Don’t Make Me Think – Using Common Sense in Web Design

When creating your website, you should take into account what is going on today.  You may not have noticed that there are very distinct things that web designers do in order to make the web pages look modern, appealing and easy to use.  What is the key for today?  Simplicity.

Fortunately, web design evolves as everything else does and today web sites are better than ever.  More designers have more experience and finally understand how to create something better than they did even a few years ago.

Even if you don’t have the experience, you should make sure that you pay attention to the features that all great designs have.  They are:
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  • A Clean Layout
  • A Site That Goes Below the Fold (people know how to scroll)
  • A Reduction of Three Dimensional Effects
  • The Use of a Plain Background or Soft Colors Such as Grey
  • No Strong Colors
  • Clean Spaces and No Crowding the Site With Design
  • Big Easy to Read Text
  • An Orientation Towards the Center
  • The Content is Designed vs. a Designed Page
  • Few Icons – It is Clutter and Confuses People

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These are easy things to keep in mind even if you’re not an expert.  One of the best books that I’ve read and continue to use as a guide include:  Don’t Make Me Think:  A Common Sense Approach to Web Usablity by Steve Krug.   His book points out that too many small businesses, unnecessarily, create cluttered sites and, thereby, force people to think.

When you have an online business, it is critical for you to remember that people came to your site because they have a problem to solve.  If they don’t think that they have landed a possible solution within a few seconds, they will hit the back button quickly.   Make sure that your site doesn’t cause needless headaches by following the guidelines listed above and you stand a shot at increasing sales!

Ad Tech in April

We are excited to be exhibiting at ad tech in San Francisco on April 21 – 23. The event will be about digital marketing and will bring in a host of experts covering SEO, SEM, local search, mobile search, and how social media and search are being utilized in concert to create entirely new marketing platforms.

The event is bringing exciting speakers who will educate advertisers, publishers and technology leaders the power of digital video, applications and widgets, local marketing and other methods to attract an audience.

We will be on the second floor, so come see us if you plan on going.

Starter Kits to Meet Current Demands

Since money is tight, is it really a good time to start an online business? You bet, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

“To begin with, internet startups have low overhead and startup costs–as low as $3,000, thanks in part to inexpensive, yet robust e-commerce software and services on the market. What’s more, the business can be set up in a home office attended to at nights and on weekends, allowing new entrepreneurs to keep their day jobs. In addition, many budding entrepreneurs can set up their online businesses in less than one week,” outlines Entrepreneur.com.

What separates successful start-ups from those that fail during economic downturns? Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs co-director and Professor of Management Raffi Amit says entrepreneurs who get started now “will be in a better position because they will be lean and super efficient with less competition.” He notes that a positive side effect of the economy is the ability to negotiate with vendors for better deals, which helps reduce expenses.

We, at eDirectory, are one step ahead.  We are proud to announce our new Starter Kits.  With these, you get the eDirectory software, hosting, our portal package, business listings and on-site training from one of our professional trainers for a very low price.  These kits have the essentials for getting a business off the ground including the personalized advice that you will get from our customized training session.

These offering have been designed to keep your efforts simple.  You purchase the license, we populate your directory with listings and then you get trained on how to sell your directory so that you can get business advertising dollars.

While it will be challenging to compete with the major retailors, with our innovative software and the business know-how that we provide, you will have the essential ingredients during this recession while so many other people wait to ride out the current economic times.

Forecasting Sales

Sales forecasting is the practice of analyzing so that you can estimate what your sales will be. Key steps that you need to undertake are:

• Understand trends in your industry
• Determine the size of your market
• List your competitors
• Refer to last year’s figures

Understanding trends in your industry

Experience may have taught you that about 20% of your customers account for 80% of your sales. You should identify the 20% and then develop a profile of your market. An example of this would be: 20% of my customers are medium businesses from large cities in the U.S. They are purchasing agents in the Finance industry. While their pockets are deep, they tend to go with the lowest bidder.
Learn about the trends that drive this market by doing research with trade magazines and online sites where this demographic may reside.

Determine the size of your market

Know how big your trading area is and gather as many available statistics of this area that you can. If you’re a retailer, for example, you will want to know how far people tend to travel in order to shop. How much does the average household spend?
Establish the approximate size and location of your planned trading area. Use available statistics to determine the general characteristics of this area. Use local sources to determine unique characteristics about your trading area. You can get detailed information from the Chamber of Commerce or even use your local directory to determine the size and characteristics of your market.

List your competition

Who are the companies that you tend to hear about often? Are you in a crowded space or does your company stand out as being one of the few offering your product or service? You should estimate what percentage of overall sales you will get when compared to your competitors. If you’re a market leader, there is no reason that you should get a nice sized slice of the pie. Determining where you stand against your competitors will help you figure out how to forecast incoming revenue.

Refer to Last Year

You should look at sales revenues from the same months in previous years to use a base to determine incoming sales for the upcoming year. You can adjust these figures with the rate of general growth in your industry. So, if your industry expects a 10% growth in sales, you can use last year’s figures and increase them by 10%. Other factors that can impact last year’s figures can include the economy, different sales size, new products and or/services.

Sales Process Should Fit Buying Stage

For maximum efficiency, it is necessary to have a structured sales method. Yet, we see so many companies ignoring this. Unless a company has structure in their sales process, sales can easily be lost.

The first and most basic step is to take the time to develop a sales process. It doesn’t have to be too cumbersome and you don’t have to have your team fill out too many forms or jump through too many hoops. The only question that should drive the initial process is “What does the customer need in order to make the purchase.” The following questions can be asked:

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  • What will it take to make a purchase and who needs to be involved.
  • Where is the client in their buying process? Are they shopping around or are they a few days away from signing a contract?
  • What is the next step that they need to take? If they are shopping around, for example, this could be the time where you send them a discount.

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Sales should operate with the knowledge that everything that they do is to get the prospect to the next stage. When sales takes on an action with the client that doesn’t get customers to the next step, the energy will prove to be futile.

This same logic should be used when you have a client meeting. By remembering what you want your prospect to do at the end of the meeting, you should have a plan and execute that plan during the meeting. The end result is to have your prospect take the next step in their buying decision.

By remembering where the prospect is in their buying process will allow you to make the right decisions in enabling them to take the next steps before a purchase.

GeoDomains – Popularity is Increasing More Than Before

Owning a domain name that is geographically based is a hot commodity right now. This will be, especially true this year, with Google moving towards a localized search model. In other words, when someone places a search, Google will come back with local companies based on your keywords.

If you’re a savvy Marketer, you know that the value of a geo domain is based on what is built on it and how much revenue is coming from the site. You can use your geo domain for local business directories, advertising listings and sales in the same way that the print copy of yellow pages works.

There are many resources for you to learn more about the art of owning a high priced domain name. Elliotsblog is a great resource to learn more about what is going on in this industry. Elliot owns a portfolio of domain names and was honored with the Domainers Choice Award for his blog. Here you can keep on top of the latest news and get to know many of the players in the field.

Some of the things that I’ve been learning by reading what the experts have to say is that there are two types of GeoDomains:

· Pure GeoDomains (ex. Pittsburgh.com, Virginia.com)

· Geo Generic Domains (ex. MissouriLawyers.com, BostonAntiques.com)

While the pure GeoDomains are very expensive, the Geo Generics are more readily available. Should you have one, the development of these domains can vary.Many people prefer to create a guide with advertisements, business listings, coupons, event postings and content which appeals to the local audience. Others create a visitor guide which is aimed to tourists and business visitors. Another growing trend is that GeoDomains are being used as social networking sites to connect people in the local community.

It’s Great to be Trendy

The head of Women in Technology , a 14 year old D.C. organization, invited me to speak about about Arca Solutions’ product and services.   The thing that really struck me once I got to the event was how hard the economic conditions have hit our area – a city which is usually resilient against tough times.  Many people there had lost their jobs from heavy hitters such as AT&T, Sprint-Nextel and Microsoft.

While the second speaker was in front of the audience, I quickly thought about how to add to my talk how there were 20% more jobs last year than there was in 2007 in the SEO industry.  I decided that the latter half of my talk should focus on having the ability to reinvent yourself  when the job market is weak.

I went in front of the audience and highlighted the fact that there are jobs out there that are recession-proof – specifically Search Engine Optimization.  For those with Web Design experience, learning how to optimize a site can open up their market.  Also, for the people with a Marketing background, they can enter a different field where they work with web developers to create the right content, links and tags in order to foster increased revenue.

I was surprised at how many people wanted to learn more and asked how to get in touch with me after the presentation.  One woman who had been thinking about migrating into the crowded Project Management field mentioned that this may be something else for her to think about.  The bad news is that 2009 is going to be a tough year; the good news could be that you come out on the other end of it with a brand new profession.

Investing Time and Effort in Marketing Your Site

It’s funny how many times I’ve received the question, “Is there a free program that will optimize my site?” Fortunately, most online business owners know that doing search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing effort in running a company on the Internet. In fact, making sure that search engines index your site and rank your business high is paramount to having an internet-based company. If you have any hopes to be successful on the world wide web, optimizing your site is a “must-do”.

The ultimate goal of SEO is to satisfy the needs of people who are entering a query into a search engine. If they find you, you stand a decent chance of obtaining traffic. Ideally, you should not only rank higher than your competition, but your site should be on the first page. If you are on page 43 million, for example, you may as well count your business as being invisible.

While there are no SEO secrets or easy tricks in order to gain high ranking, there are several things that you should keep in mind. First, make sure that you have solid content on your site so that your business is deemed to be an expert. Second, you should have a good idea what keywords that your site should have in order to allow searchers find you. Third, you should ensure that you have links from quality sites and, also, have outbound links. When you have these links , it affirms to the search engines that your site has relevancy. Finally, make sure that you budget time to market your site on an ongoing basis. As you learn more about SEO, you will discover that it is, not only, a reiterative process but also that search engines are consistently changing their algorithms. It, therefore, will be up to you to keep on top of this dynamic field as well as keeping ahead of your competition.

While there isn’t a free program that can do SEO for you, fortunately, you can learn more about how to do Internet Marketing from a plethora of books or you can even obtain information from the Internet. Ultimately, you should remember that having an online business requires the same discipline that running any type of business would. You will need to understand your audience, market to them and bring them onto your premise.

Sales and Marketing Today

You’re not in business to be popular
Kirstie Alley, popular 1990’s actress

I thought about this quote and realized the irony of it given my role with Arca Solutions. I am responsible for educating our prospects and customer base on how they can increase search engine rankings and market their site. Specifically, I promote eDirectory and our Search Engine Optimization(SEO) service which are designed to make our customers’ sites popular. As most people know, the importance of high search engine rankings is key to getting the traffic that can turn into sales.

There has never been a more exciting time for people to run an online business whether they do this as a full time job or manage it on their spare time. Because the overhead is lower than having a brick and mortar shop, getting into the web space during down-economic times is a low risk thing to do. It still requires dedication and the use of all of the tactics that you would normally use to run an “offline” company. With all the software tools out there, however, a mere spark of an idea can turn into cash-flow reality in less than a year.

I look forward to writing about topics such as search engines, monetizing your site, increasing traffic and how to make your audience find you. After all, unlike Kirstie’s thinking, you ARE in business to be popular.

We are the Project Managers

Hi Everyone;

My name is Jessica. Just 2 years ago I started at eDirectory as a project manager and I am now currently one of several project managers we have in the office. The project managers here come from a diverse background in business administration, information technology, finance, and other industries which allow us to put a unique perspective on any project that comes to eDirectory.

Our daily focus is on the development, production,  and success of eDirectory sites for our wide variety of unique customers. Each phase includes time spent discussing the needs of the project with the customer to relaying those needs to the development team and producing a strong final product.

We will be posting on a variety of subjects which we touch on, on a daily basis:
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  • Website Design
  • Website Profitability
  • Website Management
  • Time Management
  • Selling your site

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Postings will come out one to two times per week. Hope you check in frequently to see what is going on in the world of project management here at eDirectory.

Jessica and Project Management Team