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Michael - 12 Jun 2013
Web Pages that "pop"

Here is a great Photoshop action created by Damian Watracz and it allows you to turn normal flat images into 3D objects, but thats not all. This action can be used on Vector shapes, Text and layers. For more information and a free download click here.

 

For the you tube video tutorial click here

Michael - 11 Jun 2013
Traditional Retail in Australia and why shops are closing

After over a decade of consistent year-on-year growth, internet shopping finally reached mainstream status in the first quarter of 2013: for the first time, Australians who don’t buy something online in an average three month period are in the minority. The average internet shopper spends $285 online per four week period, with Travel, Entertainment & Leisure, Electronics, Fashion and Food & Beverages the Top 5 categories by expenditure.

These latest findings by Roy Morgan research are exactly why shops are empty in the main street and you cant afford not to have your store online.

For more help call Barking Toad

Michael - 4 Jun 2013
8 Homepage Design Tweaks

The basic rules of web design are quite well-known in the community, so to speak. I mean, everyone knows (even people outside of the design world) that a good homepage is one that’s not cluttered, only contains essential info and is direct to the point. However, there are some specific tweaks/adjustments that you can take into account when working on the homepage of your next project to make it even better.
In the end, the whole game is about creating a website that is successful, not necessarily beautiful…although it would be nice if these two goals can go alongside each other.


1. Getting started section
Getting started sections are becoming more and more popular on many blogs, product sites as well as general business sites.
A typical getting started section features either a simple concise message or a short video. The whole idea of such a section is to take your new visitors by the hand and guide them through your site.
As it turns out, for many websites, new visitors are the majority of their whole user base. This can be checked through Google Analytics or other web stats app. This situation means that your first task as a website owner is to provide some clear instructions to every new visitor.
What about the returning visitors? They will stop looking at your getting started block naturally and move on to browsing your site freely. Hence, it doesn’t necessarily make their experience any worse.
The best placement for a getting started block is usually as high up the page as possible. Or even to hijack the whole homepage and make it one big getting started block.
Here’s an example of getting started block that links to a video (on the Smart Passive Income blog – advice for anyone who wants to make money blogging):
Here’s an example of a text-based getting started message (on a blog for freelance writers – teaching how to get paid to write):


2. Most popular content
The second block worth including on a homepage is the popular content/resources block.
The idea behind popular content is that it’s always easier to take something that’s already popular and make it even more popular than to do it with a completely new piece of content.
The popular content block is meant to do exactly this.
The simplest implementation is a basic list of 5-10 links. If your design allows you to do it, you can include some excerpts. But be careful, your popular content block should not become the main focus point.
Common placements are right below the fold or in the sidebar.
An example (newInternetOrder blog):

3. Trust elements
Everything that can make your offering/expertise more believable can be considered as trust elements.
For instance, if the site is meant to promote an author then display a badge saying something like “Published author” or “Featured on the New York Times bestseller list.”
For a design company, it can be logos of recognizable brands that they have worked with.
For a blogger, it can be a simple “as seen on” section.
The purpose of trust elements is to convince the visitor that they are dealing with a professional or an expert. The most common placement is near the top of the page (a narrow banner-like block) or in the sidebar.
Here’s an example (Paid to Exist):

4. Small header
Currently, small headers are becoming a serious trend online. Most of the mainstream sites are using them already (TechCrunch, ReadWrite, Mashable).
Back in the day, the header was the perfect place to display some advertising, a big logo and other what-nots. But this has changed, mostly because header banners no longer generate any clicks (they fell victim to complete banner blindness).
Besides, the overall trend towards minimalism had to hit headers someday too.
As it turns out, websites don’t need big logos to be recognizable. Visitors don’t really care much for the headers and what’s in them. They are more concerned with content.
Here are some examples (ReadWrite and Mashable):

5. Direct links to products
This of course depends on the website itself. But if it’s any kind of a product site then it absolutely must display a set of product links on the homepage.
The form and style of these links is up to you. Because there are thousands of examples on the web, it’s hard for me to even point out the best approach.
Therefore, the rule of thumb is this: If the product on sale is the one guaranteeing someone’s livelihood then you should make it as visible as possible. Don’t even think about feeling bad for forcing it down the audience’s throat. However, if it’s just one of the side projects then it probably doesn’t need such a prime placement.


6. Good visible content
Well, I don’t want to play Captain Obvious here, but content really is the most important thing on every website. It’s the reason why people want to visit the site in the first place.
That being said, various websites understand content in different ways. Sometimes content means blog posts, sometimes it means videos, sometimes it means forum threads and so on.
No matter what the case is with the site you’re currently working on, you have to give your content a prominent placement.
How to do it? … The answer is minimalism.
Quite frankly, the less bells and whistles there are on a website, the easier the content is to digest.
If you take a look at a site like ReadWrite, you’ll notice that it features hardly anything else other than content. Actually, it’s difficult to even find any standard menu with some links in it.


7. Clear main element
Every homepage should have a main element. To put it simply, it’s the element that has the most relevance to the website and its goals. In other words, it answers the question: “What is this site about?”
Now, each of the things/elements discussed above can actually become the main element of your homepage. The choice is up to you, but you have to remember that the main element must be the most visible thing on the homepage.
In a nutshell, when a new visitor comes to the homepage, the main element is what they see first.


8. Subtle branding
If you take a look at some of the most popular sites online, you’ll notice that their branding elements are very subtle and as far from in-your-face as possible.
For instance, for TechCrunch, it’s essentially the color green that’s used to highlight links and as background for various boxes, elements, and bars.
For Mashable, it’s their small blue header that holds a fixed position at the top of the page.
But most importantly, these sites are consistent with their branding. There’s not one out-of-place element in their designs.
I encourage you to try a similar approach in your design. Just a logo and a good color scheme will be enough.
This concludes my list of eight homepage design tweaks to supercharge your website. I’m sure that there’s probably like a dozen of other things that would look good on this list, so here’s my question to you: Do you have any insights of your own on how to build a proper homepage?

 

Thanks to Webdevdesign team for this very true account of changing trends in website design.

Michael - 24 Apr 2013
Five tips for improving conversions

 Getting web visitors to become customers is the ultimate goal when it comes to running a business online. Your site can be immaculately designed, and your online marketing pitch perfect, but if visitors don’t like what they see when they land, you won’t make a sale.

In truth, conversions come down to how well you meet customer expectations. And given each customer is likely to expect different things to the next, it can be a complex and laborious process keeping everyone happy. The following are five tips to make the practice of converting visitors to customers a bit simpler.

1. Give them information

While it’s wise not to bombard customers with screeds of text, it’s important you let them know the crucial details. If there’s a piece of information that’s likely to nudge them over the line into a sale, then find some way to share it with them.

Who are you, who are they dealing with? What other companies deal with you? what are your shipping timeframes. Answer as many questions as possible, so the person can then just go through to making that sale or purchasing that product. A lot of people are a bit more wary about purchasing online. Giving away as much information as possible for them will make the decision easier.

2. Don’t ask too much

While it’s always useful to have more information about a customer, trying to pry too many details out of them in a transaction or customer contact form is unwise. If the actual act of conversion feels like a lot of effort, most won’t bother.

You’ve got to remember people on the internet are doing things quick. They are probably in contemplation mode when they’re filling out forms. The more questions that you ask for a form, the less likely it is that someone will fill it out.

3. Catch their eye

Having a basic understanding of how a visitor scans the layout of a page is useful when it comes to placing key information like calls to action or contact details. Most visitors will be prepared to spend very little time on a page when they first land – if you can catch their eye with a phone number or an offer, you can make the most of the minimal interaction.

Web Marketing Experts note that visitors typically look to the top right of a page for contact information, and to the left for information that identifies a business – a logo or slogan, or similar.

A number on the right hand side, and your logo on the left – that’s where people will look. They’ll look straight to the right to see if there’s contact details, the email address, and phone number. Also, make sure that the navigation menu bar is centred so that people can see what pages are where.

4. Leave them where you found them

Sometimes, conversions don’t happen on your website at all,  it’s often much easier converting prospects on their own terms. If they found your business on Facebook, don’t try to tear them out of their comfort zone.

“I actually found that people on Facebook tend to just want to be on Facebook – that’s why they’re using it rather than trying to over-optimise a landing page, just point them towards the Facebook page, and then put some real call to actions in the Facebook cover image and your posts on the Facebook page.”

Here is an an example of an iPhone repair business and how they use Facebook. The business’s Facebook page is used as a medium for fielding questions from customers. Contact details are prominently displayed, but the business’s interactions rarely point to them, focusing instead on solving customer problems.

It seems to be working much better than the website landing page.

5. Constant testing

Improving conversion rates should be seen as an ongoing process, not a one time, set-and-forget exercise. It’s important to test and re-test any changes made to a site to see what works best.

A simple way of doing this is to use Google’s AdWords service for trial and error – claim the listing for a particular keyword, but point half of the ads to one landing page for the product, and half the ads to a different, but still relevant, landing page. Once this is set up, see which page results in more conversions.

If you’re not getting much traction from your first landing page, you can change it, but then also make a second one. I’ve found that was really good, because you work out you’re getting a 70% bounce rate on one, and 90% on the other, and then you can start to alternate and try to work out why you’re getting better rates at different landing pages.

 

Article courtesy of NETT Magazine

Michael - 8 Mar 2013
Hacked Websites or just incompetant website designers

Here is a letter sent to us from a recent client.

 

To all our friends and happy customers,

 

Last Wednesday our website, hosted in the USA on DotEasy was hacked and taken out by some unscrupulous  person(s). The whole site was lost/destroyed. Beware of USA security and cheap hosting sites, it\'s not all it\'s cracked up to be.

 

Thankfully our good friends at BARKING TOAD had us up and running within hours with a brand new website shell and internet service. Now (online) we\'re based back here in Australia and hopefully the site will be fully functional by the end of the month. The new site is alot of fun and you\'ll be able to design your own work from home \"on line\", if you choose. Colours, fonts and styling possibilities are almost endless but the same care and attention to a quality hand made product will always remain.

 

www.vintagesigncraft.com.au

 

Please visit us on Facebook (just search Vintage Signcraft) and \"like\"

us there too.  Thank you for passing the word as we really appreciate your support and promotion of local home grown businesses that are dedicated to service and quality..

 

And thank you Mike and Toni - look to them if you ever need marketing or website support..

 

www.barkingtoad.com.au

 

Best wishes,

 

Andrew and Lynette

Michael - 21 Jan 2013
How to create an effective email newsletter

Email newsletters can be a cost-effective communication tool for your business. They allow you to directly reach your customers with relevant and useful information.
By sending out a newsletter on a regular basis you can build your brand awareness and stay top of mind with your customers.

They are also a great way to stay in contact with potential customers while promoting your services, products and brand. Here are some tips:

News your subscribers can use

The keyword in newsletter is news. This means if you want your subscribers to actually read your newsletter you need to include information that is interesting and valuable to them.

Since they have subscribed to your newsletter they are obviously interested in gaining more information about your business and your industry. You could include information about the latest industry trends, current news about your business, helpful advice, expert articles or answer customer questions.

Be consistent

Choose a regular date and time for the distribution of the newsletter and stick to it. By being consistent your subscribers will expect the newsletter at a certain time and will be more likely to read it.

It is best to send out a newsletter once a month or every fortnight. However make sure you can commit to the regular distribution of the newsletter before starting.

Keep it short

If you include articles in your newsletter it’s best to keep them short, around 200 words. If the article is longer, place it on your website or blog and hyperlink to it from the newsletter. This is a great way of driving people back to your website and getting your readers to see other material you have written. Use plain language and always check for spelling and grammar mistakes before distribution.

Visually appealing

Your newsletter should follow a set format and be visually appealing. If your newsletter looks interesting then your subscribers will be more likely to read it.
Make sure the newsletter is easy to read by breaking up big blocks of text into short paragraphs, limit the amount of colours used, avoid flashy graphics, use eye catching pictures and keep it simple.

You could also include a table of contents at the top of the newsletter and hyperlink each article. This will help readers navigate to the information they are most interested in.

Use your own content

There is no point having a newsletter if you don’t use your own content. People have subscribed to your newsletter because they want to maintain a relationship with your business. This means you should include articles written by your team, updates about your business, and information specific to your industry.

 Make it easy to unsubscribe

You should always include an unsubscribe button on the newsletter which is easy to see. Not only is it illegal not to have one, its poor form. If someone has unsubscribed to your newsletter make sure you take him or her off your mailing list straight away.

Never spam

Don’t spam your subscribers with hundreds of emails that aren’t useful to them. It’s also best to ask people if they want to subscribe to your newsletter first instead of just subscribing anyone without their permission. Your newsletter should also clearly state what the business is that is sending the email.

Include your contact details

Make sure you include all of your contact details including phone, email, blog and social media profiles. It’s a good idea to hyperlink them to make it even easier to contact you. You can also provide links back to your website to increase your website traffic.
your subscribers are interested in your newsletter they may even share it with their friends, which increases your exposure to a wider audience of potential customers.

Michael - 21 Jan 2013
Top seven predictions for 2013

 

1 – Impact of tablets on the digital media landscape will accelerate.

According to the report, smartphone penetration amongst the entire population is predicted to increase from 13% in 2012 to 29% in 2017. In addition to this, smartphone penetration is predicted to rise from 41% in 2012 to 65% in 2017.

2 – Online video advertising market will grow rapidly in Australia.

Frost & Sullivan is predicting the online video advertising market to grow by over 50% in 2013. It was worth $86 million in 2012, and the analyst house is forecasting it to be worth $442 million by 2016.

3 – Online video will take significant market share from the traditional broadcasting market.

The study is predicting that as smartphone penetration rises, so too will the acceptance of the mobile channel to watch online video.

4 – Social media will continue to gain popularity as an advertising medium.

According to the report, nearly 60% of Australian companies that advertise online used Facebook to some extent during 2012. Frost & Sullivan is predicting this to increase further in 2013 and 2014.

5 – Ad exchanges will become a crucial part of the online advertising ecosystem.

Purchasing inventory via ad exchanges (like Google AdWords, or Facebook Ads where you bid on online advertising) is expected to increase in 2013.

6 – integration of mobile advertising with other channels will increase.

The study shows that the mobile advertising market in Australia is forecast to reach $177 million by 2017. This will largely come about due to the integration of mobile advertising with other online and offline products in a single campaign.

7 – Mobile search will grow strongly.

Frost & Sullivan is predicting that Google and Bing will continute to invest significant resources into improving mobile search functionality. It’s also expected that queries for local products like restaraunts and retail stores will become more common types of searches made via a mobile device.

Rival analyst firm IDC has released its predictions for the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in 2013.

The report is forecasting a transformation in how suppliers connect with Australian businesses, how workers connect with large enterprises, and the types of technologies being used.

The top ten predictions for 2013 from IDC are:

· Omni-channel retailing will drive growth in expansionary ICT spending from social local mobile applications
· Business analytics as a service will transform small-to-medium-sized businesses.
· Skill shortages will lead to growth in automation and virtualisation as part of infrastructure services.
· On-premises computing will catch a second wind with converged systems.
· More than half of ICT purchasing decisions will involve a line of business executive.
· The corporatisation of the consumer.
· IT spending on hardware will not see a resurgence, but mobile devices will open up a window of growth opportunityears and leads IT managers to reconsider perimeter-based security.
· Unified communsications and collaboration extends to enterprise social networks.
· Machine-to-machine presents itself as a real growth opportunity for mobile operators.

“In 2013 ICT professionals must bridge two big forces. On the one hand, they are faced with a dangerously unbalanced European economy, a stagnant United States, and recent data pointing to the flattening of Chinese growth, which are negatively impacting Australian organisations,”says Matthew Oostveen, research director at IDC Australia.

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