When it comes to the way we interact online, things have changed drastically in the last few years. We have seen a migration from the phone to email, from email to instant messenger, and from instant messenger to server-based community groups such as Discord or Microsoft Teams. Likewise, we have seen many programs come and go such as Ventrilo, Teamspeak, Skype, and many others as better and more robust programs replace them.
These days, it seems that the options are limitless when it comes to professional conference calling, but what if you are looking for more than this? Microsoft Teams can offer additional features such as meeting scheduling, calendar integration, and group chats within your organization. You can also record meetings for later viewing and send it out to participants. Other programs such as Zoom offer a smoother calling experience, at the expense of many other features.
For grouping on a personal level, nothing beats Discord these days. The server customization options are nearly limitless, and for the low cost of $0 it is no wonder nothing even comes close in terms of competition. They even took a major step with the COVID-19 outbreak and expanded their server capacity to allow for up to 50 users to stream video at one time from a server - something even professional services could only dream of offering (and probably at a hefty cost). The UI is unmatched and very easy on the eyes - it is also fairly customizable.
Things will always evolve - I do still recall when Skype was king - it will be interesting to see where the future takes us with these communication platforms, but I am eager to see what emerges in the coming years.
Something I often see from websites as they go through the process of creation and then maintenance is that content often ends up stagnant or untouched for a long time after initial release.
Often there isn’t a reason seen by the owner to go back and make updates to certain pages as maybe the information never changes or the content is buried fairly deep in the website. Even for constant or more hidden pages such as these, not only do individuals notice when nothing changes after a while but so do the search engines such as Google.
Check Your Content Regularly
It can instead be a good idea to regularly go through your pages and make updates, even just for the sake of bringing an update to the page visually. People will take notice, and arguably more importantly, so will the search engines. It sends an indicator to them that your business is active, and this gives you a sort of priority over businesses deemed to be inactive due to either lack of updates or poor availability of information.
Update Some Visuals
There are easy ways to look at this – for example if you decide to make a striking visual change to a webpage, it will be considerably easier and less time consuming for you it mimic these updates on the rest of your pages, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel on a page by page basis. Consistency between your pages in terms of content design also helps give the website a much more professional appearance.
You can get creative with this too!
Make many different versions of a page and see what you might like best. You can even have special versions you put up for holidays or special sales to draw a little more attention and to really give the appearance of having an active web presence.
Over the last few years, I have noticed a large shift away from telephone use for almost any purpose – whether that be contacting loved ones personally or any type of business transaction, not only are more and more moving to online-only, but several also now include video chat or video calling for certain purposes. This has proven to be far more effective than the phone from my experience, and here is why.
A Face to Go with the Voice
With the telephone, there is only one mode of communication – your voice. Your tone, inflection, volume, and other factors which influence your voice are the only tools you have at your disposal to communicate with the person on the other end of the line. Whether as a sales person trying to make a meaningful connection to the potential client, or a support person trying to assist the person with an issue, being able to make use of body language, facial expression, and even the background environment of the video itself to help you in your purpose, the only question would be why would you not do this?
Give Your Customers Options
There is also a large aversion to the telephone with under-30’s in general, so you are missing out on a very large market share by focusing on telephone only sales or support. It is very important that you still allow telephone access for those older users whom may not be comfortable using video conferencing, video chatting, screensharing or other more modern means of communication – you don’t want to cut out the other half of the market either, depending on your product or service that is.
Communication for the Modern World
The technology on video calling has come to the point where connection speed and hardware are no longer a problem for the average user, so we are at a tipping point, and I expect the next 5 years we will see the complete death of the phone in business, similar to what we saw with the fax 10 years ago – replaced by email.
When you have a lot to say, it can be a challenge how to portray that information on your website sometimes in a way that is both informative and not overwhelming. The last thing you want is to have the information that the user is looking for available on your website, however not have them able to access/find the information.
There are a few key factors when it comes to targeting your readers to their purposes, and I am going to talk about those here.
Categorize and Organize
If you sell any product at all on your website, there are many ways you can target your readers. You can sort your products by category to allow users to browse at their leisure, or you can attach specific attributes to items and allow users to find them based on these. This is especially handy when paired with a search function – and don’t be shy when it comes to adding keywords and attributes! It takes time, but it really pays off in how much more flexible and usable the online store becomes with the correct connections made.
Make Information Easy to Access
Speaking of searchability, it is very important for your regular informational content to be easily accessible as well. This usually comes down to naming your pages in an informative way without going overboard with the description, as well as making sure your regular pages also come up in a search for information on the subject.
Be Short and Sweet
Lastly of course, making sure you are concise is important. Readers do not want to have to sift down through several layers of links to find something they are looking for, it needs to be as “Shallow” in the link tree as possible in order to maintain visibility to the average reader. It might be a different story if you were running a Wiki page, but for the average website you need to keep it concise.
It is probably said fairly often, but especially in a world where your work is going to be visible to the public and probably instantly – it is very important to check your work!
Always Back Up Your Work
In my role here at REM, I often see projects at many different stages of iteration including the ones that have long since left our nest here and with clients whom are maintaining their websites 100% themselves. With changes that are typically made within any CMS, there is almost always a “sandbox” type environment where a version or copy of the page can be created and moved there to be worked on, completely safe from the eyes of the public until it is ready to go. Within WebWiz@rd, this is called “cloning”. Always utilize this when possible, as it saves a mistake being released right away to clients of the website.
Preview the Page Before Going Live
Of course, once you have changes made to a page in the cloning environment, you are always going to want to preview the page to see how it will actually end up looking to the user. Remember, when testing the preview of the page it is important to test it in multiple screen sizes to ensure good user experience for all. You can always drag the corners of your browser window to replicate the effect of the responsiveness of the content.
Ask for Help and a Second Eye
Lastly, it is always a good idea to have someone else look over your work in a serious fashion for quality control. This is beyond asking a co-worker or friend for a quick once-over as you will most likely be greeted with “it’s just fine!” or “seems good to me!” Instead, if you have access to a professional editor or copywriter of some kind this can be a much more effective option.
With many of us having to adapt to new work environments with the recent pandemic, many of us have also had to adapt to new workflows and new processes for the familiar tasks we may be used to doing. I know for myself, I had initially thought how easy it would be work at home – I had another computer, bigger desk, I was in my own environment, it seemed like it could only be an improvement. In reality it doesn’t start out this way, but you can push yourself to get there!
Self Discipline from Distractions
First off, at home you are faced with all of your familiar distractions, as well as all the things you need to still get done around the house looking right at you. You need to have a much higher level of discipline and even be fairly well practiced at mental gymnastics to attempt to avoid thinking about the fact you are even in your own home until the evening. The temptation to get up and go empty that dishwasher might be high, but you must resist if it’s during an hour you normally wouldn’t even have access to your dishwasher. Getting absolutely everything in good shape the night before is the best tip for this, as there just won’t be anything to think about, but I recognize this can be impossible for many.
Decluttered and Organized Desk
At your desk, you need to clear away distractions and focus on what would improve the workflow – so you have a work laptop and now have the ability to hook up two more monitors at home? Great! Do this instead of using both your work and home computer simultaneously, as the disconnect between the two machines can actually end up causing fairly significant delays if you are attempting to use them to multitask or improve your workflow. I have personally been tempted to try and set up a VR workstation at home so that I would have access to unlimited screens, however I haven’t taken this on just yet!
Work Environment is Important
Now that you are home, you have full reign over your domain and can change your working environment however it would better suit you. Don’t be satisfied with that fluorescent kitchen light for your “office” – spruce up your working environment, the lighting, the ambience, everything you can think of is now at your control – manipulate it to psychologically put you in the best possible mood without relaxing you too much, and you will have a great productive day.
A question I am often asked by our clients is how best to select images to use on their website. This comes up both in design and during site maintenance, so I thought it would be best if I put together a blog post on the subject!
Open Source Photography
Depending on your business, it may or may not be easy for you to find available imagery to use online. For those lucky enough, you will find everything you need on the free stock photo websites. These sites do not charge anything for the use of their images as they are public domain, and you can often nab some quality images here. Some examples of these websites include Shutterstock and Pexels. You can also find video footage for stock banners on sites such as Coverr.
Royalty Free Stock Photos
If you are a more specialized business or images are harder to come by, you may need to go so far as paying for your stock images. The sites above may offer some paid options, but you can also use Adobe Stock and other paid options to locate rare and less used photos which are available for purchase.
Professional Custom Photography
If it comes down to needing a very specific image or brand specific images, there is no choice but to hire a photographer to get what you need. The nice thing about the modern age though, is that every smartphone has a camera capable of taking some high-quality photos in a pinch, and this can be especially handy for products and the like. Consider hiring a photographer or at least collecting your own images if you need to show something unique or special about your business.
If you have any other questions on how to choose your images, let us know and we would be happy to help out!
If you ask the average person today what web browser they use, I think most would tell you that they use Google Chrome. It is a powerful browser with direct ties to Google Services, giving the browser a lot of power under the hood. The Google team itself is also a massive force, so you know the browser has a lot of support behind it in terms of a workforce.
Along with this power, comes a great loss in privacy as well as quite a bit of social profiling being done on you in the background by 3rd parties. Google makes a lot of money off of you without you being aware of specifically what they are doing.
The Search for Alternatives
I spent a long time looking for alternatives, but there is always a pitfall if you stray from the Chrome platform. If you try and move towards non-Chromium browsers you start to run into compatibility issues on some websites. If you gravitate towards international browsers, you may be feeding your data into unknown or questionable sources. It took a long time, but I found a solution for myself. I want to be clear that this opinion is a personal experience and does not reflect the views of the REM team as a whole necessarily, this is a personal blog entry.
I was recommended to try Brave by a friend of mine on the basis that it has a native adblocker/tracker blocker, and is based on the Chromium platform. This means it was addressing my privacy concerns at the same time as not compromising to the compatibility issues I feared would occur by leaving the Chromium base platform. What I didn’t know was that it would also give me the option to view “non-invasive” ads for essentially money. The browser gives you the option to opt in to see up to 5 ads per hour in exchange for a small amount of money (I think my cell phone was paid $2.50 last month, so it is nominal). The thing is, I didn’t notice the ads and I didn’t see any other ads for the entire month. My browsing experience was flawless and I enjoyed ad-free YouTube and various other platforms without needing to use 3rd party addons to Chrome.
Encrypting Personal Data
In addition to this, Brave also automatically tries and upgrades non-secure http connections to https automatically. This can potentially help encrypt your data across server connections where it would otherwise be exposed. You can also outright block scripts right from the URL bar.
While not everyone will benefit from such a browser, especially in a more business-like setting where you may be required to see advertisements etc., or follow a company policy on browser – I personally would highly recommend this browser for home use to help protect your privacy, make a small payback on the ads that you do opt to see, and sacrifice absolutely no quality or functionality.
Today, it is becoming more and more common to see video of some type on pretty much every variety of website. If you aren’t using video as a form of media for your business and displaying it on your website, you may be feeling left out, but is video something that you need?
When we think of using video on our site to help promote our message or our product, it is important to keep in mind a few big factors. Your customer base size is going to have a tremendous impact on whether video media will be an effective use of your time and budget or not. Your client age group will be another large factor, as will the specific type of product you are selling.
There is something to be said about the propagation of video online, but this is something that needs a bit of a viewer base to take place under regular circumstances. If you are a very small business or just starting out, unless you need to demonstrate a specific product or way something works, video may be a waste of resources and not be seen by a large number of people. As your business grows, your customer base helps spread your media, so this becomes more important.
Target Audience Considerations
Your client age group may have an impact as well. Younger audiences tend to have a shorter attention towards longer video content; however, they do tend to appreciate video media in general – just try and keep it to 3 minutes or less in this case. For older audiences, they tend to like a lengthier video for explanation purposes, and have a bit of a longer attention span, so you can get away with 10-minute informational videos here.
Make It Eye-Catching, Informative and Fun!
Depending on your product, you may have a real need to showcase its use via video – in this case, try and have fun with it! You will want your video to be memorable and eye catching rather than just informational, so build this into the video content with some scripting.
If you have questions on whether video would be appropriate for your website, let us know and we can chat!
Unless you have been living under several rocks or perhaps a boulder, you are no doubt aware that the world is rapidly changing and we are all adapting to keeping a little more distance socially from each other. While this will no doubt cause massive lifestyle changes for many, it foreshadows the importance of web-driven business and shows that if you can adapt your business to exist in an online environment, it can weather storms such as COVID-19.
Sell Products and Offer Services Online
With storefronts closing, depending on your business you may be looking for a way to sell your product or service without needing individuals to visit the store. An eCommerce platform is an option for you if this is the case, and you can use this for both product and service. With a product, it tends to be fairly simple, while with a service you will also need to consider online scheduling services.
If you are selling a product, you can take all your products and pricing get them online and set up with a shipping provider to start selling things right away. The real beauty of the online storefront is that it offers no geographical restrictions. Where you may have previously been restricted to your city or surrounding area, the world is now your oyster.
If you are offering a service, you can list your prices and services out, and offer online booking through the website. This can take the burden of keeping your own schedule off your shoulders, as now your clients will book themselves into your available timeslots and you can always check what is on the agenda at any time. This can be a freedom that many do not think about before making the jump to eCommerce.
Here at REM, we can absolutely assist you with your eCommerce needs. Reach out to us today and we can help get you going!