Category Archives: Internet Design

Creating Logos on a Small Budget

Quite often I am asked, “how one can get a logo done cheaply?”.

Of course it has to be said and should not be forgotten, that your logo is one of the most important aspects of your business and is your presentation to the world, your brand recognition comes through your logo. Some big companies will pay thousands, hundreds of thousands even millions for logo design/rebranding, but if you dont have that kind of money, or dont place a high regard on the value of your corp identity then I am going to show you how to get a logo done for as little as $5 to $500.

You have three options.

OPTION 1 : Fiverr.com – costs $5

Go to www.fiverr.com and search for logo design. This is a great and cheap way to get some design ideas mocked up. Fiverr.com allows you to test some logo ideas for 5 bucks a time.

OPTION 2: post a logo design contest – costs $75-$100

I have had some nice success with this option. Basically I post my requirements, put up a prize, usually something like $75-$100, then wait for designers to submit their entries, then choose a winner at the competition close date and award the prize.

Here is some logo contests that I have run. Further below is some examples of logos from those contests.

OPTION 3: post a project on www.99designs.com – costs $350 – $500

Pop over to www.99designs.com. This is like option 2 but the designers here will provide highly professional designs and its a more formal setting. Its a logo contest with a touch of class. I have used 99designs many times for web site projects and they provide excellent results.

Some Examples of Logos that I have had created

Here are some examples of logo that I have had done using option 2, design contest.

What to look out for, ie the risks.

Mostly, logo designers that do work cheaply are doing so because they either need to increase their portfolio or live in a country where cost of living is cheap, other times you need to be wary, you may just get what you pay for. If you are paying someone 5 bucks to make a logo, then they will usually give you 5 bucks worth of logo. Never expect 500 bucks worth of logo when paying 5 bucks.

Another thing you need to be careful of with cheap logo design is that the designer does not simply rip off another companies logo and stick your name on it. In graphic design, its very difficult to determine if the works are unique or not. 99designs.com does offer a level of guarantee that the works are unique and that you are the copyright holder, but of course you pay more for that service.

For the most part, I have always had good experience with logo contests and its an affordable way to move forward with your logo if you have a small budget.

Why you MUST optimise your images for the web

When you upload image to be viewed over the internet through a web browser then you have to make sure that they are “optimised” correctly for the best user experience.

For example, most digital cameras these days will take a high resolution image which is nice to look at locally on your pc screen, but these usually come at hefty file sizes and dimensions and is impractical for viewing on a web site due to the various speeds of users connections and screen resolutions.

The result of uploading high resolution images to a web page will result in the following problems and knock on effects:

  • depending on the users internet connection speed, the user will need to wait whilst each image downloads before they can view them
  • depending on the users screen size, a high resolution image may not render correctly in the  browser and may overcrowd the users screen space
  • if your page takes long to load due to downloading many large files, google will consider this to be a slow site and will not rank you.
  • if your page takes long to load, ie more than a few seconds, then the user may decide to look at another site which loads faster.

The first two items result in poor user experience and the third and fourth are knock on effects because it will result in bad rankings for your site and loss of visitors.

The goal is to make sure that your images download fast and are a decent enough quality for the end user to view. As long as you optimise your images for that in mind, then the end user experience is higher than that of a site where it takes a long time for pages to load and for images to appear slowly.

So, What is  a Good Size for Images?
If the images are photos, then the most flexible format is .jpeg (or .jpg). If you resize jpeg images to 550 pixels wide, disregard the height (although I dont recommend uploading images that have a height higher than 450 pixels high), usually 72 dpi images will result in app. 100kb in size. It is possible to optimise 550 pixel wide and 450 pixel height images to between 50kb – 75kb with the right software, but most resizing software can optimise images to a suitable level.

Perfect formula is: 550 pixel wide jpg in 72 dpi with max file size of between 50kb to 100kb.

This will provide a decent quality of photo viewing and optimal download of images.

What Software can i use to resize my images?
The options are vast so I am going to give you a couple of examples.

For PC – Light Image Resizer 
For Mac – Pixillion Image Converter

Always keep in mind that even though you might have access to the fastest broadband internet with lightening download speeds, there are still many people that dont, there are many people still on dialup or slow 3g connections not to mention you can get penalised by search engines for having a  slow web site.

Try and optimise images when and where you can.

Why It’s Important to Have a Search Engine-Friendly CMS

Your Content Management System (CMS) is the pulse of your website. Regardless of the breadth and depth of your internal and external link networks, the quality of your content will dictate your website’s statistics.

Content management systems are put in place to provide those with website authority to post, edit, and remove content. There are a lot of choices out in the market, but don’t get distracted by bells and whistles. You have to consider your needs and the level of technicality that you and your colleagues can handle. It is definitely suggested that you seek the opinion of your SEO consultant, as he too could be one of your content authors. Just make sure that your consultant takes your website’s needs into consideration and the different people who will be logging on to your CMS.

Before considering the tools, templates, and all the different options that will make your articles attractive, the most important factor to consider is whether or not your content management system choices are search engine-friendly. Meaning, your CMS should NOT give Google, MSN, and Yahoo a hard time crawling over your content. Here are the top 3 reasons why your chosen CMS should be search engine-friendly, without fail.

1.    You’ll be easier to find

The top 3 search engines rely on search engine spiders to crawl through page after page of web text to pull up information that the user needs. If the platform you choose requires you to load images or complicated file formats, it could dissuade spiders from crawling over any of your pages. Don’t risk being missed by spiders and be considered a spam site with no relevant content.

Good content management systems consider both in-page content and your page title—the bar that appears on top of the window. This area gives a description of your page. You should give this area as much attention as your content because spiders also crawl over page titles. Accessibility to search engine spiders is of high importance.

2.    It will be easier to update content

Search engine-friendly CMSs usually understand how important updated content is for a website’s ranking. This understanding is translated to making their interface easy to navigate, so that everyone in your team will find it easy to update your content.

As a website owner or SEO consultant, it is your job to keep your writers motivated for new content and to help them find the initiative to post updates.

3.    It’s easier to understand code

A simple interface and a simple content-input system no longer require your team to understand complex publication codes. This doesn’t mean that foolproof interfaces won’t give you the option to make your content look good. Like most word processors, they still can.

It’s just a matter of choosing the content management system that merges ease of use with the most relevant functions of your purposes. If you look hard enough, there are some CMSs that also help you with internal links.
 

How to Change Your Website URL Without Confusing Google

301 is an http code that corresponds to a permanent redirect. Implementing the 301 Redirect informs Google that you have permanently moved your website to a different URL.

301 Redirect is also often referred to as Google-Friendly Redirect because you get to maintain your website’s current ranking. Once informed, Google treats your website as the same book with a different cover. When your URL is properly redirected, Google simply transfers the merits of your website under your old URL to the new one.

After running your SEM campaign for a while, you’ll find that you have tons of old pages. Instead of deleting them, 301 Redirect allows you to make your old pages work towards increasing the ranking of your new URL.

Doing so would give you 4 major benefits:

1. Provides a stable foundation for your new web pages
The search engine merits of all your old web pages will definitely help push your new website, as long as you do proper redirecting and make sure that you incorporate your new URL in your old pages, especially those that rank the highest.

Another way to understand this “sharing of merit” is to look at your old web pages as steps that allow your new website or web page to climb the search engines faster.

2. Provides you with your own network of links
Your old network of internal and external links should continue working for you with your new URL. It is difficult to build credibility online. Don’t start from scratch if you don’t need to.

301 Redirect allows you to continue capitalizing on your existing link networks. The key is to make sure that your old pages are properly redirected to your new pages. This way, you won’t have to inform all the blogs and forums with which you’ve already made a relationship about the change in URL. The links will do their job and bring people to the right pages.

3. Gives search engine spiders more to crawl over
The continued existence of all your old web pages allows you to stay optimized for your niche keywords. The more relevant presence you have online, the better chances you have of being pulled up as a search engine result. And no matter which page gets to rank, users will still be able to find their way to your new URL with 301 Redirect.

Remember that this will only work if your old pages already have relevant and well-written content valued by your target market. Good content will encourage them to click the links that bring them to other pages and ultimately, to your new URL.

4. Provides your visitors with “back issues” of your website content
Links to and from your old web pages provide users a rich archive of “back issues.” This helps them get to know you better and acknowledge the credibility and relationships you’ve built with other websites, blogs, and online forums.

Giving users the option to check out old content will help them understand the history of your brand and how your product line has evolved with the market to better serve their needs.

Are Your Site Visitors Bouncing?

Do you have a high visitor rate yet you don’t seem to be earning money? You’ve done everything you think you can in terms of Internet marketing. You’ve spent a lot of time and money. Still, your site visitors leave as soon as they come.

Your site might have a high bounce rate. It is the number of single-page visits or visits in which a person leaves your site from the homepage. This happens when your site visitors don’t see what they are looking for during their first few seconds on your website.

Wrong keywords
You want your visitors to stay and explore your website. The most common reason for people leaving immediately is that your visitors don’t find your page relevant. But what led them to your site in the first place? Your site might have been indexed under misleading or inappropriate keywords by search engines. You need to fix this search engine optimization problem.

Failure to hold attention
Your visitor might have liked what he saw in your banner ad or text ad at another site. But when he clicked the ad and got to your website, he lost interest all of a sudden. This failure to hold attention may be due to your site design or site content. The elements of your website should fulfill the promise made by your ads.

Poor website design and navigation
Always get opinions regarding your website design and navigation. Do the pages load fast? Can people find what they are looking for without getting lost in your website? Do you really need background music or that animation in your homepage? The goal is to make your website clear and readable. Site visitors don’t want mumbo-jumbo. If a visitor wants to explore your website but you don’t have an easy-to-access global navigation, he will get irritated and just leave.

Google Analytics can help you determine your site’s bounce rate. After adding a few lines of code on your web pages, you can view the bounce rates for your website by going to Visitors, Visitor Trending, and then Bounce Rate.

To minimize your bounce rate, you can do any of the following:

Test your site
Ask a group of users to visit your site. Then, get objective feedback. Pay attention to what made them want to stay and what made them want to leave.

Show next steps
Always give visitors the option to click to the next page. Once you’ve grabbed the visitor’s attention with the first page, make sure the second page is ready for him.

Improve internal links
Your site should have an adequate number of internal links, or links that lead to other pages in your website. Like to your high-ranking pages, to your most-viewed pages, and to your favorite posts among others.

Use appropriate keywords
Optimize your site for the most popular search engines. When people get to your site because of misleading or inappropriate keywords, they will view your site in bad light and you might end up not getting any visitors in the long run.

10 Web Design Commandments

1. Thou shall not take too long to load.
Your pages should take no more than 5 seconds to load. The people you’re trying to talk to are busy and multi-tasking. When your site takes too long to load, they could easily click on the next search engine result.

2. Thou shall stay relevant and make sense.
When people use search engines, they usually know what they’re looking for. Let them know that you have exactly what they’re looking for. Use your content to do this for you.

3. Keep it simple and short.

4. Thou shall keep animation to a minimum

Make sure to keep your market’s attention where you want it. Unnecessary animation can get distracting and annoying within seconds. This could become a negative association with your brand that may be difficult to erase.

5. Thou shall make sure that the background stays at the back.
The mission of your background is to make the important things stand out. Without a background, your content will look flat and unappealing. However, steer clear from the temptation to over-decorate your background with dizzying patterns and colors that make the text difficult to read.

6. Thou shall be easy to read.
Acceptable font sizes range from 10 points to 15 points. Fonts smaller than size 10 strain the eyes. Excessively large fonts make your material look a lot longer than it really is. Extremes in font sizes discourage people from reading more. Pay attention to font colors and your site’s background. The best contrast is still a dark-colored font against a light background.

7. Thou shall make sure that web design elements match other marketing materials.
One sight, one sound. Make sure all materials are integrated, so that everything that represents your brand delivers the same message. The goal is to let the market get to know you and form a relationship with your brand. No matter how creatively brilliant your marketing collaterals are, they won’t work if your market ends up confused with different messages about your brand.

8. Thou shall be easily contacted.
Be generous with leaving your contact details all over the Internet. Think of it as making sure that everyone who is interested in your brand has your calling card. The challenge is to make sure that you position them where they are easy to find, but would not distract site visitors from browsing your content.

9. Thou shall make it easy to navigate.
Put yourself in the shoes of your target market. Arrange links and pages in a logical order, based on their purchase-decision process. Guide them from need recognition to comparing options, and finally, to making the purchase.

10. Thou shall design websites with an end in mind.
Focus on your brand by focusing on your customers. Provide them what they need and not just things that you want to focus on. Customers will appreciate it if you attempt to make a dialogue with them instead of just selling them things.

Optimizing Images to Reduce Page Loading Time

Optimizing your website images makes it easier for Internet users to view and navigate your site.

You only have seconds to make an impression. Regardless of their Internet connection speeds, most netizens lead a fast-paced lifestyle.

Everybody is busy with everything else aside from their computers. The last thing you want to do is to make them wait.

You only have seconds to convince your market that it would be worth their while to look through your website.

A slow-loading site immediately kills any interest they have for you.

Making fast-loading pages
Text normally does not give problems with regard to a web page’s loading time. It is the images and the animations that delay displaying your website. While keeping images and animations to a bare minimum are helpful, there are times when the image files are still big.

Even if you have just 1 image file, it could still prolong loading time.

Regardless of how many images your site has or how many animation files you want to put, image optimization is always helpful.

Below are 3 image formats you can use for your images. Selecting which one is best for an image can cut down your site’s overall size to significantly hasten your website’s loading time.

1. Save image files as JPEG
JPEG files are compressed images. If you have an image-editing program like Adobe Photoshop, you can crop out unnecessary elements of a picture and save what you need as a JPEG file. JPEG is best suited for images that have gradients and soft edges.

You can adjust the degree of compression when saving. The more you compress the image, the smaller the file size becomes. However, smaller image sizes require minimal sacrifices on overall image quality.

2. Use GIF
GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. This is a type of bitmap image format that supports up to 8 bits per pixel. GIF images have a reference palette of 256 unique colors. GIF supports both still images and simple animations that only have looped movements.

GIF is best suited for logos that normally have less than 5 colors. GIF is favorable for flat images with defined edges.
3. Opt to use PNG images
PNG or Portable Network Graphics also belongs to the family of bitmap image formats. PNG was developed to eventually replace GIF.

The 2 bitmap image formats closely resemble each other with some differences:

• You can compress PNG files more than GIF files.
• PNG allows you to control image transparency better than GIF can.
• With a wider range of color depth, PNG allows for better color precision and smoother edges.
• GIF images receive more browser and software support than PNG.
• PNG cannot support animations. GIF can.

No language barriers
HTML, XHTML, and CSS all support the 3 image formats featured in this article.

You can stick to one format, or use all 3 formats depending on what type of images or animations you need to help your market understand your brand better.

Basic Web Design Essentials

The most effective websites often rely on basic technology for their designs. The key is to know the basics inside out so that you can maximize their potential. More importantly, becoming an expert of these basic web design tools will allow you to use them in ways different from how your competitors do.

The 3 basic web design essentials in this article have their own distinct advantages and weaknesses.

The goal is to get the right mix to have the best of each work for your website.

Websites generally employ 2 kinds of technologies: client-side technology and server-side technology.

Client-side technology operates in the user’s web browser. On the other hand, server-side technology operates from the computer that hosts the website and sends the data to the user’s browsers.

This article focuses only on client-side technologies so that you know which technologies your website users are most likely able to process. Align your web design to these 3 basic web design essentials to gain more visits with less effort from your end.

1. HTML: Hyper Text Markup Language
HTML is a type of computer language that uses a set of text codes. These codes describe the structure of a website, more often used for text-based information.

HTML format relies on tags that are surrounded by . These tags allow computers to understand texts as headings, paragraphs, links, and so on.

Moreover, HTML allows designers to incorporate images, forums, spaces for comments and other useful additions.

However, when browsers read HTML with mistakes, they either show the error through the webpage or assume corrections far from the designer’s intention.

2. XHTML: eXtended Hypertext Markup Language
XHTML is a cross between HTML and eXtensible Markup Language (XML). XML is an extensible language that allows users to define elements for themselves to complement HTML tags. It helps computers all over the world share data over the Internet.

Although XHTML allows more breathing space for defining your own elements, the language is a double-edged sword.

It assumes you know what you’re doing so you can’t make a mistake because XHTML will do exactly as it is told.

Conversely, if you know what you’re doing, the language won’t make a mistake because XHTML will do exactly as it is told.

3. CSS: Cascading Style Sheets
CSS is another type of computer language that allows web designers to pack all the site’s design elements on a stylesheet and copy the sheet onto HTML, instead of having page after page of tags for the design and layout.

This allows web developers to keep page sizes at a minimum to make sure that loading time will be approximately 5 seconds.

CSS is used to separate the website’s main content from the presentation or aesthetic elements—colors, fonts, layout, and so on.

3 Tips to Increase Readability of Your Website Content

Your target market surf the Internet to quickly find information they need. Remember that your website functions primarily as an advertisement. With the pervasiveness of media, expect your target market to be doing a lot of things while surfing online.

Multiple browser pages and tabs are likely to be open. Their television sets may be turned on. At the same time, they might also be listening to music and flipping through a magazine. While all that is going on, their friends call them on their mobile phones. Seconds later, they receive a text message.

No one really pays as much attention as advertisers would like them to. This is why the advertising and marketing industry continuously explores new ways to learn about the media consumption and purchase habits of particular market segments.

The Internet is a good advertising medium. Advertisers have all the room to craft better-targeted campaigns. If your website is relevant and focused on your niche, you’ve already captured half of your market’s attention. However, this isn’t enough to make them click the purchase button. The greater challenge is to make site visitors stay long enough to get to know your brand better and eventually make a purchase.

Your website is your ally
The technology behind creating a website is such that you can do almost anything you want. The key is knowing which elements work to your favor and which ones don’t.

The most important element of any site is content. Several researches on online behavior reveal that people read contents in an “F” pattern. They skim through the first 2 or 3 lines and then sparingly read through the first few words of the succeeding lines. This is your only chance catch their attention. Interesting pictures and colors can help, but they need to be relevant. Besides making sure to have niche and relevant content, below are 3 other tips that although simple, can help make significant improvements on your site content.

1. People like it short and sweet
Make your point as early as possible to keep their interest going. Don’t be afraid to break up your lines of text. One paragraph after another could tire out your visitors. Keep in mind that reading on a monitor produces more eye strain than reading on paper. Make online reading easy for them. This is also a good way to make sure that you only make them read what is necessary.

2. BIGGER IS BETTER, but not when you overdo it
Size is crucial. No one will read anything that is unreadable. The acceptable font size is between 10 points and 15 points. Anything bigger will make everything look long, discouraging readers to go on. Make sure your background provides enough contrast for your font color.

Your font choice can send subliminal messages about your brand. Classic serif and sans serif fonts are the best. You can explore how you can pair up serif and sans serif fonts to separate headings from the body.

3. Keep graphics to a minimum
Although animations and flashy graphics look nice, they distract users from the point your site is trying to make. Pictures are helpful as long as they are relevant and only attract attention when necessary.

Discover the Different Types of Web Content Writing

Due to the burgeoning internet businesses and the SEO theory of discovery, there are now many different types of web content writing that extend past the simple theme of writing.

For instance, you may be considered a web content provider if you write a journalistic news update, if you provide informational articles, or if you simply rewrite an article on a simple concept. In fact, rewrites are a very common part of web content writing.

This is because almost no idea on the Internet any more is 100 percent original. Information is free to access and free to develop, therefore many people have the need for articles that have already been written.

However, since this information cannot be reposted on websites due to copyright laws, the website creators hire web content writers to rewrite the material in their own original tone of voice so that the result is original and can be posted.

In fact, ghost writing is often compared to web content writing as not many web providers receive name recognition for their work.

Most are hired to write simple articles that contain certain keywords (known as SEO writing) or are hired to write short articles that inform website readers on the basics of a problem that a product is suppose to resolve.

There is really no end to the types of writing a writer might be asked to create, therefore web content providers need to be versatile in their writing skills.

Many websites hire web content providers because they provide content that draws viewers into the website which is the number one thing that will produce sales.

Before you can hope to make any sales, you have to find a way to draw people into your site so that they can appraise your products.

One thing you will have to do if you own a website is appraise your site and decide which type of web content writer will best suit your needs.