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10 reasons you SHOULDN’T design your own website

General

When it comes putting together the perfect business website, many hands-on entrepreneurs may feel the temptation to handle it themselves. There are more website building tools available than ever, with accessible drag-and-drop design that can create a functional online home for your business in no time.

So, why wouldn’t you design your own website? If you have seen some of the amateur efforts of well-intentioned business owners, you might already have an idea, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of it all.

You could end up with the blandest website on the net

Drag and drop website builders allow you to quickly select pre-made assets and formats, apply them to webpages that you link together, and end up with a complete website. The only problem is that those same pre-made assets and formats are going to be everywhere. You can buy themes to customize them graphically but using them to create a truly unique website is not easy. 

It takes more than a few days to become a design expert

Design is an art. If you needed professional photography, would you hand the camera to any old intern or would you hire a professional photographer? Website designers bring more than function, they bring expertise in how it looks, how it feels and, most importantly, what it prompts the customer to do. 

Designers have an eye on user experience, not just how pretty it is

User experience is a different discipline and an art in its own right. Web users can be picky and impatient creatures. If you waste their time with odd link placement, hastily thought-out navigation, or content that’s too dense to read, they will turn tail and flee. Website designers approach the site from the user’s perspective, which can be difficult for a business owner to do.

An outsider’s perspective is important

While you bring the expertise of your industry and plenty of insight into your customers, it can be difficult to see beyond your own business. As a result, many business owners will fill their site with information that is, to put it bluntly, irrelevant to the customer. As an independent third-party, a website designer is focused on creating the best website for both the user and the client. 

Avoiding those SEOh-nos

How are people going to find your website? Search engines play a key role in attracting visitors, but only if you know how to appeal to them. That’s what search engine optimization is all about. Website designers have an understanding of strategic keyword placement, backlinks, anchor text, meta-descriptions that have all become crucial to the success of the average website. Unless you’re prepared to learn the ins-and-outs of internal SEO, you won’t be getting the website you deserve. 

The dreaded error prompts

What happens when a page or asset is broken and you don’t know why? If you’re designing it on your own, you either have to scrap it and lose your progress or spend hours looking for the right fix. Web designers are much more familiar with what breaks websites, not just what makes them. 

Designers bring a whole range of tools to the table

A web designer won’t just use a drag-and-drop website creator alone. They will use software for illustration, image editing, analytics, SEO audits and much more to ensure that your website stands up to the most thorough of quality inspections. 

You don’t have the time

If you’ve read this far, then you have come to realize that building a website takes a lot more than simply dragging and dropping different assets in the right place. The question you have to ask is whether you have the time to learn all the disciplines that go into it. 

Your competitors are investing in quality

If you are spending the time learning how to do it all (or simply skipping it), then you will undoubtedly see your competitors getting their websites online sooner, and with all the quality that professional website designer brings to the table. 

You have to adapt with the times

Website design and the tools used to design them change over time. If you aren’t prepared to keep up with the latest trends, your website will fall behind. A great example of this is found by looking at how many old, self-built websites are now completely unusable on mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets.

When it comes designing your own website, it’s another case of the age-old fable of only asking if you could, instead of whether or not you should. Greater experience with the tools available, the skills to create truly unique designs, knowledge of the market are what a professional website designer can bring to the table. Let them do their job so you can focus on building your business.


 

The Difference between Inbound/Outbound Marketing

General

Digital marketing can generally be separated into two different categories: inbound marketing and outbound marketing. Both categories include a variety of different disciplines and techniques, but they are separated neatly based on which marketing goals they can help you accomplish. Here, we’re going to look at the differences between inbound and outbound marketing, examples of each, what they do for you, and which of the two is better.

Outbound marketing

Once upon a time, this was simply known as “marketing.” Also called interruptive marketing, this represents the traditional form of marketing such as advertising. Outbound marketing campaigns are disruptive by nature, interrupting the audience’s content consumption. They’re designed to reach out to everybody and seek the customers amongst the audience, to highlight the product or the site’s key proposition, and to drive interest towards the site/product.

Outbound marketing, particularly in the form of advertising, is ubiquitous but it’s difficult to ignore. A great outbound marketing strategy can serve as the perfect first step of the customer lifecycle, sparking an interest where there may have previously been none.

Outbound marketing is getting more targeted and more data-driven in the online world, as well. Pay-per-click ads, for instance, allow websites and businesses to set specific criteria for who they want to target, what geographical locations they want to show ads in, and end what time they want those ads to show.

Many platforms show metrics allowing marketing campaign managers and website owners to understand how successful or unsuccessful certain outbound campaigns are, allowing them to learn from their successes and failures and to make the necessary improvements.

Examples of outbound marketing

Here are some of the most common outbound marketing techniques that allow websites and online businesses to directly target their market in a variety of spaces:

  • Pay-per-click advertisements
  • Display ads
  • Video commercials
  • Email marketing
  • Press releases
  • Direct mail

 

Hopefully, you’ve got an idea of what outbound marketing is. It’s time to move onto the other side of the digital marketing coin.

Inbound marketing

Relatively new by comparison, inbound marketing (also known as content marketing) is designed to reach those people in the audience already interested in what you have to offer. While outbound marketing might be thought of as “pushing out”, inbound marketing is about “pulling in.”

Inbound marketing is primarily about the clever positioning of well-made content that appeals directly to the audience’s needs, rather than the product or site’s proposition. Unlike outbound marketing, it’s not meant to disrupt their content consumption, but becomes a part of that content consumption.

Inbound marketing campaigns can be seen as less aggressive and more personalized. What’s more, outbound marketing work on a “one-and-done” basis. A single advertisement is paid for and is viewed once, with businesses and site owners purchasing many to get a wider spread of repeat views. Inbound marketing is about the creation of content that can be viewed time and time again.

Effective inbound marketing is about creating specifically-written content that can better appeal to a broader section of your audience. If the content is engaging enough and if it has the educational, informative, helpful, or entertainment value it needs, then the audience will be pulled further into the site and closer to converting. 

Examples of inbound marketing

Here are some of the components of an effective inbound marketing campaign:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media marketing
  • Blogging
  • Content creation
  • Opt-in emails
  • Influencer marketing

The entire journey of inbound marketing is about creating the content that will effectively help customers move on to the next part of the consumer life-cycle (from interest to purchase to post-purchase) and making sure that its visible enough to catch the interest of those it’s most relevant to. 

Which is better?

The question of whether inbound marketing or outbound marketing is better is a tricky one. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. While outbound marketing tends to be shorter-lived and more expensive, it is also more impactful, helping to really drive sales especially in major campaigns around launches, discounts, and the like. However, in a world where the use of ad-blocking software is growing, it’s getting harder to target significant portions of your audience through outbound alone.

Inbound marketing is more cost-effective, it has longer-term effects, and it reaches those most likely to convert, giving them the little push that they need. However, inbound marketing won’t reach any parties who aren’t already interested in your product and it can be slower to see results for that reason. 

Choosing between outbound marketing and inbound marketing, as well as which techniques you opt for, is all about figuring out the goals of your website or online business. Most commercial websites will find a careful balance of both, making sure they hit all their bases and don’t leave any gaps in their digital marketing campaign.


 

What is Artificial Intelligence and Why You Should Care?

General

Say “hello” to the Age of the Machine.

Everybody has an opinion, but here’s a quick round-up.

AI – in the 1950’s?

You bet!  The first researchers to take the field seriously (outside of sci-fi writers) decided that artificial intelligence covered any job performed by a program or a machine that would be described as “an intelligent process” if done by a human.

That opens the door to lots of questions over whether something is truly AI.  So let’s stick to some easy factors that determine whether something is REALLY AI. To be “real” AI, a system will have to do things that show”

  • Reasoning showing human-like logic
  • Planning that involves some level of social intelligence and creativity
  • Problem solving based on “knowledge” earning, reasoning

AI Applications

The industry has already come up with a broad differential between task-oriented “intelligence” and a general version, named Narrow and General, respectively.

Narrow AI has been at use for some time.  It includes tasks done by computers or computer-based products that have been taught (programmed) or engineered to make “decisions” on how to carry out tasks without specific programming.

Look around – as consumers, you can already see accepted AI machines or processes like Alexa and Siri who actually recommend solutions to questions or answer trivia as well as making purchases and providing instructions.

You can also see it at work in the vision-recognition systems on self-driving cars, Unlike humans, these systems can only learn or be taught how to do specific tasks, which is why they are called narrow AI.

Behind the scenes, AI applications are used to find fraud.

Other Examples of Narrow AI

Taking data and figuring out what’s going on with things like video feeds and organizing calendars. There is also the annoying “Tell me what you would like to do” systems that make trickling sounds when you call customers service and MIGHT connect you with a human if you persevere.

GENERAL AI

Based on human intellectual functions, General AI can handle complex things like surgical procedures or even “reason” its way through a variety of topics and making decisions.  This brings up the whole “Skynet/Matrix” scenario, originally suggested in 2001: A Space Odyssey with the HAL computer.

AI biggies take both sides of the “will or won’t the machines decide they don’t need us?” question.  With the advent of more and more human-like robots, interestingly enough driven by the sex robot business, there is another whole line of concern.

Will we be able to download our consciousness, personality – soul – into a machine/android and live forever?   That depends on neural network creativity levels.

Neural networks mirror the human brain, using interconnected layers of algorithms, which like their flesh counterparts, can carry out specific tasks.  Linked together with some form of weighting – think about the pluses and minuses we humans use in decision-making—they could “learn” like we do.

Current types of neural networks have varied abilities.  Recurrent neural function very well dealing with language processing and speech recognition, while conventional neural networks are more commonly used in image recognition.   But, they have a long way to go.  “Tell me what you would like to do” is till the current level of sophistication.

Stay tuned as they get “smarter.”  And, they WILL get smarter, because despite some concerns, ranging up to paranoia, NOTHING will stop AI from advancing.  Just like the internet, once you open the genie’s bottle, you can’t go back.


 

Building SEO into Your Website

General

Design is Critical for Organic SEO

Search Engine Optimization – The Holy Grail of having a great ranking on Google – like on page 1 – is expensive, right?  As the old song goes “It ain’t necessarily so!”  You don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money on SEO to “build your website’s domain authority” or have “long-tail key words” and all the other things that SEO experts talk about.

Yes, those things may be valuable , but there are some simple (if time-consuming) things  that you and/or your website designer can do that get you ranked higher faster – and cheaper – than all the “back links,” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera that you hear about.  Most people start with an idea for their website, get it built – perhaps with some key words and then – after the fact – start thinking about SEO.

Do some research (and hard work) BEFORE your site is launched (or RE-launched) you can save yourself a ton of money.   There are some simple things.  You and your website designer can take a look and see what sites are ranked organically high for your category.  (Organic is just a fancy term for “they didn’t buy ads or pay Google to be ranked on page 1.)

The sites that have the top ranking probably have their position because of what they say about themselves.

Search Engine look for key things to “find” websites for searchers.  Here are NINE Important things to research, execute and include in YOUR site:

  1. Meta tags – basically PAGE TITLES. The higher ranked sites probably have ones that will coincide with search terms that people looking for their (and YOUR) services use to look for them.  You can use the same or similar ones to get YOUR site found!
  2. Meta descriptions – brief descriptions of what the page titles mention, and which include a CTA (Call to Action) like “call us for a quote.” The higher ranked sites may or may not use these, BUT you can and get ranked higher because of them.
  3. Proper sizing for various devices – Your site needs to be optimized for Smart phones and tablets, NOT just desktop or laptop computers. YOU can gain ranking position IF your site is easily visible to ALL devices.
  4. Keywords – Check the higher ranking sites for the keywords in THEIR copy and make sure yours is at least as good (BUT, don’t stuff!)
  5. Blogs – Most good designers will try to get clients to have at LEAST three blogs, with at least one added monthly. Blogs are the most important “social media” pieces you can execute to increase your ranking.
  6. Pictures – It’s important for UX – user experience – and UI – user interaction – to have great pictures that support your content.
  7. Videos – Google loves videos (that could be why they bought YouTube) so try to get one or more either ON your site, or a link to them FROM your site.
  8. Rich Content – Your site should have quality visuals of any and all types, to support well-written content, not just something you bought for $5 from Fiverr. The better the quality of your content, the higher you will get ranked.
  9. Links to other website – It’s great to get these, some of which can come from having YOUR blogs referred to by others OR having testimonials that refer to your clients’ websites

These things can get you closer to “Page 1 ranking” without spending hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars a month.  The more of them you do, the more YOUR site will improve its location when people are looking for things you offer.


 

What’s the Difference between a Web Designer and a Web Developer?

General

Back in the Day

Web Designers – Art

Used to just concentrate on looks  – created the layout and other visual elements of the website

Web Developers – Code

Used “hard core” software – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP  and others – to bring make functional websites

Issues for Clients

  • You had to work with TWO separate people/groups get a usable website.
  • Changes were tough to make – and cost a FORTUNE (New artwork AND new coding)
  • You were “Stuck” with the designer and the developer – THEY basically had complete control over YOUR website. Artwork had to be changed by the “Design people” and the “Development people” controlled the code.

These days – life has changed! 

WordPress has changed the way the world works!  Everything is easy to understand – doesn’t demand fancy art design OR code changes.

  • ONE designer/developer “does it all” for your website
  • BASED on PHP, but you don’t need a “coder”
  • Thousands of themes (designs) are available
  • Pictures, blogs, changes – all EASY and simple to add
  • YOU “Own” your website – no longer “stuck”

 

That’s Why YOU should Use US!

Ultradata Research uses WordPress and has the capability to provide clients with literally hundreds of different themes that would work well for them.

“Custom” isn’t a code word for “hideously expensive” any more.  You pick the “look” you want, and the “coding” is done by WordPress (although we do add touches to make sure your site is “found” by Google and other web browsers.) 

Come see what we can do for YOU!


 

Future Proof Your Website

General

Things move VERY fast online – Yikes!

In an online world whereby technology  changes daily – and coding standards move at a headlong rate, predicting the future is complicated.   In the past, many types of websites became obsolete, weren’t supported and fell apart.

But now, the current gold standard platform for site builders is WordPress.  It is solid, works well and, most importantly, it is “open source.”  Open source means that all kinds of developers have access to it so they can come up with plug-ins, add-ons, and apps.  Those “extras” make WordPress more robust, secure and most importantly not likely to become obsolete.

Anyone who wants to invest their hard earned money into a new website build, or keeping an existing one relevant, needs to take a few minutes to think about how to “future proof” their investment.  That means that when you want to do updates, changes, additions or add new features you won’t have a tear-and rebuild issue or won’t need to buy a completely new site.

The good news is that “future proofing” a WordPress site is, happily, not that difficult.  So, since the platform itself is so much more stable then what it was 2 years ago, what else should you be thinking about?

A few other key website “Future Proof” considerations are:

  • Use an experienced and knowledgeable designer/developer who utilizes licensed plug-ins for things such as security, SEO, backup, SSL, sliders and professional plugins that are optimized and integrated with your Google Plus and Google Analytics account is a must.  You want to be found, right?
  • Own your own hosting account, domain name and email accounts.  Register all the services that you will need with your own email account – have all the login username-password credentials in your hands.   Keep a list of all of these in a safe secure place.    If you decide to change providers or designers then you can remove the access you have given them.  Never let the website designer hold the key to your “assets”.  Your website is one of the most valuable assets to your company.
  • Insist on regular website reviews to refresh and update content and insure that all account linkage to the outside services integrated into your website are still working and are reporting correct.
  • Make sure that you have a good hosting provider for your site – don’t go on the cheap.   Selecting a plan that has daily backup, built in caching and high-speed hardware is worth the few extra bucks a month.
  • Find and, if necessary change, hosting companies to insure that you meet visitor and WordPress platform and load time requirements (i.e. Google now uses website load speed as a ranking key!)
  • Make sure your website is using a theme and child-theme that is “responsive” and is correctly optimized for mobile and most devices, as well as for speed.

At Ultradata, we make it EASY to “future proof” your website.  If you want content changes, add-ons or plug-ins installed, whatever – they can be accommodated.  You WON’T lose your existing investment.  We can maintain your website or assist you, so that it’s easier to maintain, so you CAN avoid costly and time-consuming problems.

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