Template Design: Is It Right For Your Business? 

By Sherry Kinavey

web design template

When a small business decides they need a new website, many face a decision as to whether to choose a custom design for the site or to create a site by using a pre-designed web template. 

There are pros and cons to each option, so it's important to understand these before making a choice.

Advantages of using pre-designed template

They're more affordable.

One of the main advantages of opting for a template is that you'll save money. They tend to be quite a bit more affordable than custom designs.

WordPress, an open source platform, offer basic templates for free and for sale.  If you take the time to learn how to use WordPress and other free online platforms, you can set up a site for a very reasonable price.  If you're strapped for cash, sites such as these are a alternative.

What you see is what you get.

Some people love surprises. Others hate them. When it comes to your web design, surprises are typically a bad thing.

Templates offer security. What you see is what you get. No surprises, no hassle. This can save both money and time in terms of preventing future revisions that could result from custom design.

Faster turnaround.

Templates are ready to go, plug and play. When you use a template, it's pretty much plug and play.  And, faster turnaround means lower costs.

If you need a website now and don't have the budget for a custom website, a template is the way to go.


It's not as unique and tailor-made for your business.

Obviously, the main drawback of using a template is that it isn't necessarily unique.  There will be other companies out there with a similar color scheme and layout. If you want a completely unique online presence, it's better to get a custom design for your site.

They can lack scalability.

Some templates are specifically made for smaller websites. They aren't designed to accommodate the needs of a large enterprise or business. If you want to plan for the long term future, custom design may be a better option.

Can prevent the use of some custom functionality.

Template designs can be very cookie cutter-esque. They may not be designed to accommodate different widgets and custom tools that you want to use.

It's important to clearly define all the different features and requirements for your new website before choosing between a template or custom design.  And, make sure they can be met by the solution you choose.

View User Profile for Sherry Kinavey
Posted by Sherry Kinavey Friday, March 21, 2014 4:38:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website

Landing Pages: Three Mistakes To Avoid 

By Steve Hoag

inbound marketing strategy

Landing pages are one of the main components of any inbound marketing strategy. They capture the user’s attention and drive them back to your website, while capturing lead information. Landing pages are extremely effective when done correctly, but there are some easy mistakes to avoid and be aware of.

Don’t forget to have a compelling call to action.

Users need a good reason to click on a landing page link, and then they need a better reason to fill out a lead capture form. You may have a great e-book waiting on the other side, but that doesn’t make a difference if the user isn’t made aware of that. Make sure your call to action is easy to see, front and center, and compelling.

Don’t overcomplicate sign up forms.

Landing page sign up forms are great for lead capturing. They need to be as simple as possible. Too many fields can scare potential leads away. Focus on what’s absolutely necessary. You can use A/B testing to find out how many fields is ideal. Don’t worry if that ideal number is just two fields for first/last names and an email address. Some contact information is better than no contact information.

Don’t forget to integrate analytics with your landing pages.

This is absolutely crucial. Using analytics to track performance is a must. Without it you will be completely in the dark as to how you are doing and what you need to change. Use bit.ly or another URL shortener to track click throughs to your landing page. Then make sure to use Google Analytics and/or a marketing automation platform to track landing page performance. Some of the more comprehensive marketing solutions offer great features like A/B testing, and on page analysis to track performance. At the very least make sure you have something in place to track click throughs and that your forms link to a database.

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, March 19, 2014 7:11:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise inbound marketing landing pages social media social media marketing web design website

The Ultimate Website: 3 Best Practices 

By Steve Hoag

website best practices


There are many things that must come together for a great business website. Design, development, and copy are three primary components. It’s also important to focus on the nitty gritty details of each. Your website is about getting the user’s attention, keeping it, and converting that into a sale. So what specific best practices should you focus on when looking at your website? Take a look under the hood.

Great use of landing pages and calls to action

Landing pages are a great way for quickly communicating what your product does and why someone should buy it. They are simple and very effective. Landing pages also serve as one of the best ways to capture information on leads through simple forms. One of the latest trends in online business is inbound marketing. This focuses on providing free content to drive traffic and lead captures. Landing pages are a core component of this, but can also be used separately. Your primary focus should be on quickly and clearly defining what you have to offer and drive the user to a product info/buying page from there. Besides this, your website should have call to actions throughout every page. You don’t need flashing banner ads everywhere. A call to action can come in many forms. Use a variety of methods like hyperlinks within copy, a large image on the home page etc. Just make sure that the user knows what decision or action he/she should take, and a compelling reason to do so. If you have special deals advertise those!

A clear and compelling value proposition

A value proposition is at the forefront of what will convince a consumer to purchase your product. Focus on simplifying your value proposition when deciding how to communicate it on your website. Treat users like they are five years old. That doesn’t mean treat them in a patronizing manner. It means that your value proposition should be so simple and compelling that a five year old could understand it. Complexity drives users away. No one likes having to read a page of copy and still not understand why they should buy something. A user should know why they should purchase something within 30 seconds of being on your site. Use images, simple tables, and bold what they should focus on. Many users skim pages, so simple and effective communication methods work best.

Intuitive navigation that guides users through the buying process.

Every website should have a compelling narrative for users to guide them through the buying process. An important component of this is intuitive navigation to facilitate the flow of the website so that users are never confused on where to go next. Again, focus on simplifying and streamlining. Endless tabs and buttons to click on can end up hurting more than helping you. A user should clearly see how and why to go from point A to B, and then to buy at C. A great trend in websites is page-less design. Many social media and small businesses are using this to quickly and effectively guide the user through the buying process and website. You should check out examples for this, because it’s a great example of intuitive navigation. While this strategy may not work for large enterprises, it’s still important that you focus on streamlining and simplifying your navigation if you choose a different tactic.


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, March 12, 2014 3:37:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise web trends website

Responsive Design: Why Every Company Should Have It In 2014 

By Sherry Kinavey

responsive design

The Internet doesn't revolve around computers anymore. Users access the Internet with a variety of devices. This raises a significant problem, because businesses need to ensure everyone can access and display their site properly.

What's the point in having a fancy site if only a handful of people can access it?

Websites are the brick and mortar storefronts for online businesses and need to be kept in tip top shape in order to succeed.  One way of doing that is employing responsive design.

The variety of devices with Internet access is only going to increase.

Technology is advancing at an insane rate. Desktops used to be the norm. Now we have laptops, tablets, smartphones, TVs, game consoles, and iPods. And all of them have internet access. Not to mention products like Google Glass are just starting to hit the market.

The variety of devices with internet capabilities is going to continue to grow. There's no slowing down, which means your website needs to adapt to these new technologies to maximize accessibility.

2014 will be the year responsive design becomes a staple in web design.

Responsive design isn't something that is just a fad that only big companies are going to use. It's useful for every business, large or small. More people are using multiple devices to access the internet and this generates demand for responsive design. Not to mention that more design/dev firms are offering responsive design, and portraying it as a must-have feature. There is a lot of push and pull marketing going on with this technology, and online businesses are stuck in the middle.

Not having a responsive design in place will affect your bottom line.

Responsive design is becoming increasingly important to businesses as more people use multiple devices to make purchases online. Ignoring this segment of users will severely limit the effectiveness of e-commerce by reducing accessibility and reach. This will eventually impact the bottom line for many companies as leads and sales are lost. You may have the best product on earth, but it won't matter if the user can't properly access your website to purchase it. Responsive design is all about optimizing website accessibility to maximize sales. Get on the bandwagon while you still can! 

View User Profile for Sherry Kinavey
Posted by Sherry Kinavey Wednesday, March 12, 2014 12:32:00 AM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB web design web development web trends website

Twitter: Why It Needs To Be Part of Your Online Marketing 

By Steve Hoag

twitter marketing strategies

Social media as a marketing tool isn’t a recent development. Companies are being barraged with reasons to use social media as part of their strategy. There are many different social media networks, making it equally as important to know which ones to leverage. A general rule of thumb is that you should be active in some way on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. In this article we will focus on why you should be using Twitter specifically.

Twitter has more reach than LinkedIn and Facebook.

Facebook may have more users, and LinkedIn may have great search features, but when it comes to overall reach Twitter is #1. In order to see a company’s post you have to be a fan of it on Facebook or LinkedIn. This means that someone has to search through different companies for you and then like your page. This isn’t the case on Twitter. All posts are public and can be seen everyone without users having to follow you. You can even create high exposure, targeted tweets by using certain hashtags.

Twitter is instant.

Twitter is the instant messaging system of social media, while Facebook and LinkedIn are the equivalent of email. Communication in Twitter occurs rapidly, and things move faster than on other networks. You may have to wait a day or two to get a response on other networks, but most replies come in a day or LESS on Twitter. This makes it great for on the fly networking, lead generation, and public relations. Not to mention that many newsworthy developments in the world are publicized on Twitter before mainstream media catches wind of them. I’m not saying you should forego Facebook and LinkedIn, just that you should ensure that Twitter is part of your online strategy.

Twitter’s public nature makes it easy to identify and interact with leads.

This point ties into Twitter having more reach. Twitter makes it easier for consumers to connect with businesses, and vice versa. Its search features make it straightforward to track down prospects. Most profiles on Twitter are public which helps to increase visibility. Twitter also helps businesses identify what conversations to focus on by organizing them with hashtags. Both of these features simplify the process of interacting with leads in a personable and professional manner.

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 Tuesday, March 4, 2014 6:47:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C SMB social media social media marketing web trends website
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