Our ramblings about website design and other things

Shopping on Line

We have found recently that clients are requesting a range of ways for customers to purchase their goods.

We had one customer ask us for the ability to take a deposit for goods and then pay the balance later, they felt that this would make customers commit to the purchase and of course the customer did not get the goods until the balance was paid.

Other requests have included purchasing certain goods gives an automatic discount on others typically if a customer buys a large item they get discount on the smaller items, this is seen as a way to top up the sale by getting the customer to add accessories or add ons etc.

Another popular request is the use of Coupons or Vouchers that you an email to existing or prospective customers to give a discount on a purchase, these are often time limited so it becomes an encouragement for the customer to purchase before a certain date.

The key thing with all these methods is to get customers on to your online store and to get them to purchase while there, we always encourage customers to think of their online store as a shop and once the customer is inside you want to make them feel welcome and relaxed, make it a good experience and above all make it easy to purchase something.

Extracting a Flash File from Powerpoint

We had a client who wanted a Flash Movie File putting onto their website, no problem except it was supplied to us as part of a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation. Of course we assumed this would be easy to extract but as it proved it was not.

We found various suggested solutions including saving the file as a HTML version or changing the extension from .pptx to .zip and opening with Winzip, however this extracted the graphics files but did not extract the .swf movie file.

We then tried to simply copy the movie and past to another location but all this did was save a Scrap.shs file, .shs files are used by Microsoft to transfer objects between their Office Applications so we were stuck with this file.

After lots of searching we found a utility called extractaflash.exe and this solved our problem, this pulled the .swf movie file out of the .shs file.

You can download the file from here as a zip file.

To use do the following:

1, Open Powerpoint, Copy the flash file and paste to your required directory location – Windows will save as Scrap.shs

2, Copy the extractaflash.exe to the same windows location as point 1

3, Open Windows Command Prompt and change to the directory you used above, look for your scrap file ending in .shs

4, At the Command promt type extractaflash.exe Scrap.shs flashfilename.swf

5, You will end up with a Flash Movie file in this case called flashfilename.swf (do not use spaces in any of the filenames or it will fail)

We are not sure who produced this great utility, if you know we would be happy to acknowledge them and link to their site.

Browser Wars

At Bluewave we always test our solutions with a range of browsers, we find that still most users use Internet Explorer with Firefox close behind but more and more users are using Chrome and of course all the Apple fans are using Safari.

It is interesting to see the latest figures:

StatCounter’s monthly statistics for September show IE in the lead with 41.66% of the market, followed by Firefox with 26.79%, Chrome with 23.61%, Safari with 5.6% and Opera with 1.72%.

It seems Chrome will soon be number 2 for market share and it will be interesting to see if google can overtake Microsoft in this area of the market, we are old enough to remember the Netscape/Microsoft war and we know who won there.

Read more on this over on Network News

To Social Network or Not?

A lot of smaller businesses ask us if they should appear on Social networks such as Facebook and Twittter and our answer is usually yes.

Small businesses tend to be comfortable  generating new business by word of mouth, referrals and other traditional marketing methods but less so by newer ways. The key to using Social networking is to make sure some resource is allocated to do this properly as if done incorrectly it can have a negative effect.

We generally recommend Social Networking is used to re-enforce your general marketing message but in a more informal way, the language used can be different and often the messages delivered can be different or from an alternative viewpoint.

One thing is for sure today business and personal lives are merging and crossing over with many users of devices such as smart phones and tablet PCs preferring to use one device for business and pleasure so people expect to see a range of information and messages. You must always remember with Social Networking your customers have taken the decision to follow you so they want to hear what you have to say so you are not trying to force information into their inbox or their post tray.

 

Does Google Like you?

Google continually change their search algoritmn and after their most recent Panda update many sites that ranked highly have been penalised, essentially the new update is to try and reward quality content with high rankings – Google published some questions to ask yourself:

Can your web page content be trusted?

  • Would you trust the information presented in your article?
  • Is the article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to the site?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from the site?
  • Would you recognize the site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Is the website the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from the site?

Is the content of your web pages unique?

  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

Do you check the quality of your web pages?

  • Does the article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Does the article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Would you expect to see the article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

Do you create web pages for your visitors or for search engines?

  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Do your web pages contain enough real content?

  • Does the article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Does the article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

As you can see as we have sais many times before – content is king.

Logo Design

Recently we have been working with a few start ups who have no real brand identity and the first step is to produce a logo.

When we are designing logos we firstly take a brief from the customer if the logo is to be text or graphic based or a combination of both and any colour preferences. We then produce around 6 – 8 different designs and from these we ask the customer to select a particular logo or combination of logos or in the worst case we start again. Usually the customer focuses on several design elements and we refine from there until they are 100% happy.

Very often the logo will then become the customer’s corporate colours and we build their new website design around it.

A key element of the logo design process is that the customer feels they are a part of it and have not been ‘steered’ in a particular direction in that way the customer is proud of their logo and they feel that as they played a part in the design that it is really a part of their new business.

Contact ys if you would like help with your logo design – we can also rescue and refresh existing logos.

10 Seconds is all you have…

Research has shown that at least 50% of all visitors to your website will leave withing 10 seconds so that is all you have, so in other words if your website does not does not catch their attention within 10 seconds then they are gone and it is possible that for a lot of websites this 50% figure could be as high as 60 – 70%

We often talk about your website being a shop window but in the case of the internet it is a shop window where visitors are moving past very quickly and if their head is not turned they move on.

So what can you do to trya and hold on to your visitors:

1, Headlines – Hit the visitor with your message if it is buried in text it will get missed or the visitor may never actually get to it before leaving.

2, Prominent Message – Make sure your key headline or message is at the top of your website, laptop or mobile users may not see the bottom of your website without scrolling so do not take the risk that they will scroll down.

3, Put yourself in their shoes – think like a visitor does, what are they looking for, why are they at your site try and tell them what they want to know and not what you want to tell them. An engaged visitor will stay and look further and those are the visitors that will become customers.

 

DNS Propagation

We often set up a new website or move your existing hosting to our hosting platform and then we tell you to wait while we get DNS propagation across the web so what does DNS propagation mean?

When we set up your new website we create a Master DNS record in our Domain Name Servers. We simply point to our DNS server as being the master authority of your domain.

When anybody wants to know how to find your website, they first go to the registration database to find out who the DNS authority is for your website. Then they visit our hosting provider’s DNS servers to find out what the IP Address is for your domain name, and from there your audience can now view your website.

This all sounds very straight forward however the problem with this whole set up is that in order to speed up the rate at which their customers can view the internet, each Internet Server Provider (ISP) caches (stores) their DNS records. This means that they make their own copy of the master records, and read from them locally instead of looking them up on the Internet each time someone wants view a website. This actually speeds up web surfing quite a bit, by speeding up the return time it takes for a web browser to request a domain lookup and get an answer, and in helping reduce the amount of traffic on the web hence giving it the ability to work faster.

The downside to this caching scenario and what makes it take so long for your website to be visible to everyone, is that each company or ISP that caches DNS records only updates them every few days. There is no standard for this time frame , and they can set this time anywhere from a few hours to several days. The slow updating of the servers cache is called propagation, since your websites DNS information is now being propagated across all DNS servers on the web. When this is finally complete, everyone can now visit your new website. Being that the cache time is different for all servers, as mentioned above, it can take anywhere from 12to 72 hours for DNS changes to be totally in effect. You also have the added effect that some users can see your hosting while others cannot until the propagation is complete.

So in summary you just have to be patient and let the DNS propogation happen.

Website Facelift

We have all heard the expression ‘cobbler’s shoes’ although when I quote some well known expressions to my teenage children they look at me like I am speaking a foreign language!, we have finally found some time to give our own website a ‘facelift’

We practice what we preach so our website is CMS based so the majority of work was with the new template and design and we carried all our content across, this is the beauty of CMS based websites, many times we see users produce a new website and as they have a lot of information they lose their history which can be a very good business resuorce and have the added bonus of bringing traffic.

Anyway jumping off our soapbox we hope you enjoy the new design.

Good Website Design Practices

Here at Bluewave we like to think we are good at what we do an we hope our customers do to. Very often with a website project it is easy to get bogged down in tiny design details of colours, line thickness, icon size etc and while the overall aesthetics of a website are important there are some key items that many web designers overlook.

Website Accessibility

Make sure every page on your website can be accessed via your front page, it is important that search engines can see your whole site, ensure that links are not hidden in flash or other types of menus. Users may only come to your site via searches and if pages are not indexed then they will not hit them.

Cross Browser Compatibility

Check, check and check again your website in all browsers, depending on your target audience some sites may be accessed from mobile phones so ensure your site can be seen and all menu items accessed, you may want to consider a version of your site just for mobile users, people like easy access and if they like your site they are more likely to become customers.

Each page should be Unique

Avoid at all costs a cut and paste mentality across many pages, content should be unique and appear only once, even if you have product variants vary the copy on each product so it is unique. Search engines love unique content and it will help you in the long run.