WordPress Security Updates & What You Need to Know

The Importance of Cybersecurity 

Normally, scoring an 8 out of 10 isn’t bad. That’s an A or an A- by most academic standards. 

Unfortunately, when the United States Government National Vulnerability Database starts awarding your software 8.8s and even 9.8s for critical exploitable vulnerability, that isn’t the case. 

Such was WordPress’s unfortunate example early in January, when an outsider discovered a series of potentially devastating flaws in the WordPress core itself. These oversights – if left alone – might have led to millions of users having their private information stolen. 

Thankfully, WordPress has since announced that they have patched the vulnerabilities, and you can rest assured that our digital team has already updated and safeguarded our WordPress developments, too. But the affair highlights the importance of a thorough process and having the right cybersecurity in place. Let’s start from the beginning. 

 

What Is WordPress?  

WordPress is an open-source content management system used in the construction of websites. Evolving out of a blog publishing system, WordPress now supports other web content types such as mailing lists, forums, media galleries, membership sites, learning management systems, and online stores. Because of its plugin architecture and template system, WordPress is extremely flexible and easy to use, which has led to widespread popularity. As of October 2021, a massive 42.8% of the top ten million websites use WordPress in some capacity. 

Given its versatility, WJ’s digital team uses WordPress frequently. To date, we have delivered over 40 websites to satisfied clients based around the WordPress framework – Energy Resourcing, the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, and STARS Air Ambulance among them. 

 

What Happened With WordPress?

Four main issues were discovered in the WordPress core: 

  • SQL Injection due to improper sanitization in WP_Meta_Query 
  • SQL Injection through WP_Query or plugins or themes used in certain ways 
  • Authenticated Object Injection in Multisites 
  • Stored XSS through authenticated users 

If you didn’t understand that, that’s okay – chances are you aren’t a digital developer. Fortunately, we happen to have a skilled team of devs on hand at WJ, including our Director of Digital and Technology Jason Kessler. He translated the above: 

“SQL stands for Structured Query Language. This basically means it is used to query data contained in a database. While it has many more uses, for the everyday user it would mostly concern a username and password. SQL injection is a method of taking SQL and using it to maliciously attack a website in an attempt to tamper with data, spoof identities, or steal information. Normally, SQL is completely deleted to prevent this from happening, but the WordPress core was discovered to be improperly sanitizing its records. To the right parties, this essentially left the keys in the ignition to millions of websites.” 

So, hackers could have potentially had access to immense amounts of data stored within websites using WordPress databases – personal information, financial details, medical records, browsing habits, you name it.  

Yikes. 

 

What Caused the Problem?

Like any digital developer, the people behind WordPress try to keep to a steady release schedule. Version 5.9 of WordPress was scheduled for release in 2021. There was great expectation surrounding the release, as 5.9 promised to allow users full site block editing capabilities. This would essentially allow complete customization of every aspect of a website, something WordPress’s template-based system had previously been criticized for. 

However, the team ran into problems and had to postpone the release. With such high demand, they were pushed hard to meet the deadline. They continued to barrel forward, even when their own developers began raising large red flags about possible security concerns 

Essentially, they fell victim to this familiar Venn diagram:

 

The Takeaway

So, what’s the lesson we can learn from this whole situation?  

These circumstances show the importance of a solid foundation when constructing digital developments. There is a world of hostile parties out there looking to steal and exploit. Fortunately, in this scenario, the threat was removed before any serious damage was done. However, the potential for disaster remains in the future when corners are cut.  

We never cut corners at WJ. We deliver quality websites that are attractive, functional, and – of course – secure. We even offer ongoing security audits and patches in order to protect your data and keep your site compliant with due diligence requirements. If your company is looking to update your online presence, our digital team is always here to help you design something special.  

Why Website Maintenance is Important for Businesses

Your website is the main tool for generating purchases and leads of products and services. If your website is not functioning properly, looks outdated, or is hard to read, you will lose a key market of purchasers. How did we get here? Read the history of websites, where we are going, and what you need to do below.  

 

History of Websites

The first webpage was published to the World Wide Web (WW3) on August 6, 1991, by Tim Burners-Lee and provided step-by-step instructions on how to create webpages. From that first page, websites – and the online user experience (UX) – grew exponentially over the next 30 years, and as the web flourished, so did the user experience, eventually incorporating advanced design, copy, and functionality.  

  
Web Design History Timeline. (from https://www.webdesignmuseum.org/web-design-history )

 

Search engines, like Archie and Google, were soon created to help users find the information they wanted. Here is a quick, 30-second summary of three decades of history for marketers and business owners:  

      • 1990 – The first browser and search engine are created and published to the WW3 with basic page functions, minimal design, and a focus on function over form.
      • 1995 – Setting the bar for web design and UX/CX – Jeffery Zeldman and Alec Pollak developed the Batman Forever movie website to connect with fans across the world. This is considered the first instance of using the web for marketing purposes.
      • 1998 – Web design communities and programs start sprouting up, and sites start to become more visually engaging, in contrast to the then standard grey or white background with black, blue, or purple text (at WJ, we don’t miss the purple text). 
      • 2001 – Audi builds a new customer experience (CX) by creating a partially responsive website where content is modified based on the size of the web browser window. 
      • 2005 – Google Analytics launches and is still the most popular tool for capturing user behaviours and traffic.  
      • 2009 – Facebook introduces the “Like” button – paving the way for other sites to introduce real-time interactions with their users and layered widget functionalities.   

We have come a long way from the first websites that prioritized function over form. The WW3 is now an oversaturated space, with millions of pages competing for attention. As websites rapidly evolve to stay relevant in the digital space, marketing must do the same.   

 

Future of Websites

Since the World Wide Web project (is a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents – ergo the project that initiated the internet) web design, user experience, SEO, and digital marketing have taken off. Building a site is no longer about simply delivering information to users. Adding design elements and focusing on user experience can mean the difference between a sale for you and one for a competitor.   

Today, UX is at the forefront of every marketer’s mind. How do we create an emotional connection with our target markets that leads to brand retention and lead generation? In the world of website evolution, there are three key aspects: design, copy, and functionality. These three evolutionary elements work together to create an enjoyable user experience that efficiently solves problems. Let’s explore upcoming trends and different components you must keep in mind while maintaining (or upgrading) your website. 

 

Design 

With the increase of website and online advertising, Canada’s Accessibility Act was created, affecting websites again. On top of creating a seamless UX experience in which information is easy to find, it must also be findable by all people – including people with disabilities. This, in turn, has created conversation around neumorphism 

Neumorphism is the latest buzzword – moving away from flat representations of icons, buttons, and functions and toward “something mid-way to realism” with selective shadows (embossing effects) and flat colours.  While this trend is ultimately satisfying to look at and pleasing to use, it may affect your site’s accessibility as it reduces contrast overall.  

 

Neumorphism in user interfaces. (from https://uxdesign.cc/neumorphism-in-user-interfaces-b47cef3bf3a6)

 

Remember, to work with all people, website designs must be more than pretty. They must be functional to create an emotional human connection that influences outcomes. 
 

Copy 

Language is powerful. The words we use to communicate ideas and inspire action are important when pushing a user through the online purchasing funnel. Furthermore, the words used in your website copy will determine its ranking in search engine results. This is why thinking of SEO in paragraphs and titles is important. Write menu titles that are more direct, and that are not so abstractly creative that users leave your site out of frustration. Your words can change a user’s mind in mere milliseconds, whether to stay or to go – and you want them to stay. Furthermore, too much copy can interrupt the function of the website. It must work with the design and function to create a smooth experience for customers from beginning to end.  

 

Functionality 

Do you dislike when you ask your kids to wash the dishes, and they just run it under some water so they can return to playing? Technically, they did the job, but the result led you to have a poor overall experience. So do your website users. When we think of website functionality, it needs to do what we ask our users to action. If you say, “Buy this Service, Click Here”, the website will need to have a button that leads them to a shop where they can purchase the service. This means that as websites evolved, functionalities like animated buttons, chat bots, online shops, and scrolling were invented to keep up.  

For example, scrolling animations are a great way to keep your users from “bouncing’ too soon. It increases interaction and creates a sort of visual feedback loop for users to engage with. Whether your site’s scroll function is as simple as moving text/image elements or as complex as making a scroll feel like a whole new page, it’s an easy element to adopt, paired with huge engagement benefits. Although these trending website applications feel exciting, strategic decisions need to factor in design and copy before implementing something just because it ‘looks cool’. This means ongoing website audits, maintenance and strategy is vital for every business to thrive.  

 

WJ is Here to Help

Everyone (even the dog) has a website. The COVID-19 pandemic showed businesses and marketers the importance of having an online presence to keep the lights on. Outranking competing websites in an ever-changing search engine algorithm requires ongoing maintenance and deliberate assessments. Ensuring a positive user experience in the chaotic digital environment can feel daunting. As marketing jargon floats around in conversations, and opinions are offered about your site – you wonder, “What is right?” WJ is an extension of your team, able to amplify your organizational objectives with industry leaders helping you every step of the way.  

Why Invest in a Website?

When you’re getting your business off the ground, you’re likely to wonder what kind of assets you will need to have the biggest impact. Your business cards and brochures were a breeze – but what comes next? 

With many smaller organizations using only their social profiles online, the temptation to do the same can be strong, especially when the amount of work that goes into a fully custom-built site becomes clear. You may thinkis it worth the time and money? Why do I even need a website? What benefits will it bring? 

Well, the short answer is that a website is a vital and efficient connection to your prospects, customers, associates, and suppliers. When one is designed to meet your vision and your audience’s needs, it makes your operations vastly easier and paves the way to greater profitability. 

 

Benefits of Building a Business Website 

The most important thing to understand about any marketing channel – be that a website, social media, or a separate digital marketing strategy  is the overall benefits it will bring to you and your customers. In the age of modern marketing, the advantages of having a website are hard to overstate, and are often downright necessary. 

 

The benefits for your customers 

Customers and clients are what drives your business forward, and you need them to keep operating. So why not make it as easy as possible for them to support and connect with you? One of the most thorough and effective ways to do this is through a website. 

Websites allow prospects to research your business and your brand before they contact you, on a timeline that works for them. The information they receive can easily be updated to stay relevant, and they have 24-hour access that is not limited by your employees’ schedules. Your online presence also gives an intangible element of trust, sparking the foundation of a strong relationship that may have otherwise been lost. 

In an online world, a great website that satisfies the needs of your audience is an excellent lead generation and capture tool. To make the most of this, you want a website that: 

  • Provides a lot of valuable, useful information in an engaging way 
  • Helps foster an online community where like-minded people can interact 
  • Simplifies and secures the online transaction process, allowing people to conveniently buy your products and services 

A small business website – especially when combined with a good SEO strategy, slick web design, and strong brand visuals and language – is a 24/7 salesperson that is always acting in your best interest.   

 

The benefits for your business 

So, creating a website is good for your customers – but is it good for you? Does it make your operations easier, or save you money in the long run? As it turns out, websites are not only great sales tools, but they improve communications, increase efficiency, and create excellent opportunities to stand above your competition. 

Because they are always available, you save both time and money with customer service tools like submission forms and help requests. This is incredibly useful for small businesses, who likely do not have the extra funds to hire for a dedicated customer support role. Additionally, the ability to update or modify a website from any computer means that you can not only keep your customers informed and engaged, but also that doing so is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional tactics like physical mailouts. 

Finally, a website will allow you to clearly state and support the reasons why you stand out from your competitors, and identify what potential buyers will gain by choosing you over another organization. Laying out a compelling, differentiated brand, a smooth sales funnel, and the right functionality and resources makes it easy for people to see your value and make a decision on their own. 

 

The benefits for digital advertising 

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of having a website ties into both of these prior concepts in turn. With a site, you gain the ability to implement an enhanced digital marketing strategy. From exactingly precise key audience selection, to 1,000%+ ROIs, to retargeting that entices people back again and again, the e-commerce possibilities unlocked by your website are endless. 

With the right optimizations and strategic direction, your website will pop up early in the results for critical key words in your industry, and anyone who visits your site once can be “tagged” and prioritized in further marketing efforts. From anywhere in the world, you can serve web-only promotions or discounts to visitors, or use drop-shipping to fulfill orders without needing a whole warehouse of stocked itemsAs your customer list grows, your network of marketing contacts will expand, too, constantly refining and improving. If you like, you can even earn revenue from ad placements on your website, to help offset the cost of web hosting and server fees (though that’s entirely up to you). 

 

How to Build a Successful Website 

With so many different types of businesses serving so many industries, there is no single “correct” way to build a site for you. It will depend on your goals, your budget, and your abilities. The most important thing to know, before you start buying domain names and searching for web developers, is that research and data are the keys to success. 

Research of all kinds – customer research, market research, competition research – is what will help you focus your efforts for the best results. And, if you have set a clear website objective from the start, knowing how to measure those results is simple. Applying these two factors together, and consistently and constantly optimizing, will streamline your website’s performance. Just remember, this is not a one-off process – it does require some monitoring, as the internet is an ever-changing place. 

There are some website best practices that can be broadly applied to any website and industry, which should supply you with the information you need: 

  • Define project goals and objectives 
  • Develop audience personas 
  • Create a journey map 
  • Identify key channels 
  • Develop a content strategy 
  • Develop a content calendar 
  • Plan resources 
  • Measure results 

With these tools and tips at your disposal, investing in a high-performing website becomes much less challenging and much more rewarding. If you need any additional insights on the website-building process and how to do it effectively, remember that you can always reach out on ours to get a helping hand! 

Does Your Website Suck?

We hate to tell you this, but your website sucks. Well, okay – sorry. We take that back. We don’t know for sure if your website sucks, but odds are pretty good if you’re still with us after that rather brutal and insulting opening sentence, you already know the sad truth: your website isn’t a stellar example of online excellence. It’s not representative of your brand, and it definitely isn’t pulling its weight when it comes to growing your business and generating sales. Don’t worry. We’ve looked at a lot of websites and have developed hundreds more. Believe us when we say plenty of websites fall heavily into ‘sucking’ territory. Your terrible website is in good, albeit unfortunate company.

Whether or not your website sucks, the real question is, why does your website suck? Well, it’s likely for a lot of reasons, to be honest. But let’s start with the most basic: Your website sucks because you had no idea why you were creating it in the first place. Oh sure, every Tom, Dick and Harry were creating websites when you decided to create yours, but in your fervor to keep up with those guys, you neglected to put any real thought into what you needed your website to do. Did you develop a business plan before you started your business? It’s the same principle. Without a clearly defined online strategy, your website is almost guaranteed to not function as it should.

Another reason your website sucks is because users can’t find what they’re looking for when they visit it – if in fact, they can find your website at all. In other words, your access and navigation needs some serious love and attention. There are tricks to the trade that eliminate the risk of being missed on a Google search and minimizing user frustration once they find you. If you don’t know those tricks or don’t use them, your visitors will likely get frustrated and leave before they are able to find the information they came for.

Speaking of content, your website sucks because you hired a $100 designer but used a .10¢ content writer. Let’s be clear: websites need to look appealing, but the key to their effectiveness is strong, engaging content. If you outsource your content to some foreign mass production house or hire a writer with little to no online experience, your website is going to take a serious hit.

Did you let your ego get in the way of making your website great? It’s a mistake to think that you know what users want from your website just because you own the business. You are not your customers. If you want to develop a website that truly appeals to them, one that meets their expectations and encourages them to spend money with you, it’s essential that you gather key insights on your target market. No proven user insights = a website that sucks.

You know why else your website sucks? You didn’t take mobile devices into consideration when you created it. Navigating on a smart phone is completely different than navigating on a desktop or laptop computer. If you don’t have applications for both, your website sucks.

And let’s talk about imagery for a second. It’s a widely known truth that people love pictures, but when you cut corners and taint your website with low-resolution, unprofessional photos, you completely crush your organization’s credibility. Of course, we understand the realities of budget, but even if it’s not feasible for your company to hire a photographer to capture original images that match your brand, the world of stock photography is pretty impressive (and a much better alternative than your grainy iPhone photo from three years ago).

Last, but not least (well not really, because we could go on forever with this subject), if your website has any of those kitschy “under construction” or “coming soon” graphics, it completely sucks. Don’t launch a website that’s not ready. It makes you look amateur and you lose credibility with users.

Ready to create a website that absolutely in no way sucks? We can do that for you. Give us a call.

What’s So Important About Your Website?

In a world where everyone spends a good portion of their time online, the importance of having a great web presence can’t be over emphasized. Your company’s website is your first chance to make a good impression. It takes just a fraction of a second for would-be customers to make up their minds about your business based solely on what they see when they click your URL. If your website looks unprofessional or is difficult to navigate, visitors will leave it just as quickly as they found it – or maybe even quicker. Up to 75% of users make judgements on a company’s credibility based on its website, so creating a site that is attractive, engaging, user friendly and contains spot-on branding is essential. In fact, although not having a web presence at all will result in lost sales opportunities, it’s actually more damaging to your business to have a website that leaves users feeling unsure or negative about your company and your brand. Once they do, it’s pretty difficult to win them back again.

If we haven’t convinced you of the importance of a good website already, here’s some stats that will:

  • 94% of website users’ first impressions are design related, and 94% of people say that bad design is the main reason why they either mistrusted or rejected a website.
  • 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the layout is unattractive and the content isn’t compelling.
  • 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if its images take too long to load.
  • Pages that improve load times by just 1 second experience up to 27% higher conversion rates.

As you can see, a well-designed website is worth its weight in gold (or in this case, in the potential sales it can generate.) This is especially true if your business is involved in e-commerce. Let’s face it: window shopping isn’t what it used to be. Most of us go online to do a little research on what we want to buy before we ever set foot inside a brick and mortar store, and depending on the item, we may never even leave home to purchase it. Online shopping is one of the most popular web activities in the world, reaching an astounding $1.55 trillion USD global sales total in 2015. Can you really afford to risk turning off your online customers with a website that doesn’t measure up?

If your website isn’t cutting the mustard, it’s time to make it work to its optimum benefit – with a strategy to grab users’ attention quickly, keep them engaged, get your message across effectively and leave a positive impression that converts to more sales. It’s time to talk to the team at William Joseph.

HTTP vs HTTPs – What Does It Mean For Your Website?

Technology is evolving at a rapid rate. Globally, close to 3.8 billion people use the Internet, which is almost half of the worlds population according to Internet World Stats. The Internet, its infrastructure, and how we as consumers access and connect to information is in an endless state of continuous change. While this presents many opportunities and conveniences in the way that we bank, shop, interact, and consume information, it also presents a new wave of risk. Given the sheer number of worldwide Internet users, it’s no surprise that every day thousands of consumers fall victim to Internet scams, fake or fraudulent websites, or worse, have their data hacked.

With the increasing prevalence of fraudulent websites, hacking, data breaches and cyberattacks, the key to web security is building multiple layers of protection, which is exactly what Google is doing. With a mission to help all consumers and their data to become more protected, Google is beefing up its security with changes to HTTP/HTTPS.

As of October 2017, Google has announced that it is on a mission to decrease the number of HTTP sites as a way of better improving the security of their online user base. Since 2014, Google has made an emphasis to encourage website creators to switch their websites to HTTPS, incentivizing the switch by giving those who switch to HTTPS small ranking boosts.

The difference between HTTP and HTTPS boils down to one element: secure versus not secure.

HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) has no level of encryption between a user and a website. For example, if a website is HTTP, there would be no degree of encryption between you, your data, and the website. That means that if you were to share any personal information, including personal details, credit card information, your email, and so on, it is very possible that this information could be accessed by a third-party somewhere in the non-secure connection that occurs between you and the site. Scary, right?

Luckily, HTTPS, or HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure, is the solution. Sites using HTTPS first encrypt information, and then exchange it. Using HTTPS, computers use a code to scramble messages, data, and information so that no third-party can read the information, keeping it safe and making it extremely difficult to decrypt. HTTPS and codes can only become operational through a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate that ensures the site is securely encrypted. The image below is a great visual representation of this:

Source: Indago Digital

Google has now updated their security so that when a website is classified as HTTP, a warning message will pop up saying the website is “Non-Secure” on both incognito and normal viewing modes in Google Chrome. For those who don’t switch to HTTPS, this message could be a hard-hitting blow to web traffic, impacting click-through rate (CTR) as well as potentially costing sales and brand adoption. Consumers will be more hesitant to enter personal information and payment details on non-secure websites, and could result in higher bounce rates, hesitancy, as well as a complete avoidance of HTTP websites in general. On the other hand, those that do update their HTTP website to HTTPS will display a “Secure” message on Chrome browsers, and will receive a slight rankings boost.

While many appreciate Google’s commitment to the safety and security of its users, the downside of these changes is that there is widespread impact on SEO efforts. Transitioning your website to HTTPS will improve your SEO rankings, and those websites which remain HTTP will likely fall below the rankings.

So, how do you shift your website from HTTP to HTTPS? You’ll need an SSL certificate. While getting an SSL certificate can be done numerous ways, the easiest and most secure way is to go through your host. Depending on your website, your host could be GoDaddy.com, Bluehost or SiteGround. Purchasing an SSL certificate can be fairly affordable depending on your website, its size, and its functionality. However, if you don’t know who your host is, or if you have additional questions, we can help. The team at William Joseph is also able to help you obtain a valid SSL certificate, whether you’re a current client or not.

 

 

 

My Perspective. Your Perspective.

What do you see? A vase or a face!?

A couple months ago, a couple coworkers and I were reminiscing the fun each of us had at “bush parties” back-in-the-day. After a few chuckles and laughs, we realized each of our visualizations of a bush party actually looked very different depending on where we grew up, our lifestyle and perception.

Definition of a bush party by:
·         Rural Saskatchewan Girl – party in an empty field with a bonfire
·         Rural Alberta Boy – party in an empty field/farm
·         Urban Alberta Girl – party in a park with sparse gathering of bushes
·         Rural Ontario Boy – party in a forested area

What does this have to do with marketing, you ask? Well, let’s take this into the web world. One technique may work for one client, where others do not. When I start a website project, I brainstorm ideas specific for the client: what is their industry? Who is their target audience (gender, age)? Any corporate colour themes to be restricted by? Any websites the client likes? The questions are endless! I put myself in other people’s shoes and ask myself “how would so-and-so-from-this-industry-or-age-group-interpret-this?” Age range of users plays a big factor on how fancy or complicated a site can be built.

Another perspective to have is for a Web Developer, like myself (!), to critique the website. Us Web Devs have built many websites in our lifetime; we know what makes sense from a usability standpoint and how design should work in terms of menu layout and functionality. Working with a Creative (graphic designer) will give you design highlights to make the design pop, and their expertise and talent will vary from person-to-person as well.

What do we learn from this? We are who we are from our past and everyone’s perspective will be different. Learn from those around you with the expertise and soak up their talent to the fullest. This is what they do best. Embrace it!

Image References:
http://christianreadsquran.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/bonfire.jpg
http://cwmcdonald.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/fieldjuly7-12-8237.jpg
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/gperidas/media/TarSands_Calgary.jpg
http://eofdreams.com/data_images/dreams/forest/forest-10.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Fs8eMswZ5lA/UFawrcw5OdI/AAAAAAABQE0/8FG_uoEFV0M/s1600/Vase+Face+Illusion.jpeg

Top 10 celebrities that are using WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular and most widely used website tools on the web. It’s been used by tens of millions of people every day since it started in 2003 and the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world. WordPress is a very powerful and easy to use open source content management system and also has a large supporting community. WordPress is also used by so many celebrities out there and here is the top 10 list.

p.s. No, this was not just an excuse to show you a picture of Channing Tatum 🙂 Although, you’re welcome.

1. http://channingtatumunwrapped.com/

2. http://www.howiemandel.com/

3. http://justintimberlake.com/main

4. http://www.katyperry.com/

5. http://kb24.com/

6. http://www.parishilton.com/

7. http://perezhilton.com/

8. http://www.rollingstones.com/

9. http://www.russellbrand.tv/

10. http://williamshatner.com/ws/

Real Estate and Walking Scores…on the web!

If anyone knows me, I am a big real estate buff. I bought my first condo at age 20 and have been fascinated with the industry ever since. Popular areas are more sought after, easy access to major roads and surrounding amenities are also considered. On MLS, there is a somewhat new feature called “Walking Score” which determines how walkable your location is on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is a walker’s paradise. The theory behind this is a walkable neighborhood promotes a healthier lifestyle, greener environment (less Co2 emissions), saves money and builds community.

We can tie this same theory on the web with real estate being the space on a webpage and the walking score as the ease of use for the visitor.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your first impression of this place? In Web: The design of the website should co-exist with your company’s brand definition.
  • Are there amenities around? In Web: The design should have call to action “buckets” in strategically placed locations for easy access.
  • What is the walking score? In Web: The menu navigation needs to be clear so that the user can find the information right away.
  • One-mile in compact neighborhood (walk everywhere) vs. sprawling suburb (drive everywhere). In Web: Having a clear defined site map with not too many sub-levels is very important.

Think of all the details and you won’t be disappointment in the end product, both in buying a home and building a website!

5 Tips to Improve Website Usability

The Internet has changed drastically since I created my first website in 1998. Many of the technologies and processes that exist now did not exist back then. I remember when most websites were built with HTML and an animated .gif would knock your socks off! Here, I will share with you 5 key points that I’ve learned throughout the years to leverage your website to suit your needs.

1. First Impressions
In life, I was taught, “Looks aren’t everything”; but in the online world – looks is a major part of legitimacy of your website. A design that suits your clientele with an easy to navigate menu and strategically organized content will go a long way to achieving your online goals. Ask yourself: Who is your target audience? What are you trying to achieve with a website? Who are your competitors? What is your budget? Being specific in your needs will help make sure you have a solid foundation before embarking on a website build.  A website is just like a house – a strong foundation is critical.

2. Starting pages
Make sure all pages of your website are relevant and to the point.  Every page is your homepage now.   Your actual homepage probably only accounts for less than 40% of incoming visitors. Surprised? Here is an example:

If we search “William Joseph Communications” in a Google search, sometime similar to this (below) will display:

People can click on the contact link and miss the homepage where we showcase material of interest – this is why we’ve integrated content buckets on that page featuring this content in smaller form.   This way, people get what they came for (our contact info) and a little extra by the ability to be quickly transported to our portfolio.  That being said, I’ve analyzed various user-clicking habits in the past and about half the people click on the smaller sub page links. This intrigued me as I usually click on the homepage and from there, navigate through other parts of the website.  It just goes to show that you need to think about all the ways that a user might experience your site, and how and what you want them to take away from it no matter where they enter.

3. Up-to-date content
Love it or hate it, content is king in the online world. Adding quality material to engage consumers is key. The design will intrigue the user, but the content is what keeps them coming back. There is an analytic term called “bounce rate”; this refers to the amount of time that visitors enter the site and leave the site rather than continue on to view other pages. Typically, the lower the bounce rate the better on pages with significant content. A high bounce rate on pages that display something other than quickly consumed information (say, your contact information, or other quick info) typically indicates that users have not found what they are looking for and so have left to go find it.

4. User device
Times are changing, mobile surfing is growing fast. Is your website compatible to both mobile and conventional web surfing? Does technology on your website (i.e. videos) work on all browsers and mobile devices (i.e. flash is not supported in an iPhone). The dimensions of a website layout has changed throughout the years as well. In the 90’s square monitors (left) were the main stream where as now, the wide screen theater style (right) is more popular. Keep up with what your clientele and the technology they use for the best results.  Out of date websites are more apparent than ever now due to changing device formats and platforms.

5. Track with Analytics
Knowing where your visitors came from, which pages get the most activity and what kind of device they are using can be an easy way to help you change your game plan to gain more visitors and/or sales by targeting a more specific audience. Google Analytics can tell you all of this information and display it in a chart or graph form as well. Knowing what is happening can help refine your future goals and monitor your past actions for success.

REF:
http://www.netmagazine.com/features/five-essential-google-analytics-tips-web-designers
http://www.netmagazine.com/news/mobile-drives-marketers-soda-survey-121810
http://support.google.com/adwords/certification/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=23858&guide=23857&page=guide.cs&answer=152618

Images used:
http://www.google.com/search?q=william+joseph+communications&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
http://img1.grafika.cz/grafika/images/FW900.jpg
http://www.externaldevicesprice.co.uk/images/cheap-Samsung-P2470HD-Full-HD-Widescreen-LCD-TV-Monitor-Freeview.jpg
http://dallasgoogleguru.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/google-analytics-example.jpg

Gaga over Google Goggles!

With the launch of the new social media network Google+, it led me to muddle through other Google applications in their Google Mobile division. I stumbled upon Google Goggles. First thought that came to mind was Rocky the squirrel (from the cartoon Rockey and Bullwinkle) with his goggles on and his finger up saying “ah-ha”.

What is Google Goggles you ask?

The application allows you to take a picture with your mobile phone and it searches the web to show your results.  According to the Google Goggles’ support overview page, the best search queries are:  books/dvd’s, landmarks, barcodes/QR codes, logos, contact info, artwork, businesses, products and text. But not so good at animals, plants, cars, furniture and apparel.

Despite not being able to take a picture of a car and having Google Goggles tell me what make/model it is (that’s what the boyfriend is for, right?); the feature that sold me was the text search. I’m a big traveler at heart, and it has the ability to take a picture of a menu in a foreign language and have it translated into English for me – how awesome is that!? Definitely puts traveling to a whole new level.

Artwork recognition sounds pretty neat too. Go to a museum, take a picture of it and get endless history on it on the web instead of renting one of those silly audio tour guide headphones like these folks.

Google Goggles makes grabbing contact information a breeze. Take a picture of someone’s business card and voila, into your address book it goes. No more typing required!

There is definitely a limitation to this application (like any other) and that is you need a data plan on your mobile phone for this to work. Traveling with a data plan can get pretty pricey with roaming charges. Other limitations are venues (like museums) that do not allow pictures to be taken or perhaps lighting is too dark for a picture to be taken and flash is not allowed in the venue.

However, despite the limitations, technology has come a long way and Google Goggles is definitely in my “like” category.

Go Google Goggles! (Say that 3 times fast.)

* * *

Ref:
http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/
http://www.google.com/support/mobile/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=166331

Images used:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/450_rocky.jpg
http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/goggles_translation.png
http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/Assets/Global/Photos/WandTour01.jpg
http://www.maitlandgaol.com.au/MaitlandGaol/Resources/Images/Tours/AudioTour.jpg

Some Blog Inspiration

I’m glad to see that the world of blogging has opened up the gates to communities of people who come together to inspire and share ideas and knowledge. I’ve often wondered why certain people are hesitant to share knowledge, after all the world has not gotten to where it is if knowledge and information was not shared. In the spirit of sharing I thought I’d pass along one of the blogs that I visit for some inspiration.

www.designsponge.com

Designsponge.com is one of the blogs I like and has anything from interior design ideas, hand made goods, DIY projects and recipes. I’m always into making hand made goods and renovating and this is the perfect spot for all of those things. The Before and After section is always a great place to see how other people have transformed spaces and items.

 

www.thedieline.com

This blog is dedicated to package design and shows all kinds of new and award winning packages. I love to see how design can make an impact on a 3D space. The award winner for 2011 Best of Show was the Puma shoe box/bag and it is a great example of smart design that is both practical and eco friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://lovelystationery.com/

For all those print lovers out there here is a blog that features all those things that will have you swooning over that 110 lb. cover stock. and wishing you had your own letterpress.

Hope you find some art inspiration on these pages.