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Getting Geeky with Website Design – the Saga, part 1

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It’s that time again.

Every couple of years, Housechick.com gets a revamp, or in this case, a complete redesign, in order to keep it on the cutting edge. If you look at it now, it’s, well, blah. A little better than the “look at me” first version, but overall, not impressive.

I was discussing it with Benn the other day and he suggested that I blog about it here, which I took to mean “create an epic blog series of your journey from idea to website.”

I’ll warn you now that I tend to go a little overboard with my projects. It’s the engineer in me, I can’t help it. I’m not going to post the Gantt chart, but rest assured that it’s been created and we’ve got timelines and deliverables and requirements and all the good things that keep me organized.

We’ll be outsourcing some portions of the design, and Hubby will be developing most of the back end, so that we can reuse the components for other ideas. Which means conversations at home go like this:

“Kelley, what are you doing?”

Making a Halloween pumpkin using only Paint.”

“Um, that’s not on the project plan.”

Here’s the overall process:

  1. Discovery. This is where we will define the objectives for the website, develop a strategy, and uncover who the client is and what they want. This is developing the who of the website.
  2. Framing. This is where we will define the flow of the site. We’ll define potential entry and exit points, decision points, and the paths a visitor might take through the site: where those paths lead, and if those paths will achieve our objectives. This is the what of the site.
  3. Prototyping. This is how we will achieve the what of the site. Included here is a graphic design, development of page copy, overall style, structure, and navigation. Here’s where we look closely at usability, ease of navigation, the look and feel of the site.
  4. Coding and Content. This is where Hubby comes in with his development of the back end – the integration of the interface with the data – and I get to create the actual content of the site – presentations, reports, and whatnot.
  5. Testing. Once the site is live, there’ll be some initial testing and tweaking, to make sure our landing pages are optimized and converting the way we want them to. This is really an ongoing process, where we evaluate elements of the design or content or navigation to make sure everything is working as best and as smoothly as possible.

I’m sure it sounds like overkill (if you’ve even read this far), but I think the overall scheme is applicable even if you’re not as huge a geek as me. There’s no use getting excited over technologies and cool features if they don’t answer a need or provide value for your site visitors. Once we know how to be useful, how to provide value, how to keep someone coming back to the site, then we can make decisions: WordPress or Drupal? Blue or Green? Ajax or Flash? Top navigation or side?

Next time – Discovery begins. The Client, Strategy, and Objectives.

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    October 15, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Ajax and why not joomla instead of drupal?

  2. Pete Brand

    October 15, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I think you are right on! The problem is most web development companies skip through discovery (from the creative side) and framing and go directly to the prototyping. The good solid companies know the importance of quality design, ease of use, and functionality. If you forget any of the three…the site will be ineffective.

  3. Shailes Ghimire

    October 15, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Kelley,

    Very timely. Our website is old – I put it together in early 2005 using Dreamweaver (static HTML). I’ve been thinking about a makeover. Following your journey will be very helpful.

    Do you know if Flash is still a big no no when it comes to SEO?

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kelley Koehler

    October 15, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Benn – Ah, mostly because we already know Drupal and don’t know Joomla. I’ll point it out to Hubby, but unless it has some defining feature that we can’t live without, we’ll most likely go Drupal. There will be tradeoffs between existing technology knowledge and time it takes to learn new stuff as we go along.

    Pete – The starting discovery work is the least fun and exciting, but necessary. Working with interface and design is a lot more entertaining, but we don’t want to end up with a pretty but useless site.

    Shailesh – Looking into the seo-ness of technologies will come a little bit later in the process, but from some initial research, Flash doesn’t really ‘read’ for the bots, it’s just a big binary file. I’ve heard not to do menus in Flash because those nice words in the menus won’t be ‘read’ as part of the site. We’ll probably only do the search interface in Flash. The actual search interface isn’t necessarily something I need crawled – just a bunch of blank boxes and drop-downs – and I found a function that can present something different to search bots and those without flash installed without being considered blackhat. The only thing from the search that would be nice to have crawled would be a list of subdivisions, but we can take care of that in a much better way elsewhere on the site.

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Business Marketing

Hiring managers keep you on your toes – make them take the 1st step

(MARKETING) If you want to stand out from other job applicants, weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – or it could backfire.

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hiring managers interview

According to research by employment search website Simply Hired, hiring managers get an average of 34 applications per job listing, but they spend time genuinely considering an average of only 12.6% of them – that’s less than 1/3. Some applicants may feel the need to go above and beyond the average application and do something unusual or unexpected to grab the hiring manager’s attention.

Simply Hired conducted a survey to find out whether or not “nontraditional” strategies to stand out are worth the risk, or whether it makes sense to stick to a traditional resume and cover letter. They surveyed over 500 hiring managers and over 500 job applicants to find out what sort of outside-of-the-box approaches applicants are willing to take, and which ones do and don’t pay off.

Most notably, the survey found that over 63% of hiring managers find attention-grabbing gimmicks totally unacceptable, with only 20.2% saying they were acceptable. Hiring managers were also given a list of unusual strategies to rank from most to least acceptable. Unsurprisingly, the least acceptable strategy was offering to sleep with the hiring manager – which should really go without saying.

Interestingly, hiring managers also really disliked when applicants persistently emailed their resumes over and over until they got a response. One or two follow-up emails after your initial application aren’t such a bad idea – but if you don’t get a response after that, continuing to pester the hiring manager isn’t going to help.

While sending baked goods to the office was considered a somewhat acceptable strategy, sending those same cookies to the manager’s home address was a big no-no. Desserts might sweeten your application, but not if you cross a professional boundary by bringing them to someone’s home – that’s just creepy.

Another tactic that hiring managers received fairly positively was “enduring extreme weather to hand-deliver a resume” – but waiting around for inclement weather to apply for a job doesn’t seem very efficient. However, hiring managers did respond well to applicants who went out of their way to demonstrate a skill, for example, by creating a mock product or presentation or completing their interview in a second language. A librarian who was surveyed said she landed her job by making her resume into a book and creating QR codes with links to her portfolio, while a woman applying to work at the hotel hopped behind the counter and started checking customers in.

It’s worth noting that while most hiring managers aren’t into your gimmicks and games, of the 12.9% of applicants who said they have risked an unusual strategy, 67.7% of those actually landed the job.

Still, it’s probably a safer bet to stick to the protocol and not try any theatrics. So then, what can you actually do to improve your chances of landing the job?

Applicants surveyed tended to focus most of their time on their resumes, but according to hiring managers, the interview and cover letter are “the top ways to stand out among the rest.” Sure, brush up your resume, but make sure to give equal time to writing a strong cover letter and practicing potential interview questions.

In the survey, applicants also tended to overestimate the importance of knowing people within the company and having a “unique” cover letter and interview question answers; meanwhile, they underestimated the importance of asking smart questions at the interview and personality. In fact, hiring managers reported that personality was the most impactful factor in their hiring decisions.

It appears that the best way to stand out in a job interview is to wow them with your personality and nail the interview. Weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.

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Business Marketing

Use nostalgia as a marketing niche for your business today

(MARKETING) A market that is making waves is found in the form of entertainment nostalgia. Everyone has memories and attachments, why not speak to them?

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nostalgia

Is it just me or does it seem like there is something for everything nowadays? Let me clarify, as that is a rather broad question…

With the way communicating through technology has advanced, it’s become much easier to connect with those who have shared interests. This has become especially evident with interests in the entertainment community.

Entertainment nostalgia

It now seems like there is an event for every bit of nostalgia you can imagine. Autograph shows, meet and greets, and memorabilia collections of all kinds are held in convention halls all around the world. (To give you an idea of how deep this thing goes, there was a “Grease 2” reunion convention sometime within the last five years. Being that I’m the only person I’ve ever met who likes that movie, it’s amazing that it found an audience.)

This idea of marketing by use of nostalgia is something that is becoming smartly tapped and there are a variety of directions it can go in.

For example, the new Domino’s ads feature dead-on tributes to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

What’s your niche?

If you’re a fan of anything, it’s likely that you can find an event to suit your needs.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can think outside the box and use nostalgia as a marketing tool.

I recently began dabbling in social media gigs that have brought me to a few different fan conventions. One was a throwback 80s and 90s convention that featured everyone from Alan Thicke to the members of N*SYNC. Another is a recurring convention that brings together fans of sci-fi, horror, and everything under that umbrella.

I was amazed by the number of people that came out to these events and the amount of money that was spent on the day’s activities (autographs, photo ops, etc.). I was energized by the fact that you can take something you have a great appreciation for and bring together others who share that feeling. Watching people meet some of their favorite celebrities is something that is priceless.

Hop onboard the nostalgia train

If you’re a fan of something, you don’t have to look too far to find what you’d enjoy – going back to the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” example, there is a first-ever John Hughes fan event taking place in Chicago next month that will bring fans to their favorite Brat Pack members.

In the same thought, if you have an idea, now is the time to find others who share that interest and execute your vision.

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Business Marketing

5 tips to help you craft consistently high-converting email marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully, you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject Lines: Think about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.
  2. Nail the Intro”: Never take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!
  3. Use Video: Email might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.
  4. Keep Eyes Moving: The goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.
  5. Don’t Ask Too Much: It can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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