Finally, a music website that knows how people think

I was browsing using StumbleUpon, and I came across a brilliant website: it lets you play music according to a grid : energetic/calm and positive/dark and so many different ways.  It’s really hard to explain, but you just need to check it out yourself!Musicovery.com

When will Hillary & women have their turn?

Obama Face

Ok, I get it. Obama delivered a brilliant, vital, on-the-mark speech discussion about race relations in America. Everyone applauds, some people cry. Pundits unanimously agree it’s the most important speech…like…ever. That’s cool, good for him. Race is a-ok. What about gender?

Continue reading “When will Hillary & women have their turn?”

Warning: Create your website at your own risk!

Diving too deep can result in a waste of energy, time, and resources.

We know better now.

My wife and I have just bought our first house. It has been updated, it looks great, and we’re slowly making it our own. When we bought it, we planned on installing our own laminate flooring. We bought a circular saw, read a few how-to articles, and felt generally pretty confident. It can’t be that hard!

Each day after work, my wife and I would come to our new house to work on the floors. We started in the small room to get a handle on the process. To make a long (and painful) story short, 8 hours in, we had only completed about 30 square feet. It was a disaster.

By doing flooring ourselves, we managed to:

  • Turn our new house into a source of frustration
  • Spend valuable energy
  • Waste three nights of our lives
  • Burn ourselves out

In the end, we hired a professional. Now the project is done, and it looks great.

Continue reading “Warning: Create your website at your own risk!”

Landing page design — Activating emotions generates leads

Picture of Do not enter, one way traffic - re: landing pages and funneling users

Adding value to your landing page

Landing page design is focused on having a user perform an action. Every piece of content should revolve around why and how a user should perform that action. Landing pages don’t need to be dull or static, however. I’m going to talk about a simple way I spruced up a career-oriented landing page: a salary calculator.

At CareersWithDish.com, we wanted to entice sales professionals to apply for a job with Dish Network. We featured the standard landing page content, including:

  • 8 compelling reasons to work for Dish
  • Text and images that reinforce the upward income mobility
  • Simple form with basic information fields as the focal point of the page

Let’s give’em something to talk about

Dish Network salary calculator screenshotBullet points, text, images, and a simple form are good enough for a landing page, but we wanted to spruce it up a bit, so we added a calculator that shows possible income with live updating numbers.

What this simple calculator achieves is it activates emotion. It’s the same feeling as when you work for a company and are at the company’s Christmas dinner, wondering if you’ll get a bonus, and for how much…the calculator translates the language of “Total compensation up to $79,040” into “I can do this!”

So what’s the emotional attraction of your landing page? Does it have an interactive element? Even a simple slideshow can be the difference between a lead and a bounce.

Personalities and what motivates them

The calculator will be of interest to sales people; they often care about numbers and the bottom line.

What if you were designing for a baby carriage company

What would interest mothers? Perhaps:

  • Slideshows of babies in the carriages
  • A video of how simple it is to collapse the carriage and put it in the car
  • Swatches of color and pattern choices
  • Diagram of how much storage the carriage has
  • Long term warantees for normal wear and tear

This kind of brainstorming makes the difference between a mediocre landing page and a great one. Let me know what your favorite landing pages are, and why.

For those interested in how the calculator was created, I will write about that soon. It was created using the script.aculo.us slider class. Check out the code at the CareersWithDish.com landing page.

How to Define Your Website Audience – includes a PDF sample!

Lucia Hernandez - A fictional website audience profile

This two-page PDF file is an example of how to define your website audience. When you create a website, it’s important to have in mind for whom you’re designing.

When designing landing pages, it is especially important to focus on an audience and craft every piece of content to fit that profile.

Feel free to use the audience profile PDF as an outline for your projects.

[download id=”1″]

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?

Speed up your Mac – only thing that worked for me!

I’ve tried repairing the permissions. Limiting desktop icons. Removing Safari’s support for ICO icons.  Clearing more hard drive space.  Nothing. Frickin’. Worked. I have been so frustrated by how slow my Mac Pro has been.  I have 2 2.66GHz dual-core processors, 2 GB of memory, and still I was getting spinning beach balls, crunching hard drives and slow menus…and nothing seemed to fix it. I decided to take action.  I was fed up!  And you know what?  It’s really quite simple.

DISABLE YOUR FONTS!

Continue reading “Speed up your Mac – only thing that worked for me!”

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?

Abusing Google Trends – Unethical blogging

Google Trends Snapshot

I stumbled upon the website BlogFlux today and found myself reading a blog titled Jehzlau Concepts. I found one of the articles very interesting about how to increase rank on your blog even if you don’t post often. You should check out the article.

The article says that a great way to get traffic is by riding many small, short waves of web popularity by using the cool tool, Google Trends, that shows you what people are searching for NOW. Not 10 minutes ago, but what is hot right now. For instance, today Google Trends shows that J-Lo had twins, a teacher sent illicit pics to students, the Philadelphia airport has delays, and there’s a Star Trek collection tour.

The post is very interesting, and the concept is intreaguing. Yes, it’s a great way to get some quick traffic to your blog, and depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your website, it might be right for you. I can see it working for a website whose revenue is based on quanitity, not quality of leads.

For some specialized industry, using Google Trends for industry news is great, but posting for the traffic alone, without any real interest, I believe it is unethical and a waste of time. That is, unless you’re a Star Trek fan…

How to publicize your business events online

Business people in front of a building

I wrote a newsletter article previously called "How to Schedule an Event Online," but recently I’ve had a few clients ask me how to get their events noticed. I’ve republished the article below:

Here’s the situation: consider that you have a business event coming up, and you want to organize everything online. You have a list of people you want to let know about it, and you want to set up a system for tracking responses. In addition, you want to publicize the event the best you can. Here’s how to do it all:

Continue reading “How to publicize your business events online”

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.

Denver Democratic Convention Vendor List & Link Exchange

Denver 2008 Democratic Convention

The Democrats are doing something no one has ever done before. It’s revolutionary. It’s amazing. It’s a cost-saving measure. For the first time in the convention’s history, there will be no printed vendor list. Instead, it’s all being featured online.

Are you a business in Denver that wants additional exposure? If so, you too can be in the Vendor Directory. It’s as simple as filling out the application.

But don’t stop there! Now that you’ve started building your site’s link network, give you site a shot in the arm with the steps below:

Continue reading “Denver Democratic Convention Vendor List & Link Exchange”

Exploring and learning: Are you taking alternate routes?

Denver Map

When you first move to a new city, you aren’t familiar with the roads. You buy a map to help guide you, you ask Google how to get you from here to there most efficiently, and you stop and ask people directions.

After you’ve lived in the city for a while, you become familiar and confident. You start to understand the road naming conventions, the north/south corridors that are the fastest, the quickest way downtown from your location.

The more experience you have with the city, the better you understand how to arrive exactly where you want to without running into any snags. But yet, there’s always more to learn.

Like a city, every profession has its own learning curve. Are you exploring past your comfort zone?

Continue reading “Exploring and learning: Are you taking alternate routes?”

Cars and Code – Not all that different

Customizing under the hood

I was talking with one of my clients who is a mechanic, and he was telling me about how he used to do a lot of car customization and performance enhancing, and that he really loved it.He told me that the problem with customizing cars is that when you start tinkering around under the hood, every little change presents new problems that need fixing, and soon, the project becomes unmanageable.

I’ve done my deal of modifying code (check out this custom XHTML osCommerce installation) and let me tell you: it doesn’t pay. My clients generally don’t care about how the site is tableless, CSS/XHTML valid, et cetera. They want to know that it works properly.

WordPress is beautiful and talks sweet to me.

WordPress is my dream in that regard: it’s beautifully coded out of the box so that creating templates is a logical, simple project. They make functions such as is_page() that allow you to simply ask “Is this the page I think it is?,” then continue to make progress. WordPress is my love. I will continue to be her bedfellow codefellow.

Both my mechanic client and I agreed: customizing is great fun, and very personally rewarding in the end. However, it’s a huge pain in the ass, and the rewards rarely (if ever) equal the effort.

How to get better search results with 5 simple steps

Search Engine Optimization is not voodoo; it directly translates into how well your website performs.  The Ignite Matchmaking website was not performing well last September for their main keywords.  Katz Web Design redesigned their site, optimized the site for their keywords, and now, look at their ranking:

  • Denver professional matchmaker: 1
  • Denver match makers: 2 (up from under 1000)
  • Denver matchmaking services: 2 
  • Denver matchmakers: 2 (up from 284)
  • Denver matchmaker: 3 (up from 508)
  • Matchmaking denver: 4 
  • Denver matchmaking: 5 (up from 112)

Currently, I am working with my client Savory Cuisines Catering in Boulder, CO to improve their ranking.  

The process I will follow to improve their rank:

There are more than five steps to help place higher in search engines, but the five below are simple and straightforward steps that anyone can take to improve their rank. Continue reading “How to get better search results with 5 simple steps”

Real Results from a Website Redesign

As I previously mentioned, I recently redesigned the Ignite Matchmaking website. I spoke with the site’s owner yesterday, and she told me she was overwhelmed with new business because of her website.

Since Katz Web Design redesigned my site, I’m completely overwhelmed with leads. I have 11 from last Thursday and Friday, and then I have 11 from just this week (Monday and Tuesday), and those are only the people who fill out the contact form on the website!

Before the site was redesigned, the site was getting 2 emails a week. Now I’m overwhelmed with the number of qualified leads I’ve been getting!

Sheryl Williams, Ignite Matchmaking Services

It’s always good to hear from my web design clients that what I’ve done with their website has dramatically affected their business.

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 🙂