Category Archives: SEO

Designing the perfect homepage

A company without a website is a company unknown to the world. And a company with a bad website, more importantly, a bad homepage, is a company rejected by the world. Rejected in the sense that first impressions matter and consumers of today are all about “the now” and investing in experiences that have an impact on their daily lives.

Bad homepages are, in that context, a waste of time and a frustrating experience that consumers would otherwise not struggle with again. So, what do you need in your homepage design that will keep people interested and coming back for more?

Font and colour

The first few aspects we will be looking at revolve around the visual experience of your homepage and areas you can modify to ace that first impression. The first things people see and do when they land on a homepage is take in colour and read content. An IT course rule of thumb for homepage design is to always keep readability in mind.

Needless to say, font and colour are important essentials to get right when designing your website. Pretty fonts aren’t always practical for large amounts of content and can be difficult for some users to read. Print and plain fonts are your safer options, with highlighted words in a bolder or more intricate font for effect if needed.

As for colour, if there is too little colour, it’s boring, but if there’s too much, it overpowers the rest of the website’s content. It can be difficult when your company’s colours are multiple or strong, but there are tasteful ways to bring colours into your website design. You also need to keep the colour of the webpage complementary to the font colour so that it stays easy to read.

Imaging

A picture is worth a thousand words, so a thousand pictures on your homepage is, essentially, you shouting at your site’s visitors. But it is important to make a statement with a bold image relating to your company and use it to communicate the message you’re trying to tell your customers.

The chances of an internet user judging the relevance of your content to their lives through the images they see (before they read the text) is highly likely. Your homepage image should be what attracts and encourages people to explore the rest of your website.  

Navigation

When it comes to exploration, navigation is necessary and your homepage should be the place to start. Whether you incorporate pop-up prompts (which no one really enjoys), have animated menu buttons or symbols as navigation tools to get around the site, you need to make sure people know how to use the navigation system and can get to where they want to be through three clicks at the most.

The three-click rule is still relevant in web design and as a navigation method, and shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated. Remember, you’re appealing to a “now” generation, so the sooner they can get their information, the more time of day they’ll give your company.  

Interactable

Animation in web design is a step in homepage interactivity that is fun and friendly for users. Integrating animation in the homepage experience makes the users time worthwhile beyond providing the content they look for.

The secret is to not overdo it with the animation. With homepage design, you can’t really go wrong with the “less is more” principle.

Information

Now we will look at the more content-related elements of your homepage that should be present among all the visual aspects.

  • Identity: As a whole, your homepage needs to tell the visitor who you are as a company, what you do and how you can help them… but definitely not in so many words. Short and sweet (and with your visuals to help), the homepage can do all of the above through an introductory paragraph that quickly flows into the relevant content that the user is there to see.
  • Credibility: Testimonials and awards are great to have, but shouldn’t stay hidden behind the “About Us” page. By having awards stickers and a banner of different clients’ testimonials somewhere on the homepage, the visitor will acknowledge it and positively consider the rest of the page’s (and website’s) credibility. Just be sure you have proof linked to backup your credibility claims.
  • Contact: Not every company understands the necessity that are contact details on every landing page, nevermind just the homepage. If a visitor to your site is interested in what the webpages are saying to them, they’re going to want to contact you as soon and as easily as possible. By only have a “Contact Us” page as an option, you’re testing their patience. And by only having a contact form available on the site, you’re testing how interested they are. And those aren’t necessarily good things to be testing when there are competitive sites with the same offerings and “click to call” or “click to email” contact options somewhere on the homepage.

What 2016 tells us about financing a business

If we’ve learned anything from 2016, it’s that there’s plenty business can and must do to help protect themselves from events they could not have foreseen. To that end, it’s worth thinking about what we can do, as business people, to help keep our businesses afloat while the world goes on. Businesses won’t stay up because we want them to, but through hard work. We need to be able to handle what occurs and look out for dangers that might threaten their continued existence. Just as we care for any loved one, we must be mindful of what could pose a threat to businesses – 2016 shows us that many of the biggest dangers could come out of left field. To that end, let’s look at ways to protect our businesses from any possible dangers.

Look for bargains

We make our own success, but it also involves knowing where to find opportunities for that success to blossom. One clear way to make success into a reality rather than a dream is to find the best deals and bargains. For example, here is a detailed way one American finance writer managed to get an expensive electric car reduced in price. Instead of spending $35,000 on a brand-new electric car, he got it for under $14,000. Businesses must look at their financing options in terms of the best way to make the most out of a little – or, perhaps, how to get exorbitant prices reduced.

Beware “gurus”

Nobody can predict the future, yet many make their money off selling their beliefs to businesses desperate for a path. These finance gurus tend to offer vague reasons for their predictions, forcing businesses down paths they would otherwise have never gone. Consider some of the worst financial predictions in history, by some of the smartest people in the world. For example, in 2010, entrepreneur Richard Branson warned that “the next five years will see us face another crunch – the oil crunch,” predicting a severe supply shortage. Of course, six years later, the price of oil is actually lower than it was then. Businesses must on the evidence they have, that will benefit themselves and shareholders, not the words of those who claim to have knowledge they could not possibly have. The smartest people in the world did not think Donald Trump would get elected or that Britain would leave the European Union – yet both of these large events occurred and have dramatically changed the landscape. How many businesses were prepared when these events occurred? How many were protected from the financial fallout? For example, did these companies have protection for their immigrant employees? Did they have proper health coverage (the repeal in America of the Affordable Care Act has left millions without healthcare, meaning they might not be able to work – a reduction in people able to suddenly work will have a massive impact on businesses and therefore the economy).

Be creative

Business people must be more creative than ever, as they go forward. It’s using plant and machinery finance in clever ways to create more jobs, services and so on. It’s creating new advertising campaigns, drawing in younger people, getting active on social media. Creativity means standing out from others, an expression of individuality that draws people in so they want to work with us in various capacities. 2016 showed that creativity is key, especially in a world that is increasingly competitive.

Proper hiring and proper management

Our business is only as good as your least talented staff member. Hiring the best people must be at the top of our list of priorities. Businesses are made of teams, so if one person messes up, it falls sideways and upward. That is, it affects everyone, not just the work of the person who made a mistake. Competency must be paid for and rewarded, which means it is on us to treat our staff properly, doing what we can to retain them for as long as possible.

The longer someone works for us the better for everyone, since this establishes a long-standing dynamic that gives a measure of stability to the constant shifting market. For example, we could listen to various studies that indicate working from home has enormous benefits. Not only do people then feel more inclined to work for us, but their work improves, too. If our concern is that people need rigour and micromanagement in order to complete their work, the failure is ours not theirs – we should not be hiring people who can’t work when left by themselves. Otherwise we’re being teachers and watch dogs, not managers focused on production, ideas and so on. Implementing new strategies for the benefit of staff will go a long way to making a business better than it ever could be.

People are always looking for ways to stay employed after all and no one likes the sense of fear, when leaving. There’s no guarantee any job is forever and the lack of job security is one reason people tend to stay in position longer than before – after all, even advanced degrees are not guarantee we’ll be employed. Yet that shouldn’t stop us as business people putting effort into retaining the staff we do have.

Security considerations for small businesses in 2017

Small businesses are not exempt from caring about security. They, too, need to be as invested in what occurs in keeping their data and other aspects of the organisation secure. Though so much of security is often focused on big businesses and major breaches, such as hacking and cyber invasion, there are many aspects to security worth considering. To that end, if you want to be able to protect your businesses from outside interference, in order to actually produce quality work and meet client expectations, it’s important to consider what is happening in terms of security in the future. Businesses must stay ahead of security concerns in order stay ahead of those who would do damage and participate in criminal activities.

Everything is cyber

These days every business understands that being connected is essential. No longer are modern businesses only local, but are branched out into the rest of world. They exist in various forms, communicating through social media, email, website and so on. Even internally, data is stored digitally, people are able to operate and conduct meetings regardless of location. But this internal idea is itself part of the problem. As the American National Cybersecurity Institute noted:

“One of the biggest threats a company has that puts it at risk for an attack or data breach is its internal users. Lack of cybersecurity awareness and training can put organizations at a significantly higher susceptibility to cybercriminals. As Tripwire’s security engineer pointed out, security doesn’t just mean taking measures to prevent the attacks, but providing training and guidance on how to handle incident response in the event that an incident occurs. And this should be done throughout all levels of the organization, especially considering ransomware schemes like spear phishing happen primarily through emailing employees.”

Training is important but so is monitoring. So often when people consider installing, say, CCTV camera or a video wall controller, the assumption that it is to prevent outside interference. But the threats come from inside, too. This can be intentional or negligence. As SC Magazine pointed out:

“[Workers] taking the necessary steps to ensure security in the workplace becomes less of a priority for them as they seek to perform their job functions efficiently. In fact, 40 percent of firms expect a data breach in the next 12 months as a result of employee behavior, and employees indicated a widespread lack of awareness of good cybersecurity practice. The consequence is that over the last year, 78 percent of breaches have originated from within the extended enterprise (including contractors and ex-employees), the report found.”

This is a shocking number. In terms of the future, more businesses must focus on creating policy and training programs to highlight the dangers posed by employees themselves.

Education

Learning new skills and acquiring knowledge is never a bad thing. This is particularly important if, as we noted, employees learn what to do and what not to do in order to minimise any cyber dangers to businesses. Businesses owners must take the necessary steps to help minimise this danger and this means supplying education and courses that can enable their employees to not make any mistakes. Of course, nothing is perfect, but training isn’t about perfection in this case – it’s about reducing the chances of invasion, manipulation and so on from occurring which could threaten the whole company.

For example, you could begin by putting in place policies that minimise or completely restrict mobile devices. As Forsythe notes:  “As smartphones and tablets become constant companions, cyber attackers are using every avenue available to break into them.”

Most of us expect these expensive pieces of tech to be secure. In reality, they are not. With simple equipment, hackers can get in and make use of other, more powerful equipment nearby. For example, says Forsythe, “hackers can gain access to a nearby mobile device in less than 30 seconds and either mirror the device and see everything on it, or install malware that will enable them to siphon data from it at their leisure.”

You can also encourage employers to change their passwords regularly, instituting Two Factor Authentication on all their important accounts. Google, for example, sends a message to your phone when you login to your email from another device or computer. After all, if you suddenly login from somewhere else, that’s a red flag of hacking – since it means someone else is invading your space. But sometimes, of course, it’s just using a new or another device. Sending a quick note to your phone lets you authenticate it. Since hackers don’t have your phone, this is a much more secure method and is recommended by many cybersecurity experts.

What businesses must know about access control in 2017

Businesses have had to expand and change their operations in dramatic ways in 2016. No one could’ve predicted the various major global shifts that upended the markets. Donald Trump became President-Elect of the United States, troubling many people over the world due to his lack of experience, his horrendous proclamations and his incomprehensible statements. Many did not believe such a person would ever find themselves in the White House. Similarly, no one believed that the British referendum concerning Britain leaving the European Union would be an issue – and, yet, the majority of voters (51.9%) opted to leave (resulting in what’s now known as Brexit). All this has radically changed foreign investment and how businesses will now interact with businesses in these two regions. But another issue has radically made businesses rethink their approach to operations: cybersecurity. Combining all of these has meant that businesses are now approaching 2017 in a new light and it’s worth considering what this means.

Why cybersecurity became a threat in 2016

According to American intelligence agencies, there is little doubt Russian hackers affected the recent US Presidential Election. As Reuters reports:

“James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said he had a very high level of confidence that Russia hacked Democratic Party and campaign staff email, and disseminated propaganda and fake news aimed at the Nov. 8 election.”

This comes in light of various high level security agencies finding themselves vulnerable to attacks from foreign operators. Indeed, even as high a level as the Joint Chiefs were the victims of hackers, who got into their database.

But it wasn’t only state departments and the military that were targeted. Major corporations like Sony and Yahoo were the targets of various breaches. For Sony, this meant private documents and photographs were released, especially of celebrities. Yahoo found its users’ details were open for theft, which could’ve resulted in identity theft given how little is required to carry out such a crime.

Businesses began taking more aggressive steps to protect themselves and their business. In offices around the world, the password policy began changing – new, improved ways to create a password were used instead of basic, easy-to-hack alternatives.

Cybersecurity ties into bigger concerns about security in general. As Small Business Computing notes:

“A recent study on cloud security—conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Alert Logic—found that nearly 80 percent of participants saw value in outside security expertise to supplement their security operations. Market-leading security technologies are critical but the best approach to keeping sensitive data—both yours and your customers’—secure, involves a ‘products and services’ approach. This combines cybersecurity technologies with 24×7 security-monitoring by a team of security and compliance experts.”

This itself ties into access control.

What is access control?

People should not have access to everything, at all times, everywhere. Whether it’s because you need to limit customers’ access to stock or not allow staff to use certain data, access control is essential for business.

Various physical barriers are already used often by businesses, such as with man traps. This is, as the name highlights, restricting of individual’s movements. It’s an entire physical barrier that stops people moving into certain areas. As Data Center Journal summarises:

“This “trap” enables security – whether a system or an employee – to verify the credentials of the entrant and either allow access or trigger alerts indicating an unauthorized entry attempt. Mantraps, which are sometimes called security vestibules, are small rooms with two or more doors. Authentication procedures may be required either at just the door to the secure area or at all doors.”

The most common version is simply using two doors, within the secure space. The first door allows a person to enter, then once closed, allows security verification. Then the second door can open once the first is closed and the person has been cleared. This helps slow down entrance into a secure area and ascertains the person is allowed to enter.  

This goes further when you focus on the digital sphere. As Tech Target notes:

“Access control is a security technique that can be used to regulate who or what can view or use resources in a computing environment. There are two main types of access control: physical and logical. Physical access control limits access to campuses, buildings, rooms and physical IT assets. Logical access limits connections to computer networks, system files and data.”

Cybersecurity doesn’t only involve the digital sphere. Physical access itself has ramifications on this. To that end, restricting physical access is also essential. By acting in these aggressive ways, businesses can better prepare themselves for the coming year and a whole host of new dangers it will present. If hackers are targeting the highest offices in America, their biggest, most tech savvy corporations, you can bet they won’t relent when it comes to ordinary people. Considering the average person also loses out when businesses fail, everyone benefits from having increased security measures.

What businesses must know about websites in 2017

The internet has changed the world dramatically in innumerable ways. People communicate instantly across the world, run businesses from their cellphones and make careers out of filming themselves for passionate fans. It’s changed how businesses market themselves, consider their products and interact with customers. Furthermore, everything has become faster. Businesses can face enormous PR disasters that dominate the news for days, before people move on to newer blunders. More than anything, businesses must know what it means to exist online. To that extent, businesses must know what it means to run a website. It’s both more complicated and less complicated than many might think, according to designers and website experts. Let’s examine what it means to have a website in the internet age.

Purpose

As with all projects, the first question any business leader must be able to answer concerns purpose: what will putting money, time and resources into this yield that’ll benefit the business? As Entrepreneur highlights, the point of a website is broaden the business’ reach.

“You should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.”

Naturally, people found and invested in businesses before the internet. But the point isn’t whether those interactions were possible, but rather how much the internet has changed the landscape. A business can, of course, opt to have no internet presence, but that only means being overshadowed by competitors who’ve chosen the broad, far-reaching and constant marketing an internet presence provides. If business leaders would opt for billboards to market their business, it makes no sense to refuse a platform that will reach more people and can provide more information, leading to higher chance of customer conversion.

Design

One of the most important aspects of a website is how well it’s designed. Summarising website research, Forbes’ Drew Hendricks noted visitors to a site will often point to bad design, not bad content, as a reason for being turned off a company.

“Design elements are exponentially more powerful than content, in terms of mistrust. When asked to describe why they mistrusted a website, 94 percent of comments were directly related to web design elements, while only 6 percent referenced specific content. While the study was directed towards health sites, it seems practical that the same basic principles would carry over to other industries.”

Ideally, a website should be simple enough for anyone to use, but complex enough to answer any question. It’s essential that our sites host a number of important features: search functions to help visitors navigate, contact details including email and phone numbers, Google Map locations and so on. Many businesses also recognise the importance of establishing themselves as thought leaders in the industry. As Risdall notes:

“Thought leaders … take content to the next level by serving as their industry spokespersons, taking a stand on issues or giving away a little of their intellectual property to establish their usefulness. Instead of just sharing content around products and services, thought leaders share expertise around the broader challenges they face in their industries.”

In terms of online content, this also provides individual business sites with original material, not merely static pages or adverts. This means it will “rank” better (i.e. land up as one of the earliest hits after a person uses a search engine) when people search for terms related to a business. As Skyword points out:

“If you aren’t constantly pinging search engines with new content, there’s nothing to entice the spiders to crawl your site and rank your webpages higher than those of your competitors. Publishing and updating content to your site frequently means that search engines will more readily find your pages, potentially resulting in higher rankings and increased viewership.”

Security

One of the most important aspects of using the internet is security. This is why it’s important to really consider who will be doing the business’ domain hosting. Naturally, there are a range of well known companies that offer domain hosting services – and even additional services, such as domain email hosting – but it is imperative to put security first. In terms of registering the domain, it’s also important that business leaders recognise the various laws and requirements involved, such as registering their name on a public database. Entrepreneur has a very useful guide for securing a domain name, which has proved helpful to countless people.

For example, they advise putting in geographical or keywords in the name. They also suggest focusing on obtaining a “.com” above everything else.

“When you register your domain name, you’ll be bombarded with offers to purchase other versions like .net and .co. For most small businesses, that’s not needed. Investing in other extensions becomes important when patenting something or protecting a trademark… If you think a competitor might want the .net version of your domain name, for example, consider taking it first.”

Using a website might differ slightly from other forms of marketing, but it is essential for the modern business. A business simply doesn’t really exist if they don’t have an online presence. And a website, which businesses themselves control, helps to establish their brand on the wild domain of the internet.