Tag Archives: cms

7 Chakras of a Connected Website – Keep your website updated

Having a website with a content management system (CMS) that is also a responsive website design is the best type of website for small businesses. CMS sites, like WordPress websites, allows you to keep your website updated even if you don’t know coding. CMS sites that are responsive can be updated easily and can be navigated smoothly on all devices. Contracting a local web design firm to create a responsive webiste with a content management system is the  smartest marketing investment a small business can make right now.

The main components and considerations of a website:

Websites are like hairstyles, you can pinpoint the decade or year they were created at first glance. Your brand image can quickly look outdated with the ever-changing technological advances in online marketing and digital communications these days.

Don’t be accused of having a mullet or big hair website. Update your outdated site to one that is easy to navigate and can be updated easily to keep it current and inspiring.

Responsive websites are the latest and greatest way to present your company web content professionally to people, even when they view it on various devices.  A responsive website will format to fit on a desktop computer monitor, laptop screen, tablet, or smart phone. Responsive website designs for small business are becoming the industry standard because they adapt to the users devices. Small businesses benefit because they eliminate the need for two separate sites; a stand-alone mobile website and a stand-alone desktop website that each require their own updates. Many responsive website designs utilize the widely accepted WordPress content management system (CMS). CMS allows for ease in updates by companies who want to update their site in-house but do not have staff who are trained in web development or coding.

1. Home Page

Typically the home page is the first page visitors will come to on your website. If a visitor enters in your domain name they will come to your home page first. Because your home is usually the first impression a visitor has of your website  your home page needs to be eye catching and hold attention. Contact information and site navigation should be easily identified.

When a visitor lands here they should have a clear understanding what your site is about right away. Consider how to add an interactive element like a video or slideshow to keep visitors on the page longer.

Questions to consider for your website home page design:

  1. How will the visitor know what your business is and what the website contains?
  2. What needs to be included in the main website navigation (products, services, shop, gallery, etc.)?
  3. What photos, graphics, or messages will be used in a photo slideshow that depict your product or service well? also link to website content on internal pages?
  4. Do you have photos for each category of your product or service that link to website content on internal pages?

2. Web Forms and Contact Forms

The web is 24/7, most businesses are not. Web contact forms can be your 24/7 administrative professional or sales representative. Visitors who don’t want to call or wait until you are open can fill out a form quickly, provide their contact information and
ask specific questions. The form will be waiting in the employee email that you designate to receive each online web form inquiry.

What Web Forms Will you Need?

  1. How many web forms do you need?Who will the web form be sent to (identify the email of the person who will receive
  2. Who will the web form be sent to (identify the email of the person who will receive
  3. the inquiry form in their email)?:
    Do you just need a contact form?
    Do you need a quick quote form or detailed quote form?:
  4. Do you need an order form?
  5. How about an application form for membership or employment?

3. Product / Services Page

Even if you only offer one product or service you should have a designated page for it. Customers shopping for your company online want to get as many answers as possible on their first
visit. Your product and services page should include photos, detailed information (preferably keyword enhanced!), how to order, possibly pricing, shopping cart, web inquiry form, and a direct way to contact someone.

Products and Services Page Content:

  1. How many products and services do you have?:
  2. Do you have various product or service categories to include? Get the list together
  3. Do you have photos, descriptions and/or prices for each? Share as much detail as possible!

4. Landing Pages

When you have a specific intent such as a product or service feature or giveaway, landing pages are ideal for getting action. Landing pages are a stripped down home page or product / service page with a clear call to action. Promoted through various media like direct mail, tv advertising, radio, magazine ads, email marketing
or online advertising they offer clear direction to the customer and opportunities to target tracking.

Landing Page Planning:

  1. Identify featured giveaway, contest, product or services for sale
  2. Are downloads or online purchases available or who will receive email inquiries?
  3. How will customers find your landing page?
  4. What media will you use to promote it?

5. Content Management System (CMS)

Websites that have an administrative back end access allow for easy website changes and updates for small businesses. Website changes can be made by people who don’t know code. This is a great service for small businesses to help keep your website updated and keep outsourcing costs down. Administrative roles can be set with varying levels of permission. Staff with access can add photos, articles, blog entries, videos, etc. as easily as they can in a word processing software. The main administrator can add or delete users and their level or access.

How will you keep your website updated?

  1. Who in your office will be in charge of updating?
  2. How many people will need to be trained in the CMS?
  3. How frequently will your website be updated?

6. Blog

A web log holds company information, news and updates that is tied to your company website. Blog entries help to provide informaiton to cusotmers and visitors to your website. If you offer valuable content visitors can subscribe to blog entries in an RSS feed or receive email alerts. Blogs also help bring your website up in search engines better than sites without blogs. You come up in searches better because search engines like it when you keep your website updated with frequent posts. The other reason is relevant content, search engine inquiries response is based on a websites relevant content. When you post information that is connected to your product or service in your blog the content will be of value to search engines and your site will be more apt to come up when inquiries are made that match your blog content.

Is Blogging in Your Futue?

  1. What types of blogs will you write?
  2. How frequently will you post new blogs?
  3. What categories should be included for searching blog content (general, product names, press, etc.)
  4. What are the primary keywords for the website

7. E-Commerce Portals / Member Access

If your website is going to serve as a shop for people to buy online there are a number of decisions to make right away as you are planning the site.

Specialty stores, publications, trade associations and other groups often have an area of the website where members can log on with a password or user name to gain access to specialized information.

Some of the questions to ask yourself when planning these types of websites:

  1. Will visitors pay online?
  2. With Paypal or another payment portal?
  3. Approximately how many products or product categories will you need to include?
  4. Have you considered what your shipping cost will be for each item?
  5. For password protected members, only areas on websites what content will be included?
  6. Who will manage the database of members?
  7. Are there dates when memberships will expire? How will the member be alerted to subscribe again?

You have your homework. Your test will be determining if people will find your website, if they find it easy to navigate, and visually appealing and if you keep your website updated with relevant content. If this all seems overwhelming to you contact us. We can provide consultations. We can help you organize your website content, determine navigation and of course build and design your website – whether you choose to keep your website updated or you would like us to help you with that marketing component as well, we’ll get you connected.

Membership Website Ideas – WordPress Makes it Easy to Update

Jug&Mug Club Membership website home pageWe recently were selected to provide new membership website ideas and design for a local Lansing Michigan All Seasons Club JugAndMug.org. We worked with the president and a few other board members to re-create the site. I wish I had a screen capture of the old membership website – a before and after would have been dramatic and impressive.

We were happy to hear the group contacted us because we were referred to them as a company who would provide quality service and a website design that met all the goals of the organization at a reasonable rate. Upon our initial meeting with the website committee we learned more details about their ideas for the new membership website.

Local Club Membership Website Ideas:

  • Bring website design into the current decade
  • Offer a content management system that was easy for non-programmers to update
  • Responsive website format: detects screen size and format for smart phones, tablets or desktop monitors
  • Slide show of photos that can be updated easily
  • Blog page to be part of the membership website and not a separate url
  • Online inquiry forms, contact forms or registration forms
  • Emails with domain name (name@jugandmug.org) that forward to each board persons personal email if desired.
  • Ease in updating content and adding photos in all areas
  • E-commerce capability for accepting payments, ticket sales, membership dues, etc.
  • Members only section – password protected with different access levels

local-club-memberhsip-website-ideas

We have provided similar membership website ideas and solutions in the past with password protected areas, e-commerce, events pages, and specific administrative access. Membership websites can range between local clubs like jugandmug or large national or state associations, non-profit and political groups as well as business groups membership sites.

When we’re provided membership website ideas and solutions throughout our  17 years of business that incorporated content management systems (CMS) we typically built them from scratch. Now we can often use the robust WordPress options available.

Jug&Mug.org was built with a WordPress theme that supports e-commerce interactions. There were a plethora of plug ins available if we needed for the password protected area or the photo slide shows. The use of WordPress for this particular project was ideal primarily because of the ease in updates. Since membership websites are often updated by different people and the administrator may change with each board member update it is important to keep website updates simple. Jug and Mug is lucky, they have a President and website committee right now who is knowledgeable of computer programming and interested to learn. Other memberships, associations and clubs may have people responsible for managing the website who have no clue what web code is. Use of WordPress CMS helps alleviate worries and errors and helps newbie website managers to feel at ease.

ski club responsive website - on smart phoneThere are some particular rules to follow when choosing a website company and a WordPress theme,

  • do you want the website for business or just for fun
  • do you want to use your own domain name (hosted on it’s own)
  • a responsive theme
  • a theme that allows e-commerce
  • a theme that allows third party plug-ins
  • customizable
  • … and more depending on your website goals

Discussing WordPress, membership website ideas as well as customizing existing WordPress themes really requires another article. For instance I throw WordPress plug ins out there like they are little miracles… they can also be mean little sprites that choke your website speed and may not play nice together… So much to cover so little blog space.

If you are interested in using WordPress as a new website design solution and would like to talk to us about your considerations whether you have your own membership website ideas, an e-commerce site, or a website offering a service that you need help with. please call us today, 517-645-4387.

Stay connected!

Cover Your Bases!

From simple customer contact information to multi layered applications for reporting each aspect of a business, company databases come in all shapes and sizes. What size fits you? We’ve outlined some questions to get you on the right track….

Do You Know Where Your Database Is?
Depending on their size and specific industry, most businesses have some form of database in place. Many corporate Web sites are built with content management systems (CMS) that pull information from a database to automate updates, track inventory, document purchases, and ease in updates, etc. These databases can range from simple customer contact information to more complex multi layered applications that have been built to provide reports on each and every aspect of your business or organization.

The implementation of a database often begins with one employee using a desktop software such as Microsoft Access to create a database that will ease their work load. Soon others in the organization start using it and adding to it and before you know it a monster is created. The challenge with this approach is the organization is now reliant on a monster that is out of control and never had any planning or forethought.

Why Not Cover Your Bases?
If your needs are simple to begin with and you have a knowledgeable employee on staff a minimal investment in software can get you on the right track. If your needs are more complex and you need to outsource the work – do your research. Prices vary considerably depending on your needs and the type of database you seek.

Thinking through what you want your database to do is critical in the start up stage. Consider your existing needs, future plans and your expected growth and build a system that can answer your needs before you know how to ask. Do be careful not to go too crazy and add fields that you will never use and nobody is even aware of the function. A complex database that never works quite right and nobody understands is just wasteful and expensive. Create a list of “must have” features and then look at what else you can get for your time and money.

Who Holds The Controls?
When working with an outside vendor, explain your needs clearly and ask questions. Will it be a stand alone database used internally only or does it need to be attached to a Web site backend? Can it be hosted on your in-house server or does it need to live on the developers server? Most importantly, who owns it? If the developer owns the rights and you encounter challenges working with them in the future will you lose your information and your investment? What costs are involved in maintaining the database? Are you locked into a monthly hosting fee and maintenance fee? What is included in this charge? If this approach is not comfortable with you, look for a company who will release all rights and build one that allows you to move it where you choose and doesn’t restrict you to their hosting. There may be more costs up front but the peace of mind and long term savings may prove to be valuable. Also be sure to inquire about ease in regular updates. Will your employees have complete access for inputting changes and updates or do you always have to pay for the provider to make changes?

Once the database is in place keep your investment safe and clean by limiting the number of staff trained to make changes and oversee it. Part of the job of a good developer is to provide clear instruction of use and functionality of all elements. Since people come and go frequently it is important to have documentation developed on how the system works so others can be trained quickly and easily.

How Do You Choose?
Many companies are choosing to go with Web base databases instead of software programs. You will need to weight your options. Some commercial software is pretty powerful and when built correctly it can provide strong functionality, scalability, security and flexibility for years with minimum effort and expense. Considerations of using commercial software is what happens when the software program gets updated and you need to migrate your information to the new version? Will everything be compatible and what sort of time and cost are involved from your provider in the update? Databases built using SQL, or customized data mangement systems, may better serve your needs, now and into the future and allow more targeted features.

When Will I Feel Secure?
There are so many industry specific elements needed to create a comprehensive database to serve your organization needs we can not begin to touch on them all here. Check with your professional associations and similar businesses to get valuable advice on where to begin and what to include. Also, please remember to have a back up system in place for your database! If you are hosting it on an internal server, an individual desktop station or if your developer will be hosting your information, make sure all steps have been taken to secure and protect your irreplaceable data!