Monthly Archives: November 2012

Three approaches to a website refresh

Website redesignIf you have been thinking of redesigning your website, you are probably also thinking about the best way to go about it.

Here at Direct Sites Online, we believe there are three approaches:

  • Kapow — where overnight your website design changes;
  • Gradual — where small changes are implemented overtime; and
  • Evolutionary — in which you focus on improving the existing design.

Each of these approaches have their pros and cons, so let’s have a look at those and how they might effect a large content-rich site.

Kapow

Pros

Consistency within the site: on one day the whole design simply changes.

Visitor-friendly: Whether they like the redesign or not, visitors are used to this approach and, if you have done the right thing and let them know it’s coming, they won’t be surprised. Keep your message simple, and explain the redesign in terms of visitor experience.

Easy to sell to the boss: Like your visitors, your boss is used to this concept and it is easy to convince him or her of its merits, rather than trying to explain an approach that means more than one look and feel at a time will be live.

Analytics: A single crossover date means you will be able to almost immediately analyse the effect the redesign has on visitor numbers and conversions.

Keeps your web analytics clean. Having a single cutover date makes it easy to immediately start measuring the effectiveness of the new design and comparing it to the previous one.

Cons

Time-consuming: A lot of stuff needs to happen in the back end before the launch of the new site. It cannot be done overnight. And meanwhile, you still have to maintain the original site, which means you may be managing content in two different places.

It can create a jarring user experience: No matter how well you advertise the change, it will still catch people by surprise, and they may not be thrilled to have to learn new navigation etc.

You old site stays static: This kind of a redesign is a lot of work, and may mean your old (and current) site gets neglected, resulting in a drop in organic traffic.

Gradual Approach

Pros

Easier to implement: for large sites, it much easier to move them piece by piece to the new design that to do it all at once. You can also control the pace to ensure the livfe site continues to be maintained.

Quicker: In a lot of caes, the home page is the first to move over, so a new look and feel can happen a lot more quickly than waiting for the whole redesign to be finished.

Gentler to visitors: People, as a rule, dislike change, so this gradual pace will allo them to get used to the new normal.

Cons

Somewhat complex: If the new design means changes to the back-end, it will be difficult to introduce while still maintaining the old. You may need to use a lot of redirects, which can be risky.

Harder to sell internally: Bosses understand a complete change, and they understand the “do nothing” approach, but the fact that this means the look and feel may be inconsistent while the redesign is happening – that they don’t really get (or like)

Evolutionary

Pros

Painless: Large website redesigns are challenging, cost money and tax resources. Decisions are often more about company politics than good design and can be subject to the whims of the bosses.

Frees up time: If you’re not spending time redesigning, you can spend it on something which gives more immediate returns – such as A/bB testing, inproving the conversion funnel, e-mail marketing and more.

Organic: This option means the design changes organically as the company changes and is less obvious to outsiders.

Keeps visitors happy: People hate change, as this approach means the are unlikely to even notice little tweaks here and there.

Cons

Boring, boring boring: Your staff are bored with the site, customers are bored with the site, your web team, in particular, will be bored with the site.

Invisible: This approach tends to attract the “what are you doing all day”? questions from the boss, while a full redesign (or a gradual redesign” show progress when it comes to annual review time.

Whatever approach you might want to take to redesigning your website, Direct Sites Online can help. Call us now on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com

Facebook: It’s All About Engagement

FacebookIf you have a Facebook business page, there’s a good chance you have noticed a drop in the “reach” and “talking about” statistics over the past few weeks.

Apparently it’s all to do with Facebook’s ‘EdgeRank’ algorithm which decides what shows up in people’s news feeds – an algorithm that puts the spotlight firmly on “engagement”.

Many people are suggesting it’s a cynical ploy by Facebook to get business page owners to pay for advertising or to promote posts. And yes, this will help your reach.

But according to Facebook itself: “Our goal in the news feed is always to show someone the most relevant information from the things they are connected to on Facebook.” In other words, page posts need to be as engaging as posts people may see from family and friends. So, the more your fans like, share or comment on your Facebook content the more likely your posts are to appear in their news feeds.

So how to achieve this? Well the simple answer is to make your posts more engaging. But what exactly does this mean? Here are six ideas to try (and make sure you keep an eye on your analytics to see what’s working).

1. Keep Facebook posts short and sweet

No one wants to see lengthy diatribes about your product of the day. Keep it short, get to the point and move on. Research has shown that 100 characters or less is optimal – blame it on Twitter (also, this means that if you auto post from Facebook to Twitter, it doesn’t get annoying cut-off). If you have something more to say, use your blog and link to it from your Facebook page with a short and interesting comment.

2. Get the timing right

If you are targeting small businesses, don’t upload posts at 10am, when they are all busy working. Interestingly, the best time to post a link is between 1-4pm weekdays,  and engagement is higher on Thursdays and Fridays, when people’s minds start to wander away from work and on to social media. Also, the average lifespan of a post is 3 hours, so wait at least that long before posting a new update.

3. Try not to use URL shorteners

I don’t really understand this one, but a recent study suggested that using full and cumbersome URLs seems to increase engagement. It’s probably a trust thing. Go figure.

4. Include a call to action

Facebook posts that ask people to “like”, “comment” or “share” get a much higher level of engagement that those who don’t. I guess we really are all just sheep.

5. Ask your fans a question

It might be as simple as which of your products they prefer, but people love to think they have a say. And questions placed at the end of an update get more engagement that at the beginning.

6. A picture paints a thousand words

Updates that include an image are considered more engaging that others. But please, take care to ensure that the photo is relevant to the post, or to your biz. The internet is cluttered enough with picture of puppies and babies. Also ensure you don’t infringe on any copyright if using an image from another source.

Do you want your social media presence to be more about quality of content and engagement than just the number of likes? Call Direct Sites Online on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com to see how we can help.

So you want to set up an online store?

These days more and more bricks-and-mortar retailers are realising that in order to survive well into the future, it is imperative to have an online store.

Moving online is not online an essential part of the sales funnel, it also increases brand exposure and allows even the smallest operator to punch above their weight.

But with so many options out there – how does a small retailer decide what will work best for them, before investing thousands of dollars?

Firstly, it pays to know the basics, such as the various pre-packaged options available (Magento, PrestaShop, Zen cart, osCommerce, VirtueMart, OpenCart and many other e-commerce engines). You can either look at a full e-commerce solution, or simply add a shopping cart to your WordPress (or other content management system) site.

Most offer a degree of customisation to suit you brand and your needs – not as much as a custom-made site, but enough that you don’t necessarily have to pay for a site that has been developed from scratch.

Check out other websites in your niche to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Often a bit of research will also uncover the platform they are using – some will be as obvious, such as the name of an e-commerce software supplier listed on the page, others may require more investigation.

Also, while on the sites, think about which ones you would visit as a customer and which you would steer clear of, and why.

Next it’s vital to find a URL (web address) that reflects your business AND is available. Steer clear of generic names such as shoes.com or surfboard.com – you want visitors to know they have landed at your store, not some random competitor. Unfortunately, there may be a chance that the name of your business is already taken, so you might have to be creative.

Another thing to keep in mind is that online shops take up a fair bit of memory so it pays to stay clear of cheap hosting options as they are likely to run more slowly than premium hosting packages and thus drive away customers. Not to mention that you will need a pretty high level of reliability, plus 24/7 technical support.

You also need to think about what sort of payment options you might offer. The most common are PayPal, credit card and direct debit. You probably want at least two so that your customers can pick a choice that suits them.

Finally, set up and monitor your analytics, so you can determine what parts of your conversion funnel are working, and can tweak when necessary.

Stay tune for a post later this month with ideas on how to market your online store.

Direct Sites Online specialises in helping bricks-and-mortar stores get online. Call us today on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com