Heartbit Computer Solutions Ltd Blog

Quick Solutions To Business

Month: January 2010 (Page 1 of 3)

Marketing With Twitter

Twitter presents an incredible opportunity to build relationships with the leaders in your industry, and with your target market. It’s a social medium for exposure and connections, and a great way to know and be known. Keeping those connections active and mutually beneficial is the key.

Consider the ways that you can create “followbility” with your Twitter account.

Just like any marketing strategy, you have to ask yourself what it is that your target market wants or needs from you – and deliver exactly that. The only difference between Twitter and any other medium… is that you do that in 140 characters or less.

If you blog, you need great content to build a loyal readership that keeps coming back for more. If you own a mailing list, your emails have to contain some value to keep your subscribers opening them. The same holds true with Twitter. Constant self-promotional blasts will leave you with zero following.

Your reach is your most valuable asset. This is the number of people that you can reach online at any given time, that are specifically interested in what you have to offer. This may include your blog readers, newsletter subscribers, website visitors, your networks at Facebook and MySpace, and now… your followers on Twitter.com.

Twitter users are particularly sensitive to spam in their space. Blasting out self-promotional tweets consistently is a sure-fire way to get unfollowed – and fast. That doesn’t mean that you cant include links and make announcements. It simply means that you have to be both creative and tasteful about it.

Done right, ‘tweeting’ is one of the easiest and best ways to gain exposure and drive live traffic to your blog or website. Not just visitor count mind you, but real people with specific interests who are genuinely interested in what you have to say on a particular topic.

If I had to wrap it up in a bite-size nugget, my advice would be:

Keep it real, make it fresh, interact and show some personality! Your tweets should contain a good mix of current news, opinions, conversations and announcements. Reference links are welcomed, so use them liberally but with good taste.

Of course it helps if there are people out there ‘listening’ when you post your tweets. Just like any other web property, you have to stake your claim and then build your following.

Not sure where to start? Here are five super-easy ways to get the ball rolling…

1. Create a reason to be followed
Set up your account and start tweeting. Contribute something original, useful, funny or interesting to your ideal ‘follower’. Most people will scan your profile before choosing to follow you, so make sure there’s something there to interest them at first glance.

2. Search for people you already know
Use the search box at the top of your Twitter screen to search for people you already know. If you find them on Twitter, follow them! Look for authorities/leaders in your niche, blog authors you enjoy, people you connect with on other websites, etc. Twitter is a very social site and people you follow will often follow you too.

3. Put the word out!
Invite people to follow you on Twitter. Blog about it. Mention it in your newsletter. Put out a MySpace bulletin. Add a Twitter widget to your Facebook profile. Let people know about this cool new way to stay in touch with you!

4. Get involved in the current discussions
Reply to tweets you find interesting. If they reply to your response and a dialogue gets started, your twitter link will end up on their profile page. A person with a strong following, or even a smaller but targeted following, could end up sending you several new loyal followers.

5. Be consistent and let it grow naturally
Do the first four steps consistently, and you’ll find that your Twitter following grows daily. Post a good mix of resources, humor & personality, news and updates throughout the week or even throughout the day.

Bonus Tip: Use your real name on your Twitter account – or the name people will most likely know you by online, such as a common username. This will help people find you easily when searching for you on Twitter or Google.

10 Most Hidden Secrets to drive traffics to your web sites

Do you want to discover the most hidden secrets on the Internet to drive the most traffic to your site for free?

Effectively, the most hidden secrets are only known by only some of the web traffic specialists. Year after year, they earn massive income with their code that they carefully treasured and they never revealed.

So many of them do not do as much as we use to spend big money every month on advertising, yet their income is beyond compare.

You will find here below, the Top 10 secrets not yet revealed.

1) Offer your visitors original contents. When you purchased articles from other authors, as far as you linked back to them, that are not so bad, but you have no guarantee that those authors do not sell the same articles to other publishers or to your competitors. Then, it is important to provide your visitors with useful information of your own and that are not available from other publishers. If you are the only source of the information, you will find that visitors will stampede to your site.

2) Try to give them some free software for their desktops, available for download on your site. If the software is free (or not so expensive) and is very useful to their computers, that will be a good idea to bait your visitors to your site.

3) Give them some opportunity to join some free sweepstakes or some other free competitions. In fact, no many people would like to visit your site for no real purpose, but they would like to earn something in return for their own satisfaction. If you have a well-planed strategy to meet the needs of your visitors, you definitely win their trust in your web sites.

4) Try to create a directory thematically linked to other websites related to your own web site or to some web sites related to the subjects of your targeted traffics. People most of the time will come to your site where they will find the most information from a single site. Just like a household consumer most of the time would prefer to visit a big hypermarket where she would find nearly all the items she wants under the same roof than to drive and to park her car from place to place to buy different items.

5) Offer your visitors the possibility to subscribe to your free email newsletter (also give them the possibility to opt out anytime they want). People always look for free information regularly sent to them by email in such to help them save their time and money from always seeking for information everywhere.

6) Build a community with a forum on your web site. People like to meet together within a particular site where they can discuss on a specific topic with other people having the same idea.

7) Offer a free online service. If you happen to meet their specific online requirements such as a free email account at your domain .com, a free hosting service where they can upload their pictures and music, give them the possibility to download free e-books and all these will contribute massively to your online success

8) Offer your visitors up to date-released news, weather report, latest stock and currency index or daily bible verses. Or if your sites talk to your visitors about “Adsense” it is a good idea to give them daily “Niche Keywords”. Giving them the possibility to bookmark your site is also definitely an ingenious strategy for them to come to your site everyday. You may refer to the example of the http://Bible.GodAdSense.com/

9) Offer them some free samples of your products or free trial of your service. Have you never visited a hypermarket and came across a merchandiser offer you a free tasting of her food items? This same concept will drive a lot of visitors to your web sites.

10) Another strategy that is the most popular actually is the offering of an affiliate program. People actually are always finding ways to earn money so if you have a well-structured plan on how to set up an affiliate program on your web site, your success will be inevitable.

How To Think Like A Client

Having trouble getting clients to see things your way? Maybe it’s time you spoke their language, argues Paul Boag. He points out that when it comes to commercial web design, it’s all about the business case.

Clients are evil… at least it can feel that way sometimes. They seem to hinder more than help and so often they “just don’t get it”. We can talk enthusiastically about accessibility, standards and best practice but so often we are met with the blank stare of indifference from clients. They interfere in our designs and won’t pay for proper testing. Next to Internet Explorer they are probably the biggest frustration we face!
A Clash Of Culture

There is a very real divide between clients and web designers that seriously undermines many web projects. Moreover, the frustration is felt on both sides of the fence with many clients perceiving the web design community as “not living in the real world” and obsessed with technology for technology’s sake. They might also believe that they are being asked to pay for things that they don’t need.

At the heart of the problem lies a failure to communicate effectively. It is almost as if the two sides are speaking completely different languages. The aim of this article is to help you learn the language of clients and to be able to bridge that cultural divide, meaning a healthier working relationship and the business benefits that brings.
The Language Barrier

I am British and we Brits have a terrible reputation abroad. When we meet somebody who doesn’t speak English we tend to think they are stupid. We speak slower and louder in the hope they will understand us, when the reality is that they probably speak multiple languages and are far more intelligent than us.

We are often like this as web designers. Just because clients don’t know their XML from their CSS we presume they are stupid and start speaking slower and louder. The truth is they are often very savvy business people who have expertise of their own (just in very different areas).

The reason we find ourselves in conflict with our clients is because we make little or no effort to either understand their “culture” or “speak their language”. If we wish to convince them of the value of accessibility, standards or any other best practice technique, we need to learn to present it in a language they can relate to.
Return On Investment

Every culture has its defining characteristics. Understanding those characteristics and tapping into them is what allows you to really be accepted. Clients are no exception. At the core of their world view is return on investment (ROI). If we speak the language of ROI we will quickly find clients much more amenable.

Saying that the culture of clients is built on ROI does not mean they are solely concerned with making money. After all we know that not every website is directly about generating income. However, all clients desire to see some form of return on investment for splashing out the cash on their site. That return could come in many different forms depending on the type of site. While an ecommerce site is going to look for increased sales, a service-based company may focus on more enquiries. A charity website might want more volunteers while a government site might desire to educate or inform. Whatever the case the client will be constantly asking how any decision related to the site helps increase that return.

Let me give an example of where things can go wrong. If you read this website the chances are you are passionate about web standards. As web designers we are often put in the position of justifying our desire to implement web standards and it can be frustrating when clients fail to grasp the benefits. After all they seem so obvious to us:

* Separation of design from content makes a site easier to manage
* Semantic code makes it easier to read and interpret
* Standards make it easier to comply with accessibility guidelines.

The list could go on. However, unless properly presented, none of those reasons will resonate with a client. They are about making your life easier as a developer not about increasing ROI.

With a little “translation” the same arguments outlined above can be made more client friendly by focusing on their return for investment:

* Standards-based design will significantly reduce the ongoing development costs associated with your site.
* Web standards will make your site more search engine friendly so driving more potential customers to your site.
* A standards-based approach will ensure that as many people as possible have access to the products and services you offer.

When you are pitching to a prospective client, or even working with past customers, it will pay dividends to do as much homework about the client’s objectives, their target market and their business model. Then you can deliver the right solutions, framed in the right language that will really resonate with them. It also means of course, that the solution you put together is the best it can be, which will pay for itself when happy customers recommend you to their friends and associates.
Margin Of Return

Just because a technology or technique can provide a return on investment doesn’t mean it is justifiable from a client’s perspective. A client isn’t just concerned with whether it provides a return; they are also concerned with the margin of return.

A good example of the “margin mentality” is AJAX. The whole web design community is excited about AJAX at the moment. It can provide improved usability, a richer user experience and is basically damn sexy! From a client’s perspective AJAX offers return on investment in the form of increased customer satisfaction and repeat traffic. However, AJAX isn’t always quick to implement and that can damage the margins of return.

I was recently working on an ecommerce website aimed at an elderly audience. Although the site was generally very successful we were suffering from a significant dropout rate when registering address details. Usability testing revealed that users where confused by the address fields which required them to enter information onto multiple lines. Unfortunately we were unable to simplify the form and so decided to solve the problem using an AJAX postcode lookup. We then carried out a second round of testing and found that the new approach worked extremely well. Users found it much more intuitive and it successfully helped them complete the registration form. However, one user commented that an even easier approach would have been to simply add an example address next to each field showing what the user was expected to enter. Such an approach would have achieved the same aim as the AJAX solution but could have been implemented in a matter of minutes.

The problem is that, as developers, we are often drawn to complexity. We love technology and enjoy developing complex technical solutions. The downside of this is that complexity can be expensive. A client wants to achieve his aims for the smallest investment possible and so maximise his return. In the registration example above it was much more cost effective to implement the example text than it is to develop a sophisticated AJAX lookup system. So not only do we need to be considering return on investment when proposing a development solution, we also need to be looking for an approach that maximises the return.
Success Criteria

Even if we are thinking in terms of return on investment, that doesn’t automatically mean the client will see things the same way we do. As I said earlier it is important to understand what forms of return are important to an individual client. For some the cost of development might not be as important as speed of delivery. Others might be more interested in seeing increases in traffic even if conversion is low. That is why it is important to discuss what the client’s expectations are up front. The most common way of achieving this is to agree on success criteria for the project before work commences.

Clearly documenting a project’s success criteria right at the start not only improves communication between designer and client it also helps manage expectation and focuses the client’s mind on exactly what they want their site to do. Too many projects suffer from scope creep partly because the client doesn’t have a clear vision of what they are ultimately trying to achieve. Without that clear objective clients can often move the goalposts on a project as they gain a greater understanding of what is achievable.

The process of deciding on success criteria should be a joint venture between designer and client. This ensures that all parties are committed to the objectives and that they are realistic. Too often clients set unrealistic expectations on a project because they have no frame of reference as to what is possible. It is your job as the designer to provide that frame of reference to help them strike the right balance. Of course as with everything they will want to maximise their return and so you will need to clearly explaining the constraints you face in a language they can understand.

Not only should the success criteria be realistic, they should also be specific and where possible measurable. A desire to improve usability or increase sales does not constitute success criteria, rather these are broad objectives. The problem is that the designer’s perception of improved usability may well be different from that of the clients. Instead, try setting specific objectives such as a percentage increase in users reaching a certain call to action or key page. This will gives the client something tangible against which to judge the various development decisions being made. For example, if five hours of development work will be required to implement an approach that satisfies one of the success criteria, then the client can judge whether the return on investment is worthwhile.
It’s The Thought That Counts

Of course the reality of working on projects isn’t as black and white as I have outlined above. Sometimes it can be hard to quantify the return of a particular approach and even the best predictions can be wrong. However, it is the mindset that is important not the specifics of the implementation. We as designers and developers have to stop seeing our clients as the bane of our existence and start trying to understand what motivates them. We pride ourselves on being user centric designers however I would dare to argue that first and foremost we should be business centric designers. I believe that our primary role is to meet the needs of the businesses that commission us and that in order to achieve this we need to understand their aims and objectives.

Website Usability: The Role Of Page Length

The Internet has provided us with new ways of doing things such as communicating, gathering information and making business transactions. Websites form the backbone of the Internet. They are primarily created to be able to serve as a tool for people to live their lives in this modern world.

The use of Internet application is very important especially to the people who have impairments. 20% of the American population is affected by some kind of disability. The Internet has been able to give the disabled avenues through which they can perform functions that they have not been able to do before.
Usability

The usability of websites is one of the pressing concerns of web developers today. Usability refers to the easiness of navigation and overall access of information through a website. Websites are now being developed to be able to provide maximum usability to the widest range of surfers. A website’s features must be able to assist the surfers rather than be hindrances.

There are many perceived benefits from improving the usability of a website. Not only will the surfers, particularly those who have some kind of impairment but also the web developers, the businessmen and the whole Internet community as well. Improved website usability will result in end-user satisfaction. A survey which involved people who were trying to avail certain services and products from the Internet revealed that 39% of all availing attempts are spoiled because the buyers are discouraged by the poor usability of the website. Improving the website will definitely end in user satisfaction.

Usability will also result in the competitiveness of the website. There are millions of websites that are out there today, and the number is growing faster than ever before. What separates the popular ones from the not-so-popular ones is website usability. People want to access information through websites and they are particularly looking for two basic features: quality of content and access. There’s no sense in designing a website with poor information. Poor access tools will also make a website not likable even though it contains well written contents.
Page Length

There are many factors in determining the usability of a website. A website with good usability will have quality contents, good accessibility, navigation and readability. The length of the pages might seem like an impertinent thing when it comes to usability, but it is actually a factor to consider in website development.

The Internet browser is like a portal which takes people to wherever they may want to go in the virtual world of the Internet. This is why the length of the web page is important. The pages must be designed in a way that they accommodate and present the information to the visitors in a comprehensive way which is easy on the eyes.
Short versus Long

When it comes to determining the length of the page, it all boils down to a simple yet important decision- whether to use short or long pages. In determining this, one should always remember that the length of the web pages may not be uniform. The length of each page must correspond to its contents and its purpose.

In determining the length of the page, one must consider the following:
1) Contents

Again, the length of the page is dependent on its contents. The homepage which contains the overview of the webpage utilize short pages most of the time. Pages which contain information which can be easily be browsed should also utilize short pages. Pages containing long graphics should be put in short pages as well.

If the page contains information that need to match the size of its paper counterparts, the said web page must be long enough to do so. Sitemaps and other such pages must be long enough to accommodate all the information needed.
2) Go back to the goals

The overall determination of the length of the web pages must be structured within the whole planning process for the development of the website.
3) Scrolling

A developer can choose between providing a scroll bar or a page link in developing pages which contain reading materials. If speed is deemed as a key factor in the reading process, the developer might want to use a link instead of a scroll bar.

These are just some basic ways on how to improve a website’s usability with the proper determination of the web pages. These should be integrated with the other ways of improving website usability.

What Annoys Website Users The Most?

The Internet is home to various artists, web artists, and designers both professional and amateur. It can afford to provide individuals with opportunities to freely explore their artistic capabilities and publish content to a borderless audience.

However, unluckily, alongside this freedom of expression afforded to everyone is the capacity to offend sensibilities. Some website provide great utility and aesthetic pleasure others are bound to get annoying.

There are ways and means in order to avoid getting annoying, and its best to start by knowing when web design of a website does get annoying.
Using colors that just do not work

Colors in good and sensible does are a good means in order to attract attention and communicate ideas and emotions to an audience. They can help add interest to a dull site full of text, and even introduce and maintain a certain mood (as in scary websites using black as a background).

However, there is a fine line between too much and just about right. What gets annoying when it comes to colors is when readability is compromised, and combinations are too loud for comfort. When readability is compromised, it can pose great discomfort to the site’s visitors when they try to decipher the text that they want to have access to. Using too many colors and colors that do not complement each other tend to make the website look goofy and awkward, and can make the website lose whatever credibility it can possibly gain.
Too many clicks to get to the end of the road

At the end of the day, people who visit websites do so in order to access information and content in a website. Some websites tend to re-route visitors through too many clicks before they get to the content they want to get to assuming that the content is indeed somewhere in the multiple pages they are made to access. Obviously, that gets annoying. Rule of thumb says that a maximum of three clicks (but preferably less) should be enough in order for someone surfing a site to get to the information they want to get to.
Excessive graphics that take too long to load

Graphics and pictures, when relevant and are the primary content meant for the website, are a welcome part of a website. However, when they just serve the purpose of aesthetic enhancement, graphics and pictures that take too long to load and inevitably, slow the process of accessing primary content become a major reason for discontent and displeasure among visitors.

It is also helpful to note that not all visitors of the website are equipped with optimal download or Internet surfing speeds; excessive graphics that are too large and thus, take too long to load are not only unwelcome but also a great inconvenience to a great number of people.
Navigation that’s over-the-top and difficult to follow

Overcomplicating the navigation of the website can greatly hamper the efficacy of the website to communicate its content, and can hurt the accessibility of many pages to its visitors. At any point during their visit to a site, it is important to assure that the visitors have some way in order to trace back their steps and return to content they previously accessed, as well as carry on with accessing other content.

For simplicity’s sake, many websites solve this problem by having a constant button present on all pages for visitors to return to their main menu page, or their cover page.
Fonts that simply do not work

Depending on the browser and fonts installed by the users on their computers, extremely decorative and highly uncommon fonts may not be displayed the way the web designer intended them to appear and may oftentimes even compromise the readability of the text per se.

In order to avoid this from happening, many web designers opt to stay within the bounds of major font families (Helvetica, verdana, and the like). That way, they are assured that most (if not all) of their visitors will be viewing the site as designed, and thus have greater control of the way the page will be displayed in the end.

There is never a “perfect” template for design as it is open to the subjectivity and artistic limitations of designers. However, understanding the behavior of site visitors can only help make shape design innovation and utility move towards greater heights.

The Danger of Using the Same Password For All Websites

With most businesses moving towards the Internet, it is very common for one to have multiple online accounts. You might have online accounts for your bank, credit card, E-Bay, PayPal, Google Gmail, Hotmail, blogs, etc. Every time before you open a new account online, do you stop and ponder whether you should use the same password?

While using the same password saves you the hassle of having to remember multiple passwords for various websites, it also makes it easier for hackers to hack into your accounts. Let’s say you are using the same password for your Bank of America online savings account, CitiBank credit card, and Hotmail account. If your use name and password for Hotmail are stolen, the intruder will try to use the same user name and password on various websites (including Bank of America and CitiBank) to see if they can break into your accounts. When one of your accounts is breached, you are risking all of your accounts to be breached.

You can avoid this security risk by using a different user name and password each time you open a new account online. But how are you going to keep track of all the different user names and passwords for these accounts?

Some browsers (like Internet Explorer or FireFox) save your user names and passwords for you so that you don’t have to retype them each time you come back to the same site. However, the data can easily be deleted by other users if you are sharing your computer with others. If you hard drive crashes, you will lose all the data that the browser saved for you.

Some websites provide a “Remember Me” checkbox so that you can bypass the login page the next time you visit the same site. These websites rely on your browser’s “cookies” in order for this to work. A cookie is a hidden text file that is generated by the browser behind the scene. It can contain your user name, password, and any other personal information that the site needs to keep track of your browsing behavior.

One disadvantage of cookies is that they expire after certain period. The expiration date is set by the author of the site. The expiration date can range from 1 minute to a few years. Once expired, the cookie will automatically be deleted by your browser behind the scene and you will be prompted to type in your user name and password again. Cookies can also be deleted by others if you are sharing your computer.

Relying on your browser to keep track of you user name and password is not a safe bet. You need a more reliable tool to keep track of you login information. That reliable tool is called Password Manager. A good example of password manager is RoboForm. RoboForm encrypts all your website logins and keep them away from potential hackers. You can easily retrieve your use name and password with a click of the mouse. RoboForm automatically fills out the user name and password fields on the site and log on for you.

How to build a search-engine friendly website

A lot of hype is going around about search engine optimization and not all that has been said is true. What is true is that seo starts with creating a search engine friendly website. This means the website must be free of errors and constructed in a way that search engines like. There is a lot that a web-designer needs to know, the basics and some tricks are covered in this article.
The construct

Building a website starts with building the construct or also called the prototype. This prototype is a well constructed site architecture with a professional design and a good link structure. The prototype is the construct in which you embed the content. When designing a prototype you need to keep various marketing aspects in mind. What colour to choose, what kind of pictures, the text-size and what about the background?

As you can see, there are various things that you need to decide. Below is a list of things that will help you to achieve better rankings in search engines.

* use cascading stylesheets to separate the design from the content.
* use div tags rather than tables because tables make your file size big.
* make sure the h1 tag is located at the top of your source code.
* use h1 and h2 tags and integrate your keywords in it.
* use image alt tags with your keywords
* use meta-tags in your header
* outsource your javascript code

These are things that will, if done properly, increase your searchengine rankings. Of course you need to use your keywords throughout the text on your website, but do not care much about keyword density in your body text.

Once you have designed your prototype, you need to run a validator to see if you have any errors in your code. You can find these free html validators by doing a search on google. Make sure your html source code is W3C valid! Once your prototype is ready, you can copy and paste your content into it and save each website under a keyword relevant name.

There are several tools out there that can help you to create searchengine friendly websites. This starts with finding the best keywords and ends with validation of your source code. The best program for these and more issues is definitely the Internet Business Promoter. I use this program every day to find niche keywords, to optimize my websites for better rankings and to automatically and semi-automatically promote my websites.

JavaScript for Web Design – Advantages and Disadvantages

This article discusses the good and the bad points of using JavaScript in your website designs. It points out the areas where JavaScript excels as a web based programming language and also describes situations where its use can actually detract from the performance of a website.

First of all, JavaScript is a browser based programming language that actually runs client side. This means that any code that you write in JavaScript is delivered along with your web pages and the scripts that you write actually run from within the users’ browser rather than directly on the server that is serving the web page. There are situations where JavaScript is an excellent solution for implementing neat features in a web design but there are also situations where using JavaScript can hurt your websites performance. It is my aim in this article to describe the best ways to use JavaScript and how to circumnavigate the downsides of using this versatile and powerful scripting language.
JavaScript for Web Design – The Advantages

JavaScript is an excellent solution to implement when validating input forms on the client side. This means that if a user forgets to enter his name in a form for instance a JavaScript validation function can popup a message to let him know about the omission. This is a far better solution that having a server side validation routine handle the error because the server does not have to do any additional processing. An asp or php routine could be written to achieve the same task but the JavaScript would not allow the form to be submitted unless it was completed properly in the first place, a much more robust solution!

Another area where JavaScript excels is in the creation of dynamic effects such as rollover images and scripted slideshows, where its use has become commonplace. Because JavaScript runs inside the clients browser it can be used to change the appearance of the users screen after the page has been sent by the server. This allows it to create some very impressive dynamic image effects.
JavaScript for Web Design – The Disadvantages

One of the major draw backs to using JavaScript is that it tends to severely bloat web pages. JavaScript code can quickly add up to hundreds of lines of code if you are using it to do anything even remotely interesting. That said the problem of large chunks of JavaScript code is easily solved by storing the JavaScript code off into separate JavaScript source files that have a .js extension. This cleans up your web page code because the JavaScript code is stored separately to the HTML page itself, leaving a much cleaner and more readable web page.

Because of JavaScript’s tendency to bloat web pages it can be very detrimental to the search engine friendliness of your web site. This is because when a search engine arrives at your site looking for quality content and keywords to determine what your page is al about, the last thing it wants to see is hundreds of lines of JavaScript code. Again, this problem is easily solves by neatly storing JavaScript code away in script files with a .js extension and linking to the script file in your HTML documents.
Conclusion:

JavaScript is a feature rich and useful browser based script that if used properly can achieve some great effects and improve the experience for the end user. There are drawbacks to its use in that it tends to bloat web pages. The key thing to remember is to get the best of both worlds by using JavaScript code in external script files. That way the code is separated from your content so you get all the benefit of JavaScript functionality but without the adverse effects of the associated code bloating.

How Width Resolution Can Be A Problem

Ever since website graphics became popular for websites there has been a consistent problem – different visitors with different sized monitor screens and different resolution sizes. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it, because there has yet to be a global solution for this problem.
Resolution

The screen resolution is the amount of pixels vertically and horizontally that your computer screen will show. You might have noticed that you visited a certain website at some point in your life where you have to scroll horizontally to see the whole page. You may have cursed the website creator at the time, but it may just have been your screen resolution.

The lowest screen resolution some people still actually use is 480 X 640. This used to be the most popular screen resolution to use. Those who still use it may not understand the importance of using a higher screen resolution for better surfing the web.

Today there are a variety of screen resolutions to choose from, so it is left up to the user to choose the most appropriate one. If computer manufacturers came to an agreement to create just one or two screen resolutions so users will be less confused and have a better screen resolutions and see the difference when visiting various websites this could possibly solve the problem. But, until then we have to deal with what we have.

The most popular screen resolution that visitors’ use will be 1024 X 768, and the lowest one that they can use would be 400 X 600.
Resolution Problems

If you someone visits your website with a low screen resolution they will have to scroll horizontally to see your whole web pages. And then, if someone visits your website with a higher screen resolution that what you used to create your website they will see a skinny strip on their screen, sometimes only a couple of inches in width that can be very annoying for the user.
Resolution Solutions

One solution that some website designers use is to create the website for the lowest screen resolution so that those with the smaller screen resolution will see the website pages normally and those with higher screen resolutions will have to make their window smaller to read the website.

Another solution that works well is to create your website using the most popular screen resolution: 1024 X 768. Once you have your website up and running you can check your website stats to see what screen resolution is most popular among your visitors. If you find that they are using the most popular screen resolution, and some (a small portion) are using a different one, you can make a note on your website that it is best seen with the screen resolution of 1024 X 768, and maybe even give your visitors a little note on how to change their screen resolution.

You could also choose to create an elastic website that will look good in any resolution, but this is the most difficult choice. However, it could be the best choice for you.

Web Design Elements You Should Avoid Having on Your Site

As a web designer, you should design your websites to give your visitors the greatest ease of use, the best impression and most important of all a welcoming experience. It doesn’t matter if you had the greatest product in the whole world – if your website is poorly done you won’t be able to sell even one copy of it because visitors will be driven off your website by the lousy design.

When I’m talking about a “good design”, I’m not only talking about a good graphical design. A professional web design will be able to point out that there are many components which contribute to a good website design – accessibility design, interface or layout design, user experience design and of course the most straightforward, which is graphic design.

Hence, I have highlighted some features of the worst web designs I’ve come across. Hopefully, you will be able to compare that against your own site as a checklist and if anything on your site fits the criteria, you should know it’s high time to take serious action!
1) Background music

Unless you are running a site which promotes a band, a CD or anything related to music, I would really advise you to stay away from putting looping background music onto your site. It might sound pleasant to you at first, but imagine if you ran a big site with hundreds of pages and everytime a visitor browses to another page on your site, the background music starts playing again. If I were your visitor, I’d just turn off my speakers or leave your site. Moreover, they just add to the visitors burden when viewing your site — users on dial up connections will have to wait longer just to view your site as it is meant to be viewed.
2) Extra large/small text size

As I said, there is more to web design than purely graphics — user accessibility is one big part of it too! You should design the text on your site to be legible and reasonably sized to enable your visitors to read it without straining their eyes. No matter how good the content of your website or your sales copy is, if it’s illegible you won’t be selling anything!
3) Popup windows

Popup windows are so blatantly used to display advertisements that in my mind, 90% of popup windows are not worth my attention so I just close them on instinct everytime each one manages to pass through my popup blocker (yes, I do have one like many users out there!) and, well, pops up on my screen. Imagine if you had a very important message to convey and you put it in a popup window that gets killed most of the time it appears on a visitor’s screen. Your website loses its function immediately!

In concluding this article, let me remind you that as a webmaster your job is to make sure your website does what it’s meant to do effectively. Don’t let some minor mistakes stop your site from functioning optimally!

Usability and Navigation: How to Make it Work

Unfortunately, there are many websites that may not be considered usable and push off lots of potential customers just because it’s hard to find a menu, or a product price list, or to navigate through different sections. These looking little gaps sometimes turn out to be really critical, especially for small businesses, and have no right to remain unfixed. It’s great if you have worked hard on functionality, but what’s the use of it if no one will like to work with the site because it’s inconvenient or ugly? Any web project has to be well optimized for search engines and on the other hand it has to be very simple to navigate, clear and easy to use.

Following tips will let you know what to look at when you are testing your website for usability. It’s very important that you use a smart usability approach in developing of your website before at the time of composing a technical requirements.
Content

I believe that work with any project starts with content. Content defines a web site structure, and the structure defines the way a web site will be navigated. Clear and simple navigation requires certain graphic and technical solutions. Content always shows the most efficient path to building a project.

First put all your content on a paper in a clear and logical sequence. If this is an online store, it’s pretty easy to understand what comes first and what follows. On every level of your site visitors have to be absolutely sure about three things: where they are, where they’ve come from, and where they have to go next. Your customers have to be one click away from the page where they either find information they needs or understand what they have to do to get to this information.

You need to think like a first time visitor. For example, if your products are soaps, body wash gels, as well as candles, and you believe that soaps is one section and candles and gels is another one, don’t show your visitor candles first on the page a link to which was named “body wash gels”. Don’t be confusing ever, because the only one confusion may cost you a huge chunk of business.

One of the mistakes is to place as much information on one page as you possibly can. Maximum number of clicks to scroll down the page containing business information is 3. Ideally, your visitor has to click only once to get to all important information in one section. If all information you wanted to give your visitor doesn’t meet this requirement, you either have to split it into smaller blocks and organize sub level sections under main menu, or rewrite the block so it would have only necessary information. Ideally, all your content has to be organized in different sections according to the logic of the content structure. If different sections of your website have a cross-related content, there should be weblinks leading to that related content.

It’s a good practice to put additional links to documents outside of your project. Say, if you are selling a book about Beethoven, it will be good to have a link to related documents, like an official Beethoven fan website or an article in Wikipedia. This is a good practice, because Internet is based on linking. Help your visitors to find all the best they may need about information they are looking for, and they will appreciate it.

Think as your customers, help them to find all related information or links to the information they may need on your website, otherwise they will hit a search engine and find your competitor who will have it all. Don’t be afraid that if your visitors open a link from your site they won’t come back. If they liked your product, and want to do business with you, as soon as they are done reading about Beethoven, they will immediately get back and buy your book. Link! But be moderate; don’t let your visitors sink in the ocean of links. 2-3 related links are enough per page.

And one last thing about links to additional resources. You don’t have to do it. Do it if you like it, it’s a good practice, but be consistent. If you did it on one page of your website, put it as a rule for the whole project. If you don’t want to have another headache of linking, just don’t.

When it comes to articles, the requirement changes. An article may take a several scroll down clicks space, but if it’s too long (more than 5 Word pages), it will make sense to allow a visitor to download it in Word, PDF, or an archive (ZIP, RAR) or at least to break it into blocks and publish smaller blocks on separate HTML files. It will be also good for search engine optimization, because some of search engines like smaller contents.

However, the size of a page, especially when it comes to an index page, should not be too small. Experts say, that the minimum content on the title page of your website has to have at least 250 words. (as an example, it’s just about three previous paragraphs.) It’s not only important for the visitor’s convenience, but also for search engines indexing.
Content Appearance

The common rule you have to follow – is to make it clear to your visitors what is going on, where they are heading, and how to operate the content. It’s better if all links of your website are underlined, however, for a change, you may use another ways to distinguish a hyperlink from a simple text, for example, make it a different color. What’s important is to be consistent and make all links on your website look the same. It’s a bad mistake to let all your links to be underlined and one of a sudden make non linked text underlined too. Or make a button like image, which doesn’t have a link on it. You should not allow any type of unclear signals on your website. In other words, don’t mislead your customers because being mislead once, they will get disoriented expecting the site itself to be misleading, not the image you expect them to have about your business.

Test your site for colors very carefully. Remember that your website is not only being viewed, but it’s also being read. Make it as convenient for them to read it as possible: choose contrast colors for background and text, font size, which is big enough. Very important what are the main colors of the website. It’s easier to read dark text on light background, so if you have a lot of content on your site, choose dark on light color scheme. Some projects with little texts, especially artistic ones, such as photo portfolios, look really great on a dark background. Then you may use light font colors. But still remember about the contrast.

Bright colors are great, and it’s very good if your project is bright. However, bright colors are never either dark or light enough to make it to a good background. So, if you want a lot of color on your website, make sure that it’s either a background for a light color field with dark text, or just use those bright colors as elements in design of your project. Don’t forget that eyes get tired easier if there are a lot of bright colors around the text, so if your project has lots of texts, try to limit bright spots by using them in small design elements.
Navigation

Navigation is very important, because that’s mostly navigation which defines how convenient it is to use your website, because using is not limited by reading, it’s also finding important information and operating the whole website. According to statistics up to 95% website dissatisfied visitors were dissatisfied by an inadequate navigation.

Whenever you decide to put your menu – horizontally or vertically, – the most important thing, in fact, is to keep your menu in the same spot on every page of your site, and keep its look the same. Your visitors have to know where they have come from, where they are, and how they may get back. Your logo or a name of your company, or a web project has to link to he main page from every document of the website except the main page itself. All links leading to the document you are currently at have to be disabled on this document, it means that if you are currently in Website design section, you won’t be able to click on the menu item that leads to Website design section.

Don’t be afraid of creating multileveled menus. It’s better to break the content into the smaller blocks and create sub menus instead of filling your pages with tons of information. If you have a long list of products in the store matching a particular search criteria, it would be very nice to allow customer to choose whether he wants to see all items on one page or divide the list into fractions, for example, 10, 20, or 50 items on one page, and design a search result page according to this module.

Regarding online stores it’s a very good practice is to show some important information about the product like size and price in the search result, and then to allow visitor to view a page with a bigger image and a full description of the product. When it comes to a complicated or multileveled structure of your content, especially when search comes in place, it’s very important to have a comprehensive system of links, because when you lead a customer to more than 2 steps deep from the first page, he may easily forget where he came from and how to get there.

Besides a classic visual highlighting a menu item to show the whole tree of a menu structure, which is visible on each page of a website, there is a great solution which does not require an appearance of menu tree: paths. It’s a line somewhere on top of the page, which contains the whole path your customer has made from the index page. For example, he is now in the section Womens apparel, sub section Tops, another subsection Cotton on a page showing a White Short Sleeve T-shirt. The path will look this way: Womens Apparel: Tops: Cotton: White Short Sleeve T-shirt. All items in the path have to link to their parent sections, so a customer always one click away from every section he passed reaching the document he’s looking at, and one look away from understanding where he is, how he got there, and how he can get back.

It’s very important to inform your visitor if the link leads to the document in different format rather then HTML. It will be a good courtesy to give them a choice of downloading a Word document, PDF, or an archive (ZIP, RAR) and make sure that you let them know it before they click the link. It’s especially important if link will force launching an application. A lot of users may be discouraged by the fact that you are forcing them to do what they didn’t agree to. That may be a big turn off. A good addition to this type of warning may be a size of a document which is being downloaded or type of application to be launched.

I personally don’t like when a link opens in a new window, no matter if it’s an internal or an external link. But no matter why you open links in a new window, warn your visitors about it.
To Splash or Not?

Some website owners like splash (intro) pages. Some are so obsessed with them so they insist on those intros to be a first page of their websites no matter what. The worst scenario it’s of course a Flash or any type of movie when a visitor has nothing to do, but wait till it ends and then a link Enter a Site appears. If you have a splash like that, you may say good-buy to up to 98% of your visitors (and potential buyers!).

A moderate kind of splash is a Flash movie with a link Skip Intro that leads to the actual first page of the website. It’s better, however, it will cause loosing big amount the customers as well. Researches say that no matter what your intro page looks like or says about, up to 95% visitors will leave without clicking Skip button, or finishing watching the movie, or reading the intro text if it doesn’t contain any valuable information. Why having this type of intro on your website if your visitors hit Skip button anyway?

Some website owners believe that it’s cool to have this type of Intro page. But, sincerely, what’s the use of it? Most of these splashes are just sets of slogans like Our Company is the Best! Deal With Us and You Will Win! If your intro doesn’t give any specific information about your company like what kinds of services you provide, how your client may benefit using them, how mush they cost, etc, your intro is completely useless. Even if you have all necessary information about your business in your intro, then you don’t need a website. Besides, all this information has to be present on the actual first page of your website in text format anyway. So, why make your visitor read it twice?

Some of splash lovers also don’t understand one very important thing: search engines can’t read text you have coded inside your flash movies! And their job is to index the index page of your website. So, how they deal with indexing of your first page? They check it, find nothing and go away. Do you want the delay in putting your website in the search results in the search engines? No, you don’t. Disliking splashes is the best you can do for your website.

A little bit about active content such as Flash movies with sound and any type of motion. It’s a very bad idea to make your visitors listen something unless they decide to do so. Let me draw a picture. I’m relaxed at home, listening to nice music (the one I like!), navigating the net, looking for some products to buy or services to order. I click on your website’s link in a search engine thinking that you may be a good match to what I am looking for and suddenly I hear in my headphones something I really don’t want to hear – music or voice, it doesn’t matter. Do you think I will get amazed by an incredible technology you have used on your website to talk to me? Or I will start looking for a switch to turn off the sound of your movie to be able to read your site peacefully? The easiest way for me to restore my peace is actually closing a window and forgetting about that website forever.

If you want to put some movie, interview or show on your website, you may do so. But it should not start automatically as soon as visitors open the page. You may offer them to view (or download) a demo movie, and if it’s a “view”. You have to provide visitors with an ability to turn it off at any time, change volume or play it again.

Windows Vista: Secure Or Just Frustrating?

Modern operating systems such as Mac OS X operate under a security model where even administrative users don’t get full access to certain features unless they provide an in-place logon before performing any task that might harm the system. This security setup protects users from themselves, and it is something that Microsoft should have added to Windows several years ago.

Here’s the good news. In Windows Vista, Microsoft is indeed moving to this kind of security model. The feature is called User Account Protection (UAP) and, as you might expect, it prevents even administrative users from performing potentially dangerous tasks without first providing security credentials. Sounds good, right? Before you agree, remember this is Microsoft we’re talking about. They made a royal mess of UAP.

The bad news, then, is that UAP is a sad, sad joke. It’s the most annoying feature that Microsoft has ever added to any software product, and yes, that includes that ridiculous paperclip character from older Office versions. The problem with UAP is that it generates an unbelievable number of warning pop-ups for even the simplest of tasks. The frequency with which these warnings pop-up for the same action would be comical if it weren’t so amazingly frustrating. One could almost laugh thinking of the millions of people rushing into computers stores to purchase a new PC preloaded with Vista, completely unaware of what they are getting themselves into. It’s almost criminal in its insidiousness.

To fully appreciate just how frustrating Vista’s implementation of UAP truly is, we’ll look at a simple example. One of the first things I do whenever I install a new Windows version is download and install Mozilla Firefox. Overlooking, for a moment, the number of warnings during the download/install process still leaves us with one glaring issue. Once Firefox is installed, there are two icons on my Desktop I’d like to remove: The Setup application itself and a shortcut to Firefox. I simply select both icons and drag them to the Recycle Bin. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Here’s what you have to go through to actually delete those files in Windows Vista. First, you get a File Access Denied dialog explaining that you don’t, in fact, have permission to delete a … shortcut?? To an application you just installed! Seriously? OK, fine. You can click a Continue button to “complete this operation.” But that doesn’t complete anything. It just clears the desktop for the next dialog, which is a Windows Security window. Here, you need to give your permission to continue something opaquely called a “File Operation.” Click Allow, and you’re done. Hey, that’s not too bad, right? What’s the big deal?

What if you’re doing something a bit more complicated? Well, lucky you, the dialogs stack right up, one after the other, in a seemingly never-ending display of stupidity. Indeed, sometimes you’ll find yourself unable to do certain things for no good reason, and you click Allow buttons until you’re blue in the face. It will never stop bothering you, until you agree to give up and leave that file on the desktop where it belongs. This will happen to you, and you will hate it.

The problem with Vista’s security implementation is that lots of warning dialog boxes don’t provide security. Users get frustrated and eventually stop reading them altogether. They think of them as annoyances, an extra click required to get a feature to work. Is Windows Vista really more secure than the operating systems that preceded it, or simply more frustrating? Since Microsoft left us with no choice but to buy a PC with Vista pre-installed, we’re inevitably stuck with it. Let the frustration begin.

When To Use A Registry Cleaner Utility?

“too much of a good thing is bad”. It is the same with registry cleaners. Registry cleaners are not toys to be played with. They do help, but when they are needed most.

The pertinent question here will be to ask when is it necessary to use a registry cleaner and why? Well, once you know what a registry is and how it works you will need to know how to clean it up when it gets full of junk. Here is where you will be educated on the use of a registry cleaner utility and where you can get one. Instructions of how to use registry cleaner will follow. So down to the first part of explaining what the system registry is.
What Is A System Registry?

The system registry is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of the operating system. It is the backbone of the system. The registry stores all the information that the operating system needs to run the PC. This information includes data pertaining to all the programs, hardware and user permissions on the system. When a user logs onto a computer by entering the username and password the system immediately refers to the registry to see what the user is allowed to do on the PC.

According the OS will proceed. If a program or application is run the OS will refer to the registry to locate the DLL files that will run the program. The registry constantly updates its database with information as the comp is used. This bloats the registry. So, a problem with the registry will reflect in the general well being of the system. This is why the registry has to be kept clean and healthy by running a registry cleaner utility when the system begins to show signs of slowing down and being sluggish.
Why Does The Registry Slow The System Down?

As mentioned, the registry updates itself with information. This makes the registry grow in size. As the registry is a hierarchical database the system refers to it serially. This means that the system begins looking for information from the beginning of the registry and goes through each entry individually. This is the case every time the operating system refers to the registry, which may be many times a second. As the registry automatically updates itself there many links and entries that are useless because the registry never deletes an entry. So when the registry is scanned the OS has to go through the useless entries as well. There are many tens of thousands of entries in the registry that lead to nowhere. These entries delay the search every time. A good registry cleaner such as PC registry cleaner or Windows XP registry Cleaner will detect these links and remove them. Then the Registry cleaner will fill the empty spaces by compacting the registry. This further enhances the performance of the PC.

Ten Ways to Kill Good Design

It’s a given that we at Cooper—and most of you reading this article—believe design is the right tool for translating market needs into tangible product specifications. The people who hire us to design their products or who attend our Cooper U courses think the same thing. Unfortunately, the best designs and the best intentions won’t always lead you to success, because the problem goes beyond your product and beyond your design or development process. Building better, more innovative, and more profitable products requires organizational change on a deep and difficult level.

When design pilot projects fail, it endangers everyone’s willingness to adopt design methods. Over the course of doing hundreds of design projects and teaching our methods to more than a thousand people, we’ve seen that several reasons for failure keep showing up. A discussion of these reasons follows, along with some solutions to consider. Let’s start with the easiest ones and work our way up.
1. Poor choice of pilot project

When you first bring design into an organization, you generally have to convince others of its efficacy. The best way to do this is usually to pick a pilot project and demonstrate how design helped it succeed. However, if you pick the wrong project and can’t demonstrate success, you will certainly lose credibility and may also lose any further chance of persuading people.

Choose a relatively small project with a clearly measurable outcome. For example, if a particular part of your application causes 30% of your tech support calls, fix that part and track the decrease in calls. It’s also a good idea to choose a type and size of project your company has done several times before, so you can show the savings in development time and cost. Also, avoid ill-conceived projects—if it’s a product or function no one will ever use, there’s only so much design can do to help.
2. Not having one consistent project owner

Every design project needs a business decision-maker associated with it—someone who can make trade-off choices between desirable design directions and difficult implementation issues, and will shepherd the product from concept to completion. In many cases, this is a product manager. Companies that try to do this by committee, with no single person responsible for the project’s outcome, seldom succeed. Everyone thinks everyone else is responsible, so the process proceeds very slowly, if at all. Changing project ownership partway through the process is also an enormous risk, particularly if the new project owner has not been involved until now; you will need to revisit every project decision, and may end up throwing out quite a few and starting over. This will lead to a perceived project failure, and will devalue the design process in everyone’s eyes.

So, senior managers, choose a single project owner and be sure that person is someone you’re not planning to reassign in a couple of months.
3. Incomplete design or insufficient design communication

The best design in the world won’t get built if it’s incomplete or undocumented. When clients ask us to design to the framework level (major navigation and interactions) but not provide the detail, they are much less likely to succeed than our clients who ask for bitmaps and widgets. This is generally because the people who have to fill in the rest are not interaction designers, and don’t have the appropriate skills and context to fill things in. Likewise, your documentation must be very complete, because if anything is open to interpretation, trust me, it will be interpreted. It might seem obvious to a designer that my bank’s ATM shouldn’t offer me the ability to withdraw from a money market account if I don’t have one, but it apparently wasn’t obvious to the people who built the ATM software.

This kind of problem is relatively easy to fix; be sure to assign designers for the duration of the project, and make sure there’s someone on the team responsible for providing detailed documentation.
4. Not getting buy-in from top executives

Every time we interview stakeholders on a project, we ask whether there are any executives higher up the chain of command who need to approve the project’s direction. One of our worst nightmares is being told that no one else will influence the project, then having an executive we’ve never met suddenly object to our direction. On one of our projects a few years ago, we were told that a senior executive didn’t need to be part of the process. Sure enough, two days before the end of a multi-month project, he didn’t like the design because he hadn’t gone down the path with us. Several months of formal usability testing finally convinced him, but the opportunity cost to our client was tremendous.

Interviewing top executives at the start and involving them at each decision point will help you avoid this.
5. The wrong people doing design

If you wanted to persuade people that martial arts were an effective means of self-defense, would you hire me, or Jackie Chan? (Believe me, you’d want Jackie Chan.) Design won’t take root in your company unless people see it done by experts. The vast majority of companies I’ve seen try to bring design in-house by telling some programmers that they’re now designers, or by having the product manager do some design in his spare time.

Although the need for designers varies during the project life cycle, design is a full-time job as well as a profession that requires many years of practice. Good interaction designers are hard to find, but they do exist—hire them!
6. Not committing resources to design

Even with the right pilot project and the right people doing the design work, if the management team doesn’t provide support in other ways, it’s much harder to succeed. We often see companies that won’t give designers access to users, or that won’t allow enough time to understand the problem, solve it to the level of detail required, and document it in a reasonable way. Unfortunately, until they’ve seen its value demonstrated, many people view design as a cost, rather than a savings (and more importantly, a strategic advantage).

Think about mini-projects you can use to demonstrate value, even with little or no budget. Use those small successes to ask for resources on a modest pilot project with an obvious opportunity for gain.
7. Failure to separate innovation from renovation

If you have one product manager and one development team, it makes sense for them to be responsible for the visionary new release 3.0 as well as the 2.x maintenance releases, right? Wrong. When that version 2.x deadline looms, no one has time or attention to spare for what the next major release should be, so the future product always gets shortchanged.

Instead, carve off a small team to focus solely on designing 3.0 in parallel with the implementation of maintenance releases. This might mean you throw away a little more of that 2.x code when you build 3.0, but it will save calendar time and increase what you can accomplish for the big upgrade.
8. The inmates are running the asylum

You knew this had to be in the list somewhere, right? It’s here toward the end of the list because it’s a big problem that takes a long time to solve. When we say the inmates are running the asylum, it means the programmers are making business decisions that should be made by executives. In most cases it’s not intentional, and the majority of people are unaware of the extent to which it happens. However, every time a programmer says “That’s not technically feasible,” he’s just made a business decision that’s invisible to most people, since “not technically feasible” really means “not in the tiny amount of time or with the constraints I know you’re going to give me.”

It’s a designer’s job to mediate this conversation. Changing the process on paper is relatively easy, but changing the attitudes and behaviors behind the process takes more time and effort. One way to help things along is to make sure that design doesn’t report in to engineering, but instead reports to a cross-silo manager who can balance marketing and engineering perspectives. Ultimately, responsibility for fixing this problem lies with senior managers, who have to ask, “What would it take to make it technically feasible?”
9. Unrealistic expectations

I can’t even count how many times someone has called me up to say “We need to design or drastically redesign the product that generates 100% of our revenue, and we want to ship it in two months.” For some reason, Fast Company or some other part of the Web boom hype created this perception that you can design, build, and launch a successful product faster than you can get a new driver’s license. While this may have been true for a couple of people who got lucky, it’s simply not true in most cases.

We seldom encounter this myth in companies that build physical products, because they’re much better acquainted with the reality that spending up-front time ultimately results in more efficient manufacturing and more profitable products.

Unfortunately, many companies assume their problems come with the territory, just like traffic noise comes with living in a big city. Have you ever noticed, though, how much more annoying the traffic noise is when someone points out that it’s there? You can do the same thing: bring the points of pain to the attention of the management team, identify the cause, and propose design as your solution. It may take a while to have an impact, but be persistent, tie the problems to dollars, and you’ll eventually get through.
10. Unhealthy corporate culture

For design to work in an organization, that organization has to be basically functional. By this, I mean there needs to be open communication at all levels of the organization, clear delineation of responsibility and authority, competent staff, and trust between managers and their teams. Some degree of risk-taking must be acceptable; otherwise, no one will be willing to stand up and say, “I believe we need to do this.” In healthy companies, certain kinds of mistakes are OK, as long as people learn from them. Senior managers challenge their teams to do better, but never ask the impossible, and they give their teams clearly stated problems to solve, instead of specifying solutions.

If your company lacks these qualities, work on fixing these major issues first before you try to implement design. Again, you’ll succeed in getting management’s attention if you tie these problems to dollars: talk in terms of lost productivity, employee turnover, and project delays. A good human resources manager will be your ally in this.
One step at a time

When you’re trying to bring design into an organization, it’s important to realize that you’re not just changing a process—you’re attempting to change the company’s culture and dearly held beliefs. It’s entirely possible to change any company, but it will take a clear goal for where you want to be, a plan for getting there, executive sponsorship, and excellent communication about the benefits of change. Change on this scale isn’t easy, but isn’t that true of just about everything that’s worth doing? Find allies within your organization, look to designers outside your organization for moral support, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes, because you will have some. Every time I get discouraged about the state of the industry, I remind myself that five years ago, no one know what interaction design was except those of us who did it. Today, marketers, developers, and executives call me up asking for interaction design. We must be doing something right, after all.

Simple Steps to improve your websites readability

Websites that make their customers work to read them are not the best way to get business. Miniscule fonts, text in colours that make it hard to see against the background colour, and lines that are piled on top of each other are problems, but they’re easy to correct. Let’s jump right in and look at five easy fixes:

1. Format your text using CSS. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are the way to go – use one style sheet and control how text looks on your entire site. Make a change to the style sheet and your whole site is updated. It makes life a lot simpler

2. Make the font size big enough to read Consider your target audience. Even if they are a group of teenage girls looking for new shoes, it’s never a good idea to use tiny type. It doesn’t have to be enormous, but up to a point, larger type is better. 12-pt Verdana is better than 8-pt Verdana.

3. Make the text contrast with its background. The more contrast, the better. Black-on-white or white-on-black are examples of the highest contrast you can get. Use colours if you like, but if you squint at the page and your text basically vanishes, there’s not enough contrast.

4. Give the lines room to breathe. Don’t stack lines on top of each other. Use the line-spacing directive in CSS and give it some space; I’ll often set line-spacing to 140% of the height of a typical line.

5. Break text up into chunks. No matter how good a writer you are, people don’t want to read endless pages of text. Break it up by using headlines that reflect the subject of the paragraph(s) to follow so people can scan down to the parts that really interest them, or use bulleted lists to change the pace of the writing and slow down the scanning.

And finally (not one of the 5 Easy Ways to Improve Legibility but still quite important) check your spelling. Nothing irritates me more on a web page than spelling errors – it simply makes you look like you don’t care enough to get it right. Use that ubiquitous spell-check tool.

Making your website’s content more legible is easy. It doesn’t take a lot of time, mainly common sense. The payoff will be text that’s more readable, customers that stick around long enough to get your message, and improved credibility with your visitors.

The Importance of Color in Web Designing

A website is basically a marketing tool, representing the companies, products and services it is also a reflection of the companies personality, ideologies and philosophies. It is definitely a heavy burden to carry for a mere website, but it dose. Huge corporations spend millions of dollars to determine the perfect color for the branding and packaging of their product. This is due to the fact that the perfect blend of colors increases the profitability of their product. The same rule applies to the designing of your website.

Color impacts your user on many psychological and physiological levels. Your site’s color scheme can have a dramatic impact, either positive or negative on your potential success. Color is an important element of website designing. In Website designing of color is as critical as the design of graphics and layout.
Color and its Effects on Website Designing

Once a visitor has come to your site you have around 8 to 10 seconds to visually appeal to the user and turn them into customers. Since Color affects our feeling, perceptions, and interactions, you can use colors to feel a user feel welcome, comfortable, relaxed, and secure. Before choosing the colors of your website it is important to get a basic understanding of color and its effects.
Warm colors

Warm colors are based on yellows, oranges, browns, yellow-greens, and orange-reds, colors. Warm colors have a tendency to be aggressive and exciting, so it’s best to apply them in small doses. Intermediary colors Purples and greens are intermediary colors that are either warm or cool, depending on amount of red or yellow they have in ratio to blue. If the color contains less blue then it is leaning towards a warm hue, and if it has more blue then it is more towards the cool side.
Cool colors

Cool colors are based on blues, greens, pinks, purples, blue-greens, magentas, and blue-reds. Cool colors tend to be soothing, calming colors and can be used in large amounts.
Neutral Colors

Neutral Colors include white, black, gray and colors that contain a large amount of gray. Neutral colors are great for back-grounds and for enhancing the effect of warm colors.
Multi-color

Multi-colored sites have the lowest visitation time, as a combination of warm and cool colors confuses the user. It will often make the site seem cluttered and ambiguous. So it is best to choose a couple of colors and stick to them.
Color Harmony

Too much color can be disturbing and chaotic, whereas too little can be boring. It is best to use a balance. So it’s best to Use only a few different colors on a page. Avoid using an excessive amount of colors, blend and use warm and cool colors.
Computer Color Display

Computer monitors display colors using different amounts of red, green, and blue, these are called RGB color. This is an additive form of color, because red, green, and blue light in equal amounts “add” up to white light. All other colors are formed on screen by mixing the amounts of the RGB color. Since RGB color is completely different from the way colors are set in print, it has to be used differently.
Web Color

A common problem on the web is that color often does not reproduce correctly in Websites. The reason is related to bit-depth, a color may be beyond the range of the viewing display setting. Alternative colors may be reproduced, or color shifting may happen. Even if a visitor’s system is capable of displaying a color, technical features like hardware age to Gamma control may cause color distortion. Such problems not only cause aesthetic problems but ay also result in visitor retention issues. Given today’s technology, color management in the Web can be taxing. Browser-safe palette The browser-safe palette of 216 colors gives consistent and conventional results across the Mac OS, UNIX, and Windows platforms. Even though computers today can render millions of colors, you should use browser-safe palette if you think your website will be viewed from a 256 color computer, which can be the general case. It’ll be more effective if you limit the color palette to 2 or 3 major colors with shade variations, as it is visually more appealing. Plus limited colors means smaller file sizes and faster loading.
Text Colors

Be exceptionally careful when setting text and background colors, Readability must be preserved at all costs. If the text is light colored then the background has to be dark and vice a versa. White and black always make a good combination, and red and blue are useful for highlighting. Try to avoid using the combination of black as a back ground with warm color text, as it might be great clarity wise but has a tendency to make visitors nauseous.
Color Chart

When dealing with international visitors, it’s easy to get messed up by the meaning of color.

Blue represents peace, tranquility, calm, stability, Harmony, unity, trust, confidence. In China, blue is associated with immortality. In Colombia, blue is associated with soap. In India blue is the color of Krishna in the Middle East blue is a protective color.

Black represents power, sophistication, formality, elegance, anonymity, unhappiness wealth, mystery, fear, evil also. In USA black is for mourning.

Green represents nature, health, good luck, renewal, youth, vigor, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy. In India green is the color of Islam. In Ireland green has religious significance (Catholic).In some tropical countries green is associated with danger.

Orange represents energy, balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrancy, flamboyancy.

In Ireland orange has religious significance (Protestant). Purple represents royalty, spirituality, nobility, ceremony, mystery, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment.

Red represents love, danger, desire, speed, strength, violence, anger, and blood. In China red symbolizes celebration and luck, used in many cultural ceremonies that range from funerals to weddings. In India red is the color of purity (used in wedding outfits).

White represents purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, innocence youth, birth, good, and marriage. In Japan, white carnations signify death. In eastern cultures white symbolizes coldness and sterility. In USA it signifies virginity.

Yellow represents joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, and cowardliness. In Asia yellow is sacred, and imperial.

Colors are a powerful tool, it’s the first! The first impression of your site, so keep in mind the above points when deciding on the color scheme of your site.

Royalty Free Stock Photography for Web Design

Stock photography websites contain thousands of existing photographs that can be licensed for specific uses. A customer who uses stock photography instead of hiring a photographer can save time, effort and money. Typically publishers can either purchase exclusive rights to a single image or they can purchase a subscription of sorts. The subscriptions allow publishers to download a limited number of photos over a specified period of time.

Stock photo websites allow webmasters, marketers and publishers to locate pictures for their marketing and promotional materials without the hassle of organizing a photo shoot. With copyright laws businesses must be very careful in using unlicensed photos.

There are also risks to using “free” photographs. Many of the free websites contain collaborative works from multiple photographers and artists. While the websites attempt to monitor the images in their collections in violation of copyright laws, there are no guarantees. If you opt to use photographs or images from a free portal, it is important to keep this in mind.

The following are a large number of reputable stock photo websites available:

Photo-Wizard.net – The Photo-Wizard’s website contains thousands of fantastic, high-quality photographs, in more than 30 categories. Photos can be used on websites, in promotional materials or educational materials. The Photo-Wizard’s stock photo directory is packed with eye-catching photos that will meet the needs of graphic designers and webmasters looking for exceptional quality images at reasonable prices. The site is filled with inexpensive, professional quality royalty free photographs. There is no longer a need to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a single photograph. Single images can be purchased for $.99 each or subscriptions can be purchased for $49.95 – $ 179.95. Photo Wizard – http://www.photo-wizard.net

Photos.com – Photos.com contains professional royalty-free stock photographs available via a subscription. Pay only a single fee and download up to 250 photos from the Photos.com collection per day. The photos.com collection contains more than 325,000 professional quality stock photographs. Subscriptions can be purchased for $149.95 – $ 699.95 . Photos.com – http://www.photos.com

ClipArt.com – The ClipArt website is exceptional, known for its large variety. You can filter images based on file formats, (photographs, photo objects or clipart) so only the specified format appears in the search results. Subscription can be purchased for $ 17.99 – $ 269.99. ClipArt – http://www.clipart.com

Morguefile.com – The term “morgue file” is popular in the newspaper business to describe a file that holds past issues. The purpose of this site is to provide free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits. Photos on Morguefile can be used free of charge, but only for personal use; but are not available for commercial or business use. MorgueFile – http://www.morguefile.com

PixelPerfectDigital.com – PixelPerfectDigital contains 4,000 images. The website uses a forum format to display the images, many of which are clipart rather than photographs. The images can be used free of charge for personal use. Pixel Perfect Digital – http://www.pixelperfectdigital.com/free_stock_photos/

StockVault.net – StockVault contains photos and logos that are free for non-commercial use. They have additional image packs available for fixed prices. StockVault – http://www.stockvault.net

Free-Photographs.net – The Free Photographs Network is an online resource for royalty-free stock photographs for non-commercial use. The collection is very limited and a search function specifically for the site is not available. Free Photographs – http://www.free-photographs.net

FreeStockPhotos.com – Photographs on Free Stock Photos can be used free of charge for non-commercial use, but the photograph must include credits to FreeStockPhotos.com when used on the Internet, in a web page, in printed publications, or in any product, advertising, or packaging. This credit, however, may be cropped out or digitally removed from the photograph if it is included in readable type near each photograph, group of photographs, in the text, or in the credits. The collection is limited and a search function is not visible. Free Stock Photos – http://www.freestockphotos.net

FreePhotos.com – FreePhotos is a collaborative website that contains photos. The website contains many different image categories, but not a large variety in each category. In order to download an image users must register. Free Photos – http://www.freephotos.com

ArtFavor.com – ArtFavor contains a limited selection of small high-quality photographs. The images are not available for commercial use. ArtFavor – http://www.artfavor.com/types.php?type=12

FreeDigitalPhotos.net – The photos on Free Digital Photos can be used for commercial and non commercial interests. If the images are used for promotional items (greeting cards, mugs, t-shirts, screen savers) there is a $ 20.00 charge for the use of each image. Some images also stipulate that they require a link back to the FreeDigitalPhotos website. Free Digital Photos – http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

FreePhotosBank.com – Free Photos Bank is a collaborative website with a number of attractive photos. Photos contained on the Free Photos Bank are from a variety of photographers and the reprint permissions may vary. Free Photos Bank – http://www.freephotosbank.com

DesignPacks.com – Design Packs offers free, high-quality image collections that can be used in both personal and commercial web design projects. Each collection features a group of 15 images that share a common theme. Design Packs – http://www.designpacks.com

ShutterStock – Shutterstock is a large subscription-based stock photo agency. They have an outstanding collection of premium, royalty-free photographs, illustrations, and vectors. Subscription can be purchased for $ 199.00 – $1,999.00 and allow subscribers to download up to 25 images per day. ShutterStock – http://www.shutterstock.com/

ComStock – ComStock contains a large collection of royalty-free images. ComStock offers three purchase options images can be purchased individually, CD options are available or publishers can purchase a subscription for $299 – $1999.00 which allows them to download up to 50 images per day. ComStock – http://www.comstock.com

These are all a number of options available for webmasters and publishers in need of images for marketing campaigns or packaging. Regardless of the website selected, be sure to read the agreement terms carefully to ensure that you are adhering to the guidelines.

Basic steps for creating a good website

The first point you should consider is understanding what information your website should contain. In most cases your website should have at least the following basic structure:
Home page

An introduction to your business, services and / or products About page – An overview of your business, future vision Services / Product page – An overview of your services / products Contact page – Provide all your business contact information, address, email, telephone, fax

There are many other web pages which you can add to your website but these pages will be determined by the type of business you own. Below are examples of other pages you may require for your website:
Resources page

A resource page can be used to structure information in to categories, this information can then be downloaded by website users. You can also charge a fee for users which want to obtain this information. In most cases free download information is a very useful method of driving web traffic to your website. The resources can be in different formats such as a word document, pdf document, video clip, audio clip, graphic file, power point presentation, there are many formats which can be used to deliver information to your website users. Informative download information is a great way to advertise your business, especially if the information your provide is free, this is also know as viral marketing.
Image gallery page

An image gallery page is a good way to visually present your business, for example if you are a property developer you may want to show before and after images of a property development or if your are a photographer you may want to compile a gallery of images in to categories which would provide a good method of demonstrating your work.
Payment processing page

A basic payment processing page can be a useful mechanism for accepting payments from your clients. More advanced payment processing is know as ecommerce. There are many payment processing providers such as PayPal or Google checkout. In most cases these payment processing providers will only charge a fee if a payment is made. Most banking payment processing has a monthly fee so you should consider and research which is the most cost effective for your business.

The above pages listed are only a few example of how you can create more interacting on your website. A good way to find out what else you can achieve is to simply look at what your competitors are doing.

Listed below are some of the most common requirements for an effective website:
Meta Tag Data

Meta tag data is used by search engines to find and correctly catalog your website. It is very important that the meta tag data you add to your website is relevant to your business. There are three main types of meta tag data:
Title Tag

The title tag is important for website design search engine optimisation. The title tag is used to form a part of a search engine result. It is important to keep your title tag short but also try to list the most common keywords in your web page title tag. Each web page on your website can contain a different title tag.
Keyword Tag

The keyword tag contains words or phrases that potential visitors will use in search engines to find your business website. The main text on your website should also contain these keywords. Each page on your website should focus on a specific keyword and the text information on this page should reflect against this chosen keyword.
Description Tag

The description tag is normally placed under your title tag and should contain a short description about your business. This is an opportunity for you to sell your products and services to your potential clients. Search engines use the description tag to form a basic description of your business in search results. It is advisable to keep your description tag short and straight to the point. Get your message about your business within the first two lines of description text.
Fonts

Keep your fonts (text type) simple. I would recommend Verdana or Arial font types. These fonts are easy and clear to read. Avoid fancy fonts which are difficult to read as this will only distract a user from the key information you are emphasising.
Colours

Use high contrast colour combinations on your website, for example if your background is a light colour use a dark colour for the text. I would recommend an off white colour for the background and a dark grey (all most black) colour for the text.
Compress your images

When adding images to your website it is advisable to compress the images using a graphic application. Your images should be set to 72dpi (dots per inch) for displaying on a computer monitor, high resolutions on a website pages will not affect the quality of the image being displayed. You should save your images using , .jpg or .gif format which are the most common format used when adding images to your website. .jpg images are suitable for complex images and .gif are suitable for simple banner of title images.
Designing your website template

In most cases it is advisable to design your website for 15″ monitor which use an 800 x 600 screen resolution. Although you may have a large screen monitor, many of your website visitors may have a smaller screen size, by creating a website based on a smaller resolution you will be giving all your website users access to a website which can be viewed on any monitor size. In some cases you may require more space for your website so I higher resolution design will be required, this is OK but you should always consider the end user (website visitor) before making this decision. It is also possible to create a website which dynamically changes size based on the monitor size of the user but you normally loose a lot of control over the content layout when creating such a solution.

The above comments are only the basic considerations you should make before developing a website. Below I have listed some informative websites where you can obtain more information. A good web development company will provide free consultancy at the initial stages of developing your website.

http://www.w3schools.com/html/default.asp

http://www.htmlgoodies.com/primers/html/

http://www.htmlcodetutorial.com/

You can find many other website development resources by simply visiting your favorite search engine and typing in “website development help”.

How To Incease Website Traffic Without Breaking The Bank

Internet marketers often struggle with how to increase website traffic. Most internet marketers do not want to wait to increase website traffic.

To increase your website traffic you will need to provide your visitors with good, useful information, whether you are trying to sell them something or simply entertain them.

One effective method to increase website traffic is by having a search engine discover your website link on another website, versus submitting your link manually. This is because search engines like to see that other websites link to yours, and especially websites that are similar to yours (talks about the same thing).

Here are seventeen online and offline methods that will help you increase website traffic.

1. Offer free, original, and quality content on your site. This is, by far, the single most traffic-generating activity you can take part in.

* Make sure the content is helpful to your visitors. Provide your visitors the information they need to achieve their goal or solve their problem.

* Create a fresh piece of content every two days if you can, or at least once a week.

* Do not use content generators.

2. Focus your content on keywords related to your topic.

3. Start a newsletter for your web site. When people read each issue they’ll be reminded to revisit your web site. Submit it to all the free e-zine directories on the internet.

4. Submit original articles to e-zines, web sites and magazines that accept article submissions. Include your business information and web address in a resource box. This is a great way to increase website traffic.

5. Start a blog. Post original content and articles at least twice a week and ping your blog when you post to it.

6. Give away an electronic freebie (like an eBook) with your ad on it. Allow your visitors to also give the freebie away.

7. Exchange links with other web sites that are closely related to the subject of your web site.

8. Participate in forums. Post answers to other people’s questions, ask questions and post appropriate information. Include your signature file containing your website’s URL at the end of all your postings.

9. Start your own online discussion community.

10. Hold free online classes or seminars. You will become known as an expert on the topic.

11. Get some vinyl decals or bumper stickers created and turn your car into a moving advertisement for your web site.

12. Use word of mouth. Tell everyone you know about your website, give out business cards to passers-by in the street, and so on.

13. Give visitors a free entry into a contest or sweepstakes.

14. Let visitors download free software such as freeware, shareware, demos etc.

15. Offer free online services or utilities from your website.

16. Give free consulting to people who visit your web site.

17. Put key words and phrases in bold or italics,

With consistent effort and some ingenuity, you can increase website traffic without breaking the bank.

Logo Design – It’s Not About Your Personal Choice

As an entrepreneur, one of the most important business decisions is choosing the right logo design. Irrespective of the fact whether a logo is designed by some hired professionals or is an in-house development of the organization, certain crucial and important decisions has to be made. Whatever happens, an entrepreneur will always want his logo to work well for his company. And it is true that a logo can prove to be an important factor for the success of a business or organization.

However, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of choosing their logo on the basis of their personal preferences. But personal preferences should rather be left alone when deciding on the right logo design for a company.

While designing a logo certain factors should be kept in mind. And these factors become more important than personal preferences or likings. It would decide whether the logo would actually work well enough for the company and help spread its visual branding successfully and smoothly. Ideally, a logo design should be made keeping the company’s clients and competitors in mind. So, what’s the best way to decide on your logo design?

Firstly, brand definition. A company’s brand definition should ideally guide the design of all the brand identity materials, starting with the logo. However, the most important things to determine before designing your logo will be:
1. Who you are, what are your business’ mission, vision and purpose?
2. What you do, i.e. what are the products and services that you deliver?
3. What makes you different from your competition?
4. Who you look to cater, or your target audience.

Then segregate your full brand definition down to the most essential elements. Logos are small. Creating a clean and straightforward logo is essential to making sure that it communicates well. Most brand definitions are complex. Trying to pack too many details into a logo can create a mess.

Keep your brand definition in mind as you design your logo. Think about every choice you make and how it affects your logo’s icon, font choice and color scheme. A logo has to connect with the clients. The design and overall feel of the logo has to communicate to them. Their perspective is more important.

Thus a logo designed on the basis of personal choice, liking or preference cannot carry off the company’s mission statement to the clients. So the best practice is always to think from the client’s perspective while choosing a logo design. These steps would not allow a logo design that would always be according to the personal choice or likings of an entrepreneur. But they are essential for having a successful logo and a successful company.

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