May 142012
 

iStockphoto is one of my favorite sites for finding just the right image for a new Web page or Blog.  I have used iStockphoto for my clients as well as my own Web site.  iStockphoto has millions of images that can be purchased at a very reasonable price.  Their easy to use search feature makes the task of finding just the right photo simple and painless.

Now, iStockphoto (iStockphoto.com) is making it even easier to find and use the right photo.  They have just introduced the iStock Adobe Plug-in.  This plug-in works with Adobe Creative Suite 5 or higher.  Now you can browse, download and edit images directly from Adobe Photoshop®, InDesign® and Illustrator®.  To get the full functionality from this convenient plug-in you will need to setup a free account at iStockphoto.

You can find out more about the plug-in file and instructions on how to install it here.  This plug-in is sure to be a great time saver for those of us using Adobe Creative Suite.  And best of all, it’s free!

Mar 072011
 

Facebook Account SettingsBecome the Page

Facebook recently released new design and feature changes for Pages.  If you already have Business Page(s) on Facebook then this may impact you.  This will certainly impact those of you considering developing a Business Page.   For the past month, Business Page owners have had the ability to login as their Page.  So this means you will be able to Like and make comments as the Page throughout Facebook.  Page administrators will be able to switch back and forth between their identity as the Page or with their own personal profile.  Facebook has indicated that this should make for better overall communications.  Assuming you have already setup your new Page on Facebook, you can access this new feature under the Account drop-down box.  Choose “Use Facebook as Page” and then select the Page for which you have administration rights by clicking the “Switch” button.  You easily switch back under Account settings as well.

More Images

Businesses will be able to display featured images at the top of their Page in the center column.  You will also notice graphic images of the Pages you like displayed down the left column along with images of you Page administrators on the right column.  The images of people or other Pages that Like your Page are also displayed on the right column.  Speaking of columns, the new format now emphasizes columns along with vertical menus that have replaced the horizontal tab menus.

Sorting Changes

Facebook has added a new feature for sorting your Page’s Wall information.  There are two options:  1) Top Posts; and 2) Most Recent.   Facebook attempts to put the most popular posts at the top when “Top Posts” is selected.  “Most Recent”, as expected, just puts the posts in chronological order.

Preview Time is Running Out

If you have not made any changes to your Facebook Page then it should still be displayed with the old format.  You can preview the new format when you go to your Page by clicking a Preview button.  You also have the option of upgrading.  Upgrading will no longer be an option on March 10, 2011.    At that time all Pages will automatically be upgraded.

I would strongly suggest previewing your Page and then making updates as desired.  For instance, you will probably want to take advantage of the images displayed over the center column.  You will just need to create one or more photo albums and experiment with what looks good.

FBML Changes

Facebook Markup Language (FBML) allows Page administrators to create custom Page tabs.  According to Simon Cross, Facebook’s  Platform Partner Engineer in Europe, FBML will be replaced by iframes on a Canvas tab.  He indicates that Page owners/administrators will be given about a month to make the transition from FBML to iframes sometime in Q1 2011.  Existing FBML pages will still work but you won’t be able to create anything new without using iframes.  Business owners will need to talk with their Web/Facebook developer to see what impact this may have on any future changes you had in mind for your Page on Facebook.

Shameless plug… If you don’t yet have a Facebook Page for your business then please give me a call.  If you are curious as to what a Facebook Business Page looks like then please check out our page here:  http://www.facebook.com/webstreetusa

Jan 262010
 

Headlines are Critical 

Headlines are critical to the effectiveness of your Web site, especially on your home page. 

The headline is like an ad for the words that will follow.   It is important to the reader (human) and to the search engines (computer).

It needs to stress benefits and help answer the key question, WIIFM? 
(What’s in it for me?)

The You-Focused Opener

An opening headline like “Welcome to XYZ” isn’t going to cut it.  The home page must focus on the visitor and why they might benefit from your Web site.  The home page should emphasize the top benefit and motivate them to read on and take an action.  You must never forget that a Web site is there to please your visitors.  Put yourself in their shoes.

Strong Motivation is Needed – Pain or Gain!

The headline should introduce a cure for the target audience’s pain or fear of loss.

Or, the headline can hit on your most important benefit and how your target audience can gain by reading further.

Targetted Headlines are Best

The headline should be very important to your target visitor.  The more targeted the better.  And it needs to be a short, sharp and benefit-laden punch line.

What Professional Copywriters Say… 

Do:

  1. Write several headlines before choosing your perfect one.
  2. Address the needs of your target audience and dramatize the benefits.
  3. Stir emotion by getting the reader excited, fearful or protective.
  4. Use the present tense or better yet, the imperative tense. The use of “you” often works well.
  5. Use strong and essential action verbs.
  6. Use short words that create an image in the mind of the reader.
  7. Eliminate most adverbs and adjectives.
  8. Write headlines that stand on their own.
  9.  Write headlines that foreshadow the message that follows it.

 Don’t:

  1. Don’t write about you… write about them.
  2. Don’t write headlines that create curiosity without stressing benefits.
  3. Don’t be “catchy” or “cute” unless your target audience appreciates that type of headline.
  4. Don’t worry about losing visitors that aren’t in your target audience.  That is to be expected.
  5. Don’t use jargon unless you are certain that everyone in target audience will understand it.

 Other Suggestions:

  1. Use words and phrases that evoke emotion…
              You, Now, At Last, Free, Finally, Profit, New, Secret,Ultimate, Fantastic,
              Guarantee, Today, First, Amazing, Discover, Yes, Best, Instant, Powerful
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Make your promises credible.
  4. Put your headline in quotes for extra credibility.
  5. Challenge the reader. (ex. “Only for Businesses Who Want to Increase Profits”)
  6. Test your headlines to see which one works best with your target audience.
  7. Test some more. 
    (Check back soon for an article on Web analytics).
Dec 022009
 

After years of recommending to others that they should start a business blog, I finally found the time and inclination to create one of my own.  I have gone so far as creating a number of test blogs on Blogger.com and GoDaddy’s Quick Blogcast, and developing a soccer team Web site using Geeklog.  I decided to go with WordPress which I think they should rename “ImPress” because of the impressive feature set, theme choices and myriad of developers contributing to this Open Source success story.  I have helped others tweak their WordPress sites in the past but the latest version is incredibly powerful and has gotten a lot easier to use.

Dare I say it, “Static Web sites are going the way of the dinosaur”.  I have seen the writing on the wall and traditional Web design is on its way out.  Starting in 2010 I will be shifting focus completely away from static site development.  Dynamic sites are far more powerful and more interesting for me as a designer.  People will always need help setting things up, creating unique designs and developing solutions that fit a particular business.  People are far less likely to need me to type in the content of their pages and posts.  I can’t say I’ll miss that aspect of Web design since it reminds me of the old typing pools of 60′s and 70′s.  For you youngins, rent an old movie like “9 to 5″ starring Dolly Parton and you’ll get an inkling of what a typing pool is.

Getting back to why I started a blog… it just makes too much sense.  Blogs are cheap; you can host it for free or get a low cost hosting account and garner complete control.  Blogs let you express yourself and demonstrate your knowledge to your peers, clients and hopefully, future clients.  Search engines love blogs due to all the fresh content and keyword rich posts and comments.  Blogs fit together nicely with all your other online activities such as social networking, email, business Web sites, SEO, Paid Search advertising, analytics, etc.  Blogs are easy to use.

Just because it makes a lot of sense doesn’t mean I’ll be the next Matt Drudge.  That’s not my goal.  My goal is to reach out to my Web design clients, social network contacts and others in order to share what I know and in turn learn from the responses I receive.  If it helps business, great.  If not, perhaps I can learn something and improve my writing skills :-)