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We've written some insightful, entertaining articles that span topics from support to design to content management and beyond!




This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Illustration depicting people working on building a website on a large laptop

 

Congratulations starting on your journey as a small business owner! As you navigate the waters and try to stop your head from spinning, we figured it would be a great time to get your feet wet on the steps to building a great website for your small business.

 

Here at REM Web Solutions, we provide you with everything you need to design, build, and support your website, we have compiled a list of services that we offer to help get you started and some key information to ensuring your website works best for you.

 


 

Icon depicting a desktop monitor with 'www' on it

 

Domain Name

Choosing a great domain name seems easier than you think, however it is critical that your domain name is easy to remember, is relative to your brand and company name and chosen with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind.

  1. Avoid special characters. Typically, your domain name shouldn’t have numbers or hyphens in it, word only domain names are easier to remember and have less chance of user error.

  2. Using the correct domain extension is also extremely important. You should always try to make your domain a .com unless it’s a .org, .gov, or .edu

  3. Less is best. Having a short and concise domain is easier to remember and far more user friendly. Remember, the odds of you using your domain for email addresses are high – which means less typing for those trying to reach you. When creating marketing material having your website’s domain name short will also allow you to design with less noise.

  4. Keep it simple by making it easy to spell without any slang or odd wording.

  5. When deciding what your domain should be, try to keep it nonspecific to your product or service. This gives you the opportunity to continue using it if your company decides to branch out with product/service offerings.

  6. Google it, once you come up with a domain, google it – this allows you to determine if there is a similar website based on the domain. You want to make sure your website and business stands out.

  7. Your domain should be SEO friendly, meaning it should include keywords and locations. A great example would be “kitchenercupcakes.com.”

 

 


 

Icon depicting a website server with a check mark next to it

 

Website Hosting and Support

When choosing the company that is going to host your website, it’s incredibly important to know what you’re paying for. When you’re purchasing your domain, you are effectively in a hosting contract with that specific company. If you build your website on their platform or another platform then you’re in a contract with that company. Separating your services could potentially cause you headache in the long run, you want to make sure that your hosting provider can support you all around.

 

At REM Web Solutions we provide you with everything that you need to get your business’ website up and running. I’ll break down the services for you:

 

Domain Management

What does domain management really entail? Well, in the first part of this post we talked about choosing your domain. Once you have chosen something you have to purchase it and register the domain with a Registrar. Most companies that offer domain management, have accounts with these registrars that allow them to register the domain on behalf of a client. At REM Web Solutions, we have accounts with two main registrars, we purchase domains for you, handle the renewals, act as the admin for you so you don’t have to worry about updating nameservers.

 

DNS Hosting

Once you have your domain chosen and registered, the next step is to have your hosting provider set up your DNS hosting. Having the same hosting provider host your DNS is one of the most important decisions you will make. In the event of your site not functioning properly, email not sending, etc., DNS investigation is typically your first plan of action. Your hosting provider should be more than capable to help you manage your DNS settings, and update them when required. At REM Web Solutions, DNS hosting is part of your package when you’re a client of ours and we’re available to you during our support hours to make sure any update required can be completed for you with ease.

 

Website Hosting

Having a reputable company host your website is imperative. When you’re shopping around for a company to do your website hosting, it’s beneficial to you to understand how your website is being hosted. For example, once you’ve built your site, are backups being made of your data in the event of downtime? How secure is your website on the company’s servers? In the event that you need to make fundamental changes to your website is the company ready to meet your needs and potential demands as you grow? Working with a hosting company who can provide you this type of information is imperative. Don’t be afraid to ask.

 

Support

Once you have clearly defined the hosting aspect of the company you’re doing business with, be sure to ask them about the amount of support that is available to you. Building/designing a new website is a challenging thing. There may be moments when you’re trying to change your website, or have it function in a specific way and you’re hitting roadblocks. Having a support team available to you is crucial, especially in the beginning. At REM Web Solutions, our support team is one that we are proud of, we are dedicated to the success of your business. Majority of people aren’t designers or developers, so having a team that’s willing to advocate for you is half the battle.

 

 


 

Icon depicting a pen on top of a web page

 

Content Management Systems

As defined by HubSpot, a content management system (CMS) is a software application that allows users to build and manage a website without having to code it from scratch or know how to code at all. For more detailed information on content management systems, I suggest reading this blog. When building your website for your small business it’s essential to choose one that works best for you. There are many different ones out there that are designed for different reasons – budget and user-friendly platforms are the first that come to mind. Here at REM, we have built our own custom content management system (WebWiz@rd) that is easy to use, adaptable and comes with a bunch of support to help you navigate it.

 

 


 

Icon depicting thumbs up and arrows pointing up

 

Create an Engaging Website

When designing and building your website you want to make sure that you drive engagement. You want viewers to have a positive impression when they visit your website. Make sure that your brand is clearly captured through the design of the website, this allows your messaging to be well received. In addition, not only should your website clearly describe your products and services, your graphics and fonts should be simple and easy to read. One thing to be cautious on is ensuring your graphics are optimized for fast loading; search engines decrease your ranking if they are slow.

 

Navigation and Pages

One of the things that makes your website easy to use for viewers and potential customers is having a clearly thought-out navigation. Designing a navigation that allows viewers to find information easily is crucial, your navigation should link to the most important pages on your website, which typically are:

  • Home

  • About Us

  • Products/Services

  • Management Team

  • Contact Us

  • Terms of Use

  • Site Maps

  • Privacy Policy

 

These pages can be linked in your header or footer navigation. If you have other pages that are important to your business, they should be added into your navigation as well. Our design and marketing teams at REM are here to help you create and design your navigation and pages to ensure that you’re creating the best content for your site. We’ll guide you on best practices to ensure your business is clearly and effectively presented to the rest of the world.

 

 


 

Icon depicting a web page in a gear cog

 

Maintenance

Once your site has been built, it is incredibly important that you create and add new content on a regular basis. Search engines give higher rankings to sites that are continuously updated. One of the best ways to achieve this is by blogging, other options include updating customer testimonials, creating a news section on your website and updating it with pertinent news about your products or services. When updating your website, you want to make sure that you’re still using design elements that are consistent with your brand.

 

 


 

In Conclusion

When building a website for your small business there are a lot of things to consider. Remember, the key is to have your website work for you. Your website acts as your resume to the rest of the world, potential, and existing clients. Your website should be a tool that you are using to generate business and a significant amount of thought should be put into the process. Bringing all of the pieces of your business together can be quite the daunting task, however, we’re here to help you.

 

If you’re not sure where to start or if you want to make changes to your website feel free to contact us!

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

3D Illustration of a computer with office and website-related icons around it

 

It’s been over a year of some businesses struggling to stay alive as a result of the pandemic. This year has taught us how to restructure our teams, building work from home infrastructures, taking every precaution in the book for essential workers that are required to physically be around each other. This year has truly taken a toll on our businesses, unfortunately some were forced to close their doors, but many were able to adapt, and with the inevitable changes that we face moving forward we see new opportunities and new businesses rising from the ashes of COVID-19.

 

As we continue to soldier forward, now more than ever is the perfect time to re-evaluate your business’ online presence. Do you have one? Do you have social media accounts? If you do, are you easy to find? Are you attractive to your target audience? Are you reaching your target audience? These are a lot of questions I know, but having an online presence is the most important thing you can do for your business today and it’s extremely important to make sure you’re doing it right.

 

Websites

I know this sounds strange, since most companies do have websites, but it’s something that we need to bring up, having an updated website is incredibly important these days. Here are a few questions I suggest you ask yourself in regards to your website:

  1. When was the last time you did a redesign on your website?

  2. Is the information that you have on it accurate with the services and products that you have to offer?

  3. Is your site responsive – meaning does your site automatically change based on the device it’s being used on?

  4. Is your contact information up to date?

  5. Do you have links to your active social media accounts on your website?

  6. How are you ranking in terms of Search Engine Optimization?

  7. Is your website AODA compliant? Should it be?

  8. How are you informing your clients of changes on how you do business?

These are all very important questions that you need to be asking about your website, and if you don’t have a website yet, these are most definitely questions that you want to ask when designing your new website.

 

Search Engine Optimization

This is one of the most common questions that we are asked about from our clients and prospective clients: “How do I get my website to show up on Google’s first page?” Search engine ranking is one of the most sought-after results and there are things you can do on your website to help increase your ranking such as having a responsive website, blogging, redesigning your content to ensure you have proper heading structures in place, and optimizing images that you have on your website. If you’re looking to boost your ranking, give us a shout – we’re here to help!

 

Social Media Marketing

The concept of social media marketing for businesses has really taken off over the past year. Businesses have turned to social media applications such as Instagram and TikTok to attract potential clients and highlight their products and services. Are you making the most of these applications to help generate business?

 

eCommerce

In a previous blog we touched on some of the eCommerce tools that we have available to you, with the increase of curbside pickup methods, businesses are now required to offer their products available to purchase online and picked up at a specified date and time. We have built solutions to help businesses meet the needs of their customers – allowing them to browse online, request quotes, and make purchases. This functionality has almost become an absolute requirement for the survival of businesses.

 

In conclusion the reality of face-to-face interactions is dwindling and it’s incredibly important that the world can find you online, not only should they be able to find you, but they should be able to KNOW you based on your website, social media, SEO and eCommerce platforms. Having a well-rounded online presence will directly increase your sales and we’re here to help you make sure you’re well prepared to tackle the new normal of business. Aside from our tools, our team is here to support you throughout your journey, make educated recommendations, provide you with industry knowledge to help increase your profits and guide you through your marketing efforts.

 

If you’re an existing client and are looking for suggestions on ways that you can improve your online presence, or if you’re a new business looking for some guidance feel free to reach out to us at support@remwebsolutions.com. We want to help you be the best you can be!

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Woman using a laptop with the Webwizard login in the screen

 

Now that I have a few training sessions under my belt upon my return to REM, I’d like to share my experiences with you as a trainer, and as a fellow student. Once we have designed, built, tested and reviewed your website, we typically reach out and schedule a training session with you. Pre-pandemic, we would invite you into our awesome office and hangout in the boardroom. Nowadays, we’re inviting you into our homes and conducting training sessions virtually.

 

Depending on the site we’ve built for you, sometimes we split your training sessions into two parts, one 1.5-hour session for our standard modules and a secondary session for anything custom on your site, for example – eCommerce. As a student, I know first-hand that there is a lot of information provided to you, and it really is difficult to absorb new material. As a trainer I know the majority of what is presented to you in the training session doesn’t quite resonate until you’ve had a chance to play with the tools. 

 

Here are some tips to help you through the training session:

 

Taking notes is NOT essential

I know this is slightly breaking every rule when it comes to learning. However, we have compiled training documents for you and will send them after the session is complete for your reference. I honestly believe, you will get more out of the training session if you’re focused on how to navigate our tools.

 

Ask questions

Our trainers won’t get upset if you interrupt us. I promise. If you’re unclear of how something works based on the way we’ve presented it to you, ask us to clarify or explain it in a different way. Remember, we want you to succeed.

 

Provide us with hypotheticals

Our trainers do our best to understand your business, however we are limited, during your training sessions, give us examples of the results you want to achieve and we’ll show you how.

 

Once your training session is over, you’ve received the training documents go into WebWiz@rd and update your content, make changes and get a feel for how it works. Remember, that’s not the end of the road for your learning either.

 

If you’re trying to change something and you’re stuck email us at support@remwebsolutions.com – we’re here to help.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Illustration of multiple devices with online shopping graphics

 

I have to admit, I’ve never been one to shop online. I was stuck in the mindset of only making purchases if I could touch a product. With the onset of COVID-19, I was forced to surrender myself to the world of online shopping. Let’s just say I may never return to a shopping mall again.

 

The year of 2020 brought us all challenges, it also brought us new experiences and the way we do things has forever changed. My online shopping addiction holds a strong case for business owners that are selling tangible products – it’s time to look at your options.

 

Of course, there are many platforms that exist that can give you an online marketplace, however they do come at a cost. Some of them charge transactional fees, some require you to pay a monthly subscription and you will often find yourself waiting for assistance on a support line when something goes wrong.

 

If you haven’t guessed yet, this is my shameless plug for our WebWiz@rd eCommerce Module. It really is a behemoth of a platform and allows you showcase your products, limit your transaction fees (we don’t believe in dipping into your hard-earned profits), and feel confident that you are in full control of the products you want to sell and how you want to present them to the world.

 

Here are a few reasons as to why I personally enjoy working with our clients who use our eCommerce module:

 

It looks great

When we design the look and feel of your eCommerce pages, we ensure it’s cohesive with the design of your website. Most online marketplaces offer you template looks and colours, with our eCommerce module we deliberately design and build it to give your customers a pleasant visual experience that keeps them searching through your products.

 

It’s easy

Yes, you can have complicated product offerings, however we have done our best to build you a tool that makes complicated, easy. Not only are we here to train and guide you on how to showcase and organize your products, we’re also here to support you throughout your journey of selling online. When you hit a roadblock, we’ve got your back!

 

It’s customizable

Not only is the design custom to the look of your website, our developers are able to tweak the module to ensure that it fits your needs. We’re aware that each business has different needs, especially right now and our team will work tirelessly to ensure that we provide you with the tools that you need to succeed.

 

If you like what you’ve read about our eCommerce module, feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to have a conversation about what you need to flourish!

 

This is a headshot of Christine Votruba.

Laptop top-view with January 2021 calendar deadline on it

 

Did You Know:

 

Businesses & non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees should have made their website and web content accessible by January 1st, 2021?

 

It’s not too late! Make your website AODA compliant.

 

Visit aodawebsites.ca

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Home office setup with a glitchy effect

 

It’s been quite some time now that most of our team has been working from home, we miss each other and our awesome office. 

 

One of the most important things when working remotely is having a dedicated workspace to stay engaged and ready for action. A well-armed, personalized, organized, ergonomic home office makes all the difference when battling one’s foes, also known as daily tasks and routine. For most of us who are nerds and/or gamers, we wanted to show off our sweet setups, complete with multiple monitors, LED lights and peripheral equipment/devices. There are some perks to working at home for me – I get to snuggle with my dog on my breaks and make really good lunches!

 

We decided that it would be great to share what our at home “battle stations” look like and give you a few ideas for yours!

 

 

Sean S.'s home office setup

Sean Sanderson

 

Christine's home office setup

Christine Votruba

 

Sean L.'s home office setup

Sean Legge

 

Sean M.'s home office setup

Sean McParland

 

Ryan's home office setup

Ryan Covert

 

Rob's home office setup

Rob Matlow

 

Todd's home office setup

Todd Hannigan

 

Matt's home office setup

Matt Stern

 

Shauna's home office setup

Shauna Ramsaroop

 

 

 

For more tips on how to create a great workspace, check out this blog post: “A Streamlined Work Environment

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Laptop, tablet and phone on a table showing REM's home page.

 

A great home page layout makes the web page more interesting to look at because the viewer’s eyes will want to dance around in the page. It’s definitely easy to get lost on a home page and we want your viewers to enjoy the experience.

 

Just Breathe

People underestimate how important it is to give your layout white-space. By giving your users/viewers time to digest each section while clearly separating them at the same time, allows them to really take it all in; here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • White-space emphasizes how impressive a photo is and gives it intrigue.
  • Use the right amount of white-space:
    • Too much: the user will have to scroll through or “get stuck at” empty space.
    • Too little: the user might start feeling claustrophobic if things are squished together.
  • Our website as an example, the Home Banner:
    • On the left-side is a big photo that showcases one of our clients’ website on a laptop, smartphone and tablet. There’s a good amount of space between it and REM’s logo. Never over-crowd logos, they need space all around!
    • Notice how the white space makes it really easy to read the headline, which is the 1st heading.

 

Layouts

Make your layouts dynamic, symmetrical and appropriately proportional. This will show that you as a company are structured, organized and thoughtful. Your layout will determine the home page’s information hierarchy. Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • Vary your layout throughout; use columns to put multiple items in a row.
  • Use a grid. In our website’s case (and in most of our clients’ website’s case), the grid is based on 12 columns. Notice how we use 3 columns in some areas such as the buttons below the banner, the featured portfolio and the blog teaser.
  • Maximize the use of your browser’s/device’s screen size, while still having proper white-space. Using our website as the example, notice how the angled grey background, large photos and Google Map take up the full width of the browser.

 

Headings

We often talk about headings, especially when it comes to having AODA compliant websites. On the home page, it keeps your viewers engaged and when sized correctly the end result is a sequential experience that your viewers will subtly perceive. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Heading 1: biggest, stands out and as I’ve mentioned, the very first thing at the top that clearly states what we provide: web design and development. Important and useful for SEO.
  • Use the correct sequence for SEO and AODA purposes (For more information, read this blog post about “AODA – Colour Contrast and Headings”)
  • Headings in a home page are very useful for separating sections.

 

For our website, the headings start off the following areas:

  • “We Provide Web Design & Development” introduces the website and attracts, using big imagery.
  • “We build exceptional websites…” some vital text for SEO and to give users more of an idea of who we are, who we serve and what we do.
  • “Some of our Featured Work” with highlighted projects.
  • “Blog” teasers of our blog posts.

 

As you can see in our three-part series there is a lot that goes into designing your home page – it’s the most important page and we truly want to make sure that we support you and guide you through the process. It is a lot to stay on top of, and our designers are here to help organize and guide you through the process.

 

We want you to succeed; we sincerely love it when you do! So, if you’re looking to change up your existing website or looking to design a new one, feel free to reach out to us! We’re here to help.

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Mockup of tablet and smartphone showing off REM's home page

 

Now that we have gone over the foundational aspects of a home page, we can dabble a bit into Branding. Your lead Graphic Designer will help you establish the overall look and feel during the design process. It’s the most fun part in my opinion because this is where you truly get to express who you are through emotions that your viewers feel when they view your home page! When we talk about look and feel we are referring to the colours and fonts – one key thing to remember is consistency.

 

Colour Us Simple

Using our website as the example, our primary colours are orange and dark grey. There are shades of much lighter grey throughout to complement the imagery and the primary colours. Notice that orange is used sparingly as it’s a very strong, prominent colour which naturally draws the eye. Hence, it’s only used for important elements such as action buttons that we really want users to click on and to highlight certain headings. The colours are not only on-point with branding, but they’re also AODA compliant.

 

It Feels Like Home

“Feel” aka overall tone is something you do not want to miss when it comes to your home page. It’s important to think about what you are trying to convey. Is your company approachable, friendly, laid-back, corporate, luxurious, natural, etc.? As our website as the example, we convey that:

  • We’re technologically savvy by showing current devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet, monitor). And our website is responsive and looks great on every browser/device.
  • We’re fresh and creative using modern fonts, angled backgrounds and shapes. Our creativity is also shown in the work we’ve done for our clients.
  • We’re reputable; our portfolio shows we’ve worked with well-known companies.

 

Although it sounds quite simple, determining the look and feel for your website and home page is a lot harder than it sounds. Our designers are here to help guide you through the process. As we build our relationship with you throughout the process, we’ll be sure to nail it down.

 

If you’re thinking it may be time for a refresh let us know; we would be happy to give you some ideas!

 

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This is a headshot of Shauna Ramsaroop.

Mockup of a desktop and laptop computers showing REM's home page.

 

Now that you’re part of our REM Team and as you navigate the process, we figured we’d put together a little guide to help you and your designer create a great website together. Over the next few posts, we’ll walk you through things to keep in mind while collaborating with your designer – also useful when updating any content on your own.

 

Purpose

It’s easy to forget when designing your home page to think about what the intent is of your home page. The key word that comes to my mind is engagement. We want to attract the user/viewer to dig deeper into your website. Your home page should ignite excitement and curiosity so that your audience feels encouraged to read and investigate further in regards to who and what your company represents and what services and/or products you offer.

 

Show Off a Little

Your home page is also the spot to impress your potential and current customers, you’ve done incredible work, you have fantastic products so provide some teasers that captivate customers (even existing ones). You’ll notice on the REM Web Solutions home page, we have a “Featured Work” section and this allows us to not only showcase our talent, but help our customers build a vision of what they can get!

 

Manage Expectations

Now that you have provided some teasers of work or products that you carry, you have already established what your customers or potential customers can expect from you. They should know exactly what you do or what you sell right away – even if they have not visited any other page. This is a great way to highlight your professionalism as a business that offers impeccable services or high-quality products as well as provide potential customers with insight on what they can expect while conducting business with you.

 

“All Aboard!”

Your home page should always have key “call-to-actions”; think buttons and callout sections that get your users to go to internal pages and encourage them to do something like contact you (email, phone, visit your office/store, etc.) You want them to browse and learn more about your services or products and book time with you. Your home page is a great way to summarize what you do and help promote further engagement into your website.

 

If you’re still unsure about how to do this, talk to your lead designer or give us a call!

 

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This is a headshot of Rob Matlow.

large AODA lettering with info for a free webinar

 

Join us on Thursday, November 19th at 9:30am for our free, AODA webinar!

 

Our AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) certified Graphic Designers: Sean Sanderson and Christine Votruba have put together an engaging webinar that explains what it is, how it affects your business and its design factors with resources to help make your website complaint.

 

Hosted by The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, the virtual event will be held through Zoom; please register in advance so that we can send you the link and details prior to the event.

 

To register visit The Chamber’s event page.

 

Stay tuned for future webinar dates! For more information visit aodawebsites.ca.

 

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Contributors

Shauna Ramsaroop
63
July 27, 2021
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Rob Matlow
105
June 30, 2021
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Christine Votruba
28
January 15, 2021
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Ryan Covert
48
July 26, 2019
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Sean Sanderson
63
July 23, 2019
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Matt Stern
4
July 16, 2019
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Sean Legge
1
June 28, 2019
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Sean McParland
17
June 28, 2019
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Todd Hannigan
47
November 13, 2018
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