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.
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.
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.
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!
Use Real-Time Captions for Your Business Zoom Sessions
Live captioning has made the virtual world connect in more profound ways with their captions and event recaps in the form of transcripts.
When hosting virtual events and sessions on Zoom and other platforms, the need of the hour is real-time captioning to make your session accessible and inclusive.
Earlier this year, Zoom rolled out closed captioning support to even free accounts to make the service more accessible. For those working from home, attending virtual events and conferences, and figuring out newer ways of collaborating in the pandemic era, this was a boon.
Accuracy in subtitling and inclusivity via multi-lingual captions have made captioning the go-to service for virtual events. In this article, we delve into the world of real-time captions.
What Are Live Captions?
Everything that is spoken during a live event, a virtual event, a seminar, or a hybrid event (real-time + virtual) can get captured in live captions.
They are powered either by human captioners or by AI technology such as ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) and accessible via internet-enabled devices e.g. smartphone, a computer, or a tablet.
Positives for Media File Transcribing
Basically, a media file (audio, video, or podcasts) gets transcribed to satisfy several end goals:
- Better comprehension for the hard of hearing
- Maintain records of the event in a simplified text format
- Downloadable transcripts for those unable to attend live
- Add another layer of accessibility for those who might want to consume the content in their native/preferred languages
Why Use Live Captions for your Zoom session
With Zoom’s roaring success in the past year, it has become even more critical for companies that enjoy a global presence to activate captions and translations for their live events.
Translating a Zoom event into specific languages opens up the world further, allowing people to consume and witness these events in the languages closest to home. From a business perspective, this makes sense from a comprehension and application standpoint.
Plus, content consumption has pivoted to vernacular in the digital space, with regional content players ruling the roost, so this is another reason to use live captions in your video content.
Now that Zooming had become the de facto verb of the year, it necessitated a next logical step. This step was a huge advantage for multitaskers who have to participate in the meetings while also taking notes.
While it may seem strange to some to consider reading through captions during a Zoom event, you’ll be surprised at how imperative it becomes in the context of the home office. It can, in fact, be a lifesaver to those whose attention may be divided while juggling both office and home responsibilities from home.
Plus it is easy to activate the captions during a Zoom call, via the meeting controls so there’s no interruption to the live event.
The captions allow you to scroll through to the parts you may have missed. You can also download transcripts of the session, a feature that closed captioning services provide.
AI Captions Are Catching Up
Human captions versus AI live captions which is more accurate? (Hint: Not AI)
Google introduced its Live Captioning in 2019. While automatic speech recognition has many advantages in logistics, there is still that little gap to consider between the human versus AI. For example, machines don’t understand languages, inflexion, tone, nuances in speech, and humans.
Human captioners have greater adherence to accuracy in capturing speech. Human captioners are skilled at deciphering human speech and precisely reproducing the words they hear. Human-generated captions have greater accuracy, up to 99%, compared to AI-generated captions for this very reason.
AI technology works on bridging that gap between speech and captioned text and it is the future – just not yet!
Zoom now only allows users to send one language to their platform. Before the event begins, the host can determine if which language captions to use.
However, rather than just one language, you can get multi-lingual captions with a captioning service like SyncWords. Plus their blog has a guide to activating captions for Zoom: Zoom Real-Time Captions.
So, if you’re thinking Zoom, think real-time captions and what they can do for you and your business.
3 Common IT Challenges Small Businesses Face
Technology is the enabler for most businesses today, and SMEs rely on IT apps and systems in most departments, from finance to sales. There are a few common challenges with technology, and in this post, we review what they are and how to turn them into strengths for your business.
Top Most Common Tech Challenges
Thankfully there are a lot of sources online to assist with the accuracy of our content. Starting with TechCrunch. They rank IT security as the top challenge.
The pandemic did not pause cybercrime, and reports say cyberattacks increased with malware, phishing, and ransomware being the most common cyber threats to businesses. Remote working has added to the stress.
Companies need to ensure devices and apps used to share data and access business systems are secure. Staff at home are less accessible. The need for ongoing knowledge transfer and user training requires planning and resources, which is an added cost SMEs would prefer to do without.
Out of all types of data attacks, malware is among the most common. Malware attacks are simple and happen when a piece of malicious software is installed on someone’s computer or a network. The malware will then perform specific actions as desired.
Some malware is there to disrupt. Other malware can do things such as catching admin credentials for financial information, for instance. These can be very serious and put your whole organization at a standstill, so they cannot take them lightly.
Another thing you should know is that malware attacks are rarely made without the cooperation of a human in your organization. And, in most cases, they weren’t even in on it.
Attackers will often use social engineering techniques to pose as someone in authority. The receiver will have no idea as everything will be made to look like it’s coming from that person.
But this isn’t the only case where humans can become a liability. As a matter of fact, humans are the single biggest IT vulnerability.
You may have a remote or hybrid workplace, and one of your employees loses a device that could be found and accessed by a hacker. From the device, your whole network at risk.
It’s in the Cloud
Getting your head around cloud computing and how to adopt it company-wide is challenging. Vendor agreements are different, and the model is user pays, which is a far cry from buying a server and having it in your office.
Lack of In-House Skill
This is one of the biggest challenges for any business. Finding people who have IT skills and the type of skill you need can be complicated. Someone may understand certain things, but if you have an issue that needs a particular set of expertise, you might find your business stuck and hitting a dead end.
This is why many businesses decide to outsource their IT department. This way, they have a team at their disposal that can deal with everything that they need. They can also do things such as maintaining your licenses to make sure that they’re in order and that your patches are all up to date. Or they might be able to help you recover your systems quickly if there’s an unexpected error or breach.
Getting to grips with AI, robotics, Natural Language Processing, and matching learning is challenging to most businesses. When do you adopt systems that may replace your staff? There’s no escaping change and technology evolution. Some apps already use AI, and automation is used in many mundane tasks within the business.
Chatbots use AI and machine learning are the norm on many websites that offer services and online purchases, i.e. eCommerce stores. 64% of users say the 24-hour service is the best feature of the chatbot. As a consumer, you rely on instantaneous response, especially when you’re in the midst of an online purchase.
These are just some of the most common IT issues small businesses have to deal with every day. If you are one, make sure that you protect yourself against these risks and consider hiring an expert team for assistance.
4 Ways Tree Testing Can Benefit Your Business
Designing a successful digital product is tricky and challenging. In the crowded space of the WWW, your product may not end up in search results, and this is why findability precedes usability in designing for the web. If your product can’t reach your audience, it has failed already.
Therefore the big question here is how do you ensure that your product is easily found and accessible by your target audience?
The answer to your question lies in information architecture. Design a superior user experience (UX) using a tree test.
Top 4 Reasons Why Your Business Needs Tree Testing
Still unsure of what a tree test can do to your design venture?
Let’s take a look into the true capabilities of a tree test.
Primarily, you would be running a tree test because of any one of the following reasons.
- baselining an existing tree
- detecting the problem area and points thereby establish a base score
- experimenting test trees trying to solve existing information architecture problems
- comparing each version against each other to find the best possible solution to the existing problems
However, a tree test also does a lot more for your product. Following are a few primary areas where a tree test can be beneficial.
Why It Pays To Use A Tree Test
1. Evaluate product navigation
A tree test can improve your digital product’s online findability. With the test tree, you can evaluate your product’s existing information navigation system. How? Well, users complete a series of tasks looking for items using the site structure. Using this method to evaluate your site structure, you have a way to measure how easy it is for users to find things.
Treejack is one of the most popular tools used for tree-tests.
With a remote tree test, the users can be located anywhere, and they can take the test in their own time. You benefit from getting quality, quantitative data.
By using online test conduction, results accumulate from global users. Thus, it reduces the costs of on-premise tests.
The biggest asset of tree testing is that it is designed for experiments. The test sessions are concise, each test of around 15 – 20 minutes, having a maximum of 20 tasks per session.
This improves the success rate of completing the test by users significantly. These tests, like card sorting, are pretty much simple with low complexity that readily helps with the dropout rates.
Combined with remote access to the test, all this makes data collection fast and the data analysis process lean. This means whatever insights you derive from your test analytics, you can apply them in no time.
How To Optimize Your Tree Tests
Ensuring you get the maximum benefits out of your tests is one of the most important yet neglected design tests areas. But if you can make sure to ask the critical questions without fail, your tests will not fail you.
Following are a set of core questions that can ensure you make the most of tree testing.
1. What is the objective of your tests?
This is perhaps the anchor point of your complete questionnaire. This answer is going to help you achieve the hyper-targeted activities for your test. For instance, you may want to analyze the results of your design changes in the navigation structure.
2. Who is your target audience?
Answering this question right in the beginning can save you a lot of pain in the long term. A good practice here is to take some time out and think deeply about your product visitors.
If your answer is: “everyone”, then you are doing it wrong. Remember, if everyone is your audience, then no one is your audience.
3. Define the independent variables
Deciding on the independent factors that are dynamic can produce multiple end-results.
Use factorial experimental designs. This method enables you to examine each variable in isolation.
4. Define the dependent variable.
Dependent variables can also bring a lot of improvements to your overall user experience. To assess its impact, you have to observe its effect on its respective independent factor instead of the end-user interface result. For instance, you can examine the precision of an area locator for completing preset tasks.
5. What do you use while comparing trees, a control group or a treatment group?
Control Group acts as a benchmark. It is not vulnerable to changes. Here, comparing the altered results to the original group is possible. You can assess the degree of difference between the results of both groups.
6. While comparing testing trees, do you use a between-subject design or a within-subject design?
It’s important to decide whether you want the same group of test-takers to participate in all the versions of your test tree or anyone.
Whether you choose both strategies or not, both have their own merits. Therefore, it would be best if you decide based on your test goals. For instance, choosing a between-subject approach can reduce the test taker fatigue, and the learning effect could even prove to be time-efficient.
The whole point of executing a tree testing activity is to ensure you stay updated about your target audience’s behavioral nodes. This means conducting frequent tree tests can boost the overall information architecture health of your digital product.
The above tips and tricks are definite to help you optimize all your tree testing campaigns, but the heaviest success metric still lies in your hands.
Ensuring you understand your target audience will make sure that your design assumptions walk the closest to reality.
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