No Need To Reinvent the Wheel: Why Refreshing Your Website Can Be Better Than Rebuilding 

By Steve Hoag

Don't reinvent the wheel.

Ever heard of the saying ‘No need to reinvent the wheel?’ That statement holds true when it comes to websites as well. Think of your current design as a car. Refreshing your website is simply changing the design, while keeping the major structural elements in place still. Kind of like upgrading to a new set of wheels once the old ones are worn down. Rebuilding your website is like realizing you think wheels are too backward for you, and deciding to develop a set of jet engines instead. Now that that elaborate comparison is out of the way, let’s take a look at why a refresh can be a better idea than a rebuild.

Better ROI

How expensive is a refresh? It will vary from designer to designer, but at the end of the day it will always be substantially cheaper than a rebuild. That’s because the changes are mostly aesthetic, while a rebuild will require changing the architecture of the site, and is much more expensive in time & money. The results of a well done refresh can look like a complete rebuild though. Customers’ perceptions are what matters at the end of the day, and website refreshes offer significant results at a lower price point.

Go live quickly

How much time does it take to grab some new wheels? Maybe an hour or two at most. How much time does it take to develop and install some jet engines for a car? Maybe a decade. If you need a new look for your site quickly, then a refresh is the way to go. A rebuild takes a lot of time and effort to successfully do, and the turnaround time can vary greatly depending on obstacles and delays.

Still lots of customization options

A refresh can look like a rebuild as long as you hire the right designer. All you need is a solid structure in place already, and any good designer will be able to work his/her magic. It’s amazing what some new colors, layout, graphics, and font can do. And remember, depending on your website platform, you can still add tons of custom functionality with a bit of development work.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, September 26, 2013 4:57:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website

The Ultimate Website: 3 Web Design Trends You Need To Know About 

By Steve Hoag

web design trends

We are in the last third of 2013, and web design is still evolving at an incredible pace. If you don’t believe me, go use the Internet time machine and see for yourself! Websites are constantly changing to adapt to changing norms and new trends. Check out these three web design trends that you need to know about!

A Minimalist Approach and Lots of White Space

The idea of having white space has been around for a while, however it has morphed recently.  White space is used to draw attention to your primary content, but a lot of people have the misconception that this space HAS to be white. It doesn’t. As long as it contrasts well with your font color scheme you will be ok. Black or 'empty space' is the new white space for a lot of companies. Also, white space goes hand in hand with a minimalist approach. Lots of big companies have championed this, most notably Apple and Google. Minimalism makes your website look clean, crisp and uncluttered. Basically the opposite of a Japanese subway train during rush hour.

Huge Photography Backgrounds

This has been an up and coming trend that seems to be staying here for the long run. It tends to be more popular among creative/artsy type businesses like marketing, fashion, and other design firms. Here are some examples. Much like Communism, this style of design is not for everyone. You need to make sure your content meshes well with the background. On the other hand, if you are using a lot of landing pages, this can be an awesome option!

Infinite Scrolling

Infinite scrolling is a truly unique feature that is becoming very popular on social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter. It is used best for sites with dynamic content and constantly changing information. It doesn’t work well for blog sites that need to have individual pages for navigation. Another cool feature of infinite scrolling is that it does a nice job of eliminating page loads, which can create a more seamless user experience. Here are some examples to check out!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, September 18, 2013 6:27:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB social media web design web trends website

The Ultimate Website: 7 Design Must-Haves 

By Steve Hoag

website design must-haves

First impressions are everything regardless if it’s for a job interview, your girlfriend’s parents, or team try outs. Securing that good first impression will have ripple effects on all future interactions, and make life much, much easier for you. The same goes for your website! Follow these seven tips for designing your site, and we promise you won’t be hearing crickets from your customers:

Ensure your site is easily accessible.

This is becoming more and more important nowadays. People aren’t only using computers to view your site. They’re using tablets, mobile phones, iPods, gaming consoles, and TVs. Consumers are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you. This means your site must be able to support these different devices. Avoid using Flash and JavaScript, and focus on using HTML5 to ensure that your site is rendered properly.

Include social share widgets.

Social media is the hottest new technology trend of the past decade. Pretty much everyone in the world with Internet access is using it in some shape or form. In related news, people love sharing things they find with others. What does this mean for your site? It means that you need to include social sharing buttons on every single page! Make it easier for consumers to virally share your site and you will be surprised with the results.

Avoid excessive or unnecessary use of gadgets, animations and other media.

The main questions you need to ask yourself are: a) does it support my content? b) is it excessive? c) will it irritate customers like a fly? Everything on your site must support each other. Likewise, including things that sound cool like background music will only succeed in making your site look like a 13 year old’s MySpace page. Make absolutely sure that every image you choose is relevant to your business or area of expertise.  Everything on your site conveys a message to your viewers.

Use colors that synergize with your brand/business, and don’t burn your customers’ retinas.

When it comes to colors, usually going safe is a better option. Try to avoid choosing crazy colors for your site template, or too many colors. Both of these can create a negative viewing experience. Choose 3-4 colors for your entire site to be based around and you’ll be in great shape. Also, keep in mind what each separate color evokes. There are a lot of great marketing theory articles that touch on this.

Use easy to read typography.

I think everyone would agree that cursive writing looks pretty cool, especially when done right. But everyone knows that sense of frustration when they receive a birthday/holiday card and can’t figure out what their grandma is trying to write in cursive. Cool in theory, bothersome in practice. The same goes for websites. Some fonts look really interesting. Who wouldn’t want to try making a website purely in the WingDings font? However, the most important thing is making life easy for your customers. People who aren’t fluent in WingDings are going to have a lot of trouble figuring out you’re a successful lawyer if your whole site is in that font. When in doubt, choose a safe option like Times New Roman, and avoid using crazy font colors.

Create a clear, consistent layout

One of the most important things to do when designing a website is to create a clear and consistent layout for pages. Focus on creating 3-4 templates that are replicated throughout the site for certain pages. For example, one template for your homepage, another for form pages, content pages, and finally landing pages. You want your different pages to flow together so that it doesn’t appear like a different site whenever a link is clicked on. This can be done by keeping the different elements on the page relatively the same from template to template.

Navigation – KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)

Read the subtitle above. Read it again. And again. Third time is the charm right? When it comes to navigation, less is more. Don’t make it too deep; keep it around 3 levels of depth. Also, keep it at the top of the page, and use breadcrumbs so viewers can easily backtrack through the site. Place some nav items in the footer as well, and avoid using Flash or JavaScript for navigation since lots of mobile devices can’t use these formats.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:51:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB social media web design web trends website

Custom Design vs Template Design: Which One is Right for YOUR Business? 

By Steve Hoag

Custom Design vs Template Design

Creating a new website is one of the more exciting projects a business can take. It’s a chance to take a brand new approach to your online presence. That being said, it is important to understand whether you require a custom design or would be better served with a pre-made template. Both have their advantages and can be the right choice depending on the situation.

Custom Design Advantages

Unique Design

One of the most prominent advantages of paying for a custom design is that your website will truly be unique. Other sites may have similar elements, but there will be nothing out there that looks like your site. This is great from a branding and general marketing standpoint. Of course, having a custom design means your website will be considerably more expensive.

Search Engine Friendly

Custom designs usually mean you will be hiring a designer to work on the project. An advantage of this is that they will be following best practices and designing your site with things like SEO in mind. Designing a website from the ground up with SEO in mind will help you to boost your online exposure much more quickly than with templates.

Custom made for your needs

A custom design is the way to go if you need things like custom graphics, media, and widgets on your site. Also, good custom designs were made with your business’ vision and branding in mind. They will evoke the main brand associations you want to create. Templates were made with a general idea of this is good for photography, or this is awesome for a small business. They don’t tailor themselves to every customer to the same level that custom designs do.

Scalable

Successful companies grow like people do as they get older. They get smarter, stronger, and sometimes fatter. If you envision your site needing to grow with your company, then you need to go the custom route. Just like that trusty pair of high school gym shorts, a well-designed custom site is flexible enough for your company’s needs at every stage.

Website Templates

Budget friendly

Template based website designs are your wallet’s best friend. They won’t burn a large hole in it, especially when compared to custom designs. Some content management systems like Joomla offer a variety of free template to use, with options to purchase more advanced ones.

Shorter turnaround time

Website templates don’t require a designer to have to create a brand new design. This means all that needs to be done is to upload the new source code to the backend of your website. Also, custom designs usually require multiple revisions before the final product is delivered. Each revision costs more time and money. With templates, what you see is what you get. That makes for a much shorter turnaround time, which is nice if you need a website very quickly.

Novice-friendly

Website templates are usually made more novice-friendly than custom designs. They tend to be much simpler and easy to understand because of having fewer moving parts. Template are also typically used in some of the more popular content management system options like WordPress. These products combine the simplicity of a web template with the ease of use of their content management systems to help smooth the learning curve.

Once it comes down to it, the difference between custom and template based design are pretty stark. If you need a truly unique presence, are willing to spend more time/money, and want a solution that can grow with your business then you need a custom design. On the other hand, choose a template design if you only require an affordable, simple, quickly delivered solution.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Monday, August 19, 2013 7:49:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB web design web development website

Website Redesign Mistakes for Businesses: What Not to Do 

By Steve Hoag

website redesign mistakes

Website redesigns are awesome when done properly. Ideally you will be pleased with what you paid for, have a site that reflects all the latest best practices, and attracts your target market. However, there are many companies out there that are paying for redesign, and make some critical mistakes during the process. This severely inhibits their ability to succeed online. If you avoid the following mistakes, your redesigned site will be in great shape:

  1. Focusing on being flashy

There are a lot of cool technologies you can use in your website whether it be video, images or fonts etc. This doesn’t mean you need it all on your site! Putting way too many elements on  your website will make your business look like a 13 year old’s Myspace page. Focus on what is critical. Sometimes a minimalist approach can work better. You want your website to attract customers, not repel them with a neon pink color scheme, or background Justin Bieber music playing all the time.

  1. No clear call to actions

More often than not your website’s purpose is to sell something. Having clear call to actions is crucial in making it as easy as possible to secure a sale. Customers prefer to have quick and easy purchasing options, rather than having to dig through multiple pages to find the buying page. Call to actions can range from banners on pages, to a ‘Buy Now’ tab on the main nav. Make it easy for your customers, and you will be surprised at how many more sales you can get.

  1. Focusing on quick development without customer research

Research is a critical success factor when it comes to optimizing your website presence. You need to have an extensive profile of your target segment. Be responsive to their needs/wants, and design your site around that. If you go in blindly and design a website you think looks cool, but isn’t to your Average Joe, you will have wasted money. That means more redesigns and more headaches down the road.

  1. Unresponsive design

A growing trend is responsive design. This means making your site capable of adapting to every device that your target market uses. These can range from smartphones to tablets to computers. With the explosive growth in mobile browsing, it is very important that you optimize your site for all devices. If not, you could be missing out on some potential sales and exposure!

  1. Paying way too much, or not enough

Redesigns and their associated development can be an expensive proposition. Many design/development companies will charge anywhere from $500 to $10k or more depending on the scope of the project.  Before choosing which route to go, do your research! Find out exactly what you need, and how much is typically charged for that. Look at the design/development companies’ websites, evaluate their profiles and core competencies. If you are a business that is focused on government sales, find a firm that has extensive experience in that. Likewise, if your company is a creative marketing start up, look for a designer/developer that can mimic vision and quirkiness. Examine their turnaround times too. Can they match your required timeline? What are their policies for extra design revisions? Research is crucial in finding the optimal website solution.

 

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, August 7, 2013 7:00:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB web design web development web trends website
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