Ten Quick Ways to Enhance Your Business Website

Posted: Saturday July 2nd

If you neglect your business website, it could seriously harm your company’s reputation. Even with the pressures of time and limited resources, your website should be updated every so often. It is, after all, an integral part of your business. By making a few minor, inexpensive adjustments to your website, you can add real value to your company.

People are more likely to buy from people they like. Include some content that reveals the human side to your organization. Consider including biography pages of yourself and key members of your team. Many visitors want to learn more about your company before they do anything else, so an “About Us” page with information about the real people behind your website is key to establishing a good relationship with potential customers.

Many businesses still make the fundamental mistake of not publishing the actual prices of their products or services online. Research has shown that this only frustrates potential customers, and they’ll go elsewhere to find the information they need. Transparency is crucial in today’s marketplace. If a consumer can quickly find the relevant information, they’re more likely to take further positive action.

Consider uploading more videos to your site. Consumers are more comfortable than ever before with visual communication. If your team is constantly being asked a particular question, make a video to address the problem. When you’re introducing a new product, service, or special deal, put it on video to grab the attention of visitors. With links to a YouTube channel, you can tag and index each video to optimize your website for Google and other major search engines.

Creating a business blog is another powerful way to enhance your website for visitors and the search engines. Blogs can generate more traffic to your website and ensure that visitors return to your site in the future. As well as improving the experience for visitors, a blog is an easy way to add fresh content, which should increase your SEO power.

Make it even easier for people to come back to your website by providing a bookmark link. People can then find your site more quickly and share relevant content with others. Having a presence on Facebook or Twitter can also generate more leads. Once you’ve created an account, don’t forget to include a link to these social networking sites on your website.

Instead of having one page for testimonials (which people may ignore), include a brief testimonial on every page of your site. This can be a more effective way to motivate prospects to take action. Whenever you receive a compliment from a customer, ask for a testimonial. Video testimonials are also a powerful way to build confidence in your company.

To make your pages appear more professional, try incorporating icons into your primary content. An eye-catching button can be a compelling call to action. Explore sites such as iStockphoto for icons that will make your links more powerful than simple text.

One of the biggest mistakes made by businesses is making it hard to find contact information. Check your navigational structure to ensure your phone number, email address, and physical address can be easily found. Even better, include your contact details on every page of your site. Remember that people can enter your site on any page.

Make sure your strongest content is in the upper left-hand portion of each page. Studies have shown that people tend to look there first. Putting all your important content and navigational links above the fold (before the user has to scroll down) will improve your website’s usability and help to keep visitors on your site.

If you don’t have a search box yet, it’s worth considering adding one to your site. If your website has many pages, a search box can make it so much easier to find the relevant information. Similarly, a breadcrumb trail and a site map will also enhance the usability of your site.

There are numerous ways to enhance your website for the benefit of consumers and the search engines. As well as implementing some of these suggestions, listen to what customers have to say about your site by asking them directly. And then take action. Keeping your website up-to-date and relevant to your target audience is important to the success of any business.

Four Concepts in Web 2.0 Design and PHP

Posted: Tuesday May 31st

PHP can be your key to web programming success. The acronym PHP is a programming term meaning “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.” This language is open source, meaning anyone in the world can use it. You can use PHP to write scripts and embed them into HTML code on the server side of dynamic web pages, or documents that change instead of remaining static.

For the person seeking to learn website development using Web 2.0 applications, the task is daunting. PHP offers a good starting point. A helpful book that walks the reader through the process of building a blog website with PHP is Practical Web 2.0 Applications with PHP by Quentin Zervaas (2008). This book explains high-level design and steps for downloading and using all of the software to design and build the site. The following article works from Zervaas’ introductory framework to explore Web 2.0 and PHP concepts.

Zervaas notes the challenge of pinning down a definition of Web 2.0 design, but he selects four common features – (1) standards-compliant HTML and CSS, (2) Ajax for a rich user interface, (3) sharing data with web feeds and services, and (4) using social networking applications.

What is high-level design?

This term refers to the cycle of developing software. The high-level design includes all of the relationships and roles between the software’s major components. Later, in the design phase, the developer will spell out the details of the software architecture (or design), including each individual component of the application.

What is standards-compliant HTML and CSS?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has outlined the requirements for web software that is standards-compliant. You can find and review these standards at W3.org.

What is Ajax?

Ajax stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. This process is used for the design of dynamic web pages. Using Ajax, the web software can retrieve data from a server without synchronization, and the display and functionality of the web pages are not changed. Think of this process as the power to upgrade a website behind the scenes while the web page functions normally.

What is sharing data with web feeds and services?

This is a concept you already know if you have seen a blog with Google AdSense content. This third-party functionality (a web service) feeds advertisements continuously on a site or blog. Blog owners and users do not have to do anything for the service to post ads.

What are social networking applications?

These applications are websites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and blogs. The users can interact with each other in a rapidly changing Internet space. The web site provider offers many options for communication through interactive applications.

As you explore your options in designing a website with the principles of Web 2.0 design, consider the value of PHP. You should also learn how to build your site step-by-step while considering security and legality issues, especially if your site engages contributions from multiple users and includes information from third-party services.

How Successful is Your Landing Page? A Landing Page Checklist

Posted: Tuesday May 31st

A large portion of websites on the internet are actually landing pages. This has caused the landing page competition to become quite intense. The person whose landing page is better optimized will see a far more impressive conversion rate. It doesn’t matter if you have used a website builder to create a business website or hired a web designer to build it for you, it is still essential that you review your landing page and be sure that you can check off all items listed on this checklist. If you can do this then you should begin to see an increase in conversion rates among your websites.
1. Make the Headline Stand Out
The purpose of a headline is to make a certain text or image stand out. Make sure your headline on your landing page catches the visitor’s attention right off the bat. Typically, a headline is at the top of a web page and is styled in a banner-like fashion. Make sure the product you are selling is included in the headline, whether though text or an image.

2. Include an Image of Actual People Showing off the Product
Every landing page is based around a different type of product. You may be promoting and selling a tangible item, like a home gym, or an intangible item like a webinar subscription. Whatever your product may be, make sure you include an image or two of people using the product or people experiencing the results of the product. Think of it this way: An effective landing page for diet pills always has a before and after of a person’s body.

3. Turn Paragraphs into Bulleted Lists
A common rule within the world of web page design is “less is more.” Keep your text and information to a minimum. Only list the information crucial to the purchase of the item. Don’t have a block of text that is more than three lines high. Take that block and put it into a bulleted list. Listing information makes it easier for the visitor to read it and process it more quickly.

4. Limit the Number of Links
You surely don’t want to give your visitor somewhere else to go (through a link) after you have finally managed to get them to your landing page. Only include links within your site that will lead a visitor to something that you want them to see, not away from your site.

5. Fast Loading Time
The majority of people don’t practice patience- especially when it comes to websites. Make sure your whole landing page takes no more than three seconds to load. Flash websites take longer to load. You may want to consider removing Flash elements or large images if your website is taking too long to load.

6. Emphasize How to Buy the Product
One of the worst things to do on a landing page is to leave a visitor trying to figure out how to buy the product. Implement large and easy-to-read buttons that lead visitors to the check out page. Make the purchasing process as simple as possible. People do not want to go through brain surgery in order to purchase a product.

7. Always Use Please and Thank You
Are you grateful for your customer’s purchase? If so, then tell them! Implement a “Thank You” page that they will be directed to after completing their purchase. Almost all successful websites use “Thank You” pages to not only thank their customers, but also to up-sell them. For example, your page might say, “We appreciate your business so much that we are willing to give you another year of the product for only $4.99! Click here to redeem this offer.” This is just another way to squeeze a few extra bucks out of a customer that is willing to buy!
Don’t let your landing page fall behind those of your competitor’s. A landing page doesn’t have to be fancy and have all the bells and whistles to be effective. In fact, the simplest landing pages are often the best. You can even create a free business website to act as your landing page and no one will ever know the difference. Keep this checklist in mind as you continue building and adding to your websites.

Beginning XML: Basic Syntax and Differences From HTML

Posted: Saturday April 9th

XML is the acronym for Extensible Markup Language, which focuses on describing data and what data actually is. HTML is also a markup language, but it deals with how data looks and is displayed. XML tags are not predefined like HTML tags – you must invent your own. XML doesn’t physically do anything; rather, it helps to structure, store, and send information across different information systems in an easy, simple way that doesn’t require any translation at all.

Understanding the Syntax Rules of XML

***Please note, we have added an * asterix between the < > in order for the tags not to function and be viewable.***

The first line of an XML document, called the XML declaration, is optional. It gives the version of XML currently being used (either 1.0 or 1.1, although 1.0 is the most common), as well as the character encoding.

<*?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?*>

The above example describes version 1.0 of XML and its ISO-8859-1 character set (one of many potential choices).

The rest of an XML document invariably contains nested elements, or pairs of tags, inserted throughout. Each element is comprised of one pair of tags, called a start tag and an end tag. The start tag is formed by putting a term in angle brackets. The end tag is formed in the same way as the start tag, using the same term, except this time there is a slash directly after the first angle bracket and before the term.

example start term: <*rule*> example end term: <*/rule*>

Everything in between the start and end tags is called the content.

<*rule*>Everything in between the start and end tags is called the content.<*/rule*>

Everything in between the <*rule*> and <*/rule*> start and end tags in the example above is considered the content. A full element has a start tag, content, and an end tag, just like the example.

Besides text content, an XML element may also include attributes. An attribute is a name and a value paired together, placed in the start tag directly after the element name.

<*term number=“1” type=“technical”*>Attribute<*/term*>

In the above example, the element name term has 2 attributes – number=“1” is an attribute, and so is type=“technical”. They are both included in in the start tag right after the element name (term). In the number=“1” attribute, the name number has the value 1. In the type=“technical” attribute, the name type has the value technical. The complete XML element describes the function of the text – that there is a certain number (1) of terms being described, and that the type of term is technical. Attribute is the 1 technical term being addressed.

**Keep in mind that although the number 1 is a quantity and that the term technical is a measurement of quality, in XML they are merely supposed to stand for the terms they describe, not function as the terms themselves.

The values of attributes must be put in either single or double quotes. In the above example, the “1” and “technical” attribute values have been correctly placed in quotes. Each different attribute name may only be used once in any given element. In the previous example, the attribute names term number and type have each been used only once.

Elements can include other elements inside of them.


In this example, the element termlist contains three term elements. The element termlist is also known as the top-level root element, or document element. XML that does not contain a top-level root element is formed badly, and is considered malformed.

Incorrect XML Example:


Without the top-level root element termlist, the term subelements are badly-created XML.

More Differences Between XML and HTML

XML is different than HTML in many subtle but crucial ways, so it follows that there are some tasks that are better suited for XML than HTML, and vice versa – for instance, with XML it is a much simpler task to access crucial document information than with HTML, which would sometimes require an excess of so-called markup language red tape.

HTML doesn’t have to have a closing tag, but XML does (except in the case of the XML declaration, which is not considered an element, so the usual rules don’t apply).

example of correct HTML: <*p*>A correct HTML paragraph doesn’t have to have a closing tag
<*p*>New paragraphs can start without old paragraphs having a closing tag.

This is incorrect XML, however.

example of correct XML: <*p*>A correct XML paragraph has a closing tag<*/p*>
<*p*>If XML doesn’t have a closing tag, then it is wrongly constructed<*/p*>

HTML isn’t case sensitive, but XML is.

example of correct HTML: <*Rule*>The capitalization in ‘rule’ here is inconsistent, but fine for HTML<*/rule*>

This type of mixed capitalization works for HTML, but is considered incorrect XML.

example of correct XML: <*rule*>The capitalization in ‘rule’ here is the same in both the start and end tag<*/rule*>

HTML tags can be used in different orders (or nested improperly), but XML tags need to be used exactly symmetrically without overlapping (or nested properly).

example of correct HTML: <*b*><*i*>Go to the store, Jimmy!<*/b*><*/i*>

This is fine for HTML, but the <*i*> tags overlap with the <*b*> tags, so as HTML, the above markup fails.

example of correct XML: <*b*><*i*>Go to the store, Jimmy!<*/i*><*/b*>

HTML tags get rid of any white space purposely included in a document, whereas XML preserves all white space.

Original text: Don’t use HTML to do the following thing: preserve space

HTML version: Don’t use HTML to do the following thing: preserve space

XML version: Don’t use HTML to do the following thing: preserve space

In the above example, white space was intentionally included, which the HTML version is shown as incapable of preserving. The XML version is successful in this respect.

With these basic tenements of the syntax of XML and its differences from HTML under your belt, you should have a firm idea of how to create and use basic, valid XML.