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5 Tips to Help Your Website Load Faster

When it comes to your website, you must consider more than just design. There are some factors that determine whether or not your site visitors will stay to explore or leave without so much as a goodbye. One thing that can make or break your website’s success is the amount of time it takes for your pages to load. After all, web surfers are a finicky bunch; they lose interest quickly if they can’t move around your site quickly and efficiently. So, what steps can you take to prevent page load lag? Here are five tips to help your website load faster:

Cut out unnecessary coding

Bulky coding slows downloading speed because browsers must read through everything as they load your pages. Therefore, just going through your coding to eliminate unnecessary white space and tag elements can reduce the amount of time it takes for your pages to load.

Enable caching

PHP caching will store images and other vital information from your site on visitors’ computers when it is downloaded the first time so that your site visitors can subsequently retrieve that data in the blink of an eye.

Trim your images down

Graphics take much longer to load than text, so you should be strategic about your use of them. There are a few things you can do to trim down your images. First, assess the images you are using to determine which are necessary, and then keep only those. Second, scale the images down if you can (as smaller images will load faster than larger images). Third, if you have a page with many images (an online catalog page, for example), then you can give each image its own page instead of including all of the images on one, slow-loading page.

Optimize your database

There are numerous ways you can optimize your database to decrease your site’s load times. Simple search the web for “database optimization” to learn the details of how to get optimal performance out of your site by optimizing your database.

Find a new host

Believe it or not, the distance you are from your host affects how quickly your site loads. You can decrease your page load time by simply choosing a host that is nearby.

Additionally, some of the cheaper hosting companies use cheap equipment. This can significantly delay your site load. Consider upgrading.

When it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools. Make sure you get the best of the best by contacting the experienced professionals at identityXperts. to handle all of your web design needs. We can be reached by phone, at (239) 400-0622, or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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Why Navigation is So Important in Your Website Design

Any good web designer knows that there are specific aspects of web design that cannot be overlooked. One of the most important elements of website design is navigation. Navigation is just what it sounds like – how someone gets around on your website. If your site is lacking in effective navigation, it is not going to work for your business the way you need it to. Here are some reasons for why navigation is so important in your website design:

Navigation

People can enter your site from a number of different pages.

Some people make the mistake of designing their website entirely around the home page. However, it is important to remember that a multitude of your site’s pages may be ranked simultaneously by search engines. This means that people will be able to access your site from pages other than your homepage. Without good navigation, visitors could get stuck on a page and not be able to move on to explore more of your site.

You don’t want to put your site visitors to work.

Simply put, they don’t want to have to put in a bunch of work just to be able to explore your site. A bad navigation network can mean multiple clicks (and guesses) to get to the desired information. If you force your visitors to put in too much effort when it comes to moving through your site and finding what they want, then you will lose their interest. And you will lose them.

Your site should be well-organized.

Again, this comes down to helping your site visitors find what they need, with as little effort as possible. You can’t expect people to automatically understand how your site is organized and where they should click to get where they want to go. Navigation is your way of organizing your site. For example, by making good use of primary navigation, secondary navigation, menus, and internal linking, you can create a user experience that is likely to keep people interested, and loyal, to your site.

If they can’t find it, they can’t read it.

You put a lot of money and time into creating, aggregating, and commissioning content for your site. Simply put, if your website is not effectively designed with navigation in mind, your visitors won’t be able to find your content. If they can’t find it, they can’t read it . . . So what good is that content?

Don’t skimp when it comes to building your brand. Contact the experienced professionals at identityXperts to handle all of your logo and web design needs. We can be reached by phone, at (239) 400-0622, or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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Design Essentials for Websites: 5 Must-Haves

When people think of web design, they often think of things like graphics, page layout, and attention-grabbing fonts. And yes these elements are certainly part of web design. The truth is, however, that web design essentials encompass much more than just aesthetics. Are you interested in learning more about what makes a great website design? Then check out these five must-have website design essentials:

Navigation.

This pertains to how people will get around on your site. You can’t make them work for it. You want all of your content to be readily available and good navigation is the answer. Use primary navigation, secondary navigation, text menus, internal links, search boxes and breadcrumbs wisely. Do this throughout your site to ensure your site visitors can easily find what they are looking for.

Leading the eye

In addition to navigating through the site, you must also help visitors determine how to focus their attention on each page. You must “lead the eye,” so to speak, by strategically applying weighting, placement, positioning, spacing, and highlighting techniques to guide your visitors from areas of primary importance to supporting, or secondary, areas.

Typography

The type and size of font you use will greatly impact the user experience, and will go a long way in creating the impression you want (or even one you don’t want, if you are not careful). Additionally, you must consider line spacing, text effects, line length, paragraph size, and emphasis (italics and bold) when placing your typography.

Clarity

While it may be tempting to pack your website with all the neat graphics and informative content you can, it is more important that your site visitors can easily ascertain what is on your page. Keep in mind that simplicity is almost always preferable over complexity when it comes to web design, and that too many visuals (and/or too much information) could end up looking like nothing more than a jumbled mess to your site visitors.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Your site is no good if others can’t find it on the web. When it comes to design essentials, good SEO practices include using alt text for images, no-following outbound links that are irrelevant to the site, and labeling page titles and headers effectively.

Don’t skimp when it comes to building your brand. Contact the experienced professionals at identityXperts to handle all of your logo and web design needs. We can be reached by phone, at (239) 400-0622, or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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How a Good Website Design Creates a Great Impression

It goes without saying that your business needs a strong web presence to be successful in the Age of Information and that your website is integral to your web presence. However, do you realize the importance of good web design, when it comes to your business brand? That’s right – it’s not just enough to have an aesthetically pleasing site with good content. Good design is more complex than that, and it can mean the difference between having an effective or ineffective website. Want to know why design is so important? Here is how a good website design creates a great impression:

Professionalism

When you take shortcuts, it shows. Don’t make the mistake of taking shortcuts with your web design. Sure, your teenage cousin knows a thing or two about creating websites, but unless he can create a top-notch, professional-looking site for your business, your site is just going to look amateurish, and your site visitors will get the impression that you are an amateur. Spring for a good website design.

Navigation

Good design is centered on creating an effortless experience for your site visitors. You don’t want people to have to work or make guesses to find their way around your site. By providing them with straightforward, simple, and well-organized site navigation, you are not only giving your visitors the impression that you care about catering to them, but you are also ensuring they can find (and read!) all of the valuable content you have on your site.

Branding

Your website design should be in line with your business branding in every way – from the colors to the fonts. That means that good web design, with your brand in mind, will elevate your brand and increase brand awareness, thereby creating a lasting impression for your visitors.

Attention grabbing

You have a very limited window of time in which to grab new site visitors’ attention and pique their interest enough to want to stay and explore for a while. As a matter of fact, studies show that a first impression in the web world may take as little a fraction of a second to form. Good web design will snag your site visitors and enable you more time to get your message through to them. In a world where first impressions are so vital, you can’t afford not to invest in good design.

Don’t skimp when it comes to building your brand. Contact the experienced professionals at identityXperts.com to handle all of your logo and web design needs. We can be reached by phone, at (239) 400-0622, or email: jelcik@identityXperts.com.

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What You Should Know Before You Hire a Website Designer

These days, it’s not enough to have a business website. Your website must be designed in a way to attract attention, keep attention, convert visitors into customers, and inspire them to visit again. Web design is much more than just aesthetics. It is actually a complex undertaking that requires a good deal of specialized knowledge, and if your website is not professionally designed, chances are it is not working for you to its fullest capacity. So, who do you entrust your website design to, and how do you know you’re making the right decisions? Here is a guide to what you should know before you hire a website designer:

You should be the owner of your domain name. Some web designers take advantage of customers who know little about how websites work by purchasing the domain names themselves and then charging a fee for their use. They may even hold the site hostage by increasing their rates and forcing you to pay (or else lose your domain name). Purchase your domain name BEFORE you hire a designer, and then have the designer create a site for the domain name.

Know what you want. Your web designer can help bring your vision to fruition . . . but you must at least have a vision. What do you need out of your site? For example, will you be maintaining a blog, creating an online catalog, using a virtual shopping cart, or hosting a forum? These are things you need to know about your site before you commission someone to create it.

Experience equals reliability. There are many fly-by-night web designers who do their work as a hobby or side job. While they may be able to create great-looking and functional websites, you can’t necessarily count on them to stay in the business. That means you could end up with a website and no back-end support for when you decide you need to make changes to it. Hire a designer who has a time-proven reputation, and who is most likely to stick with your website for the long haul.

What you can expect to spend. Depending on your needs, the cost of web design can vary greatly. Therefore, it pays to interview a number of web designers before settling on one. Give a detailed list of your wants and needs, and get the specifics of what each is including in the bid, in order to weigh each estimate out and make the best choice.

Don’t skimp when it comes to building your brand.

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3 Tips to Give Your Website the “Cool” Factor

These days, it’s not enough just to have a well-designed, easy to navigate website. There’s a lot of competition out there, and if you want to stay relevant with today’s finicky tech-based consumer market, you must find a way to stand out from the crowd. Fortunately, if you are committed to broadening your web horizons and packing a real punch with your business website, there are some things you can do to give yourself an edge. Here are three tips to Give Your Website the “Cool” Factor:

A – Z index

Navigation is arguably one of the most important factors influencing your site’s success, and for that reason, you should always be on the lookout for cool new navigation features you can add to your site. One such feature that is really catching on when it comes to site navigation is the A – Z index, which is exactly what it sounds like: a way for your visitors to easily find things on your site simply by clicking the corresponding letter of the alphabet (or number).

Image galleries

Gone are the days when simple graphics could attract major attention and cause some audience “oohs and ahs.” Now there are a number of sleek ways you can incorporate a variety of images into a single web page in order to get the most bang for your buck. Consider a sliding image gallery that allows users to view new images by simply clicking a left or right (or up or down) arrow, or a neat tiled image gallery with a hover-box preview feature that allows users to simply hover over any single image to enlarge it. A variety of image galleries can be inserted into your site via a CSS stylesheet, or by way of plug-ins (if you use a site-building platform like WordPress).

Alert box

As previously mentioned, navigation is tantamount to the success of any website. One way you can help your visitors navigate through the information on your pages is to organize your content so that the order of importance is very clear. An alert box is a cool, eye-pleasing way to draw a visitor’s attention to content that is most pertinent.

When it comes to building your brand, your website is one of your most powerful tools.

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Fonts as a Design Element for Websites, Part 1

Choosing your font

Fonts like images, beautiful colors and a user-friendly navigation are a design choice. A font can either enhance or detract from the theme and feeling of your web design. Successful web designers understand this and know or learn which typefaces are most effective. The rules in the web environment are anything but arbitrary so they need to be followed if a website is to engage the reader rather than turn them away.
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There are a lot of fonts out there, so many that choosing a font for your website can be overwhelming. The choice is important however. Certainly you want people to read the useful content provided on your site. The intricate details of a font, such as weight, kerning, axes, strokes, and counters affect how we read, although we are rarely conscious of it. The font that you choose could determine how much text is read and how effective your site is.

Yes, there are thousands of fonts from which to choose but only a few are successful on the web. Readability and availability are the issue. First, consider the difference between two popular font types: serif and sans serif.

Serif or sans serif

Serif fonts are fonts that have fine cross lines at the ends of the letters. Because the lines make each character more distinctive, serif text is typically easier to read in print, but generally harder to read on a monitor, particularly at smaller sizes. Serif fonts have been used for centuries in printed books, magazines and newspapers. Consider a serif font for your website if you wish to convey qualities like warm, personal, artistic, distinguished, traditional, conservative or intellectual. Serif fonts are effective as headings or for text and documents intended to be downloaded and printed. The most common serif font is Times New Roman and just happens to be the default for most windows-based browsers.

Sans means ‘without’ in French, so naturally a sans-serif font doesn’t have the embellishments at the end of each stroke. Sans serif fonts are generally thought to be better for the web. This was particularly true when computer screens didn’t have a high enough resolution to capture the fine details of the serifs. They could appear blurred and unclear. Even today, on a screen, sans serif fonts appear more readable. Sans serif fonts convey qualities like technical, cool, clean, crisp, youthful, modern or uncluttered. The most popular web font at the moment seems to be Verdana. It is a sans serif font and looks good on both PCs and Macs. Because of this, it is one of the most popular, widely-used fonts on the web.

Availability constrained by technology

Some fonts look better on PCs (such as Arial), while others are best viewed on Macs (like Helvetica and Geneva). The range of fonts that webmasters can reliably select for their pages are not as wide as you may think. Evan more limiting than avoiding Serif fonts (perhaps less of a requirement with today’s hardware) web designers have long been limited by what fonts website users have installed on their computers.

The list of universally available fonts is slowly growing, with additional fonts such as Cambria and Candara coming into the picture. In an ideal world, all fonts would be loaded onto all systems to open up design possibilities. Until then, conventional wisdom suggests that you use Web safe fonts from the following list.

Serif
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  • Times New Roman/ Times
  • Georgia

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San Serif
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  • Arial Black
  • Arial/Helvectica
  • Comic Sans
  • Tahoma
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana

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Monospace
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  • Courier New/ Courier

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By selecting one or more of these fonts for your web site, you will be able to somewhat control how your text will appear in most browsers. Using Cascading Style Sheets, which is the underlying technology used by a web page to control its appearance, web designers can specify a list of fonts to be used. In CSS your font-family code might look something like:

p{font-family: verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif}

The first three fonts are pretty common and chances are most computers will have at least one installed; but in case one doesn’t you provide the computers generic sans-serif font for the browser to use.

Technology advances

Google Web fonts are amazing free resource for web designers as seen at the LearnWebDevelopment and Fox News sites. A web with web fonts is more beautiful, readable, accessible and open. This is a newer approach that makes it quick and easy for everyone to use a broader selection of web fonts, over 500 font families and counting. Google’s API service makes it easy to add Web fonts to a website in seconds. The service runs on Google’s servers which are fast, reliable and tested. Google provides this service free of charge. [Author’s note: To learn how to add Google Web fonts in WordPress themes the right way, optimized for performance go to http://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-themes/how-add-google-web-fonts-wordpress-themes/.]

Breaking the rules

Occasionally, there will be times when the “artist” in us desires to break the design rules. Thus, if you absolutely want to ensure your text displays in a specific font you will need to make that text an image. Just be aware that if you want to make any changes to the content at all, you’re going to have to edit the image itself, which is much more tedious than going in and editing text. This should be done sparingly as search engines won’t recognize the text in the image. Using images for your text will also increase the download time of your pages. However, there are places where it’s appropriate to use an image to display text. A good example would be your company logo.

Remember you are the designer

While fonts may not seem as important a design element as color and graphics, thoughtful consideration should go into your selections. The fonts will convey important information about your company, products and services. They will help visitors successfully navigate your site and interact with you. Most important, the right fonts will contribute to your site’s overall visitor experience. If it’s positive, your content is read and you have made the right choices.

Dr. John Elcik is the Pragmatic Web Designer. He is passionate about the application of web technologies to marketing communication issues. His specialties include: web design, social media and customer relationship management technologies. His search for the “right” font has been a pragmatic one. It has never been about looking for something unique and distinctive that expresses his particular aesthetic taste. Rather, “appropriateness” is the acid test that guides his choice of font. His favorite fonts are: Takoma, among the san serif faces for body text and Georgia, among the serif faces for headings. Typefaces that have a number of weights (light, regular, bold, etc.) and/or cuts (italic, condensed, etc.) work are good choices to become your personal “workhorse.”

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Recommendations for a Great Web Designer

Social Media
If you’re in search of a great web designer, you may want to skip Elance and go directly to Twitter, do not pass go. Finding recommended vendors and freelancers for your business may be as easy as asking the hundreds of folks in your social media network who they recommend. Here’s a breakdown of ways to find trusted contractors, by social media outlet:

LinkedIn

One of the most powerful elements of LinkedIn is the “recommendations” feature. You can write, read, and request recommendations from others in your network. It may take a little legwork, but you can use this feature to find a great copywriter, and read what others have to say about him or her. Think of it as a Yelp for people.

Twitter

While you’re missing out on the depth of information available on LinkedIn, you can get instantaneous responses. For instance, tweet “Looking for a great online bookkeeper” and you should get a bunch of responses within minutes. Give more weight to those that come from inside your network, though, as often a request for referrals will generate automated responses from a spammer. It looks like it comes from one of your friends, but is actually just an ad.

Facebook

You can post requests for referrals, just like on Twitter, and you can also search for people with those keywords in their profiles. Beware, though; just because someone is listed as “Penelope Bookkeeper” doesn’t mean they’re an expert. You could also post your request in groups that are associated with the topic (post a request for a logo designer on a graphic artists’ Facebook group wall, for example).

YouTube

It might seem a little strange to put out a call for resources via video, but why not? Especially if you have a significant following, you could get a tremendous response. Added benefit: If the project you have in mind has a visual aspect, you can demonstrate it right on the video (think office organization, website overhaul, kitchenette remodel).
 
Even if fourteen people recommend the same web designer, make sure to do your due diligence. Get a written quote and scope of work, ask for a list of projects completed, and confirm that that person will be doing your project personally, not outsourcing to another. With these tips in mind, you should be able to find great outsourcing resources at the click of a mouse.

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3 Website Design Elements That You Should Avoid

Pragmatic offers website design, graphic design, website hosting and search engine optimization
When you design a website, your most important goal is to make it as easy as possible for visitors to use while still providing a welcoming aspect that represents what your business is about. No matter how wonderful your product or service might be, your website has to present it well or you won’t be making any sales; instead, your visitors will be clicking the back button.

Now, when we talk about good website design, we aren’t talking only about the art or graphic design. There are many components that must be taken into account; accessibility for the user, the layout and interface design, and of course, the graphic design. Each of these contributes to an overall well-thought out website design.

In order to help you out, we’ve made a list of a few of the worst features that come up in web design. After you read this list, you can check out your own site and see how it compares; if you notice any of these features on your website, perhaps it’s time to revamp your design.

Background music

Too many sites seem to want to provide a soundtrack with looping background music. Frankly, we really only recommend it for websites that are promoting a band or other music related product. While having a little tune playing under your site might seem fun at first, it can be a real annoyance to a website visitor who is trying to browse your site – every time they click over to another page, the music starts all over again. Many visitors will either turn down their volume – or worse, click away from your site. What’s more, visitor’s with a slow internet connection have to wait for the music to download when they visit, slowing down their ability to browse your site.

Text that’s too big or too small

Like we mentioned, there’s much more to the design than simply the graphics – user friendliness is a big part of what makes your website work. And a part of that is the text size; text needs to be large enough to be legible but not so large that it makes it hard to read. Another thing along the same lines is the text color – make sure that there’s enough contrast between the text and the background that it can be read without straining.

Popup windows

Many surveys have found that popup ads or windows are one of the top annoyances on the internet; most people simply ignore them, or immediately click the back button rather than deal with them. In fact, most people have put popup “blockers” on their computer so that they rarely have to see the things. So not only are they annoying to the people who do see them, whatever message you’re using them to convey is not being seen by many people who come to your site. If that message is important, it’s most likely getting lost; you need to find a better way to get it in front of your visitors.

Remember that as a webmaster or site designer, your main concern is making sure that your site conveys your message to your visitors effectively. Take a good look at your site to be sure that your message isn’t being lost or ignored because of a relatively minor design flaw!

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My Web Design Success with LearnWebDevelopment.com

Pragmatic offers website design, graphic design, website hosting and search engine optimization

The Pragmatic Web Designer

How does a budding website designer go about redesigning their own site between client prospecting and training? With lots of brainstorming, blood, sweat, tears and diet coke. We did it and it’s a story we like to share.
 
 
 
 

We wanted to develop websites for businesses

We had been at it a short time. We thought we were getting good at it. We wanted to show off just how good we had become. We could create something over-the-top to show off our skills, or we could create something plain and corporate. We decided to take the road we think our clients will take. We needed to combine graphical awesomeness with a practical, useable interface; the very definition of Pragmatic. And we needed to do it in our spare time. You know, between client projects, meetings and the like. As easy as making a pie.

The solution

We first began the process by investing in ourselves and after considerable research decided to enroll in the “Start Your Web Design Business Now” Bootcamp offered by the talented folks at LearnWebDevelopment.com. It was the best decision we could have made. What Conrad Feagin and our coach Monica Fairchild provided goes beyond website development skills. Yes, we learned how to create profitable and impressive websites. But the training went beyond the essentials and provided us all the tools needed to create a successful business.

To draw traffic to our site we have concentrated on several key tactics that we learned from Conrad and Monica. The first tactic was to register with over two dozen directories on the web. The effectiveness of this tactic was further enhanced by signing up with several social media sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Then, better late than never, we created our first landing page. To create a list of prospects and followers we designed a “We Share the Secrets” campaign. In response to signing up for a newsletter and for following us on twitter, we share website design tips.

Now that we had a site that reflects what we have learned in 16 productive weeks, we were ready to spread our wings and go-to-market. E-mail, direct mail and telemarketing campaigns commenced. Thanks to Conrad and Monica we had learned what we needed to learn.

The results

We have “soared” since following the LearnWebDevelopment plan for us. “Getting Ahead” for us meant building 8 websites in 4 weeks with even more sites in the works. And while the money is good: our primary goal is to make quality websites: timely, practical and relevant.

A Call-to-Action

Would you like learn the secrets of Web Design? Yes. We Share Our Secrets! When it comes to your website, extra attention should be paid to every minute detail to make sure it performs optimally to serve its purpose. Pragmatic secrets chronicle the important rules of thumb to observe to make sure your website performs well. Ask yourself three questions.
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  • Web users have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation. So what does the Pragmatic designer do for results?
  • Folks will not invest a great deal of time in learning to navigate your site if it differs widely from the majority of websites. So what rules do you break at your own peril?
  • Certain critical information, if not present, will quickly send visitors away. This is so easy to fix. But do you know what the fixes are? You need to.

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Better Yet, contact us: The Pragmatic Web Designer. We like to earn our reputation one site at a time. It was the LearnWebDevelopment way and it is ours too. We just love to make websites.

Testimonial

“We have “soared” since following the LearnWebDevelopment plan for us. “Getting Ahead” for us meant building 8 websites in 4 weeks with even more sites in the works. And while the money is good: our primary goal is to make quality websites: timely, practical and relevant. Enrolling in the “Start Your Web Design Business Now” Bootcamp offered by the talented folks at LearnWebDevelopment.com was the best decision we could have made. What Conrad Feagin and our mentor Monica Fairchild provided goes beyond website development skills. Yes, we learned how to create profitable and impressive websites. But the training went beyond the essentials and provided us all the tools needed to create a successful business.”

Dr. John Elcik
The Pragmatic Web Designer