements that together communicate the essence of a visual brand for the Web.

With design approvals in place, the next step is to (4) Develop or code the project according to the plan with the final step being  (5) Deployment.  This process is always applied (sometimes easier/sometimes harder to achieve depending on variables) to successful conclusion.

As a result of asking the right questions and some quite serious listening/note-taking, here’s some expected take aways:

  • Having a clear description of the project
  • A plan for what’s to be built
  • A detailed understanding of the intended user
  • A vision for how the product/site will be used
  • Tangible assets a team can share!

As McNeil says, “UCD boils down to seeking meaningful design insights over random acts of design.