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6 Web Design Essentials For Any Small Business Website

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Not too many years ago, it was almost unthinkable for a small business to invest in their own website. Today, however, it is less of a choice than a necessity if you want to engage with customers, and stay ahead of your competitors.

Website building is more accessible now than ever before, with a wide range of tools and services available to help you create your brand vision in online form. Nevertheless, setting up a business website can be a daunting process, especially if you are new to the world of online marketing.

The on-the-move consumer has little time or patience for poorly-designed websites, so your landing page, and every page thereafter, needs to be structured with purpose and precision. Fortunately, this is not as difficult as it might sound, and if you keep the following checklist in mind, you will soon have a business website to be proud of.

Checklist:

1. Clarity and simplicity

When users land on your homepage, it can take mere seconds for them to decide whether to explore further or move on. As such, you need your landing page to clearly display who you are and what you do. Additionally, using consistent branding throughout your website, using your organization’s name and logo, adds cohesion to your content, and reassures visitors that they have not accidentally left your site.

Most internet users want to be able to navigate a website quickly and without confusion, so your layout is of critical importance. In recent history, there has been a trend towards shorter and shorter menus. Now, many sites display only three menu options, with the aim of quickly directing visitors to the key areas of the website.

Ultimately, your goal here is to make your website as easy to navigate as possible, both for internet users, and search engine crawlers. The simpler it is to crawl and index your site, the more likely you are to be able to secure a good search engine ranking.

Another upside to a simplistic design is that it will load faster, meaning visitors are more likely to stick around. When the Financial Times updated their layout at the end of last year, they reported that a one second reduction in loading times could boost engagement by 5 percent.

2. Personality

The rise of social media marketing has brought about significant changes in the way consumers evaluate businesses and products. You are not, and should not be, an invisible entity hidden behind your brand; your customers want to know who you are and why they should be excited about your business. Furthermore, it is your passion for the products or services you offer that should shine through in your content, and establish your website’s unique personality.

This doesn’t mean you need to reveal your deepest darkest secrets, or divulge personal information. Bear in mind, anything that you put on your website needs to add value, and be relevant to the overall plan. Think about the details you can share that highlights the best characteristics of your business, or that will cause visitors to feel more comfortable and familiar with your brand.

  • Describe who you are and how your business came to be. What drew you to this industry, and where do you plan to go with it?
  • What is your business all about? Give a brief, but clear description of the products or services you offer, and what makes them unique.
  • Set out your values. Perhaps your materials are organic, or sustainably sourced. Maybe your business is carbon neutral, or is regularly engaged in community initiatives. This is your chance to highlight the details that have no place elsewhere on your site, but that you would like your customers to know.

3. High Quality Content

At the same time, it is important not to overload your landing page with content. By selecting key pieces of information, you ensure that these are the first things visitors learn about your business. Consider features such as a landing page video, so you can introduce yourself or your services in more detail, without filling the page with a wall of text.

Throughout your website, your content should adhere to SEO best practices, and always aim to offer something useful to your audience. If you are renovating an existing site, you should also go back through old content, removing anything that does not add value, and sprucing up anything that remains.

4. Business Tools

Do not be afraid to make use of the wide range of tools and applications available for building and running a business website. These applications are not for everyone, but when applied correctly, they can reduce your workload and streamline many time-consuming processes.

For example, you might consider an e-commerce CMS to facilitate the management of product pages, and generation of uniformly structured page links. Similarly, if you are managing social media accounts, or running a blog, content delivery systems can help you schedule posts, and deliver your content on a regular timetable. Shopify is one that brings blogging and ecommerce together nicely, but you’ve also got ones like Squarespace and Wix — your web technology will have a big impact on the overall affordability and design of your website, so choose carefully.

Efficient use of business tools can free you up to focus on other matters, such as creating new content, or engaging with customers. Many tools can also help with the collection of data analytics, providing you with valuable information about consumer behaviour, and the success of individual pieces of content. You can also use tools like chatbots to help customers along the customer journey, though you’ll have to ensure you still remain approachable.

As with all aspects of web design, you will need to weigh up the cost of using these tools against the long-term gains for you and your business.

5. Security

For any website, security is a primary concern. After all, no one wants their data or their content to be compromised. For small businesses, having a secure website is even more critical, as a breach could not only put you and your site visitors at risk, but also can be extremely damaging to your organisation’s reputation.

If you have an e-commerce site, ensure that you are using a secure payment system, such as PayPal or Stripe. In addition, if you use a content management system, or any other third party applications, you should double-check their security standards, and be diligent about keeping them up to date.

Even if your website is not used for sales, it is still important to have HTTPS enabled on your website. You can do this via a Certificate Authority such as Let’sEncrypt, which provides free-of-charge automated certificates, in accordance with TLS security best practices.

That tiny padlock in the corner of the browser can be the difference between a new customer, and a visitor who never makes it past the landing page.

6. The Grand Plan

While this is the final item on the list, it is also the first step towards creating or improving your business website. Every aspect of your design should have a purpose, from menus to image placement, and even the structure of your URLs.

Whether you are starting from scratch, or renovating an existing site, you should create a comprehensive plan, going into as much detail as possible on every aspect of your design. This will enable you to identify potential challenges, costs, and long-term goals for your website. In addition, your finished plan acts as a coherent blueprint for when you finally turn your idea into a reality. Following in the footsteps of tech giants like Amazon is also a good way to grow your online presence — remember to always research the competition and keep tabs on their websites.

A Long-Term Endeavor

Remember that your business website is an ongoing project, not a static entity. This means you can always add or adjust things later if necessary. It is generally far better to create a fully functional, aesthetically optimized website with fewer features, than one bloated with half-finished pages and ideas.

Your site will need grow and change with your business, so constant improvement and reevaluation is essential. Pay attention to consumer feedback, analytics, and shifting trends, so you are always able to stay ahead of the curve. A successful business website requires regular maintenance and renewal, so it is vital to set aside the time to keep your content fresh, and your brand narrative current.

Even so, establishing your website is already half the battle. The rest relies on the same diligence, dedication, and passion for your business that has gotten you this far in the first place.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketer & Blogger

I’m an ecommerce marketer by trade, and I run a blog in my spare time where I like to talk about content and blogging. I love taking people’s ideas and making them into digital realities. Big advocate of having an customer experience — something I’m currently trying to implement on a few stores of my own!

BusinessArticles is the popular online Hub for quality business articles. We publish unique articles and share them with our social followers.

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Tech

The Benefits of 3D Scanning in Prototyping

3D Design

The ability to take an object and reverse-engineer it to create an identical copy of it without the schematics of the design has changed the way industry does business.

The technology that enables people to perform this process is called 3D scanning or 3D modeling and it is used in various industries, including manufacturing, VR, healthcare.

By taking multiple snapshots of a real-world object from various angles, 3D scanners can reproduce a virtual model of that object, which can then be viewed from all angles using software such as CAD. These models can then be sent to a 3D printer, now available for purchase commercially, to produce a replica of the scanned object.

There’s no doubting the influence of 3D printing, particularly on the manufacturing industry. The positives include greater scope for creativity in design, less material wastage, the faster process from design to product, the plastic is lighter yet stronger than metals, and it’s cheaper.

In this article, we delve a bit deeper into three areas of business 3D scanning can benefit companies prototypes and products.

Saves Time

Designing new parts, or replacements can be a long process that requires the knowledge and time of an expert such as an engineer who will need to hand-draw the design or design it from scratch using specialized software. With 3D scanning technology, however, the design process can be simplified immensely.

Reputable 3D scanners, such as the Artec Eva, use advanced technology to ensure that every inch of the object that is being scanned is accounted for on the design. Capturing up to 16 frames a second, the scanner also automatically provides the precise dimensions of the object. The designer can then alter the virtual design to better suit their needs without the need to tamper with the original object. What makes the Artec Eva stand out from the rest is its portable design, which allows for quick, high-resolution 3D scanning for almost unlimited applications.

More Flexibility in Designs

Having a scan of an object during the design phase of a prototype allows the designer greater flexibility in their design from the start as they have the power to edit and make improvements on their system quickly and easily without the need to build multiple physical prototypes. This can save a company both time and money during the design and testing phase of a prototype.

Designs can be Shared Globally

When a product is in the design stage, it is not uncommon to see it being shipped around the world for testing before it enters mass production. With 3D scanning technology, a design can be shared with anyone who has the software to read it, and it can be physically reproduced through 3D printing technology anywhere in the world. This means that a design can be accurately reproduced to its exact specifications without the need for expensive and time-consuming shipping at design shops around the world with just a copy of the 3D file.

When combined with 3D printing, 3D scanning technology has the potential to change the way people design and produce new products as well as make industries more streamlined and cost-efficient.

However, some would say there is still some way to go before 3D printing is ubiquitous in manufacturing and design, particularly with new entrants. The printers are cost-prohibitive for startups struggling with funding. The reliance on plastic doesn’t sit well with everyone, and there’s the ongoing impact it has on jobs. However, there will always be teething problems with new tech, including the displacement of workers.

What do you do with your production staff? Watch this space, new industries will appear with 3D printing, and there will be new jobs.

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Innovation

How To Grab Attention On Video Conference Calls

woman on phone

We are in the age of ‘COVID-19’, and our lives will never be the same again. We’ll be working from home more often and using video conferencing for meetings with colleagues, management and customers. In-person meetings allow for verbal and non-verbal cues. Body language can play a significant role in negotiation, for example.

Changes in body language or small facial expressions can provide observers, i.e. the meeting attendees messages on how to respond to get the right outcome. If you’re someone who uses non-verbal cues to sway discussion in your favour, then video-conferencing is a challenge. So how can we get what we need from these online meetings using what we have at hand, i.e. the small visuals of meeting attendees?

In this article, we provide tips on how you can get your points across, even when the other attendees are more extroverted than you.

Use The Camera

Focus on the camera and what it can do for you. There is a temptation to stare at your screen and the other attendees in the meeting. Get past this action as soon as you can. Allow yourself a few minutes to view all the other participants then turn your attention to the meeting’s contents.

Active listening is required and if it helps you to remember what is being discussed – take notes. To assist this action further say which participant explained the point, for example, Attendee John (Manager): “we will now always work from home two days a week”.

When you’re talking stare into the camera and not at the attendees faces on your screen. While this is very unnatural, and at first, you’ll think you’re rude or ill-mannered by not looking at the attendees like you would if you were in an in-person meeting. However, looking deeply into the camera not only focuses you on what you’re saying, but you also won’t get distracted with attendees non-verbal distractions.

Mastering the skills for video conferencing productivity will take practice. The multi-tasking of taking notes while actively listening and remembering to optimise the time spent looking into the camera will be your juggling act!

What you’re working against is human nature and the obsession we have with ourself. Dale Carnegie says if we’re not thinking about a project, we’re thinking about ourselves. A lot of time is spent and indeed wasted thinking about how we feel, what we want, and what other people think of us, so you can see what you’re up against to master video conference meetings as an active participant or meeting lead.

Use Your Voice

Understanding the basics of human nature can be gained from studying neuroscience or neurolinguistic programming. Introverts are less likely to sit tall or speak up than extroverts; however, they can practice doing both, and without the non-verbal cues getting in the way, video conferencing is a great levelling feature.

When you’re on a video call, always speak louder than your usual speaking voice. Plus use your voice to express yourself through using pitch, high and low, vary it to keep your audience engaged. For extroverts, they are experts in changing tone and adding volume to grab attention and express themselves. Introverts will also master this skill in the knowledge that they are in the room with the meeting attendees and that no one is spending much time thinking about them!

Backgrounds

What is in the background when you’re on a video conference call? Take care to have a bland background, so your frame is not the meeting’s distraction! Ideally use a plain white wall for your background. If that’s not possible, make sure the shelves behind you have only the objects you don’t mind your work colleagues and customers viewing, i.e. do not place intimate or personal items on the shelves that will end up being the topic of discussion.

Visual Appearance

Even though you’re working remotely and most often from your home, avoid wearing your leisure apparel. Your appearance should be what your colleagues would expect to see if they were sitting next to or opposite you in a meeting room. Once again, the objective with your appearance is to avoid being the distraction.

Summary

If you’ve been reluctant to use video conferencing, these tips will boost your confidence to use the technology without distraction.

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Tech

Best Proxies for Pricing Intelligence

data

Everybody wants to be profitable in business. So how do you go about that when you’re in a competitive space? Well, if you have an idea what your competitors are offering, won’t it give you an edge when you offer better pricing?

When you gather data from a website, it is usually for a purpose. While you are at it, you could experience challenges if you’re not doing it the right way. Proxies give you headway as said before.

With proxies in full motion, you extract data endlessly – data, in this case, is pricing on a competitor’s website.

You make a lot of profit if your pricing structure is better – that gives you an edge.

What is a Proxy?

A proxy offers you some form of protection while you surf the internet. In a layman’s term, it is the “middleman” between you and the internet. For every request that goes through the proxy, your IP address is hidden; only that of the proxy is in the open when you connect to a website.

Proxies come in different types including SSL proxies, also known as HTTPS proxies.

  • Residential proxies
  • Datacenter proxies

Residential Proxies

These proxies are from Internet Service Providers (ISP) and assigned to homeowners with a real IP address – and represented by a physical location. One of their perks is their high level of anonymity.

What are Datacenter Proxies?

Datacenter proxies are popular, and many people are using them every day. When you think of a proxy, it is a data center that likely comes to mind. Moreover, you may not even know the specifics of how these proxies go about delivering their jobs; they do not come from the internet service provider.

There are other types of proxies – but this time, in terms of the number of users. They can be shared, semi-dedicated, or private proxies.

Shared Proxies

Many individuals usually share these proxies. The downsides are that they offer lower performance and speed.

Private Proxies

These are proxies meant for one individual. They perform better than shared proxies and offer higher speed.

Semi-dedicated Proxies

These proxies are neither shared nor dedicated – they’re in between the both of them. The number of users is usually between 2 or 3.

In today’s business environment, web scraping is gaining popularity. It is a way to get head in your competitive space by leveraging extracted data at your disposal.

Companies understand the importance of price intelligence – and they will go the extra mile to use it to their advantage.

To this end, price scraping has become more prevalent than ever. A strategic pricing model takes into account what your competitors are offering, and you can outdo them by offering something better.

What is Web Scraping and why Proxies for Price Intelligence?

Web scraping is the process of collecting data from a website for specific purposes – price intelligence, market research, and more. That is usually possible by using bots to gather the desired information

When you scrape e-commerce websites like Amazon, you will be restricted if you flood the server with so many requests from one single IP address within a short period.

To get around this snag – it is simple. Proxies will do the magic.

If you scrape the e-commerce with an array of IP addresses – with each request coming from a unique IP – then you’re on track. If you want to scrape for prices on a competitor website with severally proxies, your activity will be successful. You can then use the data for price intelligence.

Actionable Insight for a Competitive Edge

The original growth hack of web scraping is leveraged by the big and mighty like the Fortune 500 for what purpose? They want to be competitive on pricing and be in the know while measuring customer sentiment.

With access to information on your competitor, you can grow, and with an advantage in your niche field. Take, for instance, businesses use this data to predict future demand, adjust their strategies, and adhere to best practices in the industry.

In other words, web scraping provides your business with an effective pricing strategy, which is in response to real-time demand. You get actionable insight for your business, and it can help you shape your decisions going forward.

Best Proxies for Price intelligence

With your data acquisition team doing what they know best, you can retrieve public data. However, proxies become an essential tool for this process.

Essentially, it boils down to choosing the best there is. Two main types of proxies exist in the market – data center and residential proxies

They both have their benefits and downsides.

Residential proxies are real IPs, so it is difficult to associate them with any ban – they seem more like a better option out there. However, they have a low response rate.

On the other hand, the datacenter may incur the wrath of the website owner because they can be easily detected. However, their fast response rate makes up for this downside.

Choosing the right proxies for price intelligence cannot be stressed any further. You can stay ahead; all you need is to do the needful.

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