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Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

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.

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.

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.

WordPress Websites Good or Bad?

I have watched a lot of technologies come and go since the birth of the World Wide Web (who calls it that anymore?) and what I am finding most interesting is that at with all the efforts to make it simple, it’s getting more confusing.

In the mid 1990’s anyone who could post a static one page website with their picture and bio was considered a genius by most of their friends. Today you can grab a free template spend a few hours customizing it with a WYSIWYG tool and you have a full blown website. Or do you?

WordPress is currently the most popular platform for building websites. Designers love it because they can cut out the developer. Developers like it because it’s quick. Customers like it because it’s cheap to produce.

The one thing that makes WordPress appealing is that it is a CMS or Content Management System which means anybody with credentials to the site can change copy and images with very little training.

For these reasons, its simplicity to develop and use at a very low entry price, the WordPress community and fan base is large. But few speak of the downside.

(Full Discloser, I have clients that WordPress is the best option for. I also have clients that I strongly advised NOT to go with WordPress.)

Things to consider before agreeing to a WordPress site:

1. Open Source– This is good and bad. The good is that it is not owned by anyone. It is a free product and a community is building it. The drawback is that any custom work you pay your developer for is now free to someone else to use. The more complicate and unique you want your site, the more reason to have a custom site.

2. Cost of Ownership– While a WordPress site is the least expensive site to build, it might be the most expensive to own. Some changes you think might be simple, are very costly. As an example, let’s say you want to add a box on the home page to promote an event or special product. Sounds simple. And in a custom site this might be a $300 job. In a WordPress site it could be a $1,200 job. Another overlooked cost is maintaining the site for security and fixes to hacks.

3. Security– This could be the biggest reason to not go WordPress. There are many security flaws which lead to many attacks. The attacks don’t come from a person singing you out, it comes from bots –programs the crawl the web- looking for holes in your site to create havoc.

4. Permissions– You have little control over what a backend user can access. If you grant access to an employee to update a page, they can make changes to things you might not want them to. Many times the changes are accidental and go underscored. If a disgruntled employee has access, you could be in a lot more trouble than if you had a true CMS.

5. Stability– There are a lot of inconsistencies with the API. Sometimes the plugins stop working or the appearance of a section of the site changes. These fixes are sometimes hard to corner as they don’t always reproduce.

6. Traffic Spikes– Out of the box, WordPress is not optimized to handle large traffic. It can be, but most websites owners don’t want to spend $200 to $500 a month in hosting fees.

7. Search Engine Visibility– This is argued but in my personal experience I have seen a drop in web traffic after switching to WordPress. We tested two sites in where the only change was the platform and in both cases the traffic dropped. We think it is due to the lack of clean code or lack of uniqueness form other sites.

The main questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on what platform you want your site on are:

1. How often will I be making changes to my site?
2. How much traffic do I expect?
3. What would be the impact if my site went down?

If your answers are “Often, little and none”, you are a a candidate for WordPress. Otherwise, you should consider a custom platform.

What to Know Before You Choose a Web Developer.

Planning a website redesign is something most small businesses think about every 3 years or so. And this is primarily because they were never really happy with their current site or it’s because the business has evolved and now wants more from their website. With a little foresight and participation from a point person in your organization the right web design built on the right platform will make future changes simpler and the need for a redesign un necessary.

Introducing new technologies to an established business can be painful. Business owners usually end up trusting the one person in their company that knows the most about the internet. What we find is that most self-proclaimed “experts” don’t know what they don’t know. So while trying to save their bosses some money, they inadvertently end up costing their employer more than needed.

Before you chose the company that you want to work with. You should consider these few issues.

  1. What is the goal of your site? Is it to capture leads or to set as a brochure? Do you want to create transparency or would you like to have an interactive form that educates while collecting data to help you close deals? Will this site be your storefront and main source of income?
  2. How will you be pushing traffic to your site? Are you going to market to potential customers via mass media or are you going to send existing customers to your site.  Do you want people to find you with search engines?
  3. Will your potential website visitor be able to easily fide what they are looking for? Navigation can be fun and highly technical but the simpler route is usually the best.
  4. How much of the site will change frequently? Do you need to be able to change things on your site at a moment’s notice, or will most of what you say on your site be static for a long period of time?

There is a lot more to consider but time spent on these 4 points before you reach out to a web developer will help you determine what kind of platform your site should be built on. Different technologies hide behind your sites design and navigation and have a significant up front cost.

Building your site on an open source CMS platform like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal will cost less up front. These are easy to develop. However, changes in the future can cost more. Please don’t confuse site changes with simple copy or image changes. These CMS’s do that very well. It’s adding a section on a page or a new functionality that create issue.

The most important thing to remember is that the cheapest solution is not always the cheapest in the long run.

What You Need to Know About Mobile Traffic

I am young enough to be considered tech savvy and old enough to remember the pre-internet Bulletin Board Services or BBS. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s not important. What is important is the change in technology and the human interaction I have been witness to.
The grandest change since the beginning 2012 is the growth of the smart phone and tablet devices. As of November 2013 mobile devices consisted of 28% of ALL web traffic. Up 67% in just 1 year. The trend line estimates that as of March 2014 mobile devices are already over 35% of ALL web traffic.

What’s this mean to you? If your website is not mobile compatible, more than 1/3 of your potential customers are NOT buying from you.

The amount of time and money people are spending on mobile devices is growing rapidly and yet most businesses are not serving these people — at what cost?

By the numbers, mobile traffic makes up 10% of global internet traffic and next year more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online. Purchases made on mobile devices exceeded $6.7 billion in the U.S. last year, or about 8% of total online sales. This is expected to nearly double to $11.6 billion this year. By 2015, U.S. mobile sales are forecast to reach $31 billion.

How much of that could be yours?

If you haven’t optimized your website for mobile, you are frustrating visitors with tricky navigation and slow loading times. If you have an ecommerce site, those figures should help you benchmark what you’re already losing in dollars, but a recent survey from Google underlines the damage you might also be doing to your brand by not having your site optimized for mobile.

The survey, which tallied responses from 1,088 U.S. adult smartphone owners, found that:

• Mobile sites lead to mobile purchases. Well duh! Shoppers are more likely to buy a product or service if your site is optimized for mobile. Three-fourths said they are more likely to return to a site in the future if the experience on mobile is good.

• If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, shoppers will go elsewhere. The majority of participants in the survey said that if they can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, they’ll sooner seek out a competitor’s mobile-friendly site instead of switching to a PC to revisit yours.

• A bad mobile experience can damage a company’s brand. A bad mobile experience can create bad feelings about your company. Yes, a bad feeling about your company! Nearly half of participants in the survey said they feel frustrated and annoyed when they visit a site that’s not mobile-ready. It makes them feel like a you don’t care about your business.

If you need help getting your site mobile ready, we have been doing just that for companies in Sacramento, Chico, Redding and the San Francisco Bay area, plus some recent revisions for Ag websites in Texas.

CWD Teams up With 51 Fifty Energy Drink

June 23

Chico Web Design is teaming up with 51 Fifty Energy Drink to make a website to display their product catalog, purchase online, and display their event calendar!

Chico Web Design has already helped 51 Fifty Enterprises create 51 Fifty Apparelwhere they have an online ecommerce store for their apperal.