Review: career day at Lakewood High School

Representing Katz Web Design!It was my first career day at a high school (since being in high school), and it was fine.  I remembered that high schoolers are just kids and nowhere near adults yet.

There were some kids that had already started designing their own websites, one knew Ruby on Rails, one was very interested in design.

I’m glad I represented KWD there; it’s important that high schoolers know that you can make it in web design — or any business — if you work hard enough. 

Katz Web Design is now on Facebook


You’ve heard a lot about social networking, bookmarking, and media. Facebook is the biggest social networking site out there.  Katz Web Design now has a page on Facebook.

My clients have been interested in how to use Facebook and other social sites (like MySpace) to promote their business. I will write articles shortly about advertising on Facebook and building your network.

Check out KWD on Facebook, and add yourself as a fan!

How does a 30% conversion rate sound?

I like to brag every now and then.

Landing page conversionWhen we set out to design a landing page for my Denver client, we had our eyes set on a minimum 2% conversion rate for their pay-per-click campaign. Currently, we’re achieving a 15.94% overall conversion rate. I made some tweaks to the form design last week, and for the past 6 days, the landing page is getting a 30% conversion rate (that’s pretty good :-))

Focusing on the front door.

The reason we’ve been able to get such good results is because we’re focusing on one thing: having people sign up for a form. No longer is the internet about websites. The internet is now about front doors. Showing people exactly what they want to see — and sometimes only what they want to see — is how to improve your conversion rate.

Don’t lock users in and throw away the key.

Amazon’s Cage

Amazon cages me in. If you go to Amazon, place something in your cart, then begin the checkout process, they make it impossible (without clicking the Back button a lot) to return to their store. They throw away any chance of revising your order, adding a product, or just browsing around — they sacrifice user experience for the sake of conversion rates.

Guide users through a funnel, don’t force them

Amazon.com no longer shows you how much shipping will be until you’re at the final checkout page. They used to show you right up front, but now you have to get to the final checkout page to find out shipping costs. Very annoying. Always give users the information they want, even if it means some will choose an option you don’t want them to. Give users a way out.

Landing page design – Dish Network

Dish Network Landing Page Screenshot

Katz Web Design has just completed a landing page for Dish Network (a Fortune 300 company) to help them streamline their hiring process.

(By the way, if you’re looking for a sales job near Denver, Colorado [in Littleton], check out Dish. They’ve got great packages for sales representatives.)

The purpose of a landing page (or “Squeeze page,” “Funnel page”, or “Lead capture page”) is to keep the user focused on only what you want them to do. In this case, Dish wanted users to:

  1. Fill out a form to start their job application process
  2. Become informed of the job benefits
  3. Get directions to the application location

The landing page design is done in PHP, allowing for future expandability. This allows the text and images to be swapped out dynamically. The one landing page design can be used for many different job positions and locations, even different languages.

I will be writing articles based on the research and results from the landing page design in the near future, including A/B testing, dynamic content with PHP, Google Analytics & Adwords tracking, and more.

What would you like to know about landing page web design?

Content is king…when can I get it?

King content and his pawns

As a web designer / developer, my job is pretty straight forward: I design a website, code it, and add the content. But that’s not all. I’ve also got to be a pest, hounding clients for content.

At the beginning of each project, it’s always a good idea to get a firm grasp on exactly what content is going to be on the website. Defining a site map is vital to developing a website. A simple list helps you figure out what is needed. Below is a sample:

  • About us
    • Employees
      • Bio paragraphs
      • Head shots
      • Contact information
    • History
      • Photo of founders, current owners
      • Chronology
      • Intro paragraph
        • Bridge history with present, link to various project

Once you’ve got a good understanding of what is needed, you must start asking for content immediately. Companies like to wait until the last minute, then wait days longer to deliver content. If you plan for late content and pester your clients from the get-go, you might be able to have everything you need when the website is complete.

There is a great book (Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that Works) that says you should create a timeline for content delivery. They have a pretty table with deliverables and a flow chart and all sorts of great stuff. In a perfect world where the website project is the client’s top priority, a content delivery timeline might work. Heck, you could even bill clients for overdue content! However, in the real world, there’s no such thing as a content delivery timeline. A web developer must take content into their own hands, or else you won’t get paid.

Designer, protect thyself!

If you have clients with overdue content that is holding up the launch of a website, it’s not a big deal, except that designers often get paid when the site goes live. No content, no pay check.

A contract is a great place to define what happens if the site is ready except for the content. Rather than being paid at launch, it is a good great idea to be paid when the site is ready – content or not. That way, if you’ve done your part of the project, and your client has not yet prepared their portion, you can still send off that invoice.

When modifying your contract, keep in mind that you’ll still need to agree to add the content once you receive it! If that’s too big a hassle (working for free after getting paid), then don’t bother changing your current contract.

How do you deal?

Do you have nightmare clients? Late content delivery? Are you the client? How do you handle being part of a web design project? I’d love to hear your stories.

Is your product a platform?

Panasonic Vortex

When looking at a product or service, ask this: will it grow, change, and update with the times, or will it become something that needs to be replaced as it becomes obsolete? In these electronic times, the future is exandability – not just for iPods and other gadgets, but for every electronic product.

My wife got me a Panasonic Vortex Hydra Clean electric razor that is a wonderful product. It shaves close, it cleans itself, you can have the head pivot or not pivot…it’s a well done product. No matter how good it is, it will never be any better. Instead of making a razor that will always be a razor, they could make it a razor platform, similar to how the iPod has become an entire industry of accessories and addons.

Make your product a platform

One of my gripes for the Vortex is that its cleaning cycle is quite loud. I often forget to plug it in during the day to clean, so I end up having to wait another day; it’s too loud to clean at night. I want there to be a timing mechanism so I can schedule the cleaning times and dates. This feature does not yet exist.

If Panasonic added a dock to their product (and any of their other products) and allowed add-ons, an entire industry could formulate around the product. Expandibility is inspiring because it allows users to dream for a better product. The innovations that would arise would add value and customization to the user experience. This, in turn, adds value to the product and the company.

How does expandibility affect your industry or your company? Are you missing opportunities by defining your product too narrowly?

Are you looking for a great place to meet clients?

Mac Pro

As many small-business owners do, I work from home. It’s great: I get to be with my rascal of a cat, I check the mail mid-day, and I have the comforts of home. It’s not, however, a good place to meet my clients.Instead of wildly cleaning the house in preparation for meetings, I meet at coffee shops for initial interviews.

Today, I’m meeting with a client in order to finalize designs, and I need to bring my desktop computer (Mac Pro). A coffee shop is not always appropriate.

Meet at a library

Instead of meeting at home, consider meeting at your local library! They have quiet rooms with outlets, free wifi, and some (like Belmar) even have an espresso stand. Look for your local Denver Library Locations or if you’re a JeffCo kinda person, your local Jefferson County Library Locations.

10 Things a Day: My New Schedule

My wife and I had coffee last Thursday to discuss our new plans: we are going to have a daily schedule that we follow that will help us avoid distractions and keep us focused.  Here’s my daily schedule that we pieced together:

  1.  Make list of daily tasks and define the Main Project for the day
  2. Check and respond to emails & voice messages 
  3. Tidy up my desk and do administrative tasks (invoicing, late payment notifications)
  4. Write a post to my blog
  5. Take a break for 30 minutes, including checking Google ReaderMacNN, and other favorite sites like Woot.com
  6. Check my clients website ranking with my Rank Tracker software
  7. Work on a website design mock in Illustrator for 1 hour
  8. Take a 40 minute lunch break
  9. Work on the Main Project for 2.5 hours
  10. Chisel away at the rest of my list until 5:00pm
So, that’s my day plan.  Sticking to the plan is the hard part 🙂

Amazon Marketplace to the rescue

I have lots of DVDs that have only watched once.   I have many books that I will never read again.  I wanted to sell them for money.  Should be easy, right?  Well it turns out, it is!  Amazon Marketplace is a simple solution. Continue reading “Amazon Marketplace to the rescue”

How to "Hack" VonageMe™

Integrating Call Me Link into Your Website

VonageMe™ is a new service from the VoIP service Vonage. If you have service from Vonage, you should have a VonageMe account.

How to set up click to talk using Vonage

Vonage uses a simple form to enable the calling feature. Instead of using their form, you can style your own…or you can create an anchor link using the following pattern:https://me.vonage.com/username?fromnumber=12223334444For me, that code translates to https://me.vonage.com/303zachary?fromnumber=13035551212

Three steps to VoIP fun!

  1. Go to me.vonage.com and sign in using your Vonage account login (this is to confirm you have the service).
  2. Fill in their information if you want, but it’s not necessary—you will see why next.
  3. Create a HTML form on your website with a text input with id/name “fromnumber” and the form action as https://me.vonage.com/username, with username being your Vonage username.

The final code:

<form action="https://me.vonage.com/username" method="post">
<fieldset><legend>Call me now</legend>
	<div>
		<label for="fromnumber">Your phone number</label>
		<input type="text" id="fromnumber" name="fromnumber" size="12" />
		<small>( 1 + area code + number ). No dashes or spaces, please.</small>
	</div>
	<div>
		<input type="submit" value="submit" />
	</div>
</fieldset>
</form>

Next steps for even better results

Using simple form validation Javascript, you will be able to weed out people who use dashes and spaces in their phone numbers, or even better, create a script to automatically reformat them. View Update below.

You can try the code out on my website as it’s currently formated. It uses the exact code from above, but replaces username with my Vonage username, 303zachary.

Update:

I’ve used the Adobe Spry Validation Widget to make sure that the phone number is properly entered. Below is the code to ensure proper number formatting:

var sprytextfield1 = new Spry.Widget.ValidationTextField("sprytextfield1", "phone_number", {format:"phone_custom", pattern:"10000000000", hint:"Sample: 13033620451", useCharacterMasking:true});

How blogging helps your search ranking

 Ignite Matchmaking SEO Ranking Chart

Why blogging helps your rank 

  1. The more you write about relevant content that is interesting, informative, and helpful, the more people will link to your blog.
  2. Consistently updating your website shows search engines that your site is active.
  3. Using keywords in your posts on a regular basis adds rich content to your site that a static page would not have.

Setting SEO goals you want to achieve 

When you are doing search engine optimization, it helps to have a goal.  For instance: my goal is to get to the #1 spot for “Denver Web Designers”,  “Denver Web Design.”, and “Colorado Web Design”

Analyze your competition 

The top two or three sites for my preferred key phrases have been ranked there for years.  One way to catch up is to analyze why they’re ranked well.  Today, I will look at external links.A simple way to see how many external links your site has is by searching Google for link:www.example.com 

  • External links — Right now, KWD has only 13 external links counted by Google.
    • Greenchair.net has 93 external links  
    • Lighthousewd.com has 53 external links
    • Fusionbox.com has 75 external links

It’s important to note that I have nothing against these companies, and you should never take things personal online.  They’re at the top because they’ve worked hard to get there.  I look forward to meeting the people behind these companies. There is plenty of web business to be had out there, especially in Denver, so although we are competitors in the search engines, I see all web designers as colleagues.  

So I've finally given in…

The cobbler’s son has no shoes

One aspect of being a web designer is that when you create websites all day for other people–and get paid to do so–making your own website seems to fall by the wayside.

I have so many great things to share with people, lots of really helpful web design resources, and plenty of opinions!

Eventually, I’ll move everything over to my real website (www.katzwebdesign.net), but for now, this will do!