5 Questions to Determine If You’ve Outgrown Your Web Hosting

5 Questions to Determine If You’ve Outgrown Your Web Hosting

Web hosting can seem like a commodity these days. You just choose the amount of disk space and bandwidth you need, and you’re up and running. Whereas before there were all sorts of limitations imposed on you, nowadays you are spoiled with choices, and hosting costs have become almost inconsequential for most businesses.

But thinking that web hosting is a commodity like electricity or gas is a big mistake. The simple fact is that web hosting has a lot of moving parts, and they all need to work in harmony to deliver a high quality, uninterrupted service. Choosing a low cost host might seem like a rational choice but in fact it could be a false economy due to the harm that it can cause your business.

So let’s look at five factors you need to take into consideration to help you understand if your web hosting is in fact helping your business or holding it back.

1. What are your website load times?
Load speed is the speed at which your website loads. There are a number of sites where you can measure your PageSpeed. Load speed is important for a number of reasons. Primarily, because faster loading websites offer a better user experience than slow ones. Put simply, people hate waiting for a page to load.

But it’s not just desktop users. We have reached the tipping point where mobile browsing has overtaken desktop and laptop browsing – 51 percent over 42 percent in the US in 2015. And if there’s one thing that mobile users demand it’s fast websites.

Google understands this, and that’s why it specifically state that site speed is one of the variables that it measures as part of its overall search algorithm. It won’t tell us how much of a ranking factor load speed represents, but it doesn’t often shed light on its algorithm so when it does it’s worth taking note.

Now, without getting into too much detail about what makes up load speed, there are dozens of factors involved, many of them design related. These are the tweaks that an experienced, and usually expensive, web developer needs to make to the code of your website.

The bottom line? Speeding up your website can get expensive and takes time. But one area where you can get fast results is the type of web hosting you choose. By upgrading to either Solid State Drive (SSD) hosting or switching to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) you can dramatically improve your loadspeed at a fraction of the cost of overhauling your site’s code.

2. Do you have noisy neighbors?
Nobody likes noisy neighbors. They’re anti-social, noisy and tend to bring the tone of the neighborhood down.

The same is true in web hosting. The thing is that if your host is offering as much diskspace and bandwidth as you need for just a couple of bucks a month then guess what? You’re not alone on that server.

This is a real problem. Your host isn’t going to publicize it, but there will always be people on that type of offer who will still be pushing the envelope as far as they can. They’ll be the ones trying to eek out every last ounce of processing power from their $2 per month hosting. Maybe they’re using the server to blast out emails to their list or maybe they’re running dozens of RAM hungry scripts for their multiple affiliate sites.

Whatever they’re doing, one thing is for sure. A small minority of noisy neighbors will be hogging the server’s key resources and often having a detrimental impact on the server’s performance.

Sure, there are tools like CloudLinux, which acts as a limiter on the power that individual clients can access, but you need to know that your host has these types of mitigators in place.

3. What’s the IP reputation?
If the server you are hosted on is detected sending spam or hosting malware then the chances are that it’s IP address is going to get blacklisted. That’s bad news for you because that can affect a range of factors from email deliverability to your search ranking.

There are various software you can use to monitor your server’s IP reputation so you can see if it gets blacklisted.

One of the primary reasons for getting blacklisted is that other clients on the same server as you may be running insecure applications or out-of-date software. This isn’t necessarily done with malicious intent on their part. It’s usually just an oversight or a lack of understanding.

Let’s take an example. Hackers aren’t going to publish their modus operandi but usually they are just looking for insecurities that they can exploit. The classic example is an out-of-date contact form, which can be exploited to send spam.

Another example is out-of-date content management system (CMS), like WordPress or Joomla. These are increasingly popular these days, and the problem is that once the design phase is over the unsuspecting business owner doesn’t realize that they need to keep their software up-to-date. These updates are for a reason, and the main reason is to plug any security issues.

One way to address these proactively on the part of the host is to constantly monitor the software on a server and to monitor outgoing emails, using a tool like SpamExperts, to monitor for known fingerprints of spam, phishing and malware related emails.

Again, these tools come at a cost and some hosts might balk at the extra cost involved in protecting their IP reputation. On the other hand, responsible hosts will use them to get ahead of the problems to ensure that their clients do not suffer from blacklisting.

4. Do you have sluggish performance during peaks?
If you’re hosted on a shared server, and you’ve got a busy ecommerce website then maybe you’re starting to notice sluggish performance at peak times or during busy seasonal periods.

If so the chances are that your RAM hungry shopping cart application is just running out of juice. The thing is that shared hosting is intended to meet the needs of the majority. That means that key server resources, such as CPU and RAM, are shared evenly amongst all the websites on that server. As a result you just have to wait in the queue to get the power you need.

The net result? Sluggish performance that annoys your visitors and ultimately costs you in lost sales.

For a few dollars more each month, you can wave goodbye to these types of performance related issues. With a VPS you have the ability to scale up or down as needed. You can control the amount of CPU or RAM allocated to you, and you are guaranteed that level of power.

Think about that. Instead of having to fight for processing power and memory with hundreds, and possibly thousands, of other businesses you have it all for yourself with the ability to scale up on the fly as your needs dictate.

Sure, there are some extra monthly costs, like a control panel license and maybe a managed server service, if you don’t have a systems’ administrator on your team, but this is a wise investment for your business.

5. Is non-standard software permitted?
Sometimes you may need to run software or versions of software that aren’t supported on a shared hosting service. For example, let’s say that the shopping cart software you need requires the latest version of PHP, but your host is not yet offering this version.

Or maybe your host offers standard software that is slower than some of the alternatives. A couple of examples may be the web server where they use Apache instead of LiteSpeed or MySQL instead of Percona. That’s not to say that the slower options don’t have their advantages (e.g. Apache is strong on security), but if you wanted to run more exotic tools then a shared hosting environment may not be the best for you.

Web hosting is not a commodity like electricity or fuel. There are a range of reasons why you should make an informed choice for your web hosting service.

Whether it’s LoadSpeed, noisy neighbours, poor IP reputation, peak times or non-standard requirements you need to understand the cost versus benefits balance for your business, and plan your hosting accordingly.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

What Should a Professional Web Designer Offer

What Should a Professional Web Designer Offer

What Should a Professional Web Designer Offer

A professional web designer or web design company should offer the following services:
A free initial consultation to discuss your project
You may want to go to their office, or they may come to yours, but you need to have a look at your current website (if you have one) and talk about what you want to achieve. Be prepared to give some ideas to the web designer and be prepared to answer questions that will help her put together a realistic proposal for you. A good designer will be a good listener.

References
You should be able to see a portfolio of current, published work and the designer should also be willing to give you references to contact.

A detailed proposal with firm pricing
Expect to make an initial payment and then, depending on the size of your project, another payment when designs are submitted and a final payment upon completion. Your proposal should include a list of everything the web designer plans to do for you with some indication of a time line. Keep in mind that if you have multiple tweaks and revisions during the course of your web project, it will affect the timeline.

Domain registration
If you don’t have a domain name registered yet, a professional web designer should be able to do that for you or assist you in the process. They should also be able to help recommend appropriate domain names for your business. Just be sure your domain registration is in your name and not theirs. If you already have a domain name, they should be able to help you make any necessary changes.

Web hosting
Web design firms often provide web hosting services through a third party. Some have their own collocated web servers and can host your website themselves. Make sure that there are no restrictions in your contract that would keep you from changing web hosting companies in the future.

Sophisticated services
A professional web designer may not be a programmer/coder, but they should work with one in order to offer you all of the technology you need for your web project. If you are building an online store, or an interactive site, or a site with lots of photos or videos, a professional web designer will be able to take care of all of your needs and provide work that utilizes current technology and complies with current standards.

Email services
Web hosting and email hosting are often combined, and any professional web designer who is helping set up web hosting for you should also be able to help set up email services for you.

Source: www.enlightenme.com

THE TRUTH: WHY EVERY BUSINESS WEBSITE NEEDS VIDEO IMMEDIATELY

THE TRUTH: WHY EVERY BUSINESS WEBSITE NEEDS VIDEO IMMEDIATELY

As the internet shifted from text to video, I cringed. I prefer to read.

But here’s the deal:

Nothing builds rapport, gets traffic, and makes sales like a good video.

I’ll explain.

No matter how hard you try, some people will never feel like they know the “real” you until they see you on video.

It’s strange…

The Power of Video (Hint: It’s All About Body Language)

Your writing might show off your personality, but it’s just not the same, and I suppose it makes sense.

Text-based content is a very one-dimensional medium.

Video on the other hand is a triple threat.

Not only can people hear you, they can read whatever it is you’re writing (I tend to write on a white board).

But most importantly, people SEE your body language.

They see your eyes, your smiles, your laughs, your nervous ticks (if you have any), and much, much more.

And that’s the secret.

Body language communicates more information than you could ever HOPE to write.

Now what does this have to do with rapport? And likability? And building a business?

How I Stumbled On The Power Of Video By Complete Accident

A few months ago I released the first ever Social Triggers video.

It was raw, but it was the REAL me.

At one point, I stuttered, and said the word “implimication” instead of “implication.”

Instead of editing it out, I left it in, and moved on.

Insane?

Maybe…

But then I received comments like this:

“I really like this video for the simplicity and that you didn’t edit out your verbal malfunction.”

People realized I was a human being… just like them… just like you.

And since I was a human being, and approachable, and even vulnerable, people connected with me more than ever.

Now imagine if I wrote “implimication” instead of “implication” in text…

What type of comments would you expect to see?

Does this ring a bell?

“Learn to proof read. You spelled implication wrong.”

“You made a mistake. It’s implication!”

“Your typos make you look unprofessional.”

Crazy, right?

Text receives negative comments… Video receives positive comments

Source: Socialtriggers.com

8 razones para tener presencia en Internet

8 razones para tener presencia en Internet

La importancia de tener una página web es indiscutible, sin embargo, para optimizar al 100% este medio es importante que se cumplan con una serie de objetivos, como ofrecer servicios concretos, acercarse e interactuar con el cliente o encontrar nuevos o mejorar la producción y el funcionamiento general de la empresa.

Para ello, Ylos.com recuerda las ventajas que cualquier directivo, responsable de marketing o comercial, debe tener en cuenta para no prescindir de este servicio.

1. Apreciación del consumidor: la interactividad de Internet permite crear una gran afinidad y complicidad con los visitantes de la web, imposible por otros medios.

2. Mejora en la comunicación de las organizaciones: la automatización actual permite llegar con mensajes precisos y adecuados en función del nivel profesional o el interés puntual de la audiencia.

3. Respuesta instantánea: la transferencia de información en tiempo real puede aplicarse a cualquier departamento. Ante una propuesta, el cliente reaccionará con pedidos, comentarios u otro tipo de acciones que servirán para evaluar si los servicios se adecuan a sus necesidades y expectativas.

4. Incremento de los clientes potenciales: en función del producto, recursos u objetivos de la empresa, éstos pueden ser tan globales o segmentados como sea necesario.

5. Disminución de costes: gracias a la automatización, se reducen los gastos de todo el proceso, traduciéndose en ahorros muy importantes para la empresa y el consumidor.

6. Mejora de la productividad: es el resultado de la implantación de Internet en los procedimientos de la mayoría de las organizaciones. Mejora así el control y la descentralización de los procesos, la disponibilidad de los recursos humanos, y el acceso y gestión de la información desde cualquier lugar.

7. Nuevos mercados y nuevos consumidores: la apertura generalizada es el efecto de la exposición de los productos de la empresa en Internet; “hay que prever la forma de satisfacer la demanda de estos clientes y canalizarla adecuadamente”, como indica Josep García, director de Ylos.com.

8. Oportunidades de negocio: la interacción con los clientes pondrá al descubierto nuevas ideas, posibilitando un desarrollo más ágil y la evolución hacia nuevas líneas de productos, en fases tempranas del desarrollo.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

Tu startup NECESITA un sitio web

Tu startup NECESITA un sitio web

Que se cuestione la credibilidad de una empresa porque no tiene presencia en la web es una clara señal de cuánto hemos avanzado. Cualquiera que esté buscando las credenciales de una compañía antes de contratar sus servicios probablemente busque en otro lado si no encuentra ningún resultado online.

La oportunidad de que los consumidores las encuentren en Internet, se suma el beneficio adicional de las ventas online en el caso de empresas que operan en el sector de venta al menudeo. Las expectativas cambiantes de los consumidores hacen que hasta las pequeñas empresas tengan que mantener una plataforma online que esté disponible todo el tiempo y que permita, e incluso optimice, la interacción con los clientes.

Un estudio realizado por RedShift Research y GoDaddy reveló, que, en México, 62 por ciento de los micro empresarios cree que su negocio crecerá entre 10 – 50 por ciento en los próximos 3-5 años después de crear su propia página. Para una startup, tener presencia online es una decisión más que acertada, pues de entre los negocios que respondieron que ya tenían un sitio en internet, 60 por ciento dijo que su negocio creció como resultado de esto.

Entonces, ¿por qué algunos tienen tanta reticencia a estar en línea?
Quizás algunos suponen que para lanzar un sitio web deben tener un título en informática. O que mantener un sistema de pagos online lleva mucho tiempo. Tal vez hay tantas otras cosas de las que ocuparse cuando uno está comenzando un negocio que el sitio web queda en último lugar.

Pero crear una identidad web no tiene por qué ser tan complicado ni llevar tanto tiempo. Y, de hecho, debería ser la prioridad número uno.

Gracias a la reciente disponibilidad de extensiones de nombres de dominio, es posible asignar a su emprendimiento un nombre de dominio más personalizado. Es importante pensar cómo quiere que su empresa sea percibida a largo plazo. Optar por .MX inmediatamente indica dónde está ubicada la empresa o .BIZ explica en una sola palabra qué hace la empresa. Los nombres de dominio local, como.mx inmediatamente asocian a su compañía con atributos valiosos como confiabilidad, solidez y credibilidad para clientes potenciales en el México. En contraposición, una .com es sinónimo de escalabilidad global. Cualquiera que sea el nombre de dominio que usted escoja, asegúrese de que sea único y fácil de recordar.

El próximo paso es desarrollar el sitio. A veces no es tan sencillo dar los primeros pasos para empezar a construir su presencia en línea. No te dejes abrumar por la creación de tu identidad online. Ya tienes muchas preocupaciones con su nuevo emprendimiento y desarrollar el sitio web no debería ser una más.

Las startups mantienen viva la innovación. Son lo suficientemente pequeñas como para explorar nuevas ideas, pero tienen el potencial de crecimiento explosivo para que esas ideas sean relevantes. Los productos de nicho pueden crear nuevos mercados y buscar nuevos consumidores, y este potencial es muy atractivo. Por eso, es vital que los consumidores tengan acceso a estas empresas en la web. Tu startup es demasiado importante para no tener un buen sitio web.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

Qué debe tener tu página principal

Qué debe tener tu página principal

En los negocios, sólo tienes una oportunidad de lograr una buena primera impresión, y lo mismo ocurre con tu sitio Web. Cuando los clientes acceden a tu site deben tener, instantáneamente, un entendimiento claro de quién eres y qué es lo que haces. Sin embargo, las estadísticas muestran que gran parte de las páginas de los pequeños negocios carecen de los elementos básicos, lo que conlleva a la pérdida de prospectos de clientes desde el primer clic.

La relación entre un cliente y un negocio se basa en la confianza. ¿Tu sitio Web es amigable con los clientes y les transmite confiabilidad? Para que así lo sea, te compartimos los cinco elementos que debes incluir en la página home (principal) del sitio Web de tu empresa:

1. Información de contacto
La mayoría de las páginas Web de pequeñas empresas no incluyen liga al correo electrónico en la página principal, y muchas de ellas tampoco cuentan con el número telefónico. Mínimo, tu página home debe tener tu email y tu teléfono.

Si tienes una ubicación física, considera también incluir la dirección completa, así como un mapa con instrucciones para llegar.

2. Imágenes que representan lo que haces
Si vendes, por ejemplo, pasteles para bodas, tu página home debe tener una fotografía de uno de tus mejores pasteles. Aunque esto suene básico, muchos sitios Web de pequeños negocios usan gráficos irrelevantes como fotos familiares o de mariposas, o peor aún, no incluyen ningún tipo de imagen. Define cómo se desplegarán tus imágenes.

Piensa dos veces antes de decidir si éstas girarán o si se agitarán o si hacen cualquier movimiento que pudiera resultar molesto.

Relacionado: Crea tu sitio Web con diseño responsivo

3. Navegación clara con ligas que funcionen
Tu página principal debe tener un sistema de navegación claro, ya sea en la parte superior o inferior, o a un costado de la página. Los botones deben estar bien marcados y corresponder con el contenido de tu sitio para ayudar a los clientes a que encuentren rápidamente lo que están buscando. También considera incluir botones de Envío, Preguntas y de Historia de la compañía.

Es muy importante que regularmente hagas clic en todas tus ligas y botones para asegurarte de que todos funcionan, o usa las Herramientas para webmasters de Google para identificar errores de 404 (no encontrado). Las ligas rotas no sólo pueden evitar que los consumidores completen una compra sino también pueden dar la impresión de que no te interesa tu negocio.



4. Una caja de registro
Una forma efectiva de motivar la lealtad del cliente es a través del envío regular de newsletters (boletines electrónicos). En tu página home incluye una caja de registro para tu sitio Web y ofrece recompensas, como descuentos en compras a todo aquel que ingrese su dirección de correo. Servicios como Mailchimp ofrecen formas sencillas de hacerlo.

5. Ligas a tus redes sociales
Ayúdales a los clientes a estar en contacto contigo al proveerles links a tus cuentas de redes sociales desde tu página de inicio. Usa los íconos reconocibles de Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ o Pinterest. También puedes incluir los widgets de las redes sociales que facilitan que los usuarios te sigan inmediatamente y que compartan tu contenido.

Personaliza la página “Conócenos”

Personaliza la página “Conócenos”

¿Qué mejor lugar para conectarte con clientes, inversores, medios y empleados prospecto que en la sección “Conócenos” de tu sitio Web? En esta página tienes una buena oportunidad para contactar con ellos de una manera personal, pero muchos emprendedores no la usan en su máximo potencial.

¿Y cuál es la mejor forma de mostrar quién eres, dónde empezaste, a dónde te diriges y qué es lo que mueve a tu empresa? A veces es incluso un asunto de storytelling de acuerdo con Catherine Kaputa, estratega de marca. “La gente quiere conocer la historia. Si batallaste para iniciar tu negocio, querrán saberlo. Si es tu segundo intento en el emprendedurismo, querrán escucharlo”, dice. “Pienso que la inclinación está en no sólo hablar de las fortalezas, sino también en mostrar vulnerabilidad”.

Te compartimos seis pasos para personalizar la página “Conócenos” de tu sitio para diferenciarte de la competencia:

1. Primero, tu(s) cara(s)
Dales la bienvenida a tus visitantes como lo harías en persona, empezando con una foto tuya y de los co-fundadores. Acompaña cada imagen con una biografía de 20 palabras de cada uno.

Algunas empresas hacen esta sección interactiva como Udemy.com, un sitio que ofrece cursos online con instructores de todo el mundo, y que usa un carrusel en donde los usuarios pueden dar clic para conocer a los miembros del equipo. “Nuestros instructores son la cara de nuestra marca”, dice Dinesh Thiru, vicepresidente de marketing de Udemy. Si tu empresa tiene demasiados miembros puedes considerar una foto grupal.

2. Haz al equipo accesible
Al elaborar las biografías de los miembros del equipo olvida las direcciones de email individuales, ya que éstas pueden generar olas de spam. Mejor, considera incluir fotografías con una liga a su cuenta personal de Twitter

Personaliza la página “Conócenos”

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3. Usa un lenguaje conciso y atractivo
La brevedad es crucial en el mercado online, así que intenta resumir la descripción de tu empresa  en menos de 300 palabras. Además, visualmente, corto es mejor, dice Nathan Swartz, diseñador Web. Sin embargo, hasta los emprendedores que quieren poner más texto pueden ofrecer un atajo a los lectores con frases con letras más grandes o en negritas.

Mantener el mensaje corto también es mejor para la parte de optimización en motores de búsqueda (SEO), dice Sonya Boggs, estratega SEO. Para generar más tráfico, Boggs recomienda usar textos y meta descripciones (código HTML que da una descripción de la página) en la página “Conócenos” que no se repitan en otra parte del sitio. Puedes usar herramientas como Google Analytics para monitorear el tráfico y encontrar áreas de mejora.

4. Crea un video
Aumenta la experiencia visual de la página con un video. No necesita ser una producción profesional, dice Kaputa. Simplemente necesita decirle a los usuarios quién eres como negocio. Algunos emprendedores usan la descripción escrita del negocio como guión.

Edita la grabación para que dure dos minutos o menos, súbelo a YouTube e inserta el video en tu página para que los usuarios puedan compartirlo. “Si una imagen dice mil palabras, un video dice mucho más que eso”, dice Tom Nguyen, diseñador Web.

Otra idea es poner testimoniales de clientes. Udemy.com usó esta estrategia, ya que Thiru dice que a los consumidores prospecto les gusta escuchar y ver reseñas de otros clientes.

5. Divide la información
Algunos emprendedores deciden dividir la sección “Conócenos” en varias etiquetas o páginas, basándose en el contenido, generalmente teniendo a la descripción de la empresa en la página principal. Presentar la información en páginas separadas (por ejemplo, en una poner “nuestra historia” y otra “qué hacemos”) puede facilitar la digestión de la información para los visitantes. Además, tener múltiples páginas mejora tu SEO permitiendo más clics de las visitas y más lugares donde poner palabras clave.

6. Mantén el tráfico fluyendo
El valor añadido de la sección “Conócenos” es su habilidad de mover a los visitantes a otras páginas del sitio y a las redes sociales. Aumenta la capacidad de tu página para enlazar y referenciar contenido. Incluye ligas a tu cuenta de Twitter o a otro blog, si es que lo tienes. Esta página debe ser un punto de aterrizaje, no el destino final.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

How Often Should You Update or Rebuild Your Website?

How Often Should You Update or Rebuild Your Website?

When it comes to updating your business website in a timely manner, the one rule is this: There are no rules. That’s according to Christian Riggs, president of Riggs Creative Group, a user-experience design and website development firm in San Diego. Riggs says that deciding whether to update, redesign or reengineer your site should depend entirely on your business goals, objectives and economic considerations, rather than on some superficial time frame pulled out of thin air. We asked him to explain.

Q: Why would I redesign the look and feel of my website but not rebuild it?

A: A variety of factors can make a redesign worth considering, but here are several that almost always require an update. You’ve got new branding and color standards, and you need to make sure your new look extends to your website. Your bounce rates are extremely high, meaning people visit but few convert; a well-thought-out redesign can turn this around. Or your business has grown, and plans call for new products and services; your site’s design may need to reflect that change. Last, your customers complain about your site, claiming that it looks outdated or doesn’t work well.

Q: What developments might require me to reengineer my website from scratch?

A: The most important one is if your current site doesn’t adapt to mobile device screens. Fixing this is an absolute must in today’s mobile-driven world. Another would be if your site was originally built using Flash: Apple’s iPads and iPhones don’t support Flash. That’s reason enough to rebuild, but there’s another reason: Flash can slow your site down.

QShould I invite my customers to be part of the redesign process?

A: Yes! Customer opinion and feedback give you the kind of insights that convert visitors into customers. Start by asking what they think of your proposed design and if it appeals to them. Then ask about the problem they’re looking to solve and if the information they need access to is easy to find in the new design. After you relaunch the site, ask them again if they like it. If they say no, address their concerns through incremental design enhancements, which your new site should allow you to do without starting over.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

Stop Being Such a Tight Wad. Invest In a Great Website.

Stop Being Such a Tight Wad. Invest In a Great Website.

You just worked your ass off for the last 12 months.

Creating your product. Having samples made. Ordering 1 million of them because that’s the factory’s minimum.

You had someone in Indonesia create a slick logo for you. You set up your UPS account. You’ve rolled up your sleeves and you’re ready to get started on your ecommerce website.

Maybe you know a guy who’s nephew builds websites from his dorm. Or you read some article on how to build your own website in three easy steps. So now all you have to do is get the website built and you’re good to go, right?

Wrong.

Over the years, I have met too many entrepreneurs trying to build their own websites and too many entrepreneurs whining about the price to build a great website. And it bugs me.

Building a beautifully designed, fully capable website is no longer a luxury if you’re looking to launch or grow any ecommerce business in 2015. It’s a necessity.

Look, I get it. You’re a startup. You have a limited budget. You’re an entrepreneur willing to do things yourself. And that’s all very admirable. But if you’re launching an ecommerce business and you’re unwilling to invest in your website, then you’re better off having never launched your business.

Here’s why.

You have a single presence. Make it count.

Instead of a website, let’s assume instead you’re opening a new brick-and-mortar clothing store. Since you’re a startup, your shop would likely be small. Your budget for build-out wouldn’t be much. But at a minimum, you still have to pay for paint, flooring, lights, shelves, displays, mannequins, a POS system, an inventory system and quite a few fixtures. Even with just a short one-year lease for retail space, no matter where you open it, you’d still be looking at $100,000 to cover just your physical presence. Probably more.

And even after dropping $100,000, you’d still pale in comparison to the Macy’s down the road from you. Or the Ann Taylor. Or the Men’s Wearhouse. They’d kill you in presentation, assortment and skilled labor. You’d never survive.

But…if you’re building an ecommerce website, customers view you differently. They view you only in the narrow world of online space. They won’t be thinking about what the Macy’s store in their neighborhood looks like. They’ll compare macys.com with your website.

And guess what? Now you have a much better chance in this competition.

While the cost of a good web developer varies, a beautifully designed, fully capable website should cost between $7,000 and $20,000 at most. Now compare that with the $100,000 you’d spend for your brick-and-mortar store — and you’d still lose that battle in every way. So why wouldn’t you spend a few bucks and build a kick-ass website? A website, by the way, that would last far more than a year.

So what does it mean to have a beautifully designed, fully capable website?

The best place to start when designing your website (both aesthetically and as a utility) is to roam the web seeking out your competitors. What do their sites look like? What do you like most about their design? What do you like least about their design?

Now start looking at sites outside of your competition. Look for anything from a design perspective that appears fresh or unique. I’m building a website now to sell my own line of men’s bedding. Our gallery of thumbnails and product pages were inspired by a website I found dedicated to real estate crowdfunding. A totally different industry, and yet, the design scheme fit perfectly for what I wanted to do.

So after you have the design figured out, then make sure your product photos are professionally taken. Every piece of research I’ve ever read confirms that the nicer your product photography, the higher the conversion rate. And of course, the lower the return rate of your products. Poor photography also intangibly affects your brand. Do yourself a favor and hire a professional photographer.

Now it is time to revisit your competitors and test their navigability. Pretend you’re the consumer. Do the categories make sense? Are there any special features that you love? Is there something you hate? Do you wish it had a certain feature to bridge the gap between shopping in-person vs. shopping online?

A great example is something I had built on The Tie Bar when we launched back in 2004. I always had the hardest time shopping for ties in person without seeing how those ties would look with a particular shirt or suit. And no website out there addressed the problem.

So at The Tie Bar, we built a feature on the site that allowed customers to place our ties against the backgrounds of the most common colored (and patterned) shirts and suits. Back in 2004, it was a novel concept and it got us many compliments and mentions in the press. And all I did was discover a pain point in shopping online for ties and attempted to fix it.

So when building your website, make sure to include the features you love and exclude the features you don’t. And if you can come up with a creative add-on to your site, all the better.

Mobile

The last point I’ll make is one covered in a million other places, so I will not belabor the point. Just make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

I will not bore you with the stats (which are everywhere) but suffice it to say that if your website does not translate well into an easy and appealing mobile experience, you’re wasting your time investing in your new beautifully-designed, fully capable website I just talked you into.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

The best places to do freelance design work

The best places to do freelance design work

Home studio, shared space, Starbucks or somewhere else? We weigh up the pros and cons of the different places to do your freelance design work.

When you’re a freelance designer, your working environment is vitally important to your creative success. And everyone is different in what they want from a space.

Some prefer the convenience of walking into a home studio straight from the bedroom without a comb in sight. Others prefer to be in a creatively-inspiring place: perhaps a studio that rents out desks or a dedicated shared space. Some will even happily sit in coffee shops all day, although those people will probably end up a little caffeine charged.

Here we look at the most common places to do freelance work and discuss the pros and cons of each.

01. The home studio

Web designer Shane Mielke’s workspace sits in the corner of his 800sq ft ‘Mancave’

Working at home can be great. There’s no need to worry about getting into work, you’re familiar with your surroundings and you can look exactly how you want without a) offending anyone, or b) worrying about wearing trousers.

You can also tailor your environment to your exact needs – if you have a small studio you can fill it with vinyl toys, posters, tees or whatever takes your fancy. It’s your own personal space and no one can come over and tell you to tidy it up (well, except maybe your partner).

Leaving the house

What you’ll probably miss, though, is the stimulation of getting outside and see somewhere other than the same four walls – so it’s important to build this into your routine.

Sam Gibley creates his amazing portraits in the comfort of his own home

“When I am working from home, an important part of my daily ritual is leaving the house, going for a walk and getting some coffee before I ‘commute’ back to the office,” says Sam Gilbey, an artist and illustrator best known for his incredible digital portraits. “This gives me some thinking and planning time, plus chance to catch up with a few emails and admin tasks, knowing that when I’m home, I can be fully focused on the creative work that needs to be done.”

02. The shared studio

Design strategy and user experience guru Josh Clark does much of his work at the shared office Studio Mates in Brooklyn

At home you can get as much peace and quiet as you like, which can help improve your productivity. But some designers can’t work that way: they crave the social interaction and creative stimulation that  a shared studio can provide.

“I couldn’t work without a studio,” says freelance graphic designer, illustrator and artist Tom Sewell. “I’ve worked from home and found motivation next to impossible. It’s vital for me to have a space to go to that’d devoted entirely to my work, where I can put stuff on the wall and keep my books and all my stuff/treasure/extensive postcard collection. It’s good to share your space and endeavours with other people, you can motivate and encourage each other all week and then drink beer on a Friday.”

Tom Sewell prefers to produce his beautiful illustrations in a shared space

Working in such an environment enables you to bounce ideas off other creatives. Sewell currently works in a shared studio space with three other artists – Bobby from Telegramme and Nic and Will of Nous Vous and prefers this small number of people to a larger one.

“I’ve worked in a space with 25 different people all with a desk space and found it quite distracting,” he explains. “Too many comings and goings. Four people feels right for me – enough to share thoughts with without too many distractions.”

03. A bit of both

Sometimes you can’t nail it down to one place. And if you can afford it, being able to use both can be extremely beneficial. “I personally like to work between a combination of studio desk and home studio,”  says all-round creative guru Anna Mullins aka Sneaky Raccoon.

Anna Mullins does her design work both at home and in a shared workspace

“In the shared studio space there are always people around you who you can pose questions to about your potential projects, you can have a chat and think differently away from the confines of other distractions of the home studio such as household chores. But sometimes the opposite happens – interactions become distractions. So I like getting a bit of time away from studio buddies in the home studio.

“I can be messier at home too,” she adds, “especially if I am doing a creative hands on project with paint or fabrics.”

04. The coffee shop

Coffee chains like Starbucks are usually laptop-friendly

We’ve all seen creatives beavering away on their freelance design work in Starbucks (other coffee shops are available). The cost of the coffee is a small price to pay for a change of scene and a burst of caffeinated energy, there are usually plenty of available power outlets and free WiFi, and we’ve yet to hear of anyone being turned away for setting up shop in the middle of a chain cafe (if you’ve had that experience we’d love to hear from you).

Illustrator Andrew Groves finds coffee shops a good place to come up with ideas

However, it’s also unusual to hear of designers spending their entire time in a coffee shop: it’s more of a temporary escape from cabin fever. While it can be a good place to do admin tasks or idea generation, plus any design work (coding, for example) that can be done on a laptop or notebook, anything beyond that is a bit of a stretch. We have seen people setting their printers up in coffee shops – but it’s rare.

“For me it’s a case of variety,” says freelance illustrator Andrew Groves. “When coming up with ideas I tend to work best away from my computer. [But] when it comes to creating final work I prefer to work at my desk at home as anywhere else has too many distractions.”

05. Spare desk at an agency

Free desks are going spare at top agencies right now!

Every considered asking a design agency whether they have a spare desk they can rent? It’s not something that would occur to most people, so London-based designer Nick Crouch has launched, a Open Studio Club is an online service that aims to help creative people find and rent space in existing agencies offices. Check out what’s available in your area on their website.

Short of cash? Then you’re in luck. The same site is currently running a campaign asking creative agencies to offer a free desk in their studio to new talent. (That’s completely free and not in exchange for work, by the way). Several big-name design agencies, including Poke, Base and HORT are signed up – you’ll find full details here.

Source: www.creativebloq.com