Facebook Is a Fact of Life

It never fails. A customer, or a prospective customer will come to me616698_85054502 and ask, “Why aren’t more people coming to my website? What can I do to promote it more?”

The first question I always ask is “Are you on Facebook?” And the answer I usually get is “No, I don’t like / trust / care for / know how to use … Facebook.”

Well, to be honest, I have some issues with Facebook myself. But the fact of the matter is that that is where the people are.

Imagine for a second … there’s a big gathering of people in New York City somewhere (disregarding for a minute that New York City IS a large gathering of people.) You want to get the word out to those people that you have something they want and you feel they’ll pay you good money for. So what do you do? Do you go to the middle of Passaic, New Jersey and wave your little sign around hoping that someone will see it in passing? No, you go where the people are. And right now, online, Facebook is where they are.

That being said, you still want to protect your brand, and you still want to drive people to your website. Especially if you have an online shopping cart, your sales aren’t going to be made through Facebook. Your sales are going to be made by people coming to your site.

Here is the second thing I say to people: “Where’s your content?” I can’t beat that into people’s heads enough: Content, content, content; interesting content to attract people to your site and changing content to keep them coming back.

There have been many times where I’ve gone to someone site and seen a dearth of content, but then gone to their Facebook page and seen pictures, updates and all sorts of information. So, it makes me wonder, if these people are so all fired hot about getting people to visit their website, why isn’t all of this information … on their website?

The trick is to use Facebook to drive traffic to your site, not the other way around. Advertise your content on Facebook, but make them go to your website to get it. For example, some of you are reading this post because of an email blast that I sent out. But I’d bet you a lot more are reading it because of the Facebook link I posted. So, I’ve used Facebook to drive you to my own website.

Why is this so important? On Facebook, you’re competing with hundreds, maybe thousands of posts and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a little “Oh that’s nice” as people scroll on by and see what else is on their feed. Here, I have your complete and total attention.

So, get used to Facebook. Used wisely, it can be your friend. And if you’re on Facebook already, use it to drive traffic to your site.


Why you should not use a free website building service

Free website builders have been popping up like … well, like things that pop up a lot. Some are okay, some are terrible, but all should be avoided as there are pitfalls to all of them which could end up hurting your brand in the long run. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m biased. I’m a web designer and I want your business. But there are some thing you should be aware of if you decide to go that route.

1: You’ll have a site that looks like everyone else’s

Virtually every free website builder is only going to allow you to build your website based on certain specific templates. You’ll recognize them if you wander around the web a bit and sadly, I’ve even seen web designers websites use them. And that’s fine if you want a site that looks like every other site on the web. But your brand should be unique and your site should be unique. If you use a template, your competition is just one click away from having a site that looks just like yours.

2: Basic sites have very basic functions

And if all you want is a basic site, that’s fine. But as your business grows (and that is the point of your website … to grow your business, right?) you’re going to want more and better functionality which a basic website isn’t going to give you. Or, they’re going to start charging you more for the added functionality.

And, when we combine #1 and 2 together we get …

3: Form should follow function

Don’t get lured into the trap of trying to fit your website into a box that it may not fit in. Your business, and the functionality you need in a website should take precedence over the box you’re trying to fit it in. Create the box that your business will fit in; don’t try to stuff it into a box where it may not fit or where it may not be appropriate. A good designer will create a site that fits your business. A free template design tries to fit your business into their box.

 4: Overcoding

Free website builders have to be all things to all people. When that happens, they end up adding a ton of code to your site that you don’t necessarily need. This is what I call “overcoding” and it can really slow down your site. As one who looks at the code behind websites on a daily basis, it drives me a bit crazy to see all the unnecessary coding behind the simplest of sites, especially when it’s taken a while to load in. The prevailing wisdom is that you have seven seconds in which to get your customers attention on your site before their attention wanders off. And overcoding can use up a lot of those seven seconds.

5: The host may require you to add their own advertisements

I was reworking a site for one of my customers one time and they asked me what in the world an advertisement was doing on their site. It turned out that as part of the free service, they were required to put an ad for them at the bottom of their page. (I actually tried this at one time; it worked out that I actually ended up showing an ad for my competition!)

6: Hidden costs

Nothing is free. No matter how much they try to convince you that you’re getting a free website, somehow, somewhere along the line, you’re going to end up paying for it. You’ll pay for it in charges for extra functionality, more web space or bandwidth, or fees after the first free month. You’re going to pay for it with me as well, but at least I’m honest about it and I’ll tell you what your fees are going to be up front.

7: Support

How much support are you going to get from the free services? True, many of them have online tutorials, but as far as talking to a real live person who can hold your hand while you try to sort things out? Not likely.

And do you really want to? You have a business to run. If your sink backs up, are you going to stop running your business to fix your sink or call a plumber? It’s the same with your website. You probably don’t have the time to try to sort out all the ins and outs of web designing. You have widgets to sell! So, go sell your widgets and let us take help you navigate the maze of getting your business on the web.


Scam Alert!

There is a new scam going around that we have been the target of personally, so I can vouch for its authenticity.

You will get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft. They will tell you that through their monitoring they have discovered a virus on your computer. If you ask “which one” they will say “all of them!”

I haven’t followed the phone call any further than this to find out exactly what they are up to, but it is either one of two things: they either want you to download some software which will most likely make your computer more infected than it wasn’t before (read that carefully) or they are going to try to get you to sign up for a virus protection service and get you to give them your credit card number. Then it’s bye bye credit score!

Microsoft is not in the business of calling individual households to tell them about computer problems, nor do they monitor your computer for viruses from their home office.

I tell them that I use an Apple computer. That usually gets them to hang up real quick. My wife says that if they call her at work, she’s going to try to get them to tell her which computer since she works in a facility with probably over 1000 of them.

At any rate, it’s a complete scam. Don’t fall for it.


Responsive Design

Back when I fist started designing websites, we had it easy. Back then everybody pretty much had 640 pixels wide monitors. You know, the ones the size of a small TV set. Maybe if you had an advanced system you had a 1000 pixels wide monitor, but those were few and far between.

Nowadays web designers are faced with having to design for devices anywhere from 3000 pixels wide monitors all the way down to iPhones which are only 320 pixels wide. And we have to use the same graphics and text and retain at least a minimum of navigation. It can be a daunting task. You can see a website designed for larger monitors on a smaller device, but it will either be scaled down so small that your customers won’t be able to read it, or it will require them to scroll up and down and left and right to see it all. And basically, web users don’t like to scroll if they don’t have to.

Luckily, a few years ago designers took on the attitude of divorcing the content of the website from the design using CSS, a process called semantic design. And further advances in CSS known as CSS3 have allowed us to create a process called responsive design.

Responsive design is a process by which your website will render correctly on any size screen; all the way from wide desktop monitors down to the smallest cell phone screen while retaining the structural integrity of your site. It uses all of the same files – graphic and text – and automatically readjusts itself to the proper dimensions.

Want to see it in action? Our own site here is a responsive design. Try re-sizing your browser and you’ll see how the elements of the site adapt themselves to the size of the browser.

Why is this important? The alternative is trying to create a different website style for any size browser. Do you want to spend four to five times as much for a single website? And when you have to update the site, you’ll have to update it four or five times over. With responsive design, it’s update once and you’re done.

However the most important reason is this: it’s estimated that by the year 2014, more than half of all web traffic will be on mobile devices. Some forecasters seeing it happening even sooner.

Is your website ready for the coming explosion in mobile web traffic? Contact us at Marshmallow Fox and we’ll help make sure your site takes advantage of the new paradigm.