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Web Design & Development Blog

Page Speed & Local SEO for Chico Law Firm

August 22

When one of Chico’s top trust & probate law firms came to us they had a major problem. They had a site with great content and provided outstanding legal service to Northern California in the realms of Estate Planning, VA: Aid & Attendance & Medi-Cal Planning, but due to some major technical flaws with their WordPress theme, they had been all but cast aside by search engines. The first step to correcting this was diagnosis and one of the frequent issues we notice with WordPress sites is poor page speed.

poor page speed example

Upon doing a quick page speed test with Google’s Page Speed Insights  we found a fairly dismal 58/100 on mobile.  This can be a significant hindrance to high ranking as Google began to integrate “Mobile First Ranking” as early as 2016. However, some still claim that 100% mobile first ranking may be as far away as 2018.  To the layman, what this means is that Google has began to rank the mobile version of a sites content before the desktop version. So, essentially things like page speed, markup and content will be more heavily weighted on the mobile version of a website. If that’s still not making sense let’s let Frankenstein explain it.

Luckily, we’re pretty adept at fixing this. Google actually makes it pretty easy by providing suggestions on what to fix right there in the page speed results. You can even download optimized resources, such as images and minified CSS / JS. However, we typically like to optimize these resources our self since the auto generated ones are not always the best quality.

How to find auto optomized content and suggestions in page speed insights

After a little tweaking we managed to get them a little better score of 91/100 on mobile. Now we just have to wait for Google to notice and hopefully see a nice bump in rank for them.

Good page speed example


Proudly working with Sky Salon

August 7


sky salon hair salon website scree shot

We are pleased to announce that after building their website we will be working with Sky Salon to increase their google ranking and traffic to their site.  They are a full service salon specializing hair cuts, nails, lash extensions, makeup, skin and relaxation treatments. They have a really talented staff of professionals that can easily be booked through their site here.  Our staff has tried them out and say that it’s a great experience.

As they are a new business, their web presence is still in it’s infancy. So we have a lot of work ahead of us to get them search exposure. As with any good campaign we start with basic on page and technical SEO. This typically involves editing or adding copy to the pages we plan on ranking and optimizing it so that it’s easy for search engines to understand. A lot of this can be as simple as adding a few keywords in the appropriate places, or as complex as  increasing page speed by minifying  HTML, CSS & Javascript.

Image optimization is always important to page speed, so we did our best to resize and compress all the lovely photos of great looking hair cuts. Asides from making the images load fast it is also a good idea to rename the files and sprinkle some keywords into them along with the alt descriptions. However, you don’t want to get a smack down from google by being overly keyword dense, so we make sure that the names and alts are relevant to the image and not just a repetition of keywords.

Another thing that is important for any new businesses is to create and update their local listings. We are still working on that currently, but plan to have them listed on all major local listing sites by the end of the month. These listings can not only help your search rank, but can help people reach you through the listings themselves.

As time goes on we will be generating new optimized copy as well as optimizing copy delivered to us by the client. Combine that with social outreach and organic back link building and we hope to have them top the SERP on at a local level soon.



How to Choose a Web Designer

When choosing a web designer in Sacramento you should consider more than just previous designs. A style you like on someone else’s site may not be what’s best for your site. And it ain’t just about looks. (yes, I used the word “ain’t”)

Before you go live with a new site it is important to consider what your current site is good at. There are three things that are often overlooked.

  1. Conversion: A firm that proclaims that there are User Experience (UX) or User Interface (UI) experts will want to perform some heat mapping studies on your current site and compare them to your new site.
  2. Visibility: What keywords does your current site show up well for and which ones give you the best click through rate? Before you go live with your new website design it is important to study your analytics to see where you have SEO currency and where you do not.
  3. Platform: What platform are you on, what Platform will your new site be built on. If your current site was custom built, and your new site ends up on a WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or other open source CMS, you may find your ongoing support and maintenance costs go up. Learn about the ups and downs of open CMS.

Most of the web design Sacramento has available are shops that have a good design base or a good development base. A lot have both. But few have a real understanding of the UI/UX and SEO elements and these are the ones that will affect you the most.

The beauty of the Internet and web design is that you don’t have to choose a local company. The best web development firm is in Chico, CA (yes, a very slanted opinion but that is how I feel) With the use of technology we can do everything over the web. It’s a beautiful business.

Web Designers in Sacramento, a better Bay Area alternative

July 3

Silicon Valley has been a hub of all things web. In one way or another every web business has a connection there. The hub has many spokes.

Because there are so many spokes, you don’t need to look for web design firms from the valley, you can find great designers and developers that started in the Bay Area but left for some of the less intense more affordable areas such as Sacramento and its bedroom communities. Heck, my firm is in Chico where the living does not get much better. When you work with a web design firm that not only loves what they do for a living, but enjoys where they live, you are going to find a more enjoyable web development team. It kind of like the great cheese comes from happy cows. There are a lot of happy cows around Sacramento.

Don’t pigeon hole yourself to working with someone local unless you live where happy web teams live. You will not only have a more enjoyable experience having your web site built, you will likely save a few dollars. The best web designers stay busy no matter where they live and that why the best web designs come from Sacramento’s neighbor to the north, Chico.


The Best Web Designer in Sacramento

When you are looking for a great caterer, hairdresser or cabinet maker it is easy to trust a recommendation, all you have to do is look at the work. In addition, things like haircuts and meal are subjects that we experience on a regular basis. When you are looking for an attorney, realtor or web designer, you have to qualify recommendations.

If you were to ask me to suggest an attorney, I would have only one name come to mind and that would be for trademarking. I don’t think she would serve you well in family law. If you were going to ask me to refer a realtor in Sacramento, I would suggest a couple of my friends even though I have never used them myself. In a business where the services are broad and not frequently used, a recommendation is difficult.

So do you trust on-line reviews? For hairdressers and restaurants, absolutely. For lawyers, realtors and web designers, not so much. People are eager to post a review for a great meal or they want to show off a new hairdo, but the majority of people that review attorneys, realtors and web designers are people letting off some steam or they are solicited.

I know that there are plenty of attorneys, relator and web designers with great reviews but I am willing to bet that these businesses are from two of three camps. They are slow and spend a lot of time working there social media and reviews themselves, or they are big and have hired someone to push there reviews. So how can you trust reviews like this? Ask great questions.

My business has been around for 11 years and we have a great track record of keeping clients happy. (In the web design world having a business that has survived 11 years would be comparable to being Ford Motor Company in the world of automobiles.) I hire people that are good at what they do and treat clients the way I want them to be treated. Sometimes these employees move on to their own thing and become my competition. It is not a problem that they become my competition, what is a problem is how it is presented to the public.

One of my designers left and started her own business and used the portfolio of jobs she worked on while working for me as her own work. She also lifted any testimonial that bared her name. I’m not venting, I’m getting to a point that without the project manager in my business pushing her to stay on the most important tasks, we would have had fewer satisfied customers. As with most designers, flaky or last minute is a common behavior but my business promises that your site will be delivered on time. She did not like that pressure and went out on her own. In this case and I am sure there are many like it, the reviews and credits are not entirely trustworthy.

When looking for the best web designer in Sacramento, compare what type of site you want with the one that the person referring you has. Ask the person referring you why they liked to company. Ask if they had any challenges getting what they wanted from the web designer. Sacramento is not far from Folsom, Roseville or the Bay Area so don’t be afraid to venture out a bit. My business is located in Chico, but I am in Sacramento every week. And guess what, a business outside of an expansive real-estate market can usually do it for a bit less.

Other questions when looking for a Sacramento web designer are, do you have an office or do you work out of your home? Do you have a developer or are you using WordPress? Do you contract any of your work oversees?

All that I am trying to point out is this, qualify your source of recommendations and reviews. They could mislead you down a frustrating path.

The Best Website Designers in California

web designers in ca

What determines the best web designer in CA

California is home to a lot of great tech companies that demand a great web design. This has led to a lot of great web design companies. So who is the best web designer in CA?

Determining who develops the best web sites is like deciding what the best type of food is. I like Mexican but I very much enjoyed Chinese today. Every business has a different need from there site and thus we should be asking a more specific question, “Who make the best web site for converting clicks into customers?”

Most “Top 10 Web Design Companies” sites judge by the creativity of the site alone. What does it look like? There is no consideration to what the customer experience it or the ability for the site to persuade a visitor to take an action. Shouldn’t that be more important?

Design is important. California is home to Apple where design is everything. But Apple did not succeed because they had beautiful looking products, they had beautifully functional products. Hand any 6 year old an iPad and they will be playing a game in seconds. No instruction manual needed.

Maybe the question should change. “Who is the best web development firm in California?” or “Which California Web firm builds the most persuasive web sites?” I’ll bet my money that not one of the top 50 would be shared among the other lists. And ask who provided the best service, or fastest turn around and you will have yet another completely unique list.

Here are the factors you should consider when determining who the best company to design and build your website should be:

How long has the business been around? Web designers and developers don’t always make the best business people.

Do you guarantee a delivery date? If you ask around I’ll bet that 9 out of 10 businesses did not get their site when it was promised. In many cases it might be as much as a year or more late.

Do you have proof of your customer conversion? If they have case studies showing results believe them, if not, they are likely stating what they think. We have found that what we think is rarely what is true.

Do you have proof of your SEO abilities? Every web business claims they know SEO, but few actually do. Ask for proof. If they are truly good at SEO, they will have proof.

How secure is your platform? Are they using an open source content management system or is the site on a customer CMS?

Best Web Design? That is very relative not only to your personal tastes, but to the objective of your site. The sites that convert the most visitors to customers are rarely the most beautiful. Beautiful design does not usually have obnoxious orange “Order Now” buttons but high converting sites do.

The approach we take is, wire frame a persuasive intuitive site before you hand it over to a designer.

So, who is the best web designer in California? It’s probably the company that doesn’t get much notice. Or it could be the company that posted this blog.

The next big trend in web design- Parallax

In the late 1990’s web design came alive with animation and interactivity when Macromedia (Since acquired by Adobe) introduced Flash. Flash websites were a hot item and the early Flash design and development firms were in high demand and getting as much as $60,000 for 40 hours’ worth of work. The sites were beautiful and fun.

The demise of Flash was 3 fold. The first was security. Hackers found holes that allowed them to gain control of your computer. The second was that Google was gaining importance and Flash sites were not index able by search engines. But it was Apple that delivered the knockout punch when they chose not to support flash on the iPhone.

As web designers stepped away from Flash, website design reverted back to the basics. To add dynamics, scrolling pictures became the norm. In fact, at this writing that is still the most popular type of website.

We are at the dawn of a new age.

Parallax web design is the future of web design. Parallax, is the word used to describe the effect of the appearance of objects moving at different speeds. When driving, the trees near the road side appear to pass faster than the trees farther away and the distant mountains move even slower.

Why is this design the future? Because a designer can do everything we used to do in Flash without the drawbacks. The sites remain as secure as any custom site and they are fully search engine friendly, sort of.

Some pros of a Parallax site:

  • They are interesting to the visitor which entices them to stay on the site longer.
  • As a marketer animation gives you power to direct the visitors attention to where you want them to go.
  • It is more likely that a web visitor will scroll to the bottom of a site then click another page.
  • When a visitor spends more time on your site, it enhances your Google page rank.

Some cons of a Parallax site:

  • Visitors view fewer pages which is a negative in the eyes of Google.
  • Can be confusing to a visitor.
  • They can be slower loading
  • More costly to develop.

The good news is that a Parallax site does not need to be confusing to the viewer and there are ways to use it its power to get visitors to click on more pages that a standard site which will enhance your page rank with Google. And you don’t have to have a slow loading site.

Designers can get carried away with Parallax design. Here is an example of an amazing Parallax site that great to look at and navigate but slow load. Also, this site was not designed to be easily searched against competitors. http://journey.lifeofpimovie.com/#!/

There are ways to use this new technology to your advantage. We happen to be developing 4 such sites right now. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Why Designing for the End-User Is Important

April 3
Organized Websites

Don’t let your customers view your website like you view this sacrament store

Imagine you walk into a brick-and-mortar store and find that the layout is chaotic, the aisles are disordered, the products are difficult to locate, and the associates are unresponsive. Would you recommend this store to your friends? Probably not. In fact, chances are you probably would leave and head to another store to make your purchase.

Now imagine it’s a website.

End users have similar experiences with websites and physical stores, yet it’s common for brands to neglect to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes when designing their online “store.” Instead, they design for themselves, and this negatively impacts user experience and, by extension, the company’s bottom line.

Some of the things that matter in end-user focused web design include ensuring that the home page is simple and striking, that navigation is easy, and that the user can get from shopping cart to checkout with a minimum of clicks. Cluttered, confusing landing pages, difficult navigation, and too many steps that must be clicked through are major turnoffs for customers.

These elements remain just as important no matter what industry your business falls within. Retailers, financial and legal professionals, musicians, landscapers – across all fields, end-user experience in relation to your website is one of the most important elements of your marketing strategy. The easier and more enjoyable your website is to use, the longer your visitors will stay – and the longer they stay, the more likely they’ll become paying customers.

That’s why it’s important to identify any potential problems with your website’s usability and make changes – or, if you’re creating a new website, to design it from scratch with the end user in mind. Your website is the easiest way to get information about your business to your potential customers, so you’ll want to be sure you’re taking advantage of all it has to offer.

Will a Non-Mobile Responsive Site Hurt Your SEO Rankings?

Having many SEO clients, I have to adapt quickly to changes in the Google algorithm. I was hustling to do what a rumor had led many of us to believe. The rumor was that you must have one site, which was of a responsive design (meaning it would adapt to different screen sizes) or Google would penalize you. Since that rumor started, Google announced the launch date of the new algorithm, April 21st, 2015. Rumor truths are that you must have a mobile friendly website. Rumor falsies are that you must have one site that is mobile responsive. If you have a separate “moble.YourWebsite.com” site, you are in great shape. The purpose of the new algorithm is to only show mobile friendly website in searches from mobile devices. If you are thinking that all of your visitors are going to your site via a large screen, you are likely wrong. At a minimum 1 in 5 of your clicks comes from a mobile device. Most businesses are getting 2 of 5 clicks from searches from a mobile device. If your site is not mobile friendly, you will no longer be getting these clicks because your site will no longer be showing in mobile searches. If you want to know if your site is mobile friendly you can find out now, before the April 21st roll out. Just find your site in a Google search result and look for the grey text.

mobile search

Can you be found in Chico by mobile searchers




A mentor of mine once stated that the two most important ingredients to a successful business are urgency and accountability. In 2011 I wrote another blog with the same first line… http://www.punchstick.com/watch-out-for-the-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/ but I am using it again here because I think this is that biggest problem with websites.

Once you decide what you want from your website, you should have urgency to get it done. Your web developer will move as fast as you.  If you drag things out by being slow to respond to questions from your developer or slow to deliver content, you will one day wake up mad at your web guy because the site is not done. Having urgency and respecting urgency of others is critical not just for meeting a time frame, but it maintains excitement about the project. When your people and the web team are excited about a job it somehow shows in the results.

The best way to maintain urgency is accountability. At Chico Web Design we make ourselves accountable with our guaranteed delivery time. “Web sites when we say or you don’t pay” and we hold the client accountable by getting them to commit to their role or they forfeit the onetime guarantee. Urgency and accountability go a long way.

Don’t mistake panic as urgency. Panic does not allow you proper time to plan. Failure to properly plan will leave holes in accountability. Panic is the result of lack of planning or failure to execute. Urgency is focus and drive on planning and executing.

When you are so excited about a decision to make change in your business that you begin implementing it right away, you have urgency.

To have urgency you must have an “urge” to do something. Most people only have an urge to make their life less busy. These are the same people who point fingers and say “it’s not my fault” when something is missed. Accountability is how you force some urgency. Set high expectations and hold your people accountable to them. This will give them urgency to achieve. If it doesn’t, you have the wrong people.