Things to consider when re-designing your website

It’s 2016, and some folks are still using table- or or Adobe Flash-based web design. What is that, exactly? Well, here is an example of table-based design:

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Table-based web design

Table-based web design is a boxy layout, with a clear separation between content, background, and images. Adobe Flash sites flicker, move and exhibit large, full-screen animations–difficult to convey with a screenshot.

What, exactly, do viewers think when they see table-based layout web design? The general consensus is, “outdated.” This style of web design was popular 10+ years ago because it enabled designers to control–with absolute certainty–the arrangement of the page elements with respect to a viewer’s desktop monitor. And, most influential, smartphones were not nearly as ubiquitous, so mobile-friendly websites were barely a twinkle in our eyes.

Today, with the variety of screen sizes and devices used to browse the web, we don’t want a rigid design like that. You want a layout that will cater to your user’s device. Not only is a responsive site easier to navigate, but it’s also a much more practical design. Responsive sites also use open-source coding, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You want to avoid certain things in today’s web design. Here are three of them:

Adobe Flash

If you have an iPhone, you know it doesn’t play nice with Flash video and animations. Google Chrome and Firefox disable Flash by default. Even Steve Jobs had an opinion about its use back in 2010. If that wasn’t an omen, I don’t know what is. Flash is a vulnerable plug-in, prone to security issues, reliability failures, and bogged-down performance. Sure: a slick animation looks great, but be sure your designer doesn’t rely on Flash for that. Further, full-Flash websites are difficult and expensive to update.

Auto-Play

Whether background music or an embedded video, let your users decide if they want the noise. They could be riding on the subway, shopping while nursing a newborn, in a public restroom–or not paying attention in a meeting! I always strongly discourage background music on websites because it’s often disruptive or intrusive for viewers.

Contact Forms

You might think I’m nuts, but if you don’t plan to monitor and respond to the e-mails that come through that web contact form, don’t bother adding one. Not only will your lack of response hurt the professionalism with which people view your business, but also your pocketbook–you’ll pay for it in lost sales leads!

I’m always happy to offer free evaluations of your current or prospective website. If you’d like to have a no-strings-attached chat, gimme a shout.

Creative Writing Samples

Yes, I write. And I write well.

It’s taken me a long time to admit that, but I exercised my writing chops on ZenDestin Vacation Rental‘s website, where I wrote every word. ZenDestin was a rental condo in (surprise!) Destin, and the blog offered reviews of places to eat and things to do in Destin. I also wrote about vacation memories and condo improvements to get guests excited for visiting. The condo is no longer a rental, but I keep the site up as a reference.

Here are some of my favorite entries on ZenDestin’s blog, along with creative writing samples from other times.

 

These are two e-mails I actually sent to distribution lists when I worked for a company. I spiced them up with some creativity to elicit better responses since most e-mails they received were pretty boring or unfriendly. It worked.

In the event you’d like to see other writing samples, like product reviews, press releases, and casual writing for lifestyle magazines, drop me a line. I’m sure I can help you develop content for your website, brochure, or sales flyer.

Survey Results: How do you use e-mail?

In September, I shot a survey out to friends and strangers to gather information about how my peers use e-mail. The results were interesting, and even had some surprises.

Age ranges of the survey respondents.
Age ranges of the survey respondents.

Here’s the age breakdown of the respondents.  As you can see, 54% were in the 18-25 range. You may think since “Millennials” comprised the bulk of the respondents that you could predict them, but you may be surprised. Let’s go through some of the main takeaways.

84% of respondents are still checking their e-mail at least daily.

No surprise here! Many people still check their e-mail multiple times a day, even the generational groups that purportedly don’t use e-mail. If we add those who said they peek at their inbox “a few times a week,” nearly everyone in the survey is included. E-mail is still widely used, and people are checking it.

People use throwaway e-mail addresses.

Think visitors who sign up for an account on your website are giving you a monitored e-mail address? Think again. When asked why they had more than one e-mail address, the top three responses were for work/school, personal use, and one…to send spam to. A throwaway.

“To register multiple accounts on the same website; to send emails that aren’t from my email address; to register accounts that aren’t connected to my email address; gmail likes to link to a second account as a security measure”

Further, if businesses are sharing the e-mail addresses they collect, customers get pretty darn clever to avoid be bought and sold.

“I have my own domain with which I use different addresses for each site or service e.g. for reddit I use reddit@mydomain.tld and for a bank I use bankname@mydomain.tld. That way, If I start getting spam, I can see who leaked/sold my address, and decommission that address to stop the spam.”

It isn’t that the elusive 18-25 and 26-34 age range doesn’t use e-mail, it’s that they don’t use the one they gave you. 

87% of people don’t give out their primary e-mail address because they don’t trust or need you.

The 13% that does give out their primary e-mail address includes the 2% of respondents who only have one e-mail address. Largely, the 18-25 group only gave out their primary address if you are providing them with something they need, such as electricity, rent, or insurance. Rarely did anyone answer that, yes, they give out their primary address regardless of whether or not they trusted you, needed your product, or were subscribed to your service. Often, respondents of all ages wanted to both trust your business and need whatever you were selling.

The TL;DR.

People have more than one e-mail address, and they probably aren’t giving you the one you want most: the one they use most. So while, yes, someone might boast a large collection of e-mails in their subscriber list, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

This absolutely supports my previous entry about building relationships with your customers, avoiding cold sales, and providing them with relevant offers. I’d recommend using a different platform to build your relationships, and using e-mail as a more personal form of contact after you’ve established a level of trust with the customer.

But that’s another entry for another day.

E-mail Marketing: Is it even still relevant?

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I send out lots of “e-blasts” for clients. Some clients want my opinion on whether or not it’s still relevant, some don’t. Regardless of that, e-mail is still a great communication tool.

But e-mail is changing.

The youngins have said, “I don’t check my e-mail unless you tell me you’re sending me something.” Many younger generations don’t use e-mail the way other generations do. If you’re going to continue to use e-mail for marketing, there are some things you should know.

  1. The old rules don’t apply
    • People want real interaction. Use a monitored reply address, not that ‘no reply’ or ‘admin’ baloney.
    • Cold-selling via e-mail is a rookie mistake and fodder of the 90’s. Work on building trust and relationships through e-mail.
    • You don’t need a ‘call-to-action’ in every button, headline, or subject, which leads us into…
  2. Consumers are getting less tolerant of sales pitches: you’ve gotta be less “spammy” and “sales-y”
    • Just stop with the ‘Clickbait‘ subject lines, for crying out loud! This tactic hurts consumers’ trust in your brand. I would even venture to say consumers will resent you for clickbait titles.
    • Authenticity matters: have a personality and unique voice. Speak and write like a human being, not a bot.
    • Make sure the e-mail focuses on the consumer, not the product. Be helpful, offer relevant information the consumer is interested in (which is usually themselves). Be reader-centered.
  3. Who your buyers are matters whether or not e-mail still works
    • Really consider that point; just because someone hands you their e-mail address doesn’t mean they are a buyer. Sometimes they’re just being nice, sometimes it’s a throwaway e-mail address because they think you’re going to send them junk.
    • Many younger people consider e-mail passé. ‘Old people’ use Facebook, and ‘older than old’ people use e-mail. Yes, younger generations have e-mail accounts, but they don’t check them regularly or rely on them to keep up with people the way previous generations did and do.
  4. Conclusion: It’s in flux. You’ve got to change your approach.
    • Be authentic. Have conversations. Use humor!
    • Be brief: I’ve got 30 unread e-mail in my inbox right now–most of which are newsletters–and I don’t wanna scroll through some company’s long-winded sales pitch. I’m probably just gonna delete it.
    • Be useful: Stick to one topic or goal. Is this a business recap that directly affects your readers? Are you offering an exclusive deal? Remember why your reader signed up to receive e-mails.

Here’s the thing: you have to think of e-mail the same way you think of social media: Who is your market? What is your goal? Do you have time for it? Can you adapt? And one final point: when you Google “e-mail marketing tips,” be sure and check the date on the article. You don’t exactly want an article posted in 2009 for tips on e-mail marketing.

New website complete: LuxExchange

Specializing in Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada and Gucci handbags, LuxExchange needed an eCommerce site with the capability to provide online quotes for customers seeking to sell or consign their luxury designer purses.

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LuxExchange hired me to handle up on this. I set them up with a website that did all these things, plus prioritized the shopping experience, provided lots of information about the store, and offered a simple check-out process.

In addition to their web design, I also offered e-mail marketing.

Future plans for the website include a blog readers can use to identify authentic handbags, what drives handbag trends, and other useful information about buying, selling, and consigning their handbags.