Tag Archives: website

Page Speed Matters

website speed matters

There is more to web design than arranging content on the page.   Unfortunately, there are many web designers (and I use that phrase loosely), that rely upon tools such as WordPress or other web-builder platforms for every site they create.  Ask them to create a site from scratch in html, CSS and JavaScript and they wouldn’t have the faintest idea where to start.

Why does this matter?

Web-builder platforms are the “Swiss army knives” of web design. They come with a multitude of features and functions; of which many are rarely, if ever, used. However, because they are in place, the browser must download the resources associated with this feature even if it doesn’t get used in a site. Additional JavaScript files, extra CSS files etc all increase the number of requests the browser has to make to the server, slows down render time and ultimately delays the point at which the user can see and interact with a website.

Even in these days of super-fast broadband (for those lucky enough to have it), 4g mobile networks, wifi hotspots in almost every cafe and coffee shop, site speed is still a vital metric for any web designer.

If your site is identical in content to another site (unlikely I know) but the other site loads more quickly, it is almost a given they will appear above you in Google search results. No one wants to wait and that includes the search engines themselves!

AliExpress reduced load times by 36%…, helping to increase orders by 10.5% and conversion rates by 27%

Sites that load quickly tend to get more traffic, retain people on the site and, as in the case of Aliexpress above, do more business.  For every additional second your site takes to load you could be losing significant numbers of potential visitors to your site.

95 out of 100 on Google page speed testFollowing some adjustments to the QD Design site, we now score 95 on the Google Developers Page Speed Checker. Whilst no doubt we could improve upon this further, it puts us in the top few % for page loading speed.

Slower sites can be attributed to poor or outdated coding, bloated or un-required files being called by the browser, unoptimised images as well as whole host of factors associated with the server. Taking advantage of server side (GZIP) compression, browser caching or setting a character set for a page can all be done via the .htaccess file that sits in the root of the web server.

This is the sort of knowledge and expertise that only a true web developer will have. If you want / crave a fast loading site, then you need to speak with someone that really knows what they are doing behind the page and not just manipulating text and pictures in a drag and drop page builder.

QD Design consistently make fast loading html based sites that help businesses reach their audience as quickly as possible.  If your site is lacking that “va va voom”, then get in touch, we can analyse what is holding it back, and help you get off the brake pedal and onto the throttle!

How long to set up a shop and sell online?

How long does it take to set up a shop and sell online?

I’ve been asked this question several times in the last week.  When you turn it around and ask the questioner how long they reckon it will take, the answer is usually several hours, if not days.

What if it took less than 30 minutes to set up your own shop and begin selling on line, wouldn’t you do it?  Of course you would!

You design handmade jewelry, knit incredible garments, print custom T shirts or make amazing items of artwork and sell them to friends / family and through local independent shops.

No doubt your customers are delighted with your products and tell all their friends about you. But you are still only tapping into the tiniest proportion of your available market. Unless someone happens to know you / one of your friends or be in that independent shop, they have no chance of knowing about your product and thus making a purchase.

The answer (of course), is to sell online.  However, several conversations in just the last week show that for many people the idea of setting up their own shop is a daunting one, and one they expect to be complex and problematical.

Let me let you into a secret. It isn’t! You could easily have a shop of your own up and running in around 30 minutes.    Here’s how.

1. Assuming you have a website running WordPress, install the WooCommerce plug in. WooCommerce is part of the organisation that builds WordPress itself and it is the biggest (by a long way) e-commerce platform on WordPress.   Not got a WordPress website – no problem. Just about every server can handle WordPress*, it is easy to set up a simple WordPress site, styled to look like your current website and put links to it from the relevant places in your main site.

2. Configure WooCommerce – set up your location, currency, whether it is a physical or downloadable product (e.g. an e book), customise any email confirmations you want the system to send.

3. Download the Payment Gateway plug in of your choice (PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, WorldPay etc) and configure your account.

4. Connect WooCommerce to your chosen payment gateway and link using the provided API key.

5. Create a product to sell in WooCommerce. Ideally with a product description, images, size / colour options etc.

6. Begin selling!

It is as simple as that.  In 30 minutes or so, your reach will have gone from local to potentially global.  What’s stopping you?   You have a great product, why not sell it as widely as possible!

At QD Design we can assist you through the process. From simple advice and guidance, to setting up the WooCommerce platform and Payment Gateway or even building the complete WordPress site to contain it all.

We eat, sleep and breath the web and want to help businesses make the most out of it. Call us for a chat or drop us an email and we will get back to you.


*If your server really can’t support WordPress, we need to talk, urgently!  You are being hosted on a device that may well be compromising your websites speed and thus your position in Google search results (Google hates slow sites and penalises them over faster ones).

Scam Alert! Domain SEO Services

If you own or manage a domain you need to read this.

I manage quite a few domains and, as such, see a fair number of domain communications each month.  One recent e mail stood out.  There was something about it that wasn’t quite right.

  1. It had no letter head or logo and the sender was not who I have my domains registered with.  In fact the layout and style of the message is deliberately ‘vanilla’.
  2. Whilst this domain is up for renewal this year, I knew it was in October and not the Spring when the renewal was due.
  3. The wording was both very lengthy and hard to understand.  Again a deliberate ploy to confuse anyone that receives such a mail that it really needs to be acted upon.
  4. The incentive to “Buy Now” seemed just a bit too forceful and smacked of a con.

So what is it?

Well it isn’t a domain renewal notice even though it has a domain name, a duration of service and even a start date.  It is an offer to buy “Domain SEO Service” and  “to purchase a search engine traffic generator”.

No clear details are given on what these products will do for your website.  The one thing that is clear is that Google takes an incredibly dim view of attempts to artificially increase a sites ranking in the search results.  So much so, that sites have been penalised and in some cases banned when it has been discovered they have tried to manipulate the Google search results.

It is not worth the risk.

You do not need to pay to have your domain name submitted to and indexed by the search engines.  This could be the worst $75 you might ever spend.

You DO need to engage someone to help you optimse the content of your site and effectively focus it around your chosen keyword(s).  Your web designer should be able to advise on how best to go about doing this.

This Domain SEO Service Expiration Notice is a very clever and cynical scam.  It deliberately creates a sense of apparent urgency around the renewal of a service and hopes that the recipient either is in too much of a hurry to read it or not knowledgeable enough to know that it is unnecessary.  The originators know that in many small and medium sized businesses, the staff are working flat out and spending 5 – 10 minutes trying to work out whether something is genuine, is time they simply do not have.

If / when you get your domain renewal notice in the mail, or something that looks like one; read it very carefully before acting upon it.  It may not be quite what it seems.

Why DIY websites frequently fail to deliver

Pitfalls of DIY web Design

Recently I participated in a Marketing Seminar at the Business Gateway in Aberdeen, facilitated by the excellent Liz Pirrie.  Listening to the great bunch of people passionately describing their businesses – animal welfare, fitness trainers, payroll services, pollution control consultants, luxury soap manufacturer, the variety was huge – and their hectic days; it was obvious that as a small business owner you have many, often competing, priorities ….

  • Sourcing and managing suppliers
  • Fulfilling customer orders
  • Client / customer communications
  • Product / service development
  • Filing accounts
  • Forward planning and scheduling
  • Updating details in the customer database / CRM
  • Market research
  • IT “housekeeping”
  • Networking
  • Exercise and health
  • Time for family and friends

I was exhausted just listening to them!  It got me thinking, ‘why, when you have so much on your plate already, would you ever would ever consider making your own website’?

It is true, if you require a website for your business, you are faced with a bewildering range of choices.  ‘Doing it yourself’ using one of the apparently “easy to use” template based services can be very appealing.

However, is it such a good idea?  Are there any drawbacks to using a template driven site builder for your businesses website?  Yes there are, and before opting for a DIY template website, here are seven you should be aware of before opting for DIY.

 1.  Learning Curve – The adverts for these services are full of people smiling happily whilst they create an amazing looking website in less time than it takes to rustle up a sandwich. It is largely a con.  As with any tool, working out how to use it, and use it effectively, takes time.  Business owners can often take 40 – 50 hours to learn how to use the web development tool and then craft the finished website for their firm.  Whilst the business owner has been beavering away creating a website, what else could (perhaps more importantly – should) they have been doing?  And, have they truly saved any money by doing it themselves?  Take those 40 -50 hours and multiply by the hourly rate charged to a customer.  They may well find that a professional web designer would have cost them less (and created the site far more quickly) than the business owner has managed to do themselves using a template.time flies

2.  No differentiation – Using a template means that everyone that adopts that tool starts out with the same basic framework. More than likely, the resulting website will resemble each other.  Access to the same font packages, same image galleries and same basic colour schemes all but guarantee a site is going to be similar to other sites derived from the same source.  We all want to stand out, we all want our business to look different; using a template significantly reduces our ability to reflect our businesses true identity in our website.

sheep
Don’t be a sheep and use a template, employ a web designer instead!

3.  User Experience – Whilst a template does allow you to create a website, will it be a good website and will it work for your customers? Most of us make a snap decisions about a product or service in the first few seconds of viewing its website.  Without a good understanding of User Experience (UX) and thus User Interface (UI) design, the business owner employing a template is stuck with the UI and UX that the template builder had in mind.  Poorly placed navigation links, hard to read colour combinations, unresponsive designs will all drive the site visitor back to the search results and onto another site – another potential customer lost.

 4.  Transfer-ability – In many cases, you can’t easily move a site or its contents when it is based on a template service. If the business happens to outgrow the service provided by the template hosts or gets fed up with their less than stellar support, they might discover they are stuck with the template hosts as they are not be able to download their content to go elsewhere.  They are not far short of being a “hostage”!Hostage to the template

5.  Backups – Most templates back up their systems in case of a crash but don’t necessarily protect you from yourself. If you accidentally delete an entire page from your website it may be gone for good.  As an aside, if a site is created in a template it is worth backing it up to your local machine so you have the text and images just in case you remove something important.  Imagine how long it would take to restore an entire page of information, source the graphics you previously used and re-configure the links you had on the page.

6.  Total cost – The template will cost more in the long run. Most templates are based on a monthly fee.  This can be upwards of $25 / £18 per month.  Add that up over a couple of years and compare to site hosting fees.  Over the course of a few years the small business will have spent more than it would have taken to have their site built by a web designer and have it hosted.templates cost you more

7.  Lastly, Value versus Cost – Yes, going down the template route might appear to be cheaper (though you might be questioning this now too) but will the website give the business the Value it needs and requires?  A good website will help to draw customers to a business whilst a poor one might actively turn them away.  Small businesses usually have a very specific goal in mind for their websites.  Attract, engage, retain and convert visitors to customers.  If a site fails at any one of these stages then it clearly hasn’t succeeded as a business tool.  Knowing how to attract, engage, retain and convert visitors is what you are paying the web designer for.

Do your business a favour and don’t trust to luck and a template.  Engage a web design professional to make your business website a success.  It will let you get on with successfully managing your business!

QD Design have been making outstanding websites for smaller businesses and start-ups since 2004.  We know exactly the challenges small business face and can help and advise on the best options for any small business looking to get onto the web.

14 Ways to Increase Website Traffic

The prime purpose of virtually every website is to be a “shop window” to the world.  Most businesses I speak with want to significantly increase the traffic to their web site.  And, once there, they want to covert more of that traffic to active, loyal and long standing customers.  Your “shop window” may be fantastic but if no one stops by to view it, it isn’t doing much for your business.increase-traffic

Here are 14 ways to get more traffic to your site and to convert that traffic more frequently.

1) Easy navigation
Around each page, between pages and back to the home page from any level within the site.  When visitors get lost or confused on a site, they typically go to elsewhere.  The navigation should be obvious and readily accessible from every page on the site.compass-nav

2) Responsive design
Yes, I know this is nothing new but if the visitor on a phone cannot view the site, they will vote with the back button and go elsewhere.  Ensure that everyone, regardless of device, can see your site as you want them to.

3) Compatible and tested with multiple browsers
Whilst you no doubt have a favourite browser, your visitor may use an entirely different platform.  Does your site work equally well in ALL browsers? Did you check this?

4) Page speed
No one likes to wait.  People drift away if the page is slow to load and rarely return to a slow site if they can help it.  There are many tools you can use to evaluate page speed and make improvements to a site  Google Developers Page Speed Test is one we at QD Design use frequently.speedo

5) Dead or broken links
Nothing says “unloved” website more than a broken or dead link.  It is a real turn off for visitors.  Either check your links by hand or use an on line link checker such as Broken Link Check to see if there are any that need updating.

6) Testimonials
Genuine testimonials from real clients can count hugely to converting visitors into customers.  If appropriate, include a video from them talking about your product or service.  This is just about the most powerful advocacy you can get for your business.

7) User interface / user experience
A website has to meet the needs of the visitor / customer and not pander to the whims and desires of the site owner and designer.  A site that is easy to read, easy to navigate and free from irritating distractions will convert many more visitors.  For additional advice on UI / UX, check out this great info from the guys at UX Myths

8) Language appropriate for your audience
Write in their language; avoid jargon, slang and any colloquial phrases that people may not understand.  Always bear in mind that your website is a tool for the visitors and not a vehicle for you to show off.dictionary

9) Answer visitors questions
In other words, try to predict what questions brought them to your site and what information will satisfy them.  If you don’t know, then you may have missed something vital to help convert visitors to loyal customers.

10) About us
Few people want to do business with someone / something they don’t know.  Ensure your site has an ‘About Us’ section that says who you are and what makes you tick. Present your human face to your visitors (you are human aren’t you)!

11) Pricing
Similar to the ‘About Us’ point above, visitors rarely feel comfortable doing business with a firm where the prices are hidden or unclear.  If you can, show your pricing structure openly so it saves any embarrassing moments when the customer realises they cannot afford you / your services.

12) Live chat
When you are providing a service and customers need to interact directly with you, a chat tool is often preferred to e mail as a means to get / give information quickly.  If you have the staff and can run a live chat to engage with customers, you should see a significant increase in customer enquiries made through your website.
chat

13) Simple, short forms
Should you want to create an e mail list then all you really need  from the visitor is their name and email address.  Asking for other data, e.g. street address, phone number, date of birth – I know it is only so you can wish them Happy Birthday on their big day – massively puts people off from signing up as they may have genuine concerns over how that data may be used, shared or stored.

14) Finally, no snarky exit ‘pop ups’
You know the sort of thing, emblazoned across the screen as you go to leave a site is a huge banner saying,  “No thanks, I really don’t want 20 amazing ways to make my life awesome”  When pop ups try to make you feel bad about not clicking a sign up or try to make you feel dumb that you could be missing out on something, they have overstepped the line.  There is a reason why the visitor hasn’t click your button and trying to force them into doing it now probably isn’t going to work.  They will just leave and in most probability, do their best never to come back.

What would you add to the list to get more people to visit your website? Leave your answers below in the comment box.

New website – what next?

New website checklist
Website just gone live, surely it’s time for a break?

You have just completed (or your designer has) your brand new website.  The site is live and after many weeks of frantic effort you can finally take a break, sit back and admire the newly launched site, right?

Wrong!

Unfortunately, the hard work continues; in fact some may say, it has only just begun once the site has gone live!  Any parent will tell you that the birth of a child is just the start of years of effort and commitment during which they see their loved one grow and develop.  A new website is spookily similar (though maybe with fewer sleepless nights and less tantrums)!

In essence, once your website has gone live you need to….

  • Drive traffic to the site to attract new visitors
  • Keep the content fresh to retain existing users and ‘convert’ new users
  • Measure site effectiveness and your marketing progress
  • Improve the site’s user experience

5 Vital Tasks for any New Website

Here is the QD Design checklist for how you can do this once your site has gone live.

  1. Use Social Media to promote the site and bring in traffic.
    Simply launching a site will not automatically bring people to it. You need to promote the site to your users, customers and potential customers through a focused and targeted strategy.  Ask yourself, where do my potential customers typically ‘hang out’ on social media.  Are you there too?
  2. Make it easy for people to share your content.
    You have created some amazing content, with insightful text and great images. social-sharingPlacing Social Media sharing buttons on pages will make it easier for people to share the site and in turn bring others to view it.
  3. Traffic logging.
    You should have set up (or the designer should have on your behalf) some form of traffic logging for the site. Of the many traffic monitors available, the biggest and probably best is Google Analyticslogo-gaNow is the time to begin querying the data it provides.  This can help you see where visitors to your site are coming from, how long they stay for, and at what time of the day the site is most popular.  If you are selling goods and services through the site you can even begin to track how far a visitor gets through the buying process before they abandon – very useful for refining your pricing, your product descriptions or your product promotion.
  4. Develop more content.
    ‘What’, I hear you say, ‘it has taken weeks to develop the new site and you want me to create even more new content’?  Yes, I’m afraid so!  content_developmentGoogle search hugely prefers sites that are up to date and have new content over ones that are static and remain the same month in month out.  Developing new content pleases both the Google search engine as well as your audience. New content is a great reason to contact your audience and promote the site even further.
  5. Optimise the user experience.
    Use tools such as Google Webmaster and their Page Speed Insights to check how quickly the site loads and what you can do to make it even faster. You should already have checked how it works on different sized devices but go through each and every page, top to bottom, ensuring the design does truly work.  code-820275_640Optimize image sizes and the white space around them to ensure that great content isn’t missing from the viewers eye.  Create a list of improvements to work upon come the date of the first site review.

If your chosen designer doesn’t have a process for continually improving your website, are they truly the right person for the job?  There is more to web design than just devising the site itself.  At QD Design we know that the design and deployment is the (relatively) easy part, maintaining and improving the site to achieve your business aims over the long term is where the hard graft is really needed.

QD Design can assist you every step of the journey; get in touch to find out what we can do for you.