Author Archives: Christopher S. Jennings

Site Case Study: Steve H. Lawton

Steve H. Lawton

While all of our clients are different, it’s not every day that you encounter a person like Steve H. Lawton. An executive at Dell, Steve had a snow skiing accident that nearly ended his life. He came out of that experience with a powerful perspective on living. His was a site we knew we had to build.

A SPECIFIC PERSONALITY

Alter Endeavors builds our sites to engage the visitor. Conversions and usability are at the top of our list. After that, however, the site is about the person or business; who they are and how they want to be perceived.

Steve was starting his branding from scratch. Aside from the cover for his book, the Steve H. Lawton brand had no look. Part of our process is having the designer interview our clients. We do this so the designer understands the vision and personality behind the site. As Steve and his designer—also Steve, funnily enough—talked, it was clear this site was going to be special. It was going to be capital-b Big on personality.

THE MAN. THE MESSAGE. THE SITE.

When we began our engagement, Steve’s book Head First: A Crash Course in Positivity was being finalized and on its way to the printer. With that in mind, it was important to identify the purpose of the site. Does it begin and end with the book? Or is the site about Steve H. Lawton beyond the book?

Steve wanted a platform to continue to share his message. His blog is front and center. Prominent newsletter signup forms and calls to action ensure those who want to hear from him can easily sign up to do so. An RSS feed signup is also offered.

Steve needed a stage for his speaking efforts. Steve’s speaking page is a study in how to do it right. Testimonies and client logos build credibility. Potential clients can see the topics he speaks on, and watch Steve in action in his videos. Steve’s bio and print-ready photos are there to be downloaded and included in programs and on event sites.

While the site is a solid platform for the book, it has a life after; accommodating all of Steve’s efforts and his mission moving forward.

A QUIZ THAT PROMPTS

The message of positivity carries an introspective aspect. To foster that interaction, we worked with Steve to put together a quiz that engages his visitors. The results of the quiz get them thinking about positivity in their lives, furthering the impetus to buy his book. (They can also sign up for his mailing list when they take the quiz; or not, it’s up to them.)

A SITE THAT BELONGS TO STEVE

Building Steve’s site was not only a pleasure—he’s great to work with, we were sad to see him go—but also fed into Alter Endeavor’s mission of making this world a better place. Another one of our values is constructing sites that are unique in the marketplace. There’s no one like Steve. There’s no site quite like his either. (Just try and get that from one of those cookie-cutter templates we all see the ads for.*)

*Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Writing Website Content: Accommodating Different Types of Site Visitors

writing website content

“How?” she said to me, “When writing website content, how do I accommodate people who come to my website who know what they want, and also those who still need to be convinced they need my services?”

She’s a new client who’s had a website for a while. She’s engaged us to build a new site that will increase her interaction with both of those audiences.

Her’s is a good question. A valid one. Let’s take a look at it.

The Two Types of Site Visitors

Visitor One has encountered you on social media. Your statements there, consistent posts, and engagement with others have convinced her she needs your services. When she arrives at your site, she wants to contact you.

Visitor Two needs what you do. Through a search engine query, she’s arrived at your site. She’s never heard of you. She’s encountering your message for the first time.

Visitor One : Give Her What She Needs—NOW

Accommodating Visitor One is simple, but it’s a step so often overlooked. Give her the ability to do what she wants, in this case, contact you. Put the information where she is looking for it. Make it simple.

I’ll say it again. Make it simple.

If you’re a service company. A restaurant. Any brick-and-mortar. Provide your phone number—right there, at the top of your page. On mobile, this phone number can be clicked and then will call you. See? Simple. 

Let’s review the steps:

1. She arrives at your page. 

2. She sees and clicks (or dials) the phone number. 

3. She calls you.

4. You are now talking to someone who wants your services (= money*).

*Yay!

Some businesses (I am looking at you Restaurant Industry) try to be fancy and tuck this information away. The phone number—and even more inexplicable—their address are in the footer (not a terrible place for it), but still not the first place the visitor will see. I’ve seen this information on about pages, menu pages in the middle of the appetizers, and there’s been more than a few where I can’t find this information at all. (Really? What’s a restaurant’s customers’ number one need? Find the restaurant.)

Ok. So back to visitor experience. Here’s the difference if the phone number is in the footer on the site. (This example is on mobile, a platform on which most visitors arrive.)

1. She arrives at your page. 

2. She looks for your phone number. (Time wasted.)

3. She doesn’t see it. (She’s a little frustrated.)

4. She scrolls down. (Time wasted.)

5. She scrolls down. (Time wasted.)

6. Wifi is slow, the site stutters. (MORE time wasted.)

7. She arrives at the bottom of the site.

8. She sees and clicks (or dials) the phone number. 

9. She calls you.

10. You are now talking to someone who wants your services (= money).

In the second interaction you’ve already cost your potential client. You’ve tested her patience, which few of us have on the internet. You have precious moments with those coming to your site. If they know what they want, you have to give it to them now.

Contacting you is a prime need of visitors. Phone number, address, buttons leading to your contact page to send an email—these are all common items included at the top of a site’s pages. However, depending on your business, this might be a newsletter sign-up, or link out to your social media platforms.

Visitor Two : Tell Her Your Story and Invite Her to Come Along

Visitor Two: she needs what you do, but doesn’t know anything about you. You have a little more time with her, because she’s open to gathering information to make her decision. However, you still need to make your case quickly and clearly.

The elements of a well-built home page—and interior pages—lead the visitor on a journey. She is presented with the prime theme of the site: a headline and imagery that boils down the purpose of your business into a few, quickly understood words.

Scrolling down the website, this statement is supported and defined by things like:

  • The elevator statement: a slightly longer definition of your company’s offerings and objectives.
  • Graphic presentations of your services.
  • Logos, testimonials, or review site ratings add credence to your claims.
  • A video of you or your company in action.
  • Blog feeds, kept up to date, show you are savvy and present in the industry.

On the home page, each of these items are brief, a few words or graphically presented concepts. Each is accompanied by an action—a link or button urging interaction—taking her deeper into the site. There she will be further educated, convinced, and spurred to act.

By the time she reaches the bottom of the home page, and is presented with the final encouragement to contact you, she should be sold. After all, she’s gone on a guided trip, guided by YOU. You’ve given her the best story you have, told your tale.

Visitor Three : The Invisible Presence

There is one visitor, too, for whom all of the above applies. Though this visitor is silent, there’s a strong case for saying it’s the most important visitor of all.

The search engines—those internet robots made up of code probe your site. They’re digging for clues that you are who you say you are; that you do what you say you do. Their goal is to present the best on the tops of their lists. 

There were once multiple strategies in the past for luring them, and even fooling them, but now the best strategy is strong, relevant content, in positions on the page where their human counterparts would look for them.

Accommodating All the Visitors

An effective website provides your visitors with what they need. Whether it’s a phone number, or more information to make a decision, the best sites do this in a quick and clear way. As you consider your website, consider your objectives, what you want your visitors to do, and then put things in easily accessible places. We’ll all thank you for it.

A Website is Dreams Coming True

blog-dreams

“You’re making my dreams come true.”

I’ve been told this a few times now. As operations director here at Alter Endeavors—i.e. the guy who guides the teams working with our clients to design, organize, and build their sites—there are few statements that make me smile more.

My teams assemble the nuts and bolts of the site, being sure not only the calls-to-action are in place, but also that our sites are the best they can be across all devices and platforms. Alter Endeavors is currently working on quite a few sites, all of them at various stages within our process. As you can imagine, it’s too easy to get lost in the day-to-day.

“You’re making my dreams come true.”

A comment like this is a gut check. It causes us to look up and remember the bigger picture, the “why” behind what we do. It’s what makes me love my job. Nick created this web development company with an eye on more. His goal is to “return the human element” to the site building process. Part of that element is the “dream.”

The small business who re-builds their website to be mobile responsive, and increase their positioning in the search engine’s results, does so to bring people into their store or restaurant.

The author who puts up a site for her new book, and creates a blog full of dynamic content, has an eye on furthering her message and audience—looking beyond the current book launch to a well-branded platform, able to accelerate the next book launch and the next on the Amazon Best Seller lists.

The restaurant group who engages their customer base through ongoing social media channels, intent on delivering the information their audience wants. This same group builds a hub where customers quickly and easily find daily specials, location information, and hours. They care about their customers’ experience before they even walk through the door.

All of these are people with dreams. These are people living their dreams.

I know not all of our clients would say it this way. “You’re making my dreams come true” can come across too flowery. However, whatever they choose to call it, the truth remains—they stepped out and gave it a shot.

These are our favorite people to work with. The dreamers. The chance takers. The doers.

That moment when we pull the lever, when we direct the servers to the new site, when our client has a new and better face on the web—that moment is as exciting for us as it is for our clients.

Because, you see, nothing makes the Alter Endeavors team more happy than seeing—and being part of–a dream come true.

SEO Secrets (Shhhh)

woods

SEO is not the mystery it once was. Sure, Google seeks to constantly change the game. (They do so to confound those who use the strategies for evil, not good.) There are, however, some consistent simple methods for increasing your website’s SEO.

Wait. What is SEO? Ah. Glad you asked. SEO (pronounced es-ee-oh) stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” SEO is set of practices to increase your site’s presence in searches.

A Few Prime Keys to SEO

Mobile Compatibility. Wow. This is huge. HUGE. Google changed the way they evaluate sites in April. If your site is not optimized for mobile—and if you don’t know what that even means—stop what you are doing and contact us right now. Three months have passed since this important change. If you’re falling short of Google’s standards, when your potential customers search for you on their phones, you’re not showing up where you could be. During commuting times, weekends, and evenings, more than half of first-time site interactions now happen on mobile, and this number keeps climbing. Are you getting it? Dropping the ball here isn’t only no bueno, it’s a critical fail.

Your Address. Hmm. Seems like a no-brainer, right? The first step to people finding your services is the search engines knowing where you are located. Also, insure that everywhere your address is on the web, it is precisely the same. “2304 West Avenue” is different from “2304 W Avenue” and “2304 West Ave.” Seems incidental to us, but it’s crucial to the little robots who scan the web. (Robots are literal.)

Updated Content. Blogs. Primary page updates. Search engines are happy when they see things change. (By the way. Blog posts don’t have to be long, in fact, most readers like short and informative articles.)

Vibrant Social Media. Maybe you’re rocking it on your Facebook page. Your Twitter account is constantly lit up with offers and things for your target market. Instagram is flush with photos of your daily or weekly specials.  If these are not associated with your site by links, or even better, a feed on your site, you’re missing a paddle to the SEO boat.

Google Presence. Google loves company and wants you on their network. First, be sure Google has your information. Sign up for Google Business. Also, do you have industry specific content for which you can shoot small videos? (I recently assembled a BBQ grill and watched a fellow on Youtube put it together first.) Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Case in point, this Youtube star who opens Disney toys.

SEO: Your Website’s Bestie

So much of the search engines’ friendship with your site is determined by your content. Here’s a question: How does your site hold up against those items above? While it can seem overwhelming, there are solutions that can be put in place. From a site update for mobile compatibility, to redesign on a platform where you can enter new content, or having someone else write posts and manage your social media—all doable. We can help.

To chat about making search engine optimization your pal, talk to us today.

 

The Language of Websites, Part 1

Every industry has its own terms, the secret language outsiders don’t understand. Building websites is no different. We’re not being sneaky—trying to keep things under wrap—we just need something to call the practices and elements of what we do. 

So here it is, your first peek into the world of website building speak.

Site
It seems simple, but we’re not taking anything for granted. In our paradigm, “site” is shorthand for “website.”

Browser
Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox—all browsers. Simply put, it’s what you use to access the internet on your device. (Each of these browsers has specific requirements for websites. The websites we build are maximized for best performance with all of them.)

Calls to Action (or CTA’s)
What do you want your visitor to do? Visiting your business, signing up for your newsletter, calling you—all CTA’s. We identify five for each site. They are the anchors that determine all the other parts of the site and the strategy behind its implementation.

Site Map
Literally, what it sounds like. The map of your website. Laying out the map helps us know where things need to go and how they connect to one another.

Content 
The words, photos, and elements—graphs, quizzes, email contact forms—on a website. These are often the biggest challenge when building a site. We take this into account from the very beginning and start talking content from our first meeting.

Design
After content, this is the second tier in creating a website. With calls to action and the site map in place, it’s time determine what the site looks like. The answer to this question is far more than “what looks pretty”—though aesthetics are important. Good design incorporates your branding, guides the user through the site, and communicates content clearly and effectively.

Development
The final stage of building a site. Short for “web development,” it’s the invisible structure a site is built upon. Also called “coding” and “programming,” it’s a written language telling computers how to display and execute the functions of the site.

Device
Phone/mobile, tablet, desktop—the three primary methods for accessing websites. Phone and mobile refer to your handheld device; tablets are things like iPads and Galaxy Tab; and desktop is the monitor and computer sitting on your desk. Each of these has a specific sized window for content … which brings us to our next word.

Responsive
It’s how we compensate all the different sizes a site needs to be. A responsive site recognizes the device it’s on and resizes itself to fit. This often changes the layout. A mobile site is very different from the one on your desktop, offering maximized functionalities for the device. The world of responsive sites is relatively new, with the technology being perfected as we speak. Alter Endeavors only builds responsive sites, guided by our lead developer who constantly updates to ensure rock-solid best performance.

These are the key terms, but we’ve only scratched the surface! Join me in my next post and we’ll delve deeper into the lingo.

Your Site : More than Just an Online Brochure

Not too long ago a website was just an online version of your company’s brochure. Get your information out there, what you do, what services you offer—that sort of thing. Oh! Be sure and throw in the address and phone number somewhere too.

Once you had it designed and posted, there your site would sit. Online. Your business would grow and change. New products would be added. Still, the site sat there, unchanged. You didn’t have the knowledge to revise it; that took an expensive guy who wrote mysterious code. Five years later and finally you can’t stand it. It’s time to hire someone to put a new online brochure up for you. Time to repeat the process over again.

Things Have Changed

The web is a much more vibrant place than it was even just five years ago. The website is a hub for all of a company’s activities. Through social media, blogging, and hits on Google search; it’s a starting point for being involved with your customers. It’s not all just for fun either. All of this engagement is for a purpose—bringing your customers through your door and having an ongoing relationship with them.

What about content, the information locked away waiting for the next site update? That’s changed too. Websites are now built with the ability for you, the site’s owner, to make those revisions. It isn’t only on the blog page. All the pages of a site can be (and should be) built to be edited and rewritten, adding new photos along the way.

Mobile Is King

Another key difference from five years ago is the explosion of mobile technology. Phones and tablets fill the hands of an ever increasing number of people. (For instance, I own a tablet, a phone, a lap top, and a desk top computer.) Different devices mean different platforms. Different platforms mean your site needs be optimized for each. (“Optimized” is a fancy word for “looks great and functions the best” for the specific device.) “Responsive” is a word being used in the web site industry. Simply put, it’s designing your site to be its best—optimized—on every device.

What Your Site Can (and Should) Be

There is an endless array of functionalities for today’s site. Social media feeds can be built right in. Email contact forms, surveys, informational videos, interactive maps, and new methods for keeping your visitors on your site longer are created every day. For every idea out there, there is someone who can figure out how to make it work, and who is it making it happen.

It’s time to toss the brochure. It’s time to make your site more than a thing that just sits there. It’s time for your site to work for you.

Let’s get this done. Contact us today.