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Big Business Web Design Disasters June 17, 2007

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by: Joel Walsh

When you think of the world’s most successful businesses, what names come to mind? Most likely, consumer-oriented giants such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Sheraton, Disney, IBM, and General Electric. Not only have they spent billions on advertising to buy their way into your head. They offer convenient products and services that have made them a part of your life.But when you think of the most successful web sites, what names come to mind? Names like Google, Yahoo! Amazon, AOL, Kazaa (for better or worse), and Hotmail.The late-1990s mantra about the web being a disruptive technology that would destroy traditional companies may have been overstated. But a decade and a half into the web’s existence, it is clear that the world’s leading corporations have been sidelined on the web.The biggest shopping site is not walmart.com but amazon.com. The biggest map site is not randmcnally.com but mapquest.com.

Established companies have usually only been able to buy their way into this market through acquisitions (as with Microsoft’s purchase of Hotmail, which it used as a base for creating MSN).

Why, with few exceptions, were the world’s most successful web sites not launched by the world’s most successful corporations?

Many Big Name Companies’ Web Sites a Vast Waste of Time for Visitors

Search Engines Optimization vs Design March 3, 2007

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Design VS. SEO: Can My Site Look Good and Rank Well?

by: John Krycek

Do you have to sacrifice all of the creative and artistic elements of your web site to rank in the search engines? Later in this article I’ll show you a real case scenario and the design and SEO approach used.

Thanks to the birth of professional search engine marketers the top ranks are saturated with the pages of companies that can pay for such insight. That said, it’s certainly possible to employ high ranking tactics in your own website. Actually, the most basic tactics can move you up from an 800 position to a 300. However, it’s the top of the scale where efforts seem almost inversely exponential or logarithmic, you put a ton in to see a tiny change in rank.

How do you meld the ambitious overhauls required to attain significant ranking and NOT compromise the design of your site?

DESIGN CAN’T BE IGNORED

If you have an existing site, you’ve probably tied it into your existing promotional content. Even if you’ve allowed your website to cater to the more free form of the net, it should still be designed as a recognizable extension of your business.

The reasons for doing so are valid, and can’t simply be ignored for the sake of achieving a first age position, can they? If your research into search optimization leaves you shuffling around thoughts of content, keyword saturated copy and varying link text, you are correctly understanding some of the basic pillars of search engine optimization.

And, you aren’t alone if you have this disheartening thought—If I do all this SEO stuff and reach number one across the board, who would stay at my site because it’s so stale and boring I’m even embarrassed to send people there!

There are two ways to successfully combine design and SEO. The first is to be a blue chip and/or Fortune 500 company with multi million dollar advertising and branding budgets to deliver your website address via television, radio, billboards, PR parties and giveaways with your logo.

Since chances are that’s not you, and certainly not me, lets look at the second option. It begins with some research into your market, some thoughtful and creative planning, and a designer who is a search engine optimizer, and understands at least basic CSS and HTML programming techniques. Or a combination of people with these skills that can work very well together.

DESIGN IS FOR BROCHURES, INSTANT RESULTS ARE FOR THE WEB

That’s not the whole truth, but it will help compare and contrast design and SEO. In reality, SEO needs the quantity and detail of supporting text that a brochure has, but good web design has to catch a viewer’s attention in 5 seconds. It’s pretty difficult to read and absorb the content of an entire brochure in less than 5 seconds.

Search engines need rich, related, appropriate, changing and poignant content. And for them to rank you, all of that must be on your pages. But if it’s not well organized and broken down into bite size chunks, no one is going to bother learning about what you’re offering.

CONSTRUCTION 101- ATTRACTIVE DESIGN AND SEO

Sadly, it’s very difficult to optimize a site without completely overhauling it. You’ll soon understand why. Design and SEO must be strongly rooted into every aspect of each other, possessing a true, symbiotic relationship. Lets look at a simplified example of this. Lets say you are optimizing a page for the keyword phrase, “pumpkin bread recipe.”

From a design standpoint “Pumpkin Bread Recipe” would be the heading for the page, in a nice, readable font with the words perhaps an orange-brown color. And lets add a fine, green rule around it.

There are many ways to create that simple, colored heading. However, there is only one way that is best for both design and SEO. That is to use Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS. In addition, that line of code containing “Pumpkin Bread Recipe” needs to be as close to the top of the page as possible (which CSS also allows).

To a viewer, the recipe text might be read more if it were located to the right of a photo of a buttered piece of pumpkin bread on a small plate next to a lightly steaming cup of coffee.

SEO needs to read that ingredient list and baking instructions. Search engines now understand on a rudimentary level that the ingredients are indeed related to the optimized words- pumpkin bread recipe.

Additionally, it would take many extra lines of code to make a table in this example if you didn’t use CSS. Search engines don’t like extra code. In fact, given enough times, that “extra” code will make the keyword phrases seem less important and hurt rank.

Note: In the page code, a few thousand characters more than you need to get all of that content organized would normally just add to your page load time, and might be acceptable. But to a search engine, that time can really add up. It wont read through page after page, site after site, billionth after billionth character of unimportant code to find the relevant text. Therefore, the less code, the better your chances. Moral- Less code, more content.

SEO USUALLY MEANS REDO

In the previous pumpkin example, CSS will eliminate the need for almost any extra code at all, and provide the means to place the text to the right of the photo.

Now, imagine that someone had already created this page, but done so using other programming methods. The page could very well be W3C compliant, well programmed and got the job done. However, without designing and programming for optimization as in the above illustration, the end result would have no significant rank compared to others that do.

You can be sure that there exist at least 30 web sites built to rank for the keywords “pumpkin bread recipe”. Note- why did I use the number 30? It’s safe to assume if you’re not on the first three results pages of a search, you’re not being seen.

While this is a simple example, hopefully you understand that it would be impossible to optimize this simple page without redoing it. This isn’t always the case, but extrapolate this into detailed, multiple pages in an entire website and the issue is greatly magnified.

AESTHETIC IMPORTANCE VS. TRAFFIC

Everyone has an idea of what they want their site to look like. The pretty factor- splash pages, cool flash and graphics must now be justified as to their importance to the bottom line. If you want/need to establish an online presence, you will have to make some compromises in these areas.

Understand exactly the role your site should play in your company marketing.

Ask- What is the goal of your website and who is its audience? Is it for existing clients to see? Is it to reach new clients? To venture into yet untapped market segments?

Ask- How strongly do your other marketing efforts promote your site?

Ask- Is your website an extension of your existing collateral that must reflect the same graphical look?

Ask- Is your website meant to assist to your sales force or is it your sales force?

Chances are you wont have any single answers. That’s ok. It will give you some meat for your designer/SEO to digest and develop a solution for you.

REAL CASE OF DESIGN BALANCED WITH SEO AND SALABILITY

If you sell jewelry solely online, you must have a catalog of exceptional photography and detailed, high-resolution close up images. But, you must be optimized and rank well if you want to sell any of that jewelry.

If such a company approached me with this project, my recommendation would be this: If you sell a product, people have to see that product. Lots of good images. The site should be slick and sheik and easy to navigate. The home page has to capture the buyer’s attention. If it’s very expensive jewelry, the site should have a lot of class and elegance. If it’s home made jewelry, the site shouldn’t look home made.

However, as you have no store front, if the online community can’t find you, you’re business will fail. So I’d have a very optimized home page with some discussion of the quality of your product, the history of your company, etc. This is also great sales copy. Ad a few special catalog pieces with descriptions below some smartly placed gifs, jpegs and readable type graphics built out of CSS and you’ve got a cool to look at, content rich, well optimized layout.

I’d make the link to your catalog very obvious and prominent. Note the catalog is not the homepage. I’d also include subsequent well written, in depth pages about the history of some specific pieces. Load them with targeted keywords and a few images. Again, make your catalog link very prominent. In doing so you’re creating relevant content for search engines AND providing additional pages that can rank.

The catalog can be database driven, simple and changeable, and you have the foundation to build your search rank.

PLANNING YOUR SITE

If your designer is not a search engine optimizer, hire one to work with your designer from the initial development stage of your site. If you would like a visible presence that is not dependant on traditional marketing efforts to get your name around, then you will have to optimize.

However, with advances in html and css, text itself can be a very flexible and attractive design element with endless possibilities. Site optimization consists of some rigid, unbendable rules. It can be intertwined successfully with very creative and attractive design. If your Designer and SEO aren’t the same person or company, make sure they have the same, close working relationship.

About the author:
John Krycek is a creative director at theMouseworks.ca
Toronto website design.. Learn more about search engine optimization, internet marketing, web development and graphic design in easy, non-technical, up front English at http://www.themouseworks.ca!

Website Glossary February 27, 2007

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Website terms that we use a lot in web design world.

ASP (Active Server Page)
Active Server Pages, is a technology that enables you to make dynamic and interactive web pages.

Banner
A banner is a graphic image (static, animated, or rich media) that is placed on emails and web sites as an advertisement. Banners are commonly used for marketing purposes, brand awareness and generating sales.

Bitmap Image (bmp)
A raster graphics image, digital image, or bitmap, is a data file graphic image stored as a specific arrangement of screen dots, or pixels. A graphic which is defined by specifying the colors of dots or pixels which make up the picture. Examples: GIF, JPEG, Photoshop, PCX, TIFF.

CSS
Cascading Style Sheet, a feature of HTML developed by the W3C. With Cascading Style sheets, both web designers and end users can create style templates (sheet) that specifies how different text elements (paragraphs, headings, hyperlinks, etc.) appear on a web page. Currently, CSS is not displayed exactly the same in all browsers.

Doorway Pages
Web pages as entrances to the website, created specifically for search engine positions.

Flash
Vector graphic animation software from Adobe, a multimedia authoring program used to create content such as web applications, games and movies, needs plug-in (free).

Forms
HTML tags that define and label text-entry boxes, check boxes, radio buttons, and/or drop-down menus to create simple on-screen forms for collecting information from the viewer.

FTP
File Transfer Protocol. (HTML-documents, graphic images, spreadsheets) from one computer to another via the Internet, mostly used for transferring files to the web servers.

GIF
Graphics Interchange Format. GIF images are the most widely used graphic format on the web. GIF images display up to 256 colors, good for line arts.

HTML
Abbreviation for Hypertext Markup Language; a cross-platform text-formatting system for creating web pages, including copy, images, sounds, frames, animation etc.

Hyperlink
A hyperlink, more commonly called a link, is an electronic connection between one web page to either (1) other web pages on the same web site, or (2) web pages located on another web site. More specifically, a hyperlink is a connection between one page of a hypertext document to another.

JavaScript
JavaScript is a scripting language developed by Netscape. JavaScript can make web pages more animated and dynamic in terms of graphics and navigation. One example of JavaScript effects is called a mouseover, and drop-down menus.

JPEG
Joint Photographic Experts Group. File format for full-color and black-and-white graphic images. JPEG images allow for more colors than GIF images and good for photographs.

Meta-tag
Meta-tags are HTML tags for keywords and description of the page, etc. The most common use of a meta-tag in online marketing is the keyword and description tags, for search engines query results.

Multimedia
Communication in form of combining text with graphics, page layout, video, audio, animation, etc.

PDF
Portable Document Format. Created by software program Adobe Acrobat, PDF reader (free) is needed to be able to open the pdf files.

PHP
Stands for Hypertext Pre-Processor.

Plug-In
A software extension that provides added capabilities to the browser, for purposes such as viewing, hearing, or saving specially formatted files.

PNG
Portable Network Graphics format, or “ping.” PNG is used for lossless compression and displaying images on the web. The advantages of PNG is that it supports images with millions of colors and produces background transparency without jagged edges. The disadvantages are that PNG images will not show up on older browsers, and still can be comparatively larger in file size than GIFs.

Search Engines
A search engine is a program designed to find information stored on the World Wide Web or computer.

Spider/Robot
A software program that search engines use by visiting every site on the web, to follows all of the links, and indexing all of the text of every web page. Robot can’t crawl the secured pages.

Vector Graphic
A graphic image drawn in shapes and lines, called paths. Software used: Illustrator, Auto CAD, etc.
 

Logo Design Gallery October 4, 2006

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Your logo. Your brochures. Your websites. They’re all a reflection of your company.  It shows how good your company are,  and at a glance shows where you are compared with your competitor. It is very important to show your best.

We offer unique, one of a kind and impressive logo design, please visit our logo design gallery at:

http://www.virtualbrush.com/logo.htm

Any comment or question, please let us know. Thank you.

The Apprentice February 2, 2006

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We would like to welcome Ms. Milkyway Stealer of Hearts as our new Director of Hospitality. Woof woof…Milkyway Stealer of Hearts

Hello guests! February 2, 2006

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Virtual Brush will help you creating beautiful and sophisticated web design for a long lasting impression.

We specialize in Small Business Web Design, Redesign, E-commerce, Brochure Design, Logo Design, Business Card and Other Print Design.