3 Web Trends to Watch For This Year 

By Steve Hoag

website trends

The rules of the online and tech world are constantly changing as innovations are made, and paradigm shifts occur. What was a new trend last year is now an industry standard. What things will change throughout the next 12 months? Read on to find out!

Responsive Design Becomes Mandatory

Smartphones are now mainstream. Tablets will soon join them as their functionality and price point become more attractive for consumers. This means online browsing will be done more and more through devices other than computers. Responsive design used to be a novelty, and luxury afforded to companies that were large enough to need it. However, this next year responsive design will become an industry standard as mobile browsing reaches critical mass. Companies large and small will need to make adjustments to keep up or stay ahead of the pack.

The Coming of Age of the Experience Economy

Big time tech players like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have had to change up their game lately thanks to experience focused companies. These include the likes of DropBox and Spotify. Tech is no longer the main differentiator, as customer experience is steadily becoming a key purchasing factor. Experience related factors like company culture, case studies, and a consistent user experience across all mediums are becoming the mainstays. Look for that to continue as the bigger players continue to adapt to this new model. It’s already happening with key innovations like Windows 8, and the Microsoft Surface.

The Increase of Data Ecology Diversity

Data is becoming more and more important in today’s world. Companies are gathering more data on consumers than ever before, and finding innovative ways of implementing their findings.  ‘New Data’ (personal/contextual) will interconnect with ‘Big Data’ (archival) and create new ‘Tertiary Data.’ The amount of data we have is ever increasing, constantly leading to more insight into our personal lives. The implications for businesses, governments, and consumers are profound. Will data analysis completely overtake business or personal visions when making decisions? Will ‘going with your gut instinct’ become a distant memory? Only time will tell.

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 Thursday, August 1, 2013 6:50:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development web trends website

Getting Started with Responsive Design 

By Steve Hoag

fast track responsive web design

Responsive Design is the one of the latest trends in website development/design. More consumers are accessing the web from a variety of devices. These range from traditional devices like computers to tablets to smartphones. In order to maximize your website’s effectiveness, it needs to be able to be properly displayed on all devices. Responsive Design is commonly defined as building a website for a number of devices that adapts to each ones display /functional requirements. Ideally, you want your content to adapt to fit the user’s screen and display regardless of what device they are using.

There are a number of approaches that are critical to successfully implementing Responsive Design:

Mobile First Design – This focuses on starting with the smallest devices like smartphones, and designing your website around this. This can mean anything from removing content that won’t display on phones, to eliminating excess elements from your page that can make it difficult to display.

Media Queries – These can be added to a website’s style sheets/CSS. They are used to alter the way in which content appears in different devices using rules.

Fluid Grids – Unlike fixed grids, which stay the same width for every screen, these are defined using percentages. This allows them to change size, but remain in the same proportion to each other.

Some tools currently available for use are BootStrap which was developed by Twitter, Unsematic which helps with fluid grid design, and ResponsivePX which can be used to evaluate the current responsiveness of your site. Adobe also has released Edge Reflow which offers a variety of design tools. Please click on the ‘tools’ link to find a more extensive list of options out there. Now that you know the basics, time to get started on making your website responsive with the help of some tutorials!

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, July 26, 2013 6:18:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website

5 Tips for Building an Engaging Website 

By Steve Hoag

web site design, website design

Lots of people have websites. Not enough have engaging ones. That’s a fact of the Internet. Everyone’s objective should be to make their website as engaging as possible. If it isn’t, why are they still putting money and time into their Internet presence? Engaging websites are for companies (like yours) that are serious about how their impact online. So how do you go about doing that? Read on my friend, read on.

1.  Unique voice – It doesn’t matter if you sell bolts or Ferraris, every company needs to have a unique voice that mirrors their brand. If you don’t have a unique voice then you will not stick out in people’s minds, and will blend into the white noise.

2.  Make sure your content can be skimmed through – This basically boils down to not adding a lot of filler. You want to make your point, and then move on to the next one. Keep things concise. Also, make use of headers that allow viewers to easily jump from place to place easily, and still be able to retain the main points you are trying to communicate.

3.  Emphasize benefits over features – Customers care more about what a product can do for them, rather than being fed a feature list. For instance, telling your average Joe that your TV has a 1080p resolution, and Dolby surround makes you sound like a used car salesman. A better option is to tell them:  Our TV will create the most visceral cinematic experience you have ever experienced by seamlessly combining its stunning 1080p picture with immersive Dolby Surround Sound.  See the difference?

4.  Continually update your site – This is an absolute must. Your website needs to updated continually to stay relevant. Business is constantly evolving, and the Internet moves even faster. New trends and technologies are common occurrences that you need to take advantage of. Staying ahead of the curve is the name of the game.

5. Call to actions - These need to be all over the place. You want to make the purchasing process as simple and quick as possible. People are much more likely to buy if you repeatedly present them with that option.

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 Thursday, July 18, 2013 4:44:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise web design website

Social Media: Your B2B Mistress 

By Steve Hoag

Social Media: Your B2B Mistress

Social media can be quite the fickle mistress.

You can stay active and see relatively little growth. But, the minute you stop posting, Hell has frozen over.

Now time for the good news! This doesn’t have to be you! There are a variety of ways you can easily bolster your online presence through social media. All you need is a push in the right direction, a little dedication, and an unpaid intern. I’m just kidding about the unpaid part. You should compensate them for their efforts. They are broke college kids after all.

So without further ado here are 10 easy pointers for helping to promote your website via social media:

1.Promote your content and website on every channel that is relevant to your business.

A lot of people think that it’s necessary to post on every single social media channel for their business. This is absolutely not true. For instance, let’s say you own a factory that makes screws, bolts, and nails. You create LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube company accounts. That’s great because they’re relevant.

Then you go way out into left field and create a Pinterest account. What’s Pinterest you say? It’s a social network that people (and by people, I mean mostly girls with an avid fashion/photography interest) post photos/images in a collage format. Do you think these people are interested in screws, bolts, and nails? I would venture to say no.

The point is this: Only become active in channels where your target audience is present in large numbers. The important B2B social networks are usually LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Most business professionals/targets are active in Linked In. The same can be said for Twitter, but to a lesser extent. Twitter has almost become a job posting/RFP network of sorts, with people actively looking for help in projects. Finally, Facebook is primarily used for direct to consumer products that have a quick purchasing decision process such as Pepsi, Xbox, Old Spice, video games, music etc. With regard to B2B, creating a company page on Facebook can be useful for developing an online community with your employees.

2.Create usernames/handles that reflect your business.

No one will be able to find you online if you have an account that doesn’t make people immediately think of your business. If you’re a graphic design company, use something like CompanyNameDesign, or something similar. The same goes for any other company. Include your company name in your handle, even if it is an acronym, along with another keyword that’s directly applicable to your work. Try to keep the handle as short as possible to make the most use of Twitter’s character limit.

3.Share content at peak hours.

It’s important to post when people are most active on social networks.  This will help to gain the most visibility. Activity varies a great deal between networks. For example, people are most active on Linked In during the weekends. Therefore, post content on Fridays when people are done with work and surfing their social networks. Focus on posting during business hours on weekdays for Twitter, especially between 1-3pm EST. This may vary depending on your business, but it is a good rule of thumb. Post on Facebook midweek between 1-4 pm.

4.Engage people you know and use them to share your content.

Who is more likely to do you a favor: A total stranger or friend?  Unless they’re a Good Samaritan, it will usually be your friend or even an acquaintance. The easiest way to immediately spread content is through people you already know. Leverage your network to engage potential clients in your contacts’ networks.

5.Stay active on other blogs, groups, and pages that your targets are active on to establish credibility.

What’s easier? Talking to that random girl at the party? Or making friends with her friends, impressing them, and then getting introduced that way? Here’s a better question: which is more effective? The first option is easier, and can be effective, sure. However, it is a lot easier to establish credibility if you focus on leveraging the contacts of your target. This goes back to pointer #4. People trust people they know. If you engage their personal network that your targets trust, then that immediately boosts your brand image in their mind.  A lot of companies focus on trying to promote their brand directly, where the indirect approach can be just as effective. Some practical ways of doing this are identifying blogs, groups, and pages that your targets are active on. Make comments on topics you are knowledgeable in, and post questions as well as interesting content you found to gain exposure.

6.Don’t spam your followers. Talk with them rather than at them.

Who likes someone that texts them incessantly throughout the day? No one. It’s annoying. When it comes to social networking treat your followers like you would your significant other. Don’t across as desperate for attention or needy. Give them just enough to keep them interested, but not too much so that you push them away. Spread out your posts so that you don’t flood their newsfeed. There are a lot of tools out there that can help you achieve this. One of the most prevalent in B2B circles is HootSuite. It aggregates all of your social media accounts from different channels, and allows you to schedule posts ahead of time. This means you don’t need to immediately post every interesting thing you find. You can save it for later! By spreading out your posts you are able to stay top of mind among your target market.

You know that one friend who can’t stop talking about themselves? Yeah, so does everyone. Don’t be that guy (or company). No one enjoys hanging out with them past the first 5 seconds. The same goes for social networking. Don’t constantly push your products on people. Talk with them rather than at them. This can be done by posting content that appeals to them, which in turn builds engagement, and makes people want to come to you. By posting interesting, and fun content you can engage them in a way that other companies who focus on hard selling and heavy advertising can’t. You will gain respect, and become a thought leader in their minds. When they do eventually have to purchase a product that you provide, you will already be top of mind.

7.Include share buttons on all of your content to make it as easily as possible for people to share it.

Once you drive people to your site, make it easy for them to share your great content! Install social share buttons on every blog page of your site so that you make sharing as seamless as possible.

8.Promote other people’s content, and ask them to share yours! They will more often than not return the favor.

Fact: Everyone loves attention. Nothing feeds the ego like seeing other people value what you have to say, and demonstrating that. When it comes to social media that means sharing, re-tweeting, reposting etc. Feed your followers’ egos by sharing their content, as long as it is directly relevant to your business and core competency. This goes both ways. You will be surprised how often people will share your posts as long as you ask them. For instance, asking for retweets on Twitter leads to 4x as many RTs! Cite hubspot It never hurts to ask.

9.Pre-populate article/blog content on your site to show that you are not new to the game.

This follows the idea that more content equals more credibility. Who do you trust more: The author with 30 books on the subject, or the one who is writing his first book? Definitely option A. If people go to your blog on your site and see only one post, does this convey your expert knowledge in your field, or commitment to your social networking? Nope. An easy way to avoid this is by posting several blog articles before promoting them on social networks. Backdate these so people see that you have had this blog going for a significant amount of time, rather than having 5 blog posts from the same day.

10.All posts and bios should use appropriate keywords to help you gain exposure.

Increasing exposure of your site and social media accounts are intrinsically tied in some ways. SEO for your site depends on prevalence of keywords and links, and the same goes for gaining exposure on social media. Include keywords that are relevant to your business in all blog/social media posts, as well as bios. If you are a designer, that doesn’t mean trying to force fit words like design every other sentence of your blog post. Make sure the article flows! When it comes to social media, including #hashtags with keywords makes your posts more easily searchable for other companies. For instance, Fast Track operates in website design and development, so including hashtags like #webdevelopment, and #webdesign are great options for any posts we have.

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, July 10, 2013 12:06:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB social media social media marketing website

Website Designer or Developer? The Catch 22 of B2B, or is it? 

By Steve Hoag

web designer, web developer

Ah yes, web designers and developers, the Michelangelos and Henry Fords of the Internet. Who do you need for your online business to succeed? This is perhaps one of the more perplexing, yet simple questions to answer. Before we work through this problem, let’s create a brief profile of both types of Internet professionals:

Web Designers:

These right brained individuals are oftentimes the creative, Apple-cult, organic coffee drinking artists of the internet industry. Yes, that is a generalization, but just roll with it for now. Their primary focus is on the visual and graphical representation of a website. They want to create a seamless experience for visitors by combining eye-catching design with usability. Most, if not all, have some knowledge in coding, but their core competency resides in design.

Web Developers:

On the flip side of the yin & yang spectrum are the left brained web developers. These guys focus on the nitty gritty work that goes on behind the curtains of the beautiful design that designers create. Designers are Xzibit on Pimp My Ride, while developers are your friendly neighborhood mechanics that make sure that your car does what it’s supposed to do – work.

So who do I need? A web designer or developer?

Put simply, it depends on the functional and visual requirements of the project you have in mind. Like I said before, almost all designers have programming knowledge, so they can handle a lot of tasks that are functionally simple, yet graphically/visually intensive. Do you need a simple 3-5 page site created? Hire a designer. How about a simple blog? Hire a designer.

However, it gets trickier the more complex of a solution you need. For instance, if you are looking for a custom e-commerce solution, you will want both a developer and designer depending on how visually attractive you need it to be. How about a new, shiny custom website? You will need both Xzibit and your friendly car mechanic – AKA a designer and developer.

Successfully building your online presence depends on sound design and programming. It is difficult to succeed with one, but not the other. Sure, your dependable ’90 Civic may still run well, but wouldn’t you rather have a Ferrari? Likewise, having a Ferrari with a defective engine really doesn’t do you much good either. That is, unless you are Fred Flintstone and can power it with your feet. The most important step in this process is clearly establishing its requirements at the beginning. Once that is done, the hiring decision is easy.


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, June 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website
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