Six Common Homepage Mistakes You Need To Avoid

Six Common Homepage Mistakes You Need To Avoid

Your website homepage is the most important page on your website. It’s the gateway to your business and the page where the majority of your visitors land first. Its primary job is to compel visitors to stay, explore more pages and move through the sales funnel. Sounds simple, right?

It’s not simple when you recognize that homepage design requires the most creativity and effort on the part of the web designer compared to any other website page. The central focus of the design needs to be on your visitors. If the right vision and knowledge of current design principles is lacking, your website is going to be unappealing and drive them away.

Here are the six mistakes you need to avoid on your homepage.

Small Images and Large File Sizes

Using small thumbnails in order to fit as many images as you can on the page is not pleasing to the eye. It’s cringe worthy. It can quickly overwhelm visitors and cause eye-strain. If the images are small on desktop, how do you think they are going to look on a mobile device? When you consider that aging baby boomers are the largest demographic population, the last thing you want to do is have images they have to squint to see.

Large image file sizes are almost as frustrating as small images. When webpages have to load large image sizes it can significantly slow page load time. Today’s visitors are impatient and don’t want to wait more than a split second for an image to load. It impacts website performance and is a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. Again, if it’s an issue on desktop, it’s going to be an even bigger issue on mobile devices.

Overuse of Animation

Slideshows, videos, slide-in graphics and gifs are a staple of most websites but all on one page? Yikes! While they can increase user engagement, any animation should be a page enhancement, not the central focus. Otherwise, it’s distracting and can also slow page load time. Are you still using Flash animation? Flash is practically dead and you shouldn’t be using it. Nothing says “out of date” better than a flash plugin that needs to be updated. It is now routinely blocked by internet browsers in favor of HTML5. You can thank Apple and YouTube for this.

Poor Color Selection

Either using too many colors or colors that clash is distracting and not pleasing to the eye. If you are using a color background, what color text are you using? Does it hurt to look at? How long can you look at it before eye strain sets in from the glare? It’s important to have whitespace as it gives the eye a rest and makes the other page elements stand out. Stay away from bright neon colors and use primary colors sparingly. Websites like Canva have a color palette generator if you’re stuck for colors.

Who Are You?

I have been on many website homepages where I have asked myself “what does this business do and why should I care?” Two very simple questions, but it’s amazing how often they aren’t answered. I see this more on e-commerce websites. Just because you have pictures of the products you sell doesn’t clue me in to who you are. You need to state what you can do for your customer in a clear, concise way that convinces them to stay on your website. There are too many other websites selling the same products as you. If there is no benefit to buying from your business, why should visitors stick around?

Information Overload

The job of the homepage is to quickly and clearly introduce the visitor to your company, what you can do for your visitors and encourage them to explore other pages. Today’s website visitors don’t have the patience to read through copious amounts of text. They want to skim down your homepage and read small chunks of information.

Anything you write should be easy to read, including the font type and size. Your website homepage is not the place to show all of your products, tell an endless story about your business or explain all of your services in fine detail. I see businesses do this a lot. It creates a very busy, overwhelming homepage especially when a small font size is used in order to include more information. It also leads to a very long page scroll. If it’s hard to read on a large screen, how is it going to render on a small screen?

One piece of vital information that needs to be easily found is your contact information. Your email address and contact number should be clearly visible at the top of every page. Don’t make visitors have to play detective in order to find it.

Using too many font types is also a no-no. If you are going to use more than one font they should complement each other not contrast and they should work with the overall design for the page. You can use a font generator such as Mixfont to find suitable combinations.

Confusing Navigation

Your website’s navigation should have a clear and easy to follow layout. The more clicks, the more frustrated visitors get. While this is harder if you have a lot of products or services, you need to strike the right balance. That means grouping similar products or services into categories. Aim for no more than three clicks to get to the desired product or service. On the flip side, avoid having every page link in your primary navigation. While it may only take one click to get to the page, if you have a lot of links in your primary navigation  you will be forced to either use a small font size to fit everything on one line or have a multi-line menu. Both options are hard to read and make it difficult to locate the page the visitor is interested in.

Are these the only homepage mistakes to be concerned with? No, but they are the mistakes that can do the most damage. Today’s website visitors are more demanding, more fickle and more impatient. With so many businesses competing in the same crowded space, it is vital that your website’s homepage meet their requirements. The evolution of technology will continue to create more opportunities to reach and market to your visitors but your website will need to evolve as well. By avoiding these common homepage mistakes, you’ll be better positioned to meet the needs of your visitors and give them a great experience. Feel free to add more in the comments section!

What Does A Good Website Look Like?

What Does A Good Website Look Like?

You’re a smart business owner and know the importance of having a website but, if you are like a lot of business owners, your knowledge of that website begins and ends with having one. In the same way that your business needs to evolve over time to meet the changing needs of your customers, your website also needs to evolve in order to keep up with changes in technology and buyer behavior.

Does your website measure up to today’s design standards? Not sure? Read through our checklist of must-haves and suggestions to learn more.

Let’s start with your homepage. It’s the gateway to your online storefront. In the way house paint fades over time if it’s not re-painted, the appeal of your homepage will also fade if it’s not kept fresh.

  1. You have a company logo. Using a text block with your business name says nothing about who you are and well, it’s boring. Having a logo establishes your visual branding and can be used not just on your website, but at any touch point, even in your email signature. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, but it should be memorable.
  2. Your contact information is easy to find. Your phone number and email address should show on the top of every page in a font size that is clearly visible. If a customer needs to contact you, don’t make them hunt for this vital information.
  3. Your navigation menu is user friendly. Today’s website visitors are impatient and want to quickly find what they are looking for. Your navigation should function as an easy path for visitors to follow without requiring numerous clicks and have a clear path to purchase.
  4. The days of putting all of the content above the fold are gone. Does your homepage suffer from a case of information overload? Today, visitors will scroll down the page and skim through your content to find what interests them. Give them a taste of what you offer and entice them to click through to other pages on your website.
  5. Images create visual interest and appeal. What about your images? They should be high quality, relevant to your business and preferably not stock images.
  6. Any awards, certifications and associations are highlighted. It’s one way to build trust with visitors and enhance your reputation.
  7. You have links to your social media pages. You are on social media aren’t you?

What about the other pages on your website and what should those pages consist of?

  1. About Us page – This page is a great opportunity to tell the story of your business, emphasize your individuality and connect. It’s a good idea to have photos of key employees to put a face to the business and add that human touch.
  2. Service/Product pages – you may have many, you may have a few, just remember to be concise, clearly state the value you are providing and encourage visitors to take an action i.e. purchase a product, schedule a service, contact your company. Images that show either your products or completed work should be featured. It’s important to include the keywords your visitors are most likely to use when searching for your product/service.
  3. Contact page – This page is so much more than just a form to be filled out. If you have a brick and mortar store you can include your store hours, address, a photo of your location and include a Google map so visitors can get driving directions.
  4. Blog – Continually adding fresh content via a blog is good for SEO, it keeps your website from getting stale, it builds trust with visitors and can demonstrate your authority in your field. If you don’t have one yet, you need to start one.

What else makes a good website?

  1. It’s responsive meaning it renders well on all screen sizes i.e. mobile friendly. Google uses this as a factor in its search algorithm. With 50% of all searches being conducted on a mobile device, if your website isn’t responsive you are losing out on customers.
  2. You feature customer testimonials. This is becoming an increasingly more important requirement. Not only does it build trust, visitors commonly use customer testimonials as part of their purchase decision. Testimonials can also improve where your business shows up in search results.
  3. You should have a basic knowledge of SEO. As I mentioned earlier, you should be using the keywords visitors most likely use to search for your product or service. One caveat though; keywords should be woven into your content, not be the focus of your content. Page titles and URL’s should include a focus keyword.
  4. You have Calls to Action (CTA) on each page. They should entice visitors to take an action and link them to the appropriate page.
  5. Videos showing product demonstrations or short interviews with satisfied customers allow visitors to interact with your website.
  6. You are using HTTPS protocol, not HTTP. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP and is the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS means ‘Secure’ and it has the green padlock shown before the URL. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. Google will soon be penalizing websites that aren’t using HTTPS.
  7. A good hosting company. While you may be concerned with cost, cheaper isn’t always better. A good hosting company will keep your website secure from hackers and can help improve page load speed, currently a factor in Google’s search algorithm.


So how does your small business website stack up?

If it meets all of the above, then congratulations! If not, DLJ Creative can help you whether it’s just a few tweaks to an existing website or a brand new design. We love working with small business owners to establish and manage their online presence. Will your business be next? Contact us and let’s chat!

The Benefits of Having a Website for Your Small Business

The Benefits of Having a Website for Your Small Business

If you’re like most people you spend part of your day online. Whether it’s making a purchase at your favorite store, arranging for grocery delivery or keeping up with your friends on social media, the internet has become an integral part of our lives. So I was surprised to learn that almost 55% of small businesses don’t have a website (2013 survey carried out by Google and research company Ipsos). My first thought was, “that can’t be true” but as a website designer and online store owner, I have a bias. Since I’m curious and like to continually educate myself, I decided to find out why.


What was the number one reason businesses cited for not having a website?  

“We don’t need one.”


This is often the case with a business owner who is comfortable with doing things the way they’ve always been done, especially in the case of older established businesses. While it can feel safe and secure to stay in the slow lane, the world moves at lightning speed today and if you can’t keep up, your business will be forgotten or worse, not even found. For an exercise, do a search on Google for companies in your field and see how many companies appear in search results that list only and address and phone number. The answer is few if any.


You’ll never know true success until you step outside of your comfort zone.


You took the giant step to start your own business or took over the ownership of your family run business. Consider the decision to have a website as one more step forward on the road to success.


How can a website help your business?

Your website can function as a valuable customer service employee. In its most basic form, a company website can relay details on:
  • Location
  • Store hours
  • Contact information including phone number and email address
  • Directions to your store
  • Photos of your physical location
  • Any additional details customers may want to know such as parking availability and any in-store events that are taking place

Having a homepage, a contact page, and a testimonial page is all you need to get started. If you have a service company like a painter you can add a gallery page of before and after photos to demonstrate your capabilities.


Why does this matter?

The internet is now the go to place to find and research companies, not the Yellow Pages. Your customers will benefit from being able to find your company when they are looking for answers to their problem. Plus they can access this information 24/7 from the comfort of their own home. Your competitors are most likely online and you don’t want to lose out to them because you don’t have a website. Your website gives you a great opportunity to communicate how your service or product is better than your competitors.


Having a website helps to build trust with customers. It puts a “face” to your business. If you have photos of your location they add credibility and customers will get a better sense of who you are. When your competitors have a website and you don’t it can put doubt in the mind of your customer. With the increasing competition for market share, doubt is the last thing you want entering the minds of potential customers.


In addition, you’ll gain time in your day to work on your business and have less distractions because customers will be able to have many of their questions answered by going to your website instead of having to call you. For a minimal investment you can reap big financial rewards for your company.


How can a website help a brick and mortar store?

A website with online shopping acts as a second location for your business. Multi-channel selling has many benefits. Main Street foot traffic in many areas is a fraction of what it once was due to the convenience and growth of online shopping. When you add an online store you have the opportunity to not only gain back lost foot traffic but you’ll also be able to reach a wider audience. Both of these are good for your bottom line.


In addition, customers will have the option to order online or check product availability and purchase in store.  This can give you a competitive advantage over stores who only sell online as you are able to offer customers the instant gratification of having their order the very same day instead of having to wait.


Your customers will have the convenience of shopping anytime of day, from any location and on any device. When they compare products, they’ll be able to include yours in their comparison. Here is where you have the opportunity to differentiate your products from your competitors so you become the clear choice. Adding customer friendly features such as customer accounts, favorite items, order history and product recommendations help personalize the shopping experience, build a relationship with them and turn them into a loyal customer.


Need a boost to your marketing efforts?

Your website can complement traditional marketing efforts and for a much lower cost. If a customer hears about your business from a traditional advertising source, they will be more likely to visit your website as the next step. From your website, you’ll be able to collect customer email addresses that will help in targeting your marketing efforts and assist with lead generation. From this list, you can email customers a monthly newsletter or the latest promotion you are offering. You can also offer your website visitors tips, how-to’s or e-books to help them. This also works to build trust and develop relationships.


So what are you waiting for?

The many valid reasons for having a website for your small business far outweigh the reasons for not having one. Depending on your needs, a website can be designed with a minimal investment and the potential increase in business and sales far outweighs the cost. But, the number one reason why you should have a website for your business is, your customer wants you to have one.


As the old saying goes: “The customer is always right.”


Need help designing your website? DLJ will work with you and your budget to build a website that works for your business by differentiating you from your competitors, building relationships with your customers and increasing sales. Contact us to get started!
DIY Website Design – Do you have the skills to go it alone?

DIY Website Design – Do you have the skills to go it alone?

DIY websites

E-commerce sales growth is expected to top the trillion-dollar mark within three years.
In today’s competitive retail environment, having an online store to complement your brick and mortar store has become a necessity. Let’s face it, the foot traffic you used to enjoy isn’t coming back and if you don’t try to capture some of that lost traffic you’ll be losing out on customers and sales.

The growth and affordability of “DIY” website builders has simplified the task of making your own website. If you have the time and aren’t afraid of the learning curve, it can be a very good skill to learn. However, before you jump in and go the DIY route, there are a few things to consider.

The competition for the limited attention span of shoppers is intense. Your website needs to present your company and products in the best possible light to the shoppers who are looking to buy from you. While many of the DIY templates rely on splashy images for their homepages, you need more than just a few pretty pictures and a logo with a cool font to get visitors to stay and shop on your website.  You only have a precious few seconds before your visitor gives up and clicks off to another website.

What you so often see with DIY websites is a homepage with an oversize photo, a logo and a few pages with very little text and poor product photos. Pretty pictures and a logo are not enough to keep visitors on your website. While going the DIY route simplifies the process and maybe more affordable upfront, these websites often fail to answer the questions shoppers are asking such as:
  • Who are you?
  • What are your values?
  • Why should anyone buy your products?
  • How can you help them?
  • How are you different from your competitors?
  • Why should they trust you?

A visitor that leaves your website without taking an action provides little value to your business.


Why else is content so important? It’s a major factor in search engine ranking. Search engine crawlers can only understand text so a website full of photos but not much content is not going to rank well. Photos can improve the visual appeal of a website, but you need much more to rank well in search results.


Content has to be written to your target audience, so you must know exactly who that audience is and what message they want to hear. It’s what allows visitors to form a connection with your company and products. Today’s website visitors don’t respond to a one size fits all message. They want your content to speak directly to them.


Your content should be written for your customer, and include the keywords and search terms they would use to find your products. While a bare bones description of your products will certainly suffice and is quick and easy to do, it won’t satisfy today’s shoppers. Because there are so many websites to shop from, your product descriptions will need to stand out, explain the benefits and solve your customers problem.


The choice of words is integral to shoppers forming a favorable impression of your company. They visit your website because they have a problem they want solved, whether it’s finding the perfect little black dress or a gift for the person who has everything. You need to assure shoppers that your product is the clear choice for them by differentiating your products from competitors, building trust and encouraging them to purchase. This is one reason why content is so important in the design process.
The value of a good web designer lies in their ability to take all of the components and envision how they will fit together.
They will recognize the role of content in creating the best user experience, building the website to work with the content first and the visual aspects second. Unfortunately many website builder templates are structured the other way around.

It’s important to value web design not just for the simple template or splashy color scheme, but as the framework for the content that’s going to drive conversions.

While it might be more cost effective to go the DIY route instead of hiring a web designer, you should always read the fine print on these websites before signing up. Here are some of the pitfalls:

  • There are often monthly fees added in that over time erode the cost benefit.
  • In most cases you are required to host your website with the website template provider.
  • You can’t take your website with you if you decide to change hosts down the road, forcing you to recreate your entire website.

Time is also a factor to consider. However long you think it will take to build the website, plan on it taking much longer. You should always factor in the value of your time into the overall cost. The time you’ll need to spend learning and building your website will often take time away from building and running your business.

E-Commerce DesignYou only get one chance to make a good impression but with the right mix of design and content, you’ll be able to build a clear path to lead shoppers to your website, provide them with a memorable shopping experience and make the buying process as easy as possible.


The e-commerce landscape will continue to grow more crowded – whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a web designer, be sure to choose the option that will give your business the best shot at success.
How to Use Google Algorithm Updates to Improve Your Website

How to Use Google Algorithm Updates to Improve Your Website

Content Marketing

Did you know that over the last several years, Google has tweaked its search algorithm thousands of times? While many of these updates were barely noticeable others were major changes in the way Google serves up search results. Google’s engineers like to inject a little humor when creating algorithm names and while Panda and Penguin may sound cute, for those websites whose page ranking suffered because of them, they were anything but cute.

Maybe you’ve never heard of an algorithm and with all the juggling you do every day trying to run your business, do you even have time to understand what one is? The problem is, your website acts as your online storefront and is often the lifeblood of your business. If your page rank nosedives because of an update to the algorithm, new customers are going to have a hard time finding you, costing you business.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to stay ahead and not fall prey to one along with improving user experience.

So, what exactly is an algorithm?

“The formula Google uses to sort through the billions of web pages in order to return the best, most relevant answers to the people using Google to source information.”

Google’s end goal is to provide the most relevant answer to a search query in as little time as possible. With billions of webpages to comb through and more being indexed every day, Google has to continually fine tune its algorithm to provide the best answers as well as adapt to changing technology and device use.

Three of the major updates in the last few years are Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Each addresses a different component of search results.

Penguin targets websites that violate Google Webmaster Guidelines. It penalizes websites that engage in the following:

penguin algorithm

  • Links where the anchor text is overly optimized
  • Paid links
  • Questionable link profiles
  • Low quality backlinks and those coming from poor quality websites
  • Using “Black Hat” SEO tactics in an effort to game search results in order to improve page rank


Want to avoid getting hit with a penalty?

  • Have a natural looking link profile
  • Backlinks that share the same niche as your company
  • Use branded, domain and webmaster name anchor text more often
  • Avoid quick schemes to improve page rank.

Panda algorithmPanda’s aim is to weed out spammy websites and bad content from search results. In other words, websites that don’t provide value to the reader. Take a look at your website and notice if you have any of the following on it:

  • An abundance of ads on every page, especially if those ads are slowing page load time
  • Thin content or duplicate content
  • Confusing website navigation
  • Web pages written for search engine robots, not humans
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Your website is more about making money and less about providing useful content

The key takeaway?

  • Have remarkable, relevant content on every page of your website that is written for your visitors
  • Content that visitors will want to share, increasing your website’s influence
  • Non-intrusive ads
  • Easy, logical website navigation

hummingbird algorithmThe Hummingbird algorithm update improves search results and addresses the change in how users perform a search query. As more users access Google on mobile devices, instead of typing a one or two word question, users are speaking them. Hummingbird attempts to make search more human. It uses the context of conversational speech to see how well the content on a web page answers the user’s question and focuses on the meaning behind the keywords entered and not just the keywords themselves.

This is another reason why having useful and relevant content is important. The content on your website should be written in a conversational style according to the language particular to your niche. It should be able to anticipate and answer the questions your user needs help with and at every stage of the purchase process. The content needs to serve your visitors and should make use of long tail keywords to better match your user’s question, not just one keyword.

As the world wide web continues to grow along with the evolution of technology, Google will continue to serve up new updates to its search algorithm. While you may not be an expert at SEO, if you can employ some of these tips it will help keep your website from being penalized. Plus, it will improve the experience your visitors have when visiting your website making them more likely to become customers and help your business profit.

How Can I Get Page One Rank on Google?

How Can I Get Page One Rank on Google?

Have you ever heard or thought “How do I get page one ranking on Google?” Consider this:     Google

  • There are billions of search queries entered into Google’s search box every day and over one hundred billion every month.
  • Google has over 60 trillion pages indexed and is well over 100,000,000 gigabytes.
  • Google has spent over one million computer hours building the index so far.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely can’t count that high!

So how does your website get ranked by Google?

Google Page One Rank

First off, let’s define page rank. Page rank is an algorithm used by Google Search to rank websites in their search engine results. Page rank is a way of measuring the importance of website pages. It works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to estimate how important the website is.  These links are like popularity votes, but not all votes are counted equally. Some links or votes are more “important” than others and therefore have more influence on page rank.
In addition to the number of links, Google looks at the content on each webpage as well as the content on the website linking to it to determine if it’s a good match for the user’s search query. Google combines page rank with continually evolving text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant.

Each website listed is part of Google’s index, which is like a giant reference book. It organizes all the content on the web open-bookand through the use of algorithms and “signals”, it is able to determine what webpages to serve up based on a user’s search query. These signals are like clues and there are currently over 200 signals that Google uses to figure out what webpages to serve up. Here are just a few signals:

  • Page URL and Title
  • Freshness of the website
  • Number of websites linking to it and their authority
  • Quality of web page content

When you look at a page of search results, do you know which one has the top ranking? 
There are two ways a website can rank on a page:

  1. Organic results are the web pages that most closely match the user’s search query based on relevance.
  2. Paid results are advertisements that show up when a user’s keywords match the keywords in an ad.

There can be a top ranking for a paid result as well as a top ranking for an organic search result on the same search results page. The important thing to remember is that no matter whether it’s a paid search result or an organic result, the top results are the ones that are most relevant to what the web user is looking for.

How can I help my website rank well?
While there are many factors that influence page ranking, here are some relatively simple methods you can employ to help your website rank better.

  • The website should be easy to navigate with an easy to understand hierarchy that avoids making the visitor click too many links to find what they are looking for.
  • Each webpage should be designed to be information rich, useful and relevant to what users are looking for.
  • The pages should be written in the natural language of the user and not written for search engines. In other words, keywords and variations of them, should be sprinkled throughout a webpage in a way that makes sense; not crammed into every sentence.
  • Have an accurate title tag and meta description for each webpage.
  • Communicate what makes your website unique and stand out from its competitors.

Having a blog on your website, guest blogging and obtaining relevant backlinks are additional ways to help improve search ranking but they need to be done on a continual basis to have an effect.

Resist the urge to engage in any tricks or believe anyone who promises they can get you “number one ranking on Google.” These are nothing more than tactics used to manipulate search results and can get you penalized by Google – something you want to avoid at all costs.

If there is only one thing you remember, design your company’s website to give visitors the best possible experience so they will want to stay on your website, visit it more often and recommend it to their friends.
Understanding what page rank is and what goes into determining how websites rank is an important first step in achieving better page rank in Google’s search results. Do you need help improving your website? DLJ Creative specializes in communicating your brand to your visitors through the use of engaging content and website design built around your visitors.Contact us to learn more and get a free website evaluation!