The Target Market

17 11 2011

The first task in developing a marketing mix is to define the target market. In the case of marketing to consumers via the Internet, one of the essential characteristics of the target market is that it consist of people who are connected to the Internet. Because most employers prohibit or significantly limit personal use of company machines, especially concerning shopping and recreation, a primary concern is with those connected at home.

Internet consumer demographics are probably similar to those of the Innovator and/or Early Adopter in Product Diffusion Theory. They tend to be younger, with above average education and income. They receive product information from each other or from narrowly focused publications.

Internet users may be classified as Surfers or Shoppers. Surfers use the Internet for recreation. They visit web sites as explorers, moving from site to site and not returning unless there is entertainment motivation. Shoppers use the Internet for a directed purpose, to gather information about a topic of interest, to make purchase decisions, or to conduct a purchase transaction.

At present, the most popular items purchased on the Internet are sex-related. There is an interesting parallel in the development of the Internet and that of the VCR. Initially, VCRs were slow to be accepted as a mainstream entertainment medium. Then, they became a popular vehicle for sexually oriented programming. It has been stated that pornography was the making of today’s VCR industry. The same pattern has developed on the Internet. As the sex market demands better Internet technology and spurs greater Internet acceptance, other commercial enterprises will benefit. At the present time the next greatest Internet use is for business-to-business marketing. Consumer purchases of non-sex goods and services is a distant third.

By Joe Abramson and Craig Hollingshead

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Nasty Web Designer promises

27 10 2011

There is a very serious problem blighting the web design industry. It’s one that has obtained the profession a bad name and that we hear all too often – the false promises.
So it’s only apt that we share what we view as a blend of the sublime, ridiculous and downright flagrant lies.

 Tags

If we hear one more time that a customer was assured their site had been optimized because its tags had been completed – we’ll scream. Why on earth do so many companies (and freelancers in particular) feel it necessary to sell on the basis of something that is such a fraction of a solution?

Your client finds out eventually – usually when they’ve had a handful of visitors to their site a year later and then they come looking for you.

 Templates

Clients often tell us how their site was custom designed – and then they usually bounce off every wall in their office when we show them another ten sites using the very same template theirs does.

Joomla, CSS templates, whatever it might be – if you’re going to use a template then at least do the client the service of telling them!

We all know why designers don’t do that – because they know a client will find out how much the template cost (if they even paid for it) and that the amount of work that went into the project was much less than they thought. Profiteering – blatant and unprofessional profiteering.

Your client knows you are in business to make a profit, so why deceive them into thinking you’re putting in a lot more effort than you actually are?

Hosting

It’s amazing how many people we visit that think their existing websites are running on dedicated servers. One such client wasn’t very pleased when we told him that his very large hosting bill was for the pleasure of being sat on a server with another 3,600 sites and that the appalling speed might be explained by that.

Many web design companies will resell the services of dedicated servers – dedicated to them – but not dedicated to a single client website. They’ll have ten, twenty, a hundred or three hundred sites on them and tell the client they have put their website on a dedicated server.

Literal interpretation means you haven’t and you’re just deliberately exaggerating a point. Be honest with them and explain that the server will easily cope with lots of sites (as long as you’re sure it will) and that theirs is one of a number on the server.

If you’re going to host them on a shared server of much higher volume and out of your direct control – tell them. Legally they could meet up with you in a court of law in the future and ask a judge what he thinks of it – so just tell them the truth from day one.

Browsers

If your web design has browser limitations (i.e. the good old “it won’t run in Safari”) don’t tell them it has been designed to be functional in all known browsers. We know of a lot of designers who won’t make any browser commitments at all because they’ll not put the effort in that is required for multi-browser operation – but if you don’t promise it then you’re a lot better than those that do.

 100% Uptime

This is arguable, as you may offer hosting through a company who promise 100% uptime. However, our advice is not to tell your client you will guarantee them 100% uptime. If you offer an SLA to your clients with any form of compensation in place you could find yourself with difficult questions to face. Offering 99.7% to 99.9% gives you that little bit of slack in the event that circumstances beyond your control occur. If you promise 100% – it really must be 100%.

 Developers

If you’re not going to be the one writing the site, because you’re using freelancers or short term programmers, don’t say you are. This is our biggest pet hate.

Most clients probably won’t object anyway but you shouldn’t claim to have all the skills in-house if you don’t. We have heard a multitude of stories of web designers not answering e-mails or phone calls months after a site went live – all because they’d subbed the job out to someone else and had no idea how to make the changes themselves.

 Estimates

Grrrrr – we detest estimates. Don’t give your client an estimate. Don’t promise the project will come in below X when you know it is going to come in at a much higher price.

We know of one client who was given an estimate of £1,200 for a site that was invoiced at over £6,000. Upon investigation we could see no reason for the estimate and invoice varying so widely, but some design companies will try it – don’t be one of them. You’ll lose the customer and a lot more future business with other clients once they tell everyone they meet for the next five years!

 Timeframes

If it is going to take you 2 months to complete a project, say so. Just because the client needs the site in 4 weeks and you know you’ll not get the order if you say you can’t meet the deadline isn’t a reason to lie.

Tell them why it’ll take 2 months, even if it is workload related with other clients. You’ll only find you have an unhappy client who gets bored of your excuses and refuses to pay the final invoice or wants compensation for it.

 Technical ability

If you don’t know how you’re going to get their new website to seamlessly integrate with the clustered server CRM system they’re running in house, communicate orders real-time for instant credit checking with their finance system and SMS message their IT department when the server reaches 60% of CPU capacity – don’t say that you do.

False promises that relate to your company skills set rarely meet a happy ending. If it is beyond your technical capability – say so.

 Google Page One

Do we really have to say? You cannot promise it unless you are incredibly specific and have deep insider knowledge of the algorithms that Google plan to use for the foreseeable future.We deplore the practice of promising page one of Google returns. There is absolutely no grounds for you to claim it. You should be selling the effort and work that it takes and educating your client on the standards and culture they’ll need to breed if being number one on Google is what they’re expecting.





Web Design is Something Else

21 10 2011
Web Design is Someting Else

Web Design

Your average client who hasn’t got a company website by now is a late starter. The web is well into its higher gears and they’ve got a lot of ground to make up. Yet many companies still put faith in a website being the cure of all ills in double-quick time.

It’s the wonder-pill to many of them, the one last commercial step that will bring them untold wealth, so many customers they’ll not be able to cope with them and an early retirement is guaranteed.

It isn’t your job to tell them that their business plan may be flawed, nor is it really your job to say they’ll not achieve what they want. Instead, you have to manage expectation.

Why tell them?

Well to begin with you’ll be the company or individual they blame when they don’t get the yacht moored in Monaco next year. It’ll all be your fault. You designed their road to riches online so you’re the one they’ll come searching for.

What do you tell them?

Try not to get technical. Keep it commercially based and try to focus on their sector in particular with any examples you give. If you’ve seen an opportunity to take advantage of poor optimization by their competitors then it’s rather different – but in most cases you’re going to be culturing a mindset of patience.

The 10 point reality check

We use this list. It’s one we drew up when putting ourselves in clients shoes and then coming back to our own world. It’s not a list that runs in any particular order because all of the points are salient and valid, no matter who your client may be.

1. The One Stop Wonder – explain to them that the internet and their new website will be just the start of their online adventure – not the end. They need to know of the effort that needs to go into it from the moment it goes live, not just before.

2. Advertising Alternatives – just because they have a website now doesn’t mean they should reduce advertising spend. In fact they should be doing precisely the opposite to drive customers to their new portal for business.

It is common for companies to think they shouldn’t advertise their website directly. Adding the domain name to their press advertisements isn’t good enough. They should be thinking of an online marketing strategy long before you’ve finished the site – and the strategy should be a long term one.

3. Time Overhead – a website, or at least a successful website, demands a lot of time from its owners from the moment it goes live. If they think they’re going to sit back and do nothing, let them know that the website will probably do the same.

4. Patience is a virtue – and there is no better application of it than online. It is vitally important, in our experience, that you explain to your client that for all you can submit sitemaps, ensure content is appropriate and promote a site accordingly, that you can’t force the search engines to visit and rank them immediately.

It never ceases to amaze us how many people expect to be able to find their site via major search engines on the day it has gone live – by their keywords. Manage expectation.

5. Online versus offline – the habits of your online browser and offline browser vary. The approach needs to vary with it. Point 6 (next) explains one of the biggest issues surrounding this particular item, but it is vital that your client understands that they’re opening themselves up, potentially, to a new audience with different tastes.

Branding is something most companies (or at least those with any common sense) take very seriously and they won’t want it compromising – but the online branding approach, presentation and aesthetic needs to be considered very carefully and not just a carbon copy of their offline activities.

6. Taking advice – strange as it may seem, a lot of people commission a website yet have no interest in taking the advice of those they are paying to give it! You can’t force a client to take your advice, but you can at least emphasis and justify why you make the points you do and that experience shows they might want to listen.

Some companies will have seen a site they like and will want you to reproduce it in some way or form – whether it is appropriate for their business, well written, navigationally appalling or search engine unfriendly – and they won’t have you tell them different. It isn’t easy to tell a client you feel you have responsibility to inform them of X, Y and Z – but it is essential if you think it’ll compromise their project. Because ultimately, that will compromise your reputation.

7. Everything and anything – some clients feel the need to pack the contents of an Encyclopedia onto every page of their website (and we’re not talking about Wikipedia here). It is important to stress that whilst content is key, that the quality of content is the most important factor of all. Try to ensure they don’t dilute a good site with irrelevant rubbish.

8. Domain names – they don’t need to buy them all. They really don’t! Buy what they need to, not what their best friend has told them they should do. Relevant domain names do count, but its not the be-all and end-all. We don’t need to tell you what you should be looking for, we’re merely pointing out that you should educate your client about the myth that buying thirty domain names that bear any relevance to their company really isn’t necessary.

9. Web design is easy – ah, this is a good one! Any web design company or designer reading this will know exactly what we mean. The client comes to you with a budget of X when the real cost of developing what they want will be X multiplied by a factor of ten and more.

It is imperative that you explain the hours and methods that go in to designing a successful website. Justify your price by keeping their goals in mind and explaining how they will be achieved. It is now a common myth that good websites can be had for very little money. No. What you get for very little money is very little website.

A client might argue that a part-time freelancer can produce something for less than a company, but they’ll also contribute less in the long run in most instances. You really do get what you pay for and the old adage is a strong argument where websites are concerned.

Like anything worth having or worth doing well – the best of products doesn’t come in the cheapest of budgets.

10. Images – most clients think that any photographs or images they have will be suitable for the web. If they’re not, they think you’ll wave that Photoshop Magic Wand and make them perfect in seconds.

There is also a myth that anything found online is fair game. You need to emphasis the importance of quality images on a website and the effort that can go into securing them. Check the copyright of any images you find or that the client wishes to use. Don’t forget to account for the use of purchased stock photography when you’re compiling your quotation too.

In our opinion you’ll find a wealth of good websites ruined by poor imagery – let the client know you don’t want theirs to be one of them.





Ways into Typography

21 10 2011

Typography for the Web has come a long way since Tim Berners-Lee flipped the switch in 1991. Back in the days of IE 1.0, good web typography was something of an oxymoron. Today things are different. Not only do we have browsers that support images (gasp!), but we have the opportunity to make our web pages come to life through great typography.First, it’s worth noting that Typography is not just about choosing a font, or even distinguishing one typeface from another.

Today we’re going to talk about web typography in terms of a recipe of four fundamental ingredients. If you’ve ever tried to cook a souffle, you’ll know how important the recipe is. Follow this recipe and your typography will rise up like … that’s enough of the culinary metaphors, let’s cook:

Contrast

Pale pink text on a pale blue background, might match your t-shirt, but it just doesn’t read well. Text exists to be read; make sure that it contrasts enough with the background to achieve that. If you’re ever unsure about contrast, then take a screen dump of your page, open up your image editing software and reduce the image to grey-scale. You’ll soon see if you have enough contrast. Robert Bringhurst, the consummate typographer writes, typography exists to honor content. Are we honoring the content, if we design our pages in such a way that the text, the content, is difficult to read?

Personally I dislike reading long stretches of reversed out text (i.e. light text on a dark background); how often do we see books set like this? It may well be appropriate for shorter stretches of text on-screen, but I find it very tiring to read for any length of time.

Size

With the birth of Web 2.0 I noticed a rather annoying trend; namely small type. I’ve even emailed site authors and kindly suggested that they increase the default font size. I’ve received mixed replies from, tough, get yourself some glasses to thanks, I’d never even considered that my type might be too small for the average reader. I’ve even heard tiny body text defended with, “it matches my minimalist design”, or similar. It most likely reflects a small something else. Unless Super Man and 20/20 Vision Girl (Marvel Comics, keep your hands off, she’s mine) are your only readers, then small type is just not on.

Don’t set body text below 10 or 12px and, if possible, make it bigger. Remember, what’s legible on your 65 inch High Definition Plasma monitor, might not be so on a 15 inch MacBook. If in doubt, make it bigger. The body text on ILT is set at 16px.

Hierarchy

Varying type size is one of  the best ways to differentiate content. Colors and pretty boxes might help, but different sizes of type, used consistently throughout your pages, will signal loud and clear to your readers the relative importance of your pages’ elements. It also means that if your readers are in a hurry, they can quickly pick out the important bits — and that could mean that they stay longer and read on.

Space

Let your type breathe. Don’t be afraid to leave blank spaces in your pages. This negative or white space will help focus attention on the text—and it’s the text that speaks loudest, so let it be heard. Next, remember the line-height CSS property; a good rule of thumb is line-spacing that’s at least 140% of your text size (remember, I’m writing about webtypography here). Good type designers put a whole lot of effort into the micro white space that sits inside type. They spend countless hours attempting to achieve a balance between the black of the type and negative or white space that it envelops. Likewise, we should take time to consider the macro white space, the ‘voids’ that shape our blocks of text.

In a future three-part series on the fundamentals of typography, I’ll look at all of the above in more detail. I’ll also be discussing numerous things (details) that will go a long way to improving your typography both on- and off-screen.

What works for you? Do you have some tips you’d like to share?





Things to look at in Designing

15 10 2011

While many of us can create something that looks good in Photoshop or attractive when spliced into CSS, but do we actually understand the design theory behind what we create? Theory is the missing link for many un-trained but otherwise talented designers. Here are 50 excellent graphic design theory lessons to help you understand the ‘Whys’, not just the ‘Hows’.

Typography,

“Good typography depends on the visual contrast between one font and another, and the contrast between text blocks and the surrounding empty space.”

Feeling your way around grids

“Grids have long been used by designers to aid and measure composition; to create a framework with which to construct the design.”

Color Theory

“Color theory encompasses a multitude of definitions, concepts and design applications. All the information would fill several encyclopedias. As an introduction, here are a few basic concepts.”

Colors Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors

“While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning.”

Approaching Graphic Design

“Basic design elements such as the rule of thirds, graphical composition and the weight of these graphical components is very important. On top of that, throw colour into the equation and things can start to get very tricky.”

Get Some Hierarchy in Your Design

“Design hierarchy is all about the importance of visual information and giving it assigning levels of importance to make the message of the design get across.”

In Search of Ethics in Graphic Design

“I envision this text as an addition to the AIGA’s existing publication on ethics, which currently includes sections concerning our responsibilities to the profession and our clients.”

 Increasing Usability with User Feedback

“This post suggests some ways to improve your site’s usability based off of user feedback. These methods and programs will help you gather and act on user feedback.”

We will go ahead on the topics in some other post as all these have their larger aspects and views on which it can be focused to get some wonderful design. As Web designing has always in challenges to beat the Ethics as well.





Dirty Hands with Windows 8.

15 10 2011
Windows-8

Windows-8

After spending several days with the Developer Preview of Windows 8 on a PC, it’s clear that Microsoft’s new operating system — which offers two separate interfaces, Metro and Desktop — is a transitional one between traditional computers and mobile devices. All of Microsoft’s energy and creativity has been devoted to the new Metro interface; there’s very little new of note for the old-fashioned Desktop. As I tested Windows 8, I found myself wanting to use it on a tablet instead of my PC, because the big-tiled Metro was so much more visually appealing than the traditional Desktop, with a more intriguing feature set. After using Windows 8 for some time, it’s clear that Metro is the future of Windows, and the Desktop the past. An interesting note: You usually expect developer previews and betas to suffer from performance woes because code hasn’t yet been optimized, and bugs may slow things down. However, the Windows 8 Developer Preview is surprisingly fast.Clearly, Microsoft has done a great deal of work on optimizing Windows 8. There’s good reason for that; if it’s going to work on a tablet, it needs to be fine-tuned.

Getting used to Metro

When I first started using Windows 8, I was surprised to see that the Desktop was no longer the command central for the operating system. You boot into Metro; Desktop has been relegated to just another app accessible from the Metro screen.

Metro has been clearly designed for tablets. Like Windows Phone 7, Metro’s main interface is made up of large colorful tiles, each of which represents a different app and each of which can exhibit changing information, such as the latest news, social networking updates, weather and stocks.

In addition, Metro has a horizontal design, with tiles stretching off the right edge of the screen. On a tablet, you’ll swipe to uncover new tiles; on a PC, you’re relegated to dragging the bar at the bottom of the screen or clicking navigational arrows. Even after several days of use, I never got used to dragging or clicking to reveal the extra tiles; I longed for a touch screen so I could swipe instead.

Metro is customizable. You can drag tiles to new locations or customize select parts of the interface via its own Control Panel. You can change the picture on your Lock Screen and your user tile; change user account information; turn wireless on and off; turn on airplane mode and change settings for privacy, search and Windows Update. You can also change your home network settings via HomeGroup (introduced in Windows 7) and your sync settings.

In my initial test of Windows 8, I didn’t use Metro that much. But over time I found myself migrating more to Metro when I was actively looking for information. The constantly changing information stream, including news stories, RSS feeds and updates from friends and acquaintances on social networking sites, is quite useful and almost hypnotizing. In Metro, instead of having to seek out information, information comes to you.

Metro apps

Windows Metro Home

Windows Metro Home

Metro apps run full screen like their tablet and Windows Phone 7 counterparts. On a desktop, they take getting used to, because there’s no Windows menu — although after a few days, I became more comfortable using them. You can’t change their size or shrink them, though. Switching between them on a PC is kludgy and requires the old Windows standby, Alt-Tab. I eventually discovered another way to do it: Hold the mouse pointer at the far left of the screen until a small icon for the previous app appears and then click to switch to it. All in all, though, Alt-Tab is easier.

Unlike earlier versions of Windows, which had few consumer-level apps built in, Windows 8 offers a plethora. The Metro screen is filled with Microsoft-written games, social networking tools and other apps. They’re designed for a tablet or smartphone, although they’re usable on a PC as well.

The basic News, Weather and Stock apps are straightforward and simple to use. The News app, for example, offers a list of dozens of RSS news feeds organized by topic, including Business, Design, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Music, Technology and News. Click the ones you want, and they’re added to your feed. You can also directly type in the URL of a feed you want to add.

The News app offers a list of dozens of RSS news feeds organized by topic.
Once you set your apps to grab the data, you’ll be able to see constantly changing information in the tiles themselves — mostly, summaries or headlines — without having to open the apps. If you see something that interests you, click the tile to be sent straight to that app — but not necessarily to the specific information you’re seeking. For example, when I clicked a headline about the current Republican nomination race on a news tile, I was sent to a page with all the news headlines and had to look for the story. On one occasion, the headline that appeared in the tile wasn’t even immediately visible; I had to scroll to find it.




Where Content Management System[CMS] lacks

6 10 2011

In my previous posts, I posted about the benefits of CMS and the CMS i like most. It really seems to be the ultimate solution but never the less it also drops you in some trouble of being trapped into. CMS seems good for uniformity in work and the better control and easy maintenance of site and contents. I doesn’t requires a daunting effort and experiences to wok with at least work comfortable. But still there is few things about which we can think off. It make some sense to be fooled when you are unknown but it becomes foolishness when it come to you after knowing its pros and cons. as we have well enough gone through the pros. I would like to discus more over the pitfall side of CMS.

CMS

CMS

Most seen and felt disadvantages of CMS are:

  • Limited flexibility in designCMS sites primarily use templates for design. They are easy to recognize because they have a standard format i.e. 2 or 3 column design with boxes placed in various positions to accommodate the content.The designer must stay within the confines of this type of template therefore he is limited in the flexibility and uniqueness of design that can reflect his business.
  • Limited SEO of web pagesThe web pages of a CMS site are generated dynamically. This often means the URLS of the web pages contain long strings that are a combination of words, numbers and/or symbols. Search engines have a difficult time spidering these types of pages. Not all web designers will care to edit the code to make the CMS site search engine compatible.
  • Slow loadingBecause a CMS site is database driven you need to wait for the pages to be processed by the server. Since there are hundreds of pages they may be slow to load. This will cause you to lose visitors as most internet users have a short attention span. A site should only take a few seconds to load.

    A CMS site on a slow server or on a server that includes many other sites will make also take a long time to load.

  • Expensive designCMS sites cost a lot more to design than static sites because a designer has to install and configure the database, design the template, then customize it to include all the extensions i.e. menus, polls, banners, forms etc. It will also require extensive testing to check for errors, browser compatibility and screen resolution.

    Finally the designer needs to explain to the client how to manage the web site from the control panel i.e. add content, grant permissions to different authors etc. The web designer must include charges for time spent with the client on how to administer the CMS site.