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April 2014

Your website is a window into your business' soul

Apr 15, 2014 9:11 AM
by Paul Chato  |  Add Comment

Looking at someone’s website can be a lot like reading tea leaves. If you’re not familiar with the expression, palm readers will read tea leaf residue in your cup to predict your future or to reveal something deep and mysterious about yourself. Many prospective customers send us their websites to have its future told. If you want some insights into your website feel free to send it our way.

Here is a website (company logo and name blurred to protect the innocent) that was sent to us by a consultant who wanted some insights into a job he was asked to pitch on. You can learn a lot about what the job will be like from a company’s website. Below you will see a picture of the home page followed by my analysis of it. See if you agree.

  1. The website is of an older vintage. That is a nice way of saying this is one ugly website. In fact it wasn't effective when it was first launched. 
  2. When a company launches a website that is bad to start with what does that say?
    1. They don’t know much about websites?
    2. They built the website because someone told them they needed one?
    3. They run their business badly so why would the website be any different?
    4. They actually spent a lot of time on it and this is still what they came up with?
    5. It's a family run business so it's an insane zoo of competing egos?
  3. The copyright shows 2009. This notice should have been updated each year. This shows that the company really doesn't care about its website or doesn't feel that its significant to its business. It's just there. I don't imagine the content has been touched since 2009.
  4. Does this company want to be found by Google searches? They've made it hard. The Title Tags are incomplete, There is no H1 tagged headline describing who they are, what they do, where they do it and who they do it to.
  5. The copy is just terrible and it's 'me' content and not 'you' content. Where are the action items to click on? The website needs to be for the visitor. How is this company helping the visitor get what they want? Do they know what the visitor wants?
  6. They produce a visual product, yet they don't have a single picture on this website
  7. The products page is a pdf download. Just plain lazy.  

A website needs to reflect the personality of the company or its people. Is this how the business owners see their company? If they take pride in their business it certainly doesn’t show on their website. I really hate the term Brand Alignment but it makes sense and never more so for your website because it’s either the first thing they see about you or the first place they go to after a pitch.


Paul Chato

Paul Chato has been many things: a graphic designer, programmer, comedian, head of network TV comedy, game producer, 3D animator, playwright, event host, director and anything else that matches his fancy. Most of the time he is a pulls the levers at YourWebDepartment.com and is most excited about LiveBuild™.
Check out LiveBuild

 

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Website redesign: iG Global Intelligence

Apr 6, 2014 12:05 PM
by Flavio Mester  |  Add Comment

iG Global Intelligence

www.iggintel.com

iG Global Intelligence collects and analyses big data from social media and Internet sources to create a competitive advantage. Using patented technology they’re able gain access to information not readily available through regular search engines. iG Global Intelligence provides fully customized harvesting and analysis of open source information contained in social media and the internet (including the “deep web”).

We completely redesigned their website in the Your Web Department platform in just a few days, creating a new look for iG Global Intelligence’s web presence a completely new look and feel, with them having the ability to esily upadte the content at any time on their own.

 


Flavio Mester

Flavio Mester is a graphic designer as well as a systems analyst (in a distant life he was an architect). A founding partner of Your Web Department, he's responsible for the design and development of all the YWD website management platform interfaces.
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March 2014

3 Easy Website Fixes to Win More Customers

Mar 26, 2014 12:57 PM
by Paul Chato  |  Add Comment

Your Web Department is quoted in a latest blog post at Scotia Bank's Get Growing for Business Blog. We've made it!

Does your website let visitors quickly find what they want – and buy it? If your site is slow and clunky you could be losing business. 

According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), half of Canadian Internet users ordered goods or services online in 2010, placed nearly 114 million orders and spent over $15.3 billion. Most Canadian small businesses simply can’t afford to ignore these lucrative online opportunities.

Click on the above link to see the rest of the post.


Paul Chato

Paul Chato has been many things: a graphic designer, programmer, comedian, head of network TV comedy, game producer, 3D animator, playwright, event host, director and anything else that matches his fancy. Most of the time he is a pulls the levers at YourWebDepartment.com and is most excited about LiveBuild™.
Check out LiveBuild

 

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Website design: Clay Brick Association of Canada

Mar 6, 2014 6:39 PM
by Flavio Mester  |  Add Comment

Clay Brick Association of Canada

www.claybrick.ca

Clay brick is not only one of the oldest and most traditional exterior cladding materials, it is technically the best and most trusted by consumers. The Clay Brick Association of Canada interacts with educators, designers, regulators and industry partners, fostering an environment favourable to the growth of the market for Canadian-made clay brick.

We created a simple and yet very attractive little website for them, packed with useful information on the use of clay brick, especially its benefits in terms of sustainability.

We're able to design and build a custom website like www.claybrick.ca very quickly, because our website builder requires no programming and has an integrated the easiest to use CMS (Content Management System) in the world.


Flavio Mester

Flavio Mester is a graphic designer as well as a systems analyst (in a distant life he was an architect). A founding partner of Your Web Department, he's responsible for the design and development of all the YWD website management platform interfaces.
Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn

 

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February 2014

Website redesign: Lighthouse 360

Feb 25, 2014 6:22 PM
by Flavio Mester  |  Add Comment

Lighthouse 360 had their website built on the Your Web Department website platform years ago. A fresh look that would better reflect their brand and convey their message was in order, so they asked us to completely redesign their website for them.

The nice thing about a system like YWD is that it provides us complete flexibility, without the need to write any code. This allows us to design/redesign a website for our clients at a fraction of what it would normally cost in other systems, even with “free” ones.

And since the client is already familiar with our easy to use CMS (Content Management System) they can easily make any content updates on their own.

Please go to www.lighthouse360.com and check out their new website.

Lighthouse 360


Flavio Mester

Flavio Mester is a graphic designer as well as a systems analyst (in a distant life he was an architect). A founding partner of Your Web Department, he's responsible for the design and development of all the YWD website management platform interfaces.
Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn

 

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How to embed a Google Calendar into your website

Feb 14, 2014 5:11 PM
by Flavio Mester  |  Add Comment

Calendars can be very useful for business websites. You can use them to post upcoming events like tradeshows, conferences, new product releases, etc. A website management system like Your Web Department includes a very powerful Events Calendar tool that lets you create events and display them in different formats such as lists and monthly calendars. And you can extensively customize its look and feel. But you can also use Google Calendar for that if you prefer, and then easily insert/embed it into your business website.

Creating and managing a Google Calendar

Google Calendar -- www.google.com/calendar -- is a free tool that lets you build (and in our case here share) your own calendars. If you already have a Google account (if you use GMail for instance) you can sign in to Google Drive directly from there. If you don’t have a Google account click the Sign up button.

The video below (from Anson Alexander) will get you started on how to create an manage your calendar:

 

Sharing the calendar with the world

You can use Google Calendar as your own (and private) time-management application. But in this case we want to make our calendar available to anyone accessing your business website. So once you have your calendar ready, rollover its name under My calendars and click on the down-arrow next to it, so a popup menu will appear. Select the Share this Calendar option:

Sharing a Google Calendar

Check Share this calendar with others and also Make this calendar public. This will make all the calendar information available to anyone. I’m assuming you're not keeping any personal information of a private nature in this calendar, of course!

Adding the calendar to your business website

Google automatically generates the code you need in order to embed/insert the calendar into your Your Web Department business website. Here’s how you do it:

1. In Google Calendar, click the down-arrow next to the calendar name to display the popup dialog and select Calendar settings. You can use that page to customize your calendar’s look and feel, dimensions and other aspects.

2. At the top of the page you will see a box similar to this one, highlighted here in red. Select and copy all the text inside the box:

3. Now go to your website’s administration interface in Your Web Department and navigate to the page where you’d like to embed/insert the Google Calendar. Click Add content in the YWD toolbar, and then Embed Code. Paste the code you just copied there, and save.

Preview the page and you’ll see the calendar embedded there:

Embedded Google Calendar


You can always go back to Google Calendar and change its dimensions, colours, etc. then grab their code again.

What’s neat is that as you add more events to your Google Calendar, your website will reflect that automatically.

Want to go even fancier?

Let's say you prefer not to embed the calendar itself on the page, but rather pop it up above it. For instance, a page like this one, with a calendar image and a text link:

Calendar icon


When either the calendar or the text link is clicked, you would like your Google Calendar to pop up in a “lightbox” hovering above the page.

To do that:

1. Grab the portion of the code provided by Google Calendar that’s inside the first pair of quotes i.e. the URL (the address) of the calendar:

Google Calendar URL

In Your Web Department, instead of using an Embed Code content block, create a link from your text or image in a regular Word Processor block, and paste the URL you copied above. In the Target tab of the link properties window, select .

That’s it: when the page is displayed, if people click on the link they’ll see your Google Calendar inside this “floating” layer:

Google Calendar in a lightbox


Flavio Mester

Flavio Mester is a graphic designer as well as a systems analyst (in a distant life he was an architect). A founding partner of Your Web Department, he's responsible for the design and development of all the YWD website management platform interfaces.
Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn

 

YWD Tips, Design   Add Comment
  

Customizing the appearance of the ‘Play’ button of your YouTube and Vimeo videos

Feb 12, 2014 5:37 PM
by Flavio Mester  |  Add Comment

Your Web Department allows you to use your own still frame picture for videos you embed using our YouTube or Vimeo tools. This allows you to bypass the random frame these services pick, often one in which people have their mouth open...

If you’re using your own still frame, YWD will automatically display a ‘Play’ button on top of it. However, if your embedded video is small, the button can cover the person’s face.

You can now determine how YWD should handle that. The option can be found in Design / Tools / Other tools / Videos and includez these settings:

Large circle with arrow

Video 'play' button

Small circle with arrow

Video 'play' button

Text

Video 'play' button

No button

Video 'play' button

The first is the default, and the last will hide the ‘Play’ button altogether, which allows you to include your own icon into the still frame pictures, if you want.


Flavio Mester

Flavio Mester is a graphic designer as well as a systems analyst (in a distant life he was an architect). A founding partner of Your Web Department, he's responsible for the design and development of all the YWD website management platform interfaces.
Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn

 

Design, YWD Platform updates   Add Comment
  

GoDaddy builds a shitty website for Gwen

Feb 4, 2014 7:31 PM
by Paul Chato  |  Add Comment

Anyone who watched StuporBowl 2014 might have seen the GoDaddy ad where a real life, actual Gwen, quits her job to start her dream puppet show business. She quit right there, announced it into the camera. I assumed that this was the first her employers had heard of Gwen’s decision. No matter. 

And she’s kickstarting her business by way of GoDaddy’s website building services. Not withstanding the fact that anyone would love to kick off their new small business with a SuperBowl ad. Here is the link to her website.

http://www.puppetsbygwen.com

Why am I promoting a competing website building service? I don’t think I am. Our position is that there are a lot of people out there that don’t want a conglomerate to build their website. No matter how friendly a face Gwen puts on GoDaddy, it’s still a call-centre driven, mega-corp experience. And the punchline is that it is bad website.

For all the high-powered help puppetsbygwen.com received from GoDaddy’s Dream Design Team® it’s a really bad website. puppetsbygwen.com does not have to follow website best practices. She’s been launched into the stratosphere, but GoDaddy is promoting their Dream Design Team® to all small businesses out there and if Gwen’s website is any example of what they are offering, it’s another reason to avoid the conglomerate. 

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Really wonderful opening billboard. I’m kinda happy it’s not a slideshow. They are useful but I can get tired of them.
  • This billboard doesn’t quite tell me what Gwen does with her puppets. I see white kids playing with puppets but is she selling puppets, building them for kids to play with, is she putting on a show?
  • Then below is the line “Be part of the adventure…” and a button, Book a Show. This kind of implies that she’s going to be doing puppet shows, I assume.
  • Then there are four callouts below, Meet Me, My Puppets, My Adventures, About The Show. Okay, this is what I call ‘me’ content. It’s all about Gwen. A website, especially the home page, has to be about YOU, the visitor. What problem is Gwen going to solve for YOU! Now, granted parts of this website are totally self-serving to GoDaddy. That aside, the callouts need to be something like: “Find out how to un-boring your kid’s party” “Meet My Puppets” (not the passive My Puppets) etc.
  • The callouts also commit the crime of using ‘Read More’ as the linked text. Descriptive text needs to be the link. And in this case I can’t click on the heading or the callout copy. Really bush league stuff here.
  • The callouts are followed by Behind the Curtain, the story of Gwen leaving her job. Let’s leave this for now. We know why it’s here. 4 million dollars worth of why.
  • From a best-practices perspective the words “PuppetsbyGwen” with or without spaces does not appear anywhere in the general content. Seriously, this is amateur time.
  • “Be a part of the adventure…” is not a proper headline. It is meaningless to Google. If they had written, “Be a part of Puppets by Gwen’s adventure” that would have told Google that puppets and Gwen are somehow connected. 
  • There needs to be 100 to 200 words of excellent copy on the home page for Google to really figure out what you do, where you do it, why you do it and who you do it to. It’s not here.
  • The rest of the site does not have any text on what the freakin’ show is about. The video on the home page does a good job of showing Gwen doing puppet shows in people’s homes. But I don’t get to hear much of the act. I can’t tell if it’s any good or not. The voices all sound the same. The kids are laughing but it would be nice to get a sense of the act. That aside, Google wants to see well-written prose about what you are doing, selling, being passionate about.
  • There is a page of success tips. Whaaaat? Yes, rule one: Get a super large company to promote your business on the SuperBowl. Rule two…  gee I guess you don’t need a rule two.

People come to us daily with sites like this that they want FIXED. 

THESE are the EXPERTS that are going to build YOUR site?

Have fun.


Paul Chato

Paul Chato has been many things: a graphic designer, programmer, comedian, head of network TV comedy, game producer, 3D animator, playwright, event host, director and anything else that matches his fancy. Most of the time he is a pulls the levers at YourWebDepartment.com and is most excited about LiveBuild™.
Check out LiveBuild

 

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How to automatically arrange content in a responsive “Masonry” grid layout

Feb 3, 2014 7:49 PM
by Flavio Mester  |  Add Comment

If you use Pinterest, you’ve seen it: content being displayed in columns with boxes of different heights that seem intertwined, like bricks in a wall. A few regular websites use that effect as well, known by some as a “Masonry grid”. In fact, we’re currently using that in our own Portfolio page to display several screenshots of various sizes depicting a few selected websites of built on the Your Web Department platform.

Portfolio page

An example of a Masonry grid: our Portfolio page

 

So how can you do that in Your Web Department?

“Masonry grid” is a new style we’ve added to our Content Slider tool. First, I created the slides. In this case they're quite similar, each made up of an screenshot and the link to the website beaneath it. So to speed up the process I used the Copy an existing slide button and then quickly replaced the content. A sample slide looked like this on the YWD back-end:

Slide setup

Next, I assembled the slides into a presentation. To do that, I just selected the slides I wanted to include and used the up/down arrows to change the order:

Setting the the presentation

Finally, I added the Content Slider block to our Portfolio page. Typically you don't need to specify a width; the code will use the with of the first slide as a referrence when rearranging all the slides/tiles.

Masonry slider content block

 

How about the extra formatting – borders, gutters, etc.?

You can assign a “box” style to the Masonry slides, just like you can style those used by forms and other elements. Go to Design / Layout / Auto formats / Box style 1 (...5) and setup your box style as needed. In the Apply this box style globally to dropdown choose Content slider - 'Masonry' style tiles like here:

Masonry - Designer

Here's an example from our online Help:

Masonry - Help

An example from our Help


Flavio Mester

Flavio Mester is a graphic designer as well as a systems analyst (in a distant life he was an architect). A founding partner of Your Web Department, he's responsible for the design and development of all the YWD website management platform interfaces.
Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn

 

Design, YWD Platform updates   Add Comment
  

7 tips on how to format text for your website or blog

Feb 3, 2014 9:23 AM
by Flavio Mester  |  Add Comment

If you have a small business and update your own website or blog, you may not be familiar with the best practices in terms of text formatting for the web. Here are a few simple principles you can use to make your business website look more professional.

1. Break big chunks into headings and paragraphs

Long stretches of text are hard to read and intimidating for most people, like in the example below.

No white space

Text needs some space to “breathe”. Add full carriage returns between paragraphs to separate them and create a visual hierarchy:

Text hierarchy

It'll be more legible, clearer and less boring. Also, remember that you can use up to 6 levels of headings. Use them consistently and your text will look much better.


2. Don’t underline text

Centered text

Assuming that you’re using a website management system like Your Web Department, links will already be underlined for you (or not, depending on the design preferences of the website). So you don’t need to underline any of them by hand. And never, never underline things like headings. People will think they’re links.


3. Don’t manually “colourize” individual words

Colourized words

Sorry, but you really shouldn't manually change the colour of individual words. It won’t look good and will only confuse people. Manually colouring either the words themselves or their background should only be used in really rare occasions, if at all. Consistency is key.


4. Don’t capitalize big chunks of text

Capitalized text

It’s a common misconception that text in all caps is easier to read. It definitely isn’t. Also, people associate all caps with “shouting”. Only short text -- like headings -- can be capitalized, never long stretches of copy.


5. Don’t center big chunks

Centered text

We scan text from top to bottom and left to right. By centering several lines of text we actually make it much harder to read, because we need to “find” the first letter each time we move to the next line. It’s much easier to read when text is left-justified. On the other hand, having it also right-justified doesn’t help. Why? Because then all text looks like a single block, and it’s hard to find where you are within the copy.


6. Don’t bold them either!

Bold text

I know you’d like to draw your audience’s attention as much as possible to your page. But bolding large amounts of text will not only make the page look bad; it’ll be very confusing. And again, harder to read. Use bold text sparingly.


7. Use larger font sizes for mobile

Mobile fonts

Your Web Department lets you create a mobile-optimized version of any website. You should take advantage of the ability it gives you to customize text specifically for mobile. You can tweak both the font size and the line spacing for regular text as well as each of the 6 levels of headings.


Flavio Mester

Flavio Mester is a graphic designer as well as a systems analyst (in a distant life he was an architect). A founding partner of Your Web Department, he's responsible for the design and development of all the YWD website management platform interfaces.
Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn

 

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