Posts tagged website design

Flashing Web Pages, Or A Sound Sale?

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Too many times I have sat down and listened to my wife complaining that sites are providing a lot of fancy features, but do not complete the information needed for the sale.

Now it is hotel web sites. Trying to find a hotel for a one night break is proving out of the question! It is not that there are no hotels available, it is just that too many do not offer enough information.

I know the difficulty from the designer side. Too often customers can concentrate on ‘the website needs movement’ or wanting a splash of flash here and there. Potentially the request is for a bee that follows the mouse pointer around the screen and lands on it when the pointer stops.

Or, equally annoyingly, those little trail of bubbles that leave the mouse pointer as it moves about the screen.

On the contrary this concentration on what appears on the screen can be at the cost of the web site content. Back to these hotels and many do not give straight forward information such as check-in and check-out times. This is necessary to us as we want to check-in before going on to a late afternoon event.

I have experienced this before myself. I can point out to the buyer that some essential information is absent from the details. The reply can be along the lines of if the buyer is that interested that they want to know that, they will telephone or email me.

That is definitely not the case. People visiting websites want the information they are searching for and need to complete the purchase right now. It has to be clearly found and at their fingertips. Phoning up at 2am in the morning, or sending an email whilst they are at their place of work can be ridiculous or not ideal for a range of factors.

But, worse still, people on the world-wide-web are eager. They expect information to be fed to them. They demand it. And if you do not offer it then they will look to another place. It is not the same as walking the length of the high street when the next shop selling whatever they are purchasing could be half a mile away or in the next town. The item is perhaps a couple of clicks away.

For a shop, this can be as imperative as listing postage rates and information openly. If you show free postage and packing, but forget to state that there is a postal charge on lower value orders, this can be bad. But if you do not bother to give any postal information at all and do not say if it will be shipped the next day or a week later, then you are open to losing visitors. People quite often do not buy that far in advance. If you propose next day delivery, make sure it is clear.

Don’t be big headed and think that if you concentrate on a pretty website that customers will get in touch if there is central information omitted. They won’t. Flashy web sites don’t sell products. Ready information does.

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Written by Keith Lunt, owner of Janric – suppliers of Website Design Merseyside services.

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Effective Use Of Text When Designing A Website

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Of the different website design considerations, text is one of the most significant, yet also one of the most neglected. You can have the best logo, layout and graphics possible, but if visitors to your website cannot easily read the information that you are giving them then they will not stay on your website for more than a few seconds.

The good news is that getting the text part of your website design correct is not difficult. All you have to do is adhere to these guidelines…

- Only make use of fonts that are available on all computers, such as arial, helvetica and verdana. Whilst you may not consider these to be the most visually appealing fonts, they are the most practical ones to use. This is because they are the easiest to read on a computer screen; in fact, the verdana font was specifically created to be read on computer screens, rather than to be printed out. Also, every computer definitely has these fonts stored on their hard-disk. If you choose a fancy font, then many computers may not have it stored, and so you cannot be sure how your website is going to render on other people’s screens.

- Do not display text in small font sizes; if it looks too small, visitors to your website will not even try to read it. You may have good eyesight but many people do not, and so you have to take the middle ground rather than just making your website for yourself. Using a font size of 11 or 12 is recommended for the main body of your written content, with sub-titles and headings being a font size or two larger.

- Limit the width of your paragraphs to roughly 15 words per line. This is necessary so that people only have to move their eyes to read your website, and not their whole head. This number is based on research and studies that have been carried out which show that 15 words is as far most people’s field of vision will stretch. Not every line has to be precisely 15 words, as some sentences will, obviously, have a greater or lesser number of small words such as ‘to’, ‘and’, ‘a’, etc., so you just need to use that number as a rough guide.

- The color(s) you choose for your text should contrast sharply to the color(s) you use for your background. A white background with black text is easiest for people to read, but it is not necessary to use that color scheme if it does not suit the overall style of your website design. If the background color is light, then make your text black or a dark shade of gray, and if the background color is dark, then make your text white. Using non black, dark gray or white text very rarely works, so be extremely careful if you are absolutely intent on making your text a different color.

This article was written by a website design expert who has more than 10 years experience in the industry. He is currently doing website design in Chappaqua, Westchester and White Plains and can be contacted at http://kinneymedia.com

Fresh Photoshop Web Layout Tutorials.

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Useful Tips for Effective Web Design

Listed below are some useful and rather important tips for designing a professional and high quality web site:

*Neat and Easy Navigation: Navigation of links on your site plays a big role in determining the stickiness of your site (how long your visitor stays and explores your site). Ask yourself this, What do visitors do as soon as they open your site? They would probably read the content of the present page and then look around to find any other page that interests them. Read our article on Web site Navigation Tips.

*Clean Layout Design: A clean layout that uses a lot of white space enhances a site’s looks. Try to keep the focus on your content, use dreamweaver templates for this. Use fonts that will be available on all computers to prevent your site looking messed up.

* Program using pure CSS: The world is moving away from table based websites to pure CSS websites because it offers accessibility, reusability and considerably reduces file size apart from giving greater control over the look of your website. The single most important skill you can learn today to become a quality web designer is CSS programming! Even if you are not an expert at CSS you can learn to use the following simple CSS Styles Effects to enhance your website:

1. Cool Text Effects using CSS Styles: Text Links Rollover, Text Case Setting, Text Spacing, Line-through Effect.

2. Bullets in HTML or Deamweaver: Using CSS Styles with bullets (shapes, decimal, roman-numerals, images, etc.)

3. Links without Underline: Use CSS Styles to display links without the appearance of the underline.

*Optimum Load Time: Make sure your load time is low. For this you must:

Minimize Graphics, Flash and scripts: They hugely increase your file size.

Optimize your HTML & script code: Make sure that your site doesn’t have any unwanted tags or unused scripts.

Use Server Side Include (SSI) files where ever possible. SSI files once called from the web server reside in its cache so on subsequent requests they load faster.

* Website Layout for all Screen Resolutions: A site that is easy-to-use always encourages visitors to stay and read your content. For site with long pages of content this is very crucial as the amount of scrolling required is reduced. Suppose your site doesn’t look good for a particular resolution it is very probable that the visitor will close the browser window feeling that the web page is not for their viewing. Designing stretch layouts that fit any screen resolution ensures that you know all your visitors see a visually appealing and professional site.
Read our article Designing for all Screen Resolutions for more.

*Ensure Web site scalability: Make sure your code and design is scalable. As technology advances and configuration of computers & their monitors keep increasing and varying it is impossible to test your site in all screen sizes and platforms.

*Cross Browser Compatible: Make sure you check your site for Internet Explorer 5+, Mozilla Firefox 1+, Opera 7+, Safari 3+ and Netscape Navigator 6+ as they constitute 95% of the worlds browsers.

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Your Website Design Sucks Because… Users Can’t Find Crap!

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I know ayh! A great title to start of another year of C2.0 Web Design Blog! : -)

To kick off the new year in Web Design, I thought it would be best to go through a couple of my tell-tale signs that can help you gauge if and when your website’s design sucks. Obviously, “Website design” in this concept does not only include the graphical elements of the page, but of course the Information architecture, usability, accessibility, etc. So without further ado– Let’s get going with round one of “Your website design sucks because…” with Your website design sucks because users can’t find crap!
1. What the heck are you thinking?!

Whether or not you are running a corporate information site or a 15,000 page e-Commerce store- your content should be easy to find! The biggest problem is people think that you ALWAYS need a search box. Search on a website comes in many flavours, and sure; a search box would be awesome- as long as the results are easy to understand and filter to the right place. Having said that, not all great websites have search boxes or website search for that matter – but most if not all of them [great websites, that is] make the user experience worthwhile by making their content easy to find. Here are a few tips:

* If you are running a blog, make sure there is at least a way for the user to find an archive of all your content. After all, one of the main calling-cards, if you like – of a blog, is the fact that it is a chronological listing of posts or entries. Other important elements that help users searching for content is Tags and Categories. Try to make sure your posts only belong to one parent category. I.e. Not “Sydney Web Design” AND “Web Design” — after all, 99% of the time, one of the two (or more) categories makes the most sense. Tags help users by allowing to search for other posts which they might find interesting based on a common interest; i.e. Usability.

* If you are running a website; other than a web log , make sure that there is a common, geographical structure to your pages. I.e. there should always be the same header and footer on all pages – including any side-navigation or side elements. Doing this makes sure that users learn where things are and helps elevate any problems in looking for things all over your website.

2. Some conventional wisdom

Most webmasters and/or designers usually get search from a UI point of view under control. I mean come on! It’s basically three elements– A label “search for:”, a text box, usually pre-filled with “type query here” or something of the sort, and finally a “go/search/find” submit button… Easy, right? Wrong! Whilst the front-end features of site search are seen as simple, most websites/intranets (even the big players) crash and burn on the search results page.
3. A case study in Search Usability: Australia Post

Ahh, good old Australia Post! I love the fact that they deliver to anywhere in the world and the prices are not too bad — and I haven’t had anything major get lost whilst sending out *so far*. However, one thing that drives me insane about Australia Post is their website; http://www.austpost.com.au — not only is this website in need of a “major” overhaul. Let’s start with the essentials of this particular topic; Search.

The search on AustPost is located at: http://search.auspost.com.au. Nothing wrong with that so far- In fact, it’s smart to have search on either a sub-domain or a sub-folder at search.domain.com or domain.com/search. Moving right along. Oh wait! That domain does not work (Under Construction!!) unless you append the following to it: “/cse/auspost/” making the FULL-URI http://search.auspost.com.au/cse/auspost/ – Tsk, tsk AP!

If you type “test” in the search box and click the search button of the main page you get diverted to a search results page; which is okay so far– However, the diverted results page is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT website (in terms of overall look and feel). Check it out for yourself.
Australia Post Search Box – Main Page

Australia Post Search Box – Main Page

All good so far… Let’s see what happens when we get diverted to the ‘actual’ search page.
Australia Post Search Results Page – Search.austpost.com.au

Australia Post Search Results Page – Search.austpost.com.au

Oops! Something went completely wrong. Did I, as the user kill the site? Or is it meant to be a completely different site followed by a completely different user experience? [Both valid questions you don't need a visitor to your website, especially your search page asking!].

As Homer Simpson would say in a time of crisis; Doh! Different Logo, Different colour scheme, Different tab system, Different IA… Well, at least the logo is generally in the same place as before. Granted, I don’t know the reasoning behind this– Maybe they are in the process of moving sites across to a newer(?) design – but nonetheless, I think being a government corporation, this is pretty bad usability!
Anyway, let’s move right along… As if that first problem wasn’t bad enough, let’s see the search results form. Below is a screenshot of the “general” search form. By general search form I’m referring to the non-advanced variety!
Search Results Box

Search Results Box

Wow, okay — where to start, where to start. Let’s rattle off some of the issues with this search box/form.

1. Why have a “Show search options >>” as well as “‘Advanced Search”. That is not only confusing, but a waste of visual space/real estate. Why not make general search easy to use with no extra-ordinary features, and leave advanced search for those people that need to dig deeper into the data mine. Ahhh, I slowly started to realise why, and you will see why soon!

2. See the “Select All” and “Clear All” check boxes? They only select/deselect one option — and that is the “Australia Post Website” check box. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AUSTPOST DESIGNERS/DEVELOPERS!!! Give me three good reasons why this is necessary on this page (in its current format) and I will stop using Facebook for a month… Okay, a week! :) Not only is this stupid from a usability/IA point of view, but it’s NOT needed here. Why?, you ask?

1. When you actually decide to click on “Search” you really DON’T end up having a choice in the matter, because the “Australia Post Website” check box is auto-ticked when the page has reloaded with the search results! Oh Oh!

2. It’s a waste of a control to begin with! The same thing could be easily achieved with one button which toggles through the selections. I.e. starts off as “Select all options” then changes to “De-select all options” upon click… However…

3. There is NO need for the control at all since there is NO other option/area to search from. I.e. If there was “Australia Post Website” and “Australia Post PO Box Search”, etc., then it would make sense — however, there is no other option!

3. The “Exact Phrase” check box control is USELESS in all formats of the word! In theory, the “Exact phrase” should let you search for the term “test” instead of the term test. What this ultimately means is that in reality, “Exact Phrase” should only find the search query if it exists EXACTLY in that format, and not part of other words, or as part of a phrase, etc. The only problem with this is that selecting “Exact Phrase” does NOT change the result set; in essence, returning the SAME number of results as well as in the same order! Yay for happy searching — Not!

4. Clicking “Show search options >>” reveals two fields/controls which are apparently meant to help the user whilst searching but not be enough to warrant the name “Advanced Search”. When you click this link, two new fields pop down; a) Format, and b) Modified. Fair enough, you say. They are letting the user choose what type of file format to search; i.e. PDF, Word, etc. as well as the ‘age’ of the document(s) in question or when they were last updated. So what’s the problem here? Let’s take a peek!
Search Results – Modified drop-down

Search Results – Modified drop-down

Wow! That’s probably the best word to describe this drop-down. Sure, Australia Post must feel great giving thier users so many options to choose from, but on what planet would you be from if you need THAT many options in sorting last modified periods? Surely, a) “Anytime”, b) Past 24 hours, c) Past week, d) Past month, and e) Past year – would suffice? No? Granularity of options is something worth your time as an Information architect or Website designer/developer investing in! The more options you give the user that they don’t necessarily need or will never use, the more they have to think. The experience should not make them think! Just give them results, and quick!

5. Don’t even get me started on the “Advanced Search” link! Let’s just say that it’s a little more advanced than what an “advanced search” needs to be. So much so that a PhD in Comp. Science would definitely help! I mean for Pete’s sake, there is a field called “Custom query” which lets you, quote “Create a query using search operators (and, or, not, near, quotes and parenthesis) and system fields.” unquote! WHAT THA?!?! Sure, I may get it, hell you might even get it as a developer or designer, but your average Joe who might need just that little bit more input into his or her search would most likely freak out! Take it off PLEASE! I’m not searching the CIA Central Repository here, people!

3. In conclusion…

Okay, so I must admit at this point in time that I’m getting a little bit more critical and more importantly a touch “harsher” in my blogging and reviews — but I think it’s important to look at problems like these that normal web browsers would AND DO encounter on a day-to-day basis surfing the Interweb! So hopefully you have picked up a few pointers from this blog post that will help you with your upcoming search page design/re-design. Remember, these are above all just some ideas of what not to do, but the field is huge! Make sure you get people with limited Internet experience to trial all software you create (if possible!) but more importantly, keep in mind some of these ideas for next time and I’m sure your users will thank you!

Thanks for comin’ back guys. Please leave your comments or critisisms below – and be sure to Subscribe to the RSS feed so you can keep up-to-date on all the latest goss and posts from Elastique Web Design Blog. Till next time, Cheb.

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Save On Startup Expenditures With Your Web Business Venture

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Opening a small business calls for dedication and preparation. Oh, and it also requires money. How much cash you’ll need is dependent upon the type of business venture you intend to launch. For a web-based business venture, you can make that aspiration come true and save green in the process.

What is the very first thing that folks ask about relating to a business venture? Generally it is “What will it cost me initially?” With a web based business venture you will be already ahead of the game because you stay away from many of the expenditures that come with owning a conventional brick-and-mortar business.

Even so, you will have a few expenditures that you will have to shoulder. In case your money is limited, you possibly can still get things going. It could take a little labor and time but it truly is definitely possible.

Here are the 3 major expenses connected with creating an internet business enterprise.

Domain Name Purchases – So one can have a presence on the internet, you’ll need to have a website address or URL. One can find specials on a regular basis for domain purchases, but you can get your domain name for lower than $10 a year in nearly all cases. Be careful not to get sucked into purchasing many of the extras most domain registrars try and get you to buy whenever you buy a domain. Stick to only obtaining the domain name and only purchase from reputable domain registrars.

Web Hosting – In order for your website to actually show up on the World Wide Web you’ll want to buy hosting for your domains. You can buy this as low as $7.95 a month through reliable hosting companies such as HostGator.

Website Design – In case you aren’t skilled in website design or HTML, you will need someone to set your web site up for you. There are some diverse options for getting this accomplished:

• Employ a Web Designer: This can be the costliest approach to have things accomplished.
• Website Building Software: You can actually create your site yourself and save money.
• Included with Hosting: Look for offers by way of your web hosting service.

Listed below are some helpful hints for buying other items you will need to run your small business on the net.

1. Negotiate – All you can do is ask for what you want. Regarding buying computers and other office paraphernalia, there’s some room for haggling. Locate the most advantageous payment plans you can to help you to offset the expenditure. This goes for telephone services, answering services and high-speed Internet rates too.

2. Shop around – Buying computer systems on the web at sites akin to Dell.com permits you to add the features you require and pay the purchase price you want to pay. Printers don’t cost as much as they used to. If you would like a fax machine and also a printer, seek offers on all-in-one equipment so you can save money.

3. Purchase in volume – Whenever you might need paper, printer ink and other office supplies, get as much as you are able to each time a deal comes along. Even though it takes you an entire year to use the paper, you’re confident that you’ll put it to use so it does not matter.

4. Ask for assistance from other individuals – By way of example, you will require web hosting for your site. Although there are dozens of website hosting companies out there, both paid and free, everyone’s requirements differ. What are your requirements? If you know other online entrepreneurs, ask who they use. Remember the fact that high cost doesn’t necessarily equate with decent quality, exactly like low price doesn’t invariably denote poor quality.

5. Draw on what you have already got for now – The neatest thing regarding a web based business venture is that it’s run from your computer. The majority already have one of those. It may not be the top end of the line model, but if it has high speed Internet access as well as a word processing program, you can get started.

You’ll find overheads that you could avoid by starting an internet business versus an offline one, nevertheless you still have to spend some money. The above 5 recommendations can help you to definitely cut down the costs you do have even more. This enables you to get your brand new venture up and running as soon as possible. Furthermore, don’t forget all these expenses may be written off on your income taxes so do not forget to maintain records.

Four Critical Web Design Rules

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Three Tips for Making a URL Search Engine Optimisation Friendly

Search Engine Optimisation is a process that involves optimising your webpage’s to rank higher in the search engine results pages (or SERP’s). The aim is for your website to rank higher than your competitors in the major search engines, which include some of the major search engines known as Google, Yahoo and Bing.

The URL of your website is a key factor in search engine optimization. It is important to choose a search engine friendly URL that search engine crawlers can read without problems. If the URL can be easily read and crawled, then the likelihood of getting your site to the top of the search engine ranks is increased. Here are some tips for creating an SEO friendly URL.

1) Create a short and static URL. Static URLs do not contain special characters or long strings of code. They usually take the structure of www.yourwebsitename.com. Search engine crawlers prefer this form of URL as they prioritize short and static URLs when indexing web pages.

2) You should include keywords in your URL. For example, if a site is selling digital cameras, then the URL should contain the keywords cameras or digital cameras. There are two advantages for constructing the URL in this way. The most significant is that search engines will identify your site when someone makes a search for digital cameras. The other advantage is that web users can easily remember the address of a site that has a short, relevant URL.

3) You should always endeavour to organize your URL structure based on your website topics and site map. This way, search engines will be able to index all the pages in your website efficiently. Website users will also have an easier time navigating a website that has a well made URL structure.

5 Search Engine Optimisation Tips
SEO Tip 1.
Include keywords in your anchor tags to internal pages. This way search engines can interpret what your pages are about.

SEO Tip 2.
Use your primary and secondary keywords in your page titles.

SEO Tip 3.
If you’re using JavaScript or Flash based navigation it’s important to include text links as well.

SEO Tip 4.
The more inbound links to your webpages from related webpages the better your rankings will be.

SEO Tip 5.
Submit your website to the major search engines. This can speed up the discovery process especially if your website has no inbound links.

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Basic Website Design Tips For Beginners

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Your webpages should speak a lot about you and the business you stand for . How things are shown online can sway how visitors feel about your company , and whether or not they would like to buy your products or hire your service. Primarily, what aspects of a web site are considered to be visitor-friendly?

- It must be easy to navigate . Every link on your web site must work, and you should provide buttons above, below, and on the side of every web page so that visitors can easily go to and from portions of your site .

- It must be pleasant to look at. No flashy colors, blinking texts, or excessive animations. The web site should also not be too plain that browsing it would be boring.

- It must have an impact. It doesn’t mean that fancy stuff is needed. The message of the company must be presented clearly and with conviction. A site must appear as professional as possible to elicit the trust of the potential client.

How to design a website: stuff you need first
There are various facets of website design that you can take advantage of, but before anything else, you must start off on the right foot. Here are two things that you must have before you set yourself on planning the blueprints of your website:

1. Do you have a domain name? You must decide on one that can easily be remembered, preferably a name that is keyword rich. Do not be vague, and ensure that it represents your site and your business very well. Many sources say, avoid using hyphens (-) in your domain name, and stick to three words or less in a name. Note that a .com site or .net site is better than .info or .org.

2. Have you found a web host? A web host provides you with your drawing board to place your website in. In a way, they give you the space on the World Wide Web to upload your web site and all its contents. Web hosts may be free or paid, and you are given tools and tech support to help you out.

When you have nailed these two down, you can then plan your website. You can design it yourself if you are familiar with HTML and website design software. You may also use templates which are available online, for you to have a professional looking color scheme and lay out.

If you can’t do it yourself, what are your options?
Of course, not all people have the time to familiarize themselves with HTML, Flash, Macromedia Dreamweaver, and other programs. If you don’t have the skills nor the time to design your website yourself, website design and development uk can help you. There are many website design firms across the globe that can bring to life your ideas for website design, so you spend less time worrying, and more time focusing on other aspects of your business.

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Custom Database Software Hiring Critical Success Strategies

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Custom Database Software Hiring Critical Success Factors

Software Design And Development – To Proceed Or Not to Proceed
Sometime in the life of a successful company you may arrive at the crossroads of continuing forward with the manual processes you have perfected, or hiring a custom software design and development company to write an application to automate these processes. The decision isn’t easy. You can see the clear benefits, but the costs can be significant or downright harrowing.

There are many potential benefits and cost savings to taking the leap, but your decision must consider all factors in order to avoid a project failure that can break the bank. Failure is usually not an option. A good roadmap to success is invaluable in making the right decision.

This post discusses many important factors in hiring a software development company to ultimately increase the chances of success and reduce your risk.

First Research Off-the-Shelf Applications
You should first consider that someone else has possibly already written this application. Research off-the-shelf (OTS) applications before undergoing the effort and cost of a custom software application.

Going the Custom Software Development Route
If you have tried OTS applications and they don’t fill your needs then you need to prepare for future discussions with software development companies.

Gather Requirements
Before you begin discussions with software development and database design companies you need to gather your requirements. This can be anything from a short but specific punch list of features to a document with all details of software features, reports and algorithms that you require.

There are many books on software design requirements so we won’t go into it in any detail here. It is, however, worth noting that you can’t get quality costs and schedules if you don’t have adequate project details.

Here is a minimal list of items to gather:

Features listed in a simple punch list
User groups and permissions descriptions
Reports – the number of reports needed and ideally examples in hard or electronic copy

Once you have this information you’ll be prepared to talk to software developers.

Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
Before you discuss your proprietary information with anyone you should have them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This legal agreement assures you that the information you divulge in your discussions with the software companies is proprietary and protected, and if they release it to anyone else then you have legal recourse.

Request for Proposal (RFP)
Once you have a your requirements finalized, prepare an RFP that can be presented to contractors. Create a list of recipients for your Request for Proposal and provide the companies a reasonable timeframe to complete their proposals.

Don’t consider any company that won’t promise required costs and schedules. If you don’t find an acceptable company to design and build your custom software system then review the requirements and RFP, create a new list of developer companies and re-issue the RFP.

Selection Factors
Below is a discussion on the factors that you need to consider when making a hiring decision.

Years of Experience in Software Development – there are a lot of fakes
Who Will Do The Work – make sure key personnel will remain involved throughout the life of the project
What Technologies Do They Propose – use the interviews to learn about the technologies and make an intelligent decision
Designer/Architect vs. a Programmer/Developer – compare apples to apples – architects are different than developers
Risk Management – what is their plan?
References – get at least 3 from similar projects
Cost not always the first priority
Schedule – will they meet your required delivery schedule?
Prioritized Selection Criteria
If you just select the lowest bidder you can be making a huge mistake. You need to weight each of categories below based on your company’s priorities, score each company for each of the categories then select the development company based on their total score. The category list is below with the typical priorities first:

Your opinion of the company’s probability of completing the project on schedule and under budget
References feedback
Their technical expertise in the selected technologies
Their developer and management experience in the selected technologies
Demonstrated management processes like source code control, quality assurance, cost control, offsite backups, etc.
Credit rating and general financial stability
Their past performance on previous projects similar to your project
Quality and organization of their proposal
Cost
schedule
Availability of resources
Overall responsiveness and their general project interest
Results of resume review and interviews

Agreements
Once you have selected a company you start the engagement process. The following items protect your company and it’s assets. We strongly recommend that you hire an attorney in your own city and state that specializes in your particular type of business and one that is familiar with software companies and agreements.

NDA Agreement
As mentioned above, before you provide proprietary information to a software development company you should have them sign an NDA to protect your company’s assets and Intellectual Property (IP).

Non-Compete Agreement
When you engage the company to create your custom software application you should have them sign a Non-Compete agreement. This ensures that they can’t take the information you have provided to them and use it in a competitive environment against them.

Custom Software Development Agreement
This is the contract to do work. This agreement is the most important of all as it lays out the specifics of your relationship with the software development company. It should contain both parties’ expectations like:

Payment rates and terms
Who pays what expenses
Licensing information
Any expected warranty’s
Termination terms
Statement of work. The statement of work should be specific and ideally in terms of milestones so you pay as you see progress. Make sure that the statement of work is detailed enough to ensure you get all features you need for project success. Items omitted from the statement of work can be costly if they are added in later phases of the project

Changes to the Software Features
The cost of software changes goes up as the project progresses. If new features are added during the brainstorming phase then the cost may be negligible. If they are added after the requirements are complete then you may have to spend the time reviewing the requirements again to make sure change doesn’t affect them.

The thought to take away from this is that once you sign a contract you’re committed to exactly what you signed off on. Changes can be costly so make sure your statement of work is complete and accurate.

Engineering Change Order
If you do make changes after the process of specification or construction have begun then use a change order form that allows the requester to detail their request and have managers in both organizations sign off on it.

Once the software development company receives it they will put cost and schedule numbers to it. When both parties sign the document it becomes a legal document and an addendum to the main contract.

Web-Based Application Considerations
There are many considerations over and above those of a desktop system if your software will be deployed on the Internet. The largest of these is security. If the data in the system is mission critical then you must protect it. If the information in the database contains credit card or personally identifiable information then you must take even more precautions.

There are laws that govern efforts of Internet-based website development companies like HIPPA and Sarbanes Oxley. There are also standards put in place by industries like the PCI-DSS standard created by the credit card industry to ensure safe and secure eCommerce transactions. A discussion of these topics is beyond the scope of this paper, but if you are going to have sensitive or critical data and information on the Internet then you should investigate the potential laws and risks of having it online – and your developer should point them out.

Internet Application Security
This is a huge topic that is beyond the scope of this paper. Having said that, below are several factors that have to be in order when you create an online application.

Hosting
Self Hosting
If you host a web application yourself then you must concern yourself with all security issues of maintaining a safe network, application and database. You’ll need to continuously scan the server and network for vulnerabilities and keep all applications on it up to date with their security patches. If you are not prepared and capable of doing this then you should not host the application yourself.

Using a Hosting Company
Hosting companies are many times a very cost-effective way to get your web application online and ensure all security issues are covered.

Server Security
The server that hosts your application must have up-to-date security patches for the operating system, the databases and all applications installed on it. If this is not done regularly then you’ll be vulnerable to all of the miscreants that scan the Internet for weak and vulnerable websites that can be used as zombies to send their own messages of peril.

AntiVirus and AntiSpyware
Solid antivirus and antispyware applications must be run on the servers and their databases kept up to date.

Web Servers and Application Development Tools
The web server is a software application that serves the web pages to the browser. You need to patch the web server and all application development tools on the server.

Database SQL Injection
If the application doesn’t specifically write code that prevents Internet users from injecting database commands into the application that can change or delete data in the database them the system will be vulnerable to this type of attack. Needless to say, this can be disastrous.

Cross-Site Scripting
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a vulnerability where malicious code is injected into web pages which are then used in browser exploits and phishing attacks. This must be considered and thwarted in all web applications as it accounts for (currently) 80% of all website security breaches.

Secure Protocols
Secure protocols ensure that the data entered by you in your browser is encrypted between your computer and the web server that is hosting the application. This stops people from reading important login, financial or private information as it progresses through the Internet.

Technologies
There are many technologies and languages that play into an Internet application. If you want your application to be rendered consistently by web browsers and indexed by the search engines then you have to write the code so that it is error free and compliant with World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards, as they are the organization that defines the languages themselves.

HTML, XML and XHTML – we recommend using error-free XHTML 1.0 Strict
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) – use CSS to control your websites look and feel
Server-side Languages – for database interaction. There are many languages to choose from. The most popular are PHP, ASP.NET.
Content Management System (CMS) – allows you to manage your website content yourself instead of paying a developer.

Marketing
There are multiple ways to market your website.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of structuring your site and it’s contents so that it will be found at the top of the search engine results pages (SERP’s) for your selected keywords.
Internet Marketing
Internet marketing is the process of promoting your website after you have SEO-optimized it.
Pay-Per-Click Marketing – get quick traffic and sales to your website
Professional Branding – present a professional front to the world if you are serious about business
Benefit-Oriented and Persuasive Copywriting – your site visitors are looking to solve their problem, not read about you. Be sure your content focuses on this.
Calls to Action, Conversion Funnels and Landing Pages – guide your visitor to the logical endpoint – a conversion
Code Structure and Integrity – make sure your code is clean and error-free for consistent cross-browser rendering and fast page loads.

Conclusion
If you consider the topics listed in this paper you’ll reduce the risk involved in hiring custom software development companies. If you don’t then you may place your company at a significant risk or incur inordinate costs. It is simply a matter of being prepared. If you start the process of talking to software development companies armed with this knowledge then you’ll be better prepared to ask the right questions.

Clean Uncluttered Website Design

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Clean Uncluttered Website Design

When starting to consider your website design start with a design that is clean, uncluttered and has a useful navigation system. A website that is clean, uncluttered and easy to navigate are much more appealing to the end user, the web visitor. The look and feel of your website should have a natural flow to it along with a concise appearance that makes it easy to figure out what to do and where to go. If it’s complicated then odds are that visitor will go somewhere else. They have found you because you offer what they need so now it’s your websites job to give them just that. Not only is a clean, uncluttered website design good for the end user, the visitor but it is equally as good for the search engine spider bots. It is more likely that search engines will visit all of the pages of your website if it follows simple and conventional design standards.

Colors are Important in Good Website Design

The color palette that is used to create your website should be one that is easily coordinated and easy on the eyes. It is extremely important that the color combinations used on your website are not bright neon colors that tend to be harsh on the eyes. Colors are so important that the wrong colors used are also enough for your web visitor to leave your site. Even if your web site had the greatest content out there the misuse of colors could determine whether a visitor was interested or not. So the lesson learned is to make sure not to use unattractive colors!

Use Hex Codes in Search Optimizing Your Website

Your website needs aesthetic appeal in order for your website to have an impact on your search engine optimization (SEO). If you create a website that is not appealing to others, it is likely to not be popular either. Since the colors used on your website can contribute to the appeal of your website, you want to make sure that you code your web pages accordingly. Different Internet browsers may display colors differently. One way to avoid this problem is to use hex codes to define those colors used on your website. Hex codes are incorporated into the HTML code of your web pages and you should define hex code so these colors are viewed universally in all browsers.

You’re Website for Optimization

Your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy related to website design includes ensuring your web design reflects the purpose of your website. If you are selling a particular widget line, visitors to your website should realize what you are selling immediately. If you are promoting a service, your website should clearly indicate the services you offer. A Clear website design and structure can make your website more appealing to visitors, which will also make it more important to search engines, as we stated earlier.

Use Flash Sparingly in Optimizing Your Website since this is a Closed Application

If search optimization is important to your website design then it is extremely important that you do not develop your website using Flash technology. Flash can be an attention grabbing technology because of all of the bells and whistles that it offers, but too much Flash can be difficult to navigate and a little overwhelming to visitors. Also, not all website visitors can view Flash websites, granted the majority can but the search engines don’t know what’s in that file. If you create web pages with Flash portions then the search engines may still be able to crawl the Flash portions of your website but you risk losing valuable traffic by incorporating too much flash into your website design.

Obtain important advice about the topic of Online Marketing – make sure to read this site. The time has come when proper information is truly at your fingertips, use this opportunity.

Slicing A Custom Web Design Into SEO Optimized XHTML

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Slicing A Website Design Into SEO Optimized XHTML

When you create a custom web design you want it to bring in the most website sales and conversions. This capability is enhanced greatly when your website can be seen consistently in all browsers. This is called cross-browser compatibility. If your website appears distorted or is rendered terribly by any of the top browsers then your website will look unprofessional – and that is the last thing you want with a new website design.

If you are creating a custom website design then there are many reasons for doing it right the first time. This process is given little press but can provide a major advantage for your website over your competitors. The process of slicing takes the original design, usually in the form of a vector file like Adobe Photoshop (.psd) or Adobe Illustrator (.ai), and converts these vector image files into web page content which includes images, html files, cascading style sheet files and javascript files. The HTML files can be named differently depending on which technology your website uses. Examples are .htm, .html, .php, .asp, .aspx and there are many more.

Once all of the pages from the website designer have been approved, they must be sliced into web page components. The preferred version of HTML to use is the latest and is the most compatible with all browsers including mobile browsers – XHTML 1.0 Strict. Ideally you will also create error-free Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) code.

Below is a list of slicing requirements that ensure the code you create and your website renders optimally in all browsers:

Do not slice the design until explicit approval has been provided on all templates. Early slicing of the vector files causes problems in that any changes after that become too unwieldy to change in XHTML as opposed to a vector drawing.
Always slice starting with error free XHTML 1.0 Strict code.
The pages must work correctly in the latest versions of both IE and Firefox and one full version back. Then, depending on the customer, Opera or the Safari browser used on Mac computers may also be important.
When the vector file is sliced we need an optimal slice so solid colored areas aren’t images but instead colors defined by #nnnnnn type of definitions. This speeds up page load times by reducing HTTP requests for images from the server.
Do not place text or numbers into images as the text content changes often – even phone numbers. This is extremely important, in particular if the text contains product information, product names or keywords.
Text should be able to be read by all people. The user should be able to resize text size on the pages so relative definitions must always be used like 1.0em or 1.2em instead of 12 pt.
When a box contains text it should be sliced in a way that allows the box to expand vertically with it’s contained content. This allows for future content changes and additions – which always happens. If the box height doesn’t change with the content then the code is essentially broken.
All nav links should be keyword-based text links, not images, and they should also be defined and controlled by the cascading style sheets (CSS).
Use an h1 tag for the most important headlines on the page, h2 tags for subheads and h3 tags for other section titles. This is important for W3C accessibility compliance.
Put all images into a folder named /images. This also helps search engine optimization since search engines are now indexing images separately and emphasizing them in the search engine results pages (SERP).
Place a link on the top-left logo to the home page. Do not place the image into CSS as a background image since it won’t print as a background image. Add relevant alt text.
Add relevant alt text to all images that are substantial to the content. If an image is only used for layout and design then set the image alt tag to “” (alt=”").
If a page needs to be printable then background images will not display, so ensure printable pages show correctly before finalizing the code.
Instead of image names like ‘box-right.jpg’, please use text appropriate to the reason for the site like cute-doggie.jpg for the image name and alt tags that uses the main keywords on that particular page.
Ensure that all logo, footer and other links to the home page use the full home page URL consistently, for example use http://www.yourdomain.com instead of index.php, http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php, http://yourdomain.com, or http://yourdomain.com/index.php.
For usability reasons body text links should be underlined, (maybe) bold and the on hover event should remove the underline and light up the color of the link. Once the link is clicked it should be a darker version of its original color. This does not apply to menu links.
Always deliver the original vector files along with the HTML files when slicing is complete.
Icons on pages should use CSS sprites to reduce the number of HTTP requests to the server. The process combines several images into one image which only requires one image request, then identifies coordinates to each image when they are needed. This is a huge page load time benefit.

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