Which colors influence buyer’s decisions?

As a trained graphic and web designer I’ve found color theory fascinating since the first class I attended on the topic. It’s amazing to me that red evokes a certain internal chemical reaction and purple another. Every time I endeavor to create a website for a client or business I ask what mood they wish the pages to stir in their potential users. Most often I get looks of  raised eye brows or quizzical eye rolling. But once I have the opportunity to explain the impact of colors on mood and shopping thus purchases the client jumps on board.

This infographic gives a fantastic overview of color theory which can be applied to your logo or brand, graphics and in website design. As you are guided step-by-step through my online course to build your own website, keep these colors in mind. Let me know in the comments below how you chose the website colors you’re using and whether you’d rethink now that you have more information.

(Thanks to WebPageFX.com for the creating the infographic!)

The Psychology of Color

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Utilizing your employees in your brand's social media strategy has numerous benefits.

Utilizing your employees in your brand’s social media strategy has numerous benefits.

Your Employees – Why you should be engaging them in your social media strategy

Your employees can be a wonderful source of word-of-mouth advertising for your brand. Think about it – who knows more about your company than you? Quite possibly the people who work in it. If you are not engaging your employees in the social media buzz surrounding the company you’re missing out on a valuable resource. Furthermore, they may be touting the pros…and even the cons of the brand without your input.

Why engage your employees in your social media strategy?

The bottom line is that people are interested in other people, not products.  Regardless if you sell widgets or if you sell a consulting service, people want to know you.  People want to know the personalities behind the brand. Automattic does a great job of introducing their employees to the world through their About Us page.  They append the personal blogs of each employee to the biographies allowing for perusal of each employee’s hobbies, life outside of work, and life within the world of Automattic.

Another reason is that your employees know your products inside and out.  People who have worked in your company for decades are already loyal.  You may as well utilize those people’s expertise and understanding of your business and your products to share with potential customers.

Then again, it can also help boost loyalty to your company.  If you’re engaging your employees in your social media strategy, that means they have more vested interest in the company’s success.  Perhaps they’ll be more likely to stay there long-term.

If all that isn’t enough of a reason, how about when an issue arises publicly? Would you want to be creating a reactionary social media response or have policies and employees in place who are capable of responding in times of crises? An example of this would be the recent GM car recalls. An article in the NY Times speaks to the response GM has engaged in throughout its social media channels and the effects these conversations have had.

How to manage an employee social media strategy

First and foremost, it’s imperative to create a social media policy that spells out conduct, platforms, what is and is not acceptable to post on behalf of the company and more. In this policy, you want to outline the platforms you plan to use, a description of each, and how that platform can benefit your company in order for employees to understand the overall strategy. People need guidance on how to be the voice of a company on these social media platforms as opposed to their own internal voice.  (Check with your lawyer on all legal matters – I do not claim to be a lawyer giving advice that would stand up in a court of law).

In addition, provide examples of acceptable and unacceptable uses of social media on behalf of your company.  What employees can and cannot say, and whether you have proprietary information that is not to be shared on social media.  Are there new products launching soon that the details of need to be kept quiet, but you want the marketing team to begin the hype and the buildup to the launch of that product? Spell this out in the policy.

Involving each department

Involve each department head in this employee-centric social media strategy. The marketing department can be the lead on creating buzz and excitement about a new product without actually giving away the specifics. A technical expert may be able to create some how-to blogs that will solve one of your customer’s pain points or problems. Customer service professionals can spend some of their time during their workday featuring an employee and compiling an article or a series of photographs or a video about individuals who work in the company.  There are endless numbers of ways to involve employees in company branded social media. 

The more employees involved, the more content that is created. The more quality content that exists on behalf of the business, the more potential customers can be reached. Some customers might like to see the featured employees, and some might like to read all the how-to articles.  All of this branded content is exponentially shareable. The more quality content your company is producing on your website as well as social media, the more potential you have for your brand to be shared across the board.

An added bonus – if you’re utilizing your employees, that means that you don’t have to do it all yourself. 

How does your company utilize its employees in the social media strategy? Leave a comment below.

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Why it’s perfectly okay to deviate from “The Plan”

I wasn’t quite sure what to write about this week. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a plan or a roadmap. Quite the contrary; I created and follow a Social Media Editorial Calendar guiding me on what my topic should be. It’s more that I feel a need to diverge from that path and take the fork in the road away from my original plan. This is due in large part to some potentially major changes happening in my life over the course of this month thus shifting my short term goals.

So I’ve decided to write today about the necessity of being flexible when creating your website, social media strategy and most importantly the content marketing strategy you have laid out for your business blog.

I’ve touted the importance of having a well-defined purpose for your website in numerous articles (Prepare a Make a Website, What NOT to do When Creating a Website, and Planning Your Website Presentation to name a few). Once your website is created, populated and running smoothly, the next step is to continue to create content for it. This keeps people coming back for more as well as continuing to virtually ping search engine crawlers telling them your site has new updates.

In order to make sure you stay on track with creating new content I teach you how to make an Editorial Calendar in the online course. This calendar helps you define topics for blog posts, define short and long term goals for the website, track analytics, and generally stay on the path you’ve laid out.

But what happens when you feel a tug to deviate from the roadmap?
What happens when short term goals change?

Guess what? You are in control of your online presence – go ahead and deviate in the direction you feel is necessary for yourself. Of course you want to keep your target audience in mind making sure to continue to address their needs/wants/desire for content. Don’t feel as though you are unable to deviate. You made the calendar, you’re the driver following the map. You can add a side trip that winds into the woods taking your audience on a nice sojourn.

Are there downsides to altering the path for your content marketing? Potentially. But really only if you deviate so far and for so long as to alienate your intended audience. However, if you are moving onto a road that is better suited for your target market then it would be unwise to not take the turn and continue plodding down the path to nowhere.

Entrepreneurs have the unique authority to be flexible and the freedom to adapt.

Rework your website’s Editorial Calendar to reflect the shift in focus. Take a deep breath, turn your shoulders in the new direction, update your short term goals and add them to the roadmap. Your new path may lead to even greater success and being willing to take the first steps toward it can lead to unseen riches.

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Ease of Use, Customization, Expandability and More

WordPress offers a solution unlike any other

WordPress is a Content Management System, an open-source set of files created as a base for use in building a website. The system of files is maintained by the folks at Automattic and added to and built upon by thousands of developers across the globe.

WordPress was originally conceived as a blogging platform and many still use it as such today. But the expandability of the structure allows for business websites, eCommerce sites, stunning portfolios and fully interactive website experiences.Complexity Ease of Use

The fact that it is open-source and that there are so many Internet users building websites with WordPress allows for a staggering amount of customizability. This occurs because people are able to build themes that work on WordPress. A theme is the framework, layout, look and feel of the website.

There are also plugins being built and maintained that supplement just about any kind of additional functionality you could dream up. Do you need an airport shuttle booking plugin? Done. How about allowing guests to peruse rooms at your bed and breakfast, choose the one that suites their needs and pay for it before they ever leave their bunny slippers? Done.  Would you like to show browsers a sampling of your best artistic endeavors and have them visit your gallery? Too easy.

Keep in mind however that there is WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The basic difference is that .com is hosted by WordPress, does allow for customization to an extent, does allow for every type of conceivable website, integrates beautifully with all the other 77 million blogs hosted there potentially boosting visibility and search engine rankings.

WordPress.org is the file structure that is installed on a hosting service of your choice (I recommend using Bluehost). The differences with a .org install include even more flexibility in adding third-party themes and plugins, customizing the look and feel of the website as well as being able to have complete control over the site.

Pros of using WordPress:

Ease of Use – learn how to use WordPress in the online course here, Website Design By Anna Doo

Customization – With all the available themes, plugins and ability to change it all

Cost – Pay for hosting on WordPress.com or use their free service, pay for hosting for a WordPress.org install

Expandability – Can be used for a single page blog or a sixty page informational technical website

Cons of using WordPress:

Limitations – Truthfully, the only limitations I’ve found lie with my lack of certain coding ability. But this is overcome by finding a PHP expert who can manipulate a widget or wrangle a piece of unruly code into what I desire. Thus you either need to settle for what you see in front of you as the available product or be able to alter the code.

Customization – Even though there are a seemingly infinite number of combinations available for the look and feel and functionality of your website, you must be able to envision and implement them. This can be done…especially when you learn how in the online course.

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Planning Your Website: Getting it Right From the Start

Answering the question of whether you need an online presence and how to go about creating one.

You’ve likely heard you need a website for your business, or at least have been asked what your web address is…well, this presentation gives you the tip of the iceberg when beginning to plan for your site.

 

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Resources for searching for and finding the right theme for your WordPress website

Your website should reflect your brand, your business, and be easy to use. A number of the elements used to make this happen include the design, colors, typefaces or fonts, and layout of the web pages. These elements together create the look and feel of your website. But how do you find a WordPress theme that works for your brand and, just as importantly, works very well for the end user?

There are a plethora of resources available to find just the right theme to use on your WordPress website. One could always create a new theme replete with the required files. However, if you don’t have the time or skills to do so there are literally thousands of free themes available and almost as many themes that require a one-time purchase. Check out just a few of the options below or begin with a search engine query including “WordPress theme” and whatever additional keywords you are looking for.

An option is to start with the WordPress install itself. Once you’ve installed WordPress, log in and go to Appearance>Themes>Add New. From there you can type in keywords or check boxes next to elements that are important to you. Keep in mind the more parameters you give it, the fewer number of themes will be delivered.

Wp_themes

Installing a theme from the WordPress dashboard is the quickest method and most of the time a theme can be found that will fulfill your needs.

There are hundreds of developers who have taken it upon themselves to create themes for use by anyone. One of the online marketplaces these themes are available is Envato Marketplace.com. Most of the themes available here are found on the Theme Forest and Code Canyon tabs and are premium. When choosing a theme make sure the developer has a good rating from the community in terms of support, check out the forums for the theme and see how often questions go unanswered and if you are willing to accept sub-par customer service.

You can also preview the theme you are interested in in a live preview mode. Click through all the pages, make sure the navigation is going to be intuitive for your target audience. Envision your branding replacing stock colors and fonts and determine if the theme will still look as good with your companies’ logo and colors.

themeforest

The Envato Marketplace is a repository of themes built by hundreds of developers. WordPress themes can be found under the Theme Forest and Code Canyon tabs.

Another option is to purchase a slew of themes from one reputable developer so you have access to numerous themes should you need to create multiple websites. The folks over at WPMU Dev have written a couple articles highlighting the best theme sellers replete with a full point system covering everything from price to features to usability and customer service. One such article, “Theme Seller Reviews: Winner and Losers” puts the themes at Elegant Themes toward the top overall.

I would have to concur with that analysis as Elegant Themes does a fine job of creating, well, elegant themes that are very user friendly for your browsers, quick to load meaning they aren’t stuffed with unnecessary code, and fairly inexpensive. The customer support at Elegant Themes is prompt and competent (I know first-hand, I’ve used them before). A bonus? You get access to all their themes with one purchase.

elegant_themes

Elegant Themes, one of many options in this category, are WordPress themes built by one developer and available on their website for purchase.

These are but a very few resources for finding the perfect theme for your WordPress website. Remember if you don’t find one from these sources simply do a web search for what you are looking for. Chances are high someone out there has created what you need. If not, you can have a theme custom created just for your business.

I would highly recommend spending the time to find a theme that fits your needs as close as possible and being willing to be flexible on some elements. It will take more time to find and install a theme, populate it with your content, find out it isn’t what you really need and go out again to find a new theme than to find the right theme from the outset. 

Happy hunting!

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What not to do when creating a website

There are all kinds of articles and training in the ethers of the Internet about what to do, best practices, tips and tricks for creating a website. This site included!

But what about all the things you shouldn’t do? What about all the pitfalls to avoid from the beginning? Do you even know what they are? If you don’t know, how can you avoid them?

Fear not! I’ve compiled a list of what NOT to do when creating a website. Feel free to share it so together we can make the web a more beautiful, user friendly, resource for all potential customers.

Problem No. 1. Stuck in the 90’s when it comes to design. Black backgrounds, fireworks, blinking lights and neon text may have been “cool” when the interwebs was in its infancy. But it’s growing up now. Please evolve with it.

Solution No. 1. Peruse some of the websites you use most often, what do they have in common? Sophisticated, easy to read, higher contrast is better for readability, usability, and in order to not invoke an involuntary twitch. Many sites these days have a white or very soft grey background color with black or dark text. Many sites use bolder fonts or a different color font to make that content stand out from the dark paragraph text (no longer making it blink incessantly). In addition, using a larger font helps set in place that hierarchy of information. As for the blinking text and chase-the-mouse to click on something graphics of yore; they too have matured into sleek image sliders, embedded videos, and slight movement of graphics to help capture the eye.

Problem No. 2. No purpose. No direction. No clear reason to the site.

Solution No. 2. Identify the purpose of your website before you ever begin building it. If you run a non-profit business and your goal is to have browsers share your cause – make this very easy for them to do, in multiple ways, on every page. If you want them to walk into your brick and mortar retail location – include a map and directions on your site, in more places than just the contact page.

Problem No. 3. Sending people away too quickly. This can be caused by a lack of focus, challenging navigation, or by not making external links open in new tabs or windows on your browsers’ computer. It could also be caused by making it so hard to find the information they came for in the first place people run away to a search engine for the answer.

Solution No. 3. Add a search box to your website. Make sure navigation is in an acceptable location (either at the top of the screen or down the left side). Don’t hide the navigation. Even on mobile browsers navigation still exists and needs to be looked at and designed well. When linking to external websites make sure it’s very easy for browsers to come back to your website when they are done looking at the external site. Don’t make them click their browser’s back button a dozen times. They won’t do it. Would you?

Problem No. 4. Your site is non-usable on a mobile screen. 50% of mobile users view the web on their device as their primary or exclusive browser. If your site doesn’t render well on this screen it’s unlikely a user will ever stay long enough to figure out what you want them to do.

Solution No.4. There are numerous solutions to ensuring your desktop website degrades gracefully onto smaller screens. Look into responsive design or a completely separate mobile website. If you are creating your website with WordPress, there are thousands of themes available with built in responsive functions. There are also a plethora of plugins to add in order to make your site responsive if the theme doesn’t do it, or even those that will help you create a fully functioning mobile website.

Let’s start with those four elements. If you really think about the design and usability of your website, its purpose, keeping people on your site long enough to fully engage with it, and how your site will look on mobile browsers you’ll be ahead of the curve.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what NOT to do when designing a website, feel free to leave a comment below.

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5 Steps to Begin Building a Website

The process to begin building a website is the same whether you are making a personal website, a blog, an eCommerce site, or a website to promote your business.

Some key steps, when completed, alleviate some of the stress and time later down the road. These steps are also the same whether you plan to build your website yourself or hire a designer or developer to create it for you. A full video and additional training on creating your website can be viewed throughout the online course. To access the course, visit the Home page and Sign Up today.

Before you even begin to go through these steps make sure you’ve identified the PURPOSE of your website. Keep in mind the website is not for you. It’s for your audience. So you may love looking at black background websites with neon green and yellow flashing text a la late 90’s web design. But I can assure you, that is not the standard Internet users are used to today and is unlikely to keep someone on your site for more than a half second.

The purpose of your website can really be anything, but it needs to be defined. You may intend for browsers to share your cause, purchase your product, hire you for your service, visit your brick and mortar store, or keep returning for more and more content. Whatever it is – write it down, keep it in front of you while you go through the remainder of the process to build your site.

5 Steps to complete before you make a website

1. The first step is to identify the target audience. You’ve likely already done this in a business plan or for traditional marketing. So take it one step further and find your target audience online.

Who are they? Where do they hang out?
What forums or social media channels do they frequent?
What are their online habits?

2. Find general websites that appeal to you

Look at other websites paying attention to aesthetics, navigation, ease of use, bells and whistles as well as what makes you run away from the site as soon as you arrive.
Look at the colors used. Are they adding to the purpose of the website or distracting?
Is navigation easier when access from a bar at the top of a site or the left or right side of the site?

3. Be your customer and research competitor’s websites

Figure out what keywords your target customer will be using in a search to find your website (Hint, ask your friends, family and network, who know much less about your topic than you do, what phrases they would use to search)
Browse the web with those keywords looking at what kinds of websites appear with those phrases
Research your competition’s online presence
Make a list of what is working and what is failing in regard to their website

4. Wireframe the website

Sketch out your website including number of pages, type of content on each page, general layout of the pages

5. GATHER CONTENT

I cannot stress this enough! Identify and pull together the copy (text for headlines, navigation, paragraphs, etc) for each page, images to be used and a list of those you need to acquire, graphics, videos, additional elements specific to your site.

Walking through these steps before building the site will save you time down the road. If skipped, you may find yourself revamping the site constantly to add this element or that style or color to really target your audience. You may find the website design project itself stalled until you are able to produce the content needed to flesh out the site in preparation for the official launch. Or you may build an entire website that caters to a demographic wholly uninterested in your site and thus will have spent the resources in vain.

Do yourself a favor and prepare the website before you ever begin to build the pages themselves.

For hands-on, step-by-step guidance on these steps and the rest of the process to building a website, Sign Up for the online course today.

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You can find the proverbial needle in the haystack in this online marketing realm. Photo by t_buchtele flickr.com

Who are you trying to reach online? Are they on social media? If so where?

You’ve probably heard of the main social media platforms: Facebook, Google +, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and the location-based Foursquare and Yelp. But did you know there are a plethora of niche social markets?

It is advisable to be communicating on some of the larger social markets to reach that broader base of potential customers.  However, there are also ways to really target your particular niche audience, find them online and be part of those communities.

A niche market is defined by Entrepreneur as “A portion of a market that you’ve identified as having some special characteristic that’s worth marketing to.” This definition can be applied to the online market as well.

Some of the larger online niche markets include Groupon, Vine, and Instagram.  There are hundreds of social media markets that are smaller or perhaps a bit more obscure that might be the absolute perfect fit for your business and your product.

How to find your niche target audience online

There are numerous ways to find where your ideal customer congregates online. A great place to begin your search is with a good old Google search for exactly what your target audience is. Type in the following, including the plus signs, finishing with a descriptor for your target audience.

social+media+network+for+niche

For instance, if your niche audience is engineers, your string would be social+media+network+for+engineers.  See what populates in the results. What should be returned is pages worth of smaller forums, blogs and communities where likeminded people exist, coexist and communicate.  Pick a few of them to look through and decide if it is indeed filled with your ideal customer. These are the places you want to spend some of your allotted social media marketing resources.

There are also specific social media sites for animal lovers, online gamers, recipes and kitchen gadgets, men’s shopping and women’s shopping, recycled gifts and art. The world of online niche market is ripe with opportunity for each individuals’ interest.

Hang out and Listen

Socializing on niche platforms can definitely increase your credibility and overall web footprint. However, when first visiting any new platform, regardless of size, spend some time getting to know the unspoken rules and etiquette. It’s very important to simply listen, to be a fly on the wall in the new spaces in order to find out what’s acceptable, what isn’t, interests of the community and topics users are passionate about so you can really add something to the conversation. Remember, people are not on social media, large or small, to shop, to be sold or advertised to; they are there to be social.

Be part of the community. Be part of the conversation. Be social.

Who is your target audience and what niche markets have you found? Share by writing a comment below.

Would you like a more in depth analysis of the available social media platforms and how to find your target audience online? Consider watching the video course available by clicking here. It’s full of more information on everything web!

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Top 3 Reasons to Choose the Website Design by Anna Doo course

The Website Design by Anna Doo course was created to assist busy business-owners with their online presence. I’m sure you don’t have weeks worth of time to learn how to make a website let alone engage in all the Social Media platforms you think you should be on. You may not have the additional financial resources to hire a professional website designer and developer to build the site of your dreams. I also assume you have enough technical savvy and desire to put yourself to the test to create, maintain and promote your own online presence.

That’s where this course steps in. Designed for the DIY, semi tech-savvy busy business owner who wants to be able to control their online presence.

Participating in the Website Design by Anna Doo course is the key to your online marketing success.

Participating in the Website Design by Anna Doo course is the key to your online marketing success.

But why this course?

Why not just YouTube all the free videos out there about finding and purchasing a domain name, obtaining hosting, setting up a WordPress site and learning about all the Social Media platforms and what you should be doing on them?

3. Time

You could spend a LOT, I’m talking weeks worth, of time to find relevant, helpful videos made by professionals who have the clout to actually be teaching you these skills. Hours upon frustrating hours spent weeding through poor quality, too little or too much information, and irrelevant to your needs videos.

Even then, do you know what you don’t know?

This course guides you step-by-step through the process of having no website to a robust site full of great content and the tools to continue its growth. No need to search for how to create a site that will appeal to your audience or how to add an image to a page on the site; it’s all in there.

2. Tools

There are many tools used by professional website designers and Social Media strategists. Throughout this course you are exposed to those tools and taught how to use them yourself. Keep in mind the tools you are taught are the ones you need to know to create and maintain your website as well as build a Social Media roadmap…no extraneous tools that you are unlikely to ever use. The course is far from bare-bones, nor is it intended to create professional website designers.

1. Expertise

The opportunity to email an Inquiry a Day to me, to ask a question specific to your online marketing needs is a huge value. It’s like having a personal assistant skilled in website design and social media strategy at your fingertips. What’s not to like about that?!

Over the course of the first four weeks after you sign up to work through the modules, you can email a question a day that I will do my best to answer the very next day. It can be anything pertaining to your website, WordPress, Social Media or even help determining where your target audience hangs out online. Go ahead, ask away! Of course, you need to sign up to take the class first.

The Key to Your Success

This is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the abundance of information, step-by-step guidance you receive during the training. To see all the topics covered, visit the Course Content page. Still have some questions before signing up? No problem, Contact Me and let me know your hesitation. I look forward to helping you create, maintain and promote your online presence.

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