How to Leverage Pinterest for Your Web Design Business 

By Steve Hoag

how to leverage pinterest for your web design

Pinterest has been gaining popularity among designers for its innovative visual features. This platform allows its users to pin images from other websites onto a board. This can help to increase traffic to these sites, as well as serve as a virtual portfolio for designers. So how can you use Pinterest for your design business?

Building your brand

Pinterest is just as useful as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at building your own unique online brand. There are some great ‘About Me’ sections to communicate just who you are and what you do. You can also link to your Twitter, Facebook, and website.

Finding design inspiration

Inspiration is critical for designers. You can get design block just like writers do. Pinterest is great because you can pin any cool websites to your board that you come across. When you need inspiration all you need to do is come back to your board. Make sure to use keywords like ‘web design’ in each pin board’s name so that people looking for web design can view your profile.

Creating a unique portfolio

Pinterest is awesome for showcasing your portfolio. You can create separate boards for different market segments, or different skills you have. Another thing you can do is post images from projects to your website, and then pin these images to your board. If anyone shares your images on Pinterest they will still link back to your website. This is a great way of turning Pinterest into a traffic source for your business. You can also just upload screenshots of your work, but this won’t link back to your portfolio.          

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, December 6, 2013 7:40:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging SMB social media social media marketing web design website

How to Decrease Page Load Times 

By Steve Hoag

how to minimize page load times

It’s absolutely important to keep page load times in mind when building your new business website. Users will leave if your website doesn’t load quickly enough, and traffic will begin to decline. Less traffic means less leads. Check out these five tips on how to minimize loading times:

Avoid Redirects

Some redirects are unavoidable, but you should do all you can to get rid of any that are unnecessary. Redirects increase page load times by adding an extra HTTP. Make sure to look for broken links and fix those!

Optimize Image Size

Images can end up taking a lot of your page size and significantly impact loading times. You should resize the images you plan to use with an image editor like Photoshop.

Image File Format

Always stick to standard formats for your images like JPG, PNG, and GIF! This will minimize any display problems.

Optimize Caching                  

Whenever a user visits your website they need to load its image, Java, and CSS files which can significantly increase page load times. Enabling HTTP caching on your website will let these files be saved by a user’s browser. Next time they visit your website they can simply retrieve the cached files instead of downloading them all over again. Optimizing caching can also reduce bandwidth and hosting costs.

Update your CMS Software

Content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, and others will release updates from time to time to their software. These will help to improve overall performance. Make sure to keep up to date!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, December 4, 2013 5:16:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB web design web development website

Five Classic Web Design Mistakes 

By Steve Hoag

web design mistakes

Web design has changed a lot over the years, but it is surprising how many businesses make the same mistakes over and over again. The good news is you can learn from their mistakes and not repeat them! Let them drive away potential customers, while you laugh all the way to the bank. Here are a few things to avoid:

Not adhering to the Martian Man rule

If a man from Mars saw your website would they be able to tell what it was about in four seconds? For many websites, the answer is no. Your website should effectively communicate what your company does/sells/is all about quickly and concisely. Use appropriate images, taglines, and titles to do this. Keep it concise.

Having pages that are too ‘busy’

Do you remember that thing called MySpace? If you do, then you will recall how there were thousands of things you could add to your profile to customize its look. Some people thought this meant they had to use every single widget, and made their profile look like a collage of neon colors, sounds, and ridiculous images. Your website needs to be the opposite of this. Sometime a simple, minimalist approach is best. It’s actually en vogue now. You don’t want to distract users from the core content they should be paying attention to. Avoid a clutter, auto-playing music, among other things and you should be fine.

Failing to make navigation intuitive

A user should be able to get from point A to point B quickly and intuitively. Don’t make getting to an important section a cumbersome process for a user. Keep your navigation simple, intuitive, and prominent in your website. Use tabs for the most important sections, and avoid including unnecessary links or buttons.

Opening new browser windows

Pop-ups aren’t fun for anyone. They are distracting, and impede you from surfing the web easily. Some designers think that pop ups are alright because they keep the user on your site longer. That’s like saying it’s okay to for a restaurant to take 30 minutes to process your bill because they want you to order more food. If anything it’s going to drive business away. Avoid using pop ups at all cost on your business website!

Not answering users’ questions

This mistake ties back to the Martian Man rule. Every user should be able to tell what your business does right off the bat. They also need to have any questions regarding your business answered easily. Making important information readily available is key. Including things like an About Us, Contact Us, FAQ, and Blog sections are great for providing users with all the answers they need. A well-informed visitor is much more likely to seriously consider your company when making a purchase.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Tuesday, December 3, 2013 6:46:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB web design web development web trends website

How to Dominate Your Competition Online With Great Design 

By Steve Hoag

dominate your competition online with great design

Capitalism is all about beating your competition to a pulp. It’s dog eat dog, and not all dogs go to Heaven. I understand that every industry is different, but for the sake of this article let’s assume that you and your competitors are more or less the same. Similar prices, product, strategy etc. So how to you beat someone that is a mirror image of yourself? By going the extra mile of course!

Using data and research to drive website design decisions

Data is king these days. Everyone wants actionable data that they can use to make informed decision. When it comes to website design, there are some different types of research you need to focus on. First of all, you need to truly understand who your customers are, and design your website around their needs, not yours. Using customer surveys or doing online secondary research can provide valuable insights into what your target segment wants/needs from you. Secondly, learn to use programs like Google Analytics, and truly become a master in interpreting the information they provide. Factors like abandonment rates, and hotspots on each page can help you identify how users are using your site, and where problem areas are. Use data like this to continually optimize your site design, so that you always your finger on your customers’ pulse.

Responsive Design

 One of the latest trends in website design is responsive design. This basically means designing your website so that it adapts to fit any device’s screen. More and more people are using mobile devices to access the Internet, which makes this new trend all the more important. Companies are steadily making the changes necessary to optimize their websites for mobile devices, but it hasn’t necessarily become industry standard yet. By utilizing responsive design in your website you will be going the extra mile, and making sure that anyone and everyone can use your site.

Strong Central Message

Content is arguably the most crucial part of website design. Your site may have a great layout, but customers won’t be coming back if the content isn’t compelling. Having a strong central message is critical. You need one that will resonate with your customers. This is true regardless of industry. Create a compelling reason for your target segment to think that your company has more to offer than anyone else. Focus on benefits over pricing. Pricing can change, but a strategy that revolves around identifying customer pain points, and responding with benefits is harder to imitate.

Awesome Branding

Branding is critical at every stage of a company’s life. As a small fish in a big pond it is even more important. You need to convince potential customers that you can hang with the big boys, and beat them at their own game. One of the easiest ways of doing this is through successful branding. Make sure your site looks as professional as possible, and be sure to select a strong logo. This will help to make your company look bigger than it is, and instill more confidence in users.

Simplicity – Less can be More

Trying to do too much at once can oftentimes inhibit your ability to be successful at anything. It’s the same idea when it comes to websites. Minimalism can be a great approach. Make it easy for your customers to see the important points, while giving them the option to read more details if they want to. Try to keep website copy concise, without babbling. Also avoid going overboard with media. This can really impact the professionalism of your site. Stick to what is absolutely necessary. Focus on readability when it comes to font choice, color, and size. There can be people with varying degrees of vision viewing your site, and maximizing accessibility is important.

Transparency

Another key area to focus on in your company's website design is maintaining a high degree of transparency. Since people don’t know much about you, you need to be really upfront with everything. This means providing easily accessible contact and business information. Anticipating any questions your customers have before they ask them is crucial. Make sure to address typical ones like what you sell, who you sell to, pricing, benefits etc.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, November 29, 2013 2:52:00 AM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB web design website

5 Things SMB's Should Avoid Doing on Social Media 

By Steve Hoag

things SMBs should doing on social media

Everyone is using social media these days. Even my grandparents are figuring out how to use Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to its incredible rise in popularity, social media has quickly become an important marketing tool. There are a bunch of articles online that will give you great tips on how to use social media, but there aren’t as many that detail what you shouldn’t do. If you avoid the following pitfalls, your business will be in better shape than most.

Don’t spam followers

No one likes spam. This is especially true on social media, where people opt in to see news from your company. They aren’t being forced to see your posts, so don’t make un-following your profile an appealing option. Avoid multiple posts in short periods of time. Try to space them out on networks. Hourly tweets are fine, but aim for only a few posts a week on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Don’t only promote your own products

Everyone has that one friend who only talks about themselves. This routine gets really old, really fast. Pretty soon you find yourself avoiding that person whenever possible. The same thing goes for consumers when they see a company only promoting themselves. Everyone likes sales deals, but they don’t want to be bombarded by them 24/7. Mix it up! Include some links to interesting industry articles, infographics, or videos from other websites.

Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to create more exposure on networks like Twitter. They are essentially an easy way of searching and organizing information for users. For instance, if you would like to see everything that is being said about website design, you could just search for #websitedesign on Twitter. That being said, remember to use only relevant hashtags whenever possible. If you are a website design business common hashtags might include #webdesign, #websitedesign etc. #Don’t #use #hashtags #for #every #word #like #some #teenagers #do. That’s just #annoying.

Don’t post at irregular hours

Find out when your target segment is most active online. If they are using social media from 9 am – 5 pm then post during that time. Don’t post at 8 pm. This will help to maximize your exposure, and increase your chances of finding a lead.

Don’t ignore mentions, comments, RTs

Acknowledge your customers if they interact with you via social media! Say thank you for re-tweets or shares on different networks. Be sure to respond to any questions or comments you receive. Timely responses makes users feel valued, and improve your overall brand equity.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Tuesday, November 26, 2013 6:40:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB social media social media marketing
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