Interesting Interface Inspiration
Here at PaleoSun, we like to cut ourselves…. on the bleeding edge of the technologies we love. For me, the rate of change in the technologies and techniques is one of the big reasons I chose the field of Computer Science. It will just never get old. Well, it won’t get old if you keep abreast of the advancements happening every day. One way I try to stay sharp is by reading through some of the many amazing design and development blogs out there in the world wide web.
One of my personal favorites is called Codrops. While their blogs cover all sorts of areas of design and development, my favorite section is the library of really cool jQuery tools. I like to head over to http://tympanus.net/codrops/tag/jquery/ and browse through the plethora of examples and tutorials. Whether you’re a designer, a developer, or a client looking for a website, this site can open your eyes to the nifty possibilities out there, and it even provides live demos and full implementation instructions. Neato content sliders, nifty image galleries, full-blown google maps implementations, all kindza stuff. What more could you ask for? Pie? No. No pie for you.
Website Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide
Too many businesses have a website simply because they know they should. They neglect the power of testing and optimizing, or worse, they continually make changes based on personal whims, and never measure the results to determine what is truly effective.
Collecting website data, analyzing it, and making the right decisions is, admittedly, a daunting task. Many business owners want to, but have no idea where to begin. Here are a few basic steps to getting your website analytics started.
Set up analytics
The first step is to install analytics on your website. Google Analytics is popular choice because it is a professional level analytics suite, and it’s 100% free. Your webmaster should be able to perform the installation, and just in case, Google has a thorough installation guide.
There are three main items to be attentive to within analytics data:
- Visitor acquisition
- User behavior
- Desired outcomes
Visitor acquisition refers to where the visit came from. Was it a from a search engine, a referring website, an online ad, or did they navigate directly to your site? This information gives you an idea of your web marketing strengths and weaknesses, and may help identify opportunities to attract more traffic.
Once a visitor reaches your site, it is important to understand how they interact with your website. What are the most popular pages? How often do visitors return? How long do they spend on the site before leaving? Among other things, this data can reveal opportunities to improve your website’s ability to convert website visitors into buying customers.
Possibly the most critical piece of data to watch is your desired outcomes, or goals. Determine what activities are most important to the business, set them up as goals, and track them closely. Each site’s specific goals will vary, but some general examples include:
- Purchase a product
- Submit a contact form
- Sign up for newsletter
- Click an ad
Test, test, test
Armed with this data, a business can now make an educated guess about what might help improve the performance of the website. Test this guess (let’s call it a hypothesis) by making
controlled changes to the site. Then, measure the results. One of the strengths of a website is that if your hypothesis was wrong, it’s a fairly simple matter to put things back the way they were, and try out a new idea. By applying this test and measure approach, you can make your website into a powerful marketing tool that is accountable to real business objectives.
We’re Finally Launching Our OWN Website!
We sure have been busy! So busy, in fact, that we haven’t had the chance to focus on our own website. The old saying “the cobbler’s son has no shoes” hits pretty close to home. While we were busy developing awesome websites for a bunch of amazing local businesses, our own website just sat there, waiting patiently for a fresh new look.
Well, we finally got around to it. With the help of the talented designers at 828 Design here in Asheville, we got ourselves a shiny new look! We’ve been building this for quite a while now, putting in a couple hours here and there, and we feel it’s time to unveil it. But check back again in a couple weeks, as we have a lot of stuff to add.
Building Trust is Satisfying Work
Once an agreement has been reached with a client it is natural to want to dive-in to their project uninhibited by their suggestions and questions. We already know the frustrating challenges ahead. “It’s easy”, says the client. “Just put this here and then somehow smash these two things together and make the logo bigger and put it more in the middle and change all the fonts to this fun font that I saw on a billboard yesterday.”
Contrary to this urge, the more we bring the client into the conversation the easier things get. As a practice, we communicate with the client at every reasonable opportunity and it seems to work. We still face some of the same challenges but the difference is that the client seems much more receptive to what we have to say. And we tend to gain more useful information earlier in the process when that information is most useful.
Personally, I think it all comes down to Trust. If the client feels respected because we took the time to listen, ask many questions and consider the value they bring to the conversation then they tend to listen more carefully too. The mutual respect that grows from these experiences takes us to a place of trust where clients feel comfortable with us making important design and development decisions on their behalf. It is satisfying work when a client trusts you enough to allow you to do the work you were hired to do in the first place.
Crafting Solutions - vs - Assembling The Parts
Do you require a development firm to build a solution that can be clearly defined based on pre-existing models or do you require a development firm to craft a solution to a pre-existing problem for which there is no known solution that meets all of your needs?
Occasionally, we come across projects that are so small in scope that one person can reasonably hold the entirety of the solution in mind at one time. In this rare case, one person has a good idea of what tasks need to be executed, how long it will take and what it will cost.
Most of the time, the problems we are asked to solve can be clearly defined in the beginning though the solution to these problems are not yet clear. The solution is something that will need to be invented. A group of professionals from various disciplines will need to collaborate to craft a solution.
When these types of projects go poorly it is usually because they are treated as if an end solution already exists. It is easy to presuppose that labor, time and money are already known in advance. In a situation where a solution will need to be invented, it is not reasonable to expect that any one person can know what the project will cost or require in hours of labor. That is because there is no comprehensive solution on which to base time and money.
That isn’t to say that money and/or time can’t be criteria for a complex project. Instead of the development firm providing a time and money quote (for which there is no existing solution to base it on) it may make more sense for the client to dictate what the budget and time constraints will be for the project. The development team will need to work within these parameters as they craft a solution. The client will need to understand that less time and money means less available resources in crafting a solution.
This can be a difficult concept for clients to swallow. Business owners and managers like to get quotes from various vendors and pit them against each other. The problem with this is that it presupposes that a solution exists and it presupposes that the development team is being hired to merely assemble the parts. In reality, the stakeholders should understand that they are not hiring a development firm to merely assemble parts based on a predefined solution. The real value of the development firm is the inventing of an effective and elegant solution based on project criteria.
If the project is going to unfold creatively and economically, there must be a collective understanding, from the beginning of the project to the project’s end, by everyone involved. This includes the client and any other project stakeholders.