Morning Larks vs. Night Owls: Which is More Productive?

Is it more productive to get up and busy at the crack of dawn or is it better to be a late riser? This is an intersting article from a site all about tips for transforming your life. This is some interesting fuel for thought that applies to those of us who “know” we get our best work done later in the day. So maybe you should hit that snooze or just turn off the alarm altogether. And don’t feel bad about it!

Smart Car Epidemic Strikes NYC

LOL, this is way too funny. Seems there is a Smart Car epidemic striking in NYC, and the locals are left voicing their concerns that “there goes the neighborhood.”

Seems that some of the local residents have considered moving out in response to the gentrification of their neighborhood. This is way too funny!

Smart Car Epidemic Stikes NYC

Wonder what will happen when this Smart Car epidemic strikes hard here in Louisville? There is even a great commercial on myspace showing just how dangerous these little cars can be.

What Can You Do About Usability?

Given that many designers and marketing professionals often get usability wrong, what should we do to help make us more likely to succeed? Steve Krug, in his classic book “Don’t Make Me Think” quickly identifies five important things you can do to make sure your visitors see and understand as much about your site as possible.

  1. Create a clear visual heirarchy on each page.
  2. Take advantage of conventions.
  3. Break pages up into clearly defined areas.
  4. Make it obvious what’s clickable.
  5. Minimize noise.

Creating a clear visual heirarchy does not just apply to navigation. It means putting important text in larger fonts, setting important text off from the rest of the text, grouping related objects together, and properly nesting related content on our web pages. Ignoring these factors leads to confusion. Most of the time a visitor can figure it out, but often you are just making them work way too hard.

Conventions are those things we have all come to expect on a website. Most visitors have come to expect a logo or company identification in the upper left-hand corner of the page. Most visitors expect a search box in the upper right-hand corner of the web page. Most of us know how to work the shopping cart on amazon.com or bestbuy.com. But designers often want to show that their site is different and unique, or we think that there is just something so different about how we do business that we ignore these conventions. Far mor often than not this leads to a bad web experience.

Breaking pages up into clearly defined areas allows a visitor to quickly find the right area of the page to focus on. It is simply amazing how often it is not clear what is clickable on a web page.  We designers have to avoid buttons that are too subtle; they are too often just hard to understand. And lastly, keep the noise under control. Pages that are simple, easy to read, and have adequate whitespace are much easier to use.

PPC Marketing for Quick Results

Addressing the on-page and off-page factors is really the best way to ensure your pages are relevant for the appropriate keywords. And the best way to do this is to take time and create a traffic improvement plan that includes a continuous series of systematic changes, testing, and evaluation.

However, if you really want to get listed or improve your traffic quickly, the I would always recommend some kind of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. A PPC campaign using a tool like Google Ad Words can produce measurable results in minutes and get you to the top of almost any search result page. However, it will cost you. You must be careful in any PPC campaign since you are paying for each of the visitors to your site. PPC marketing is an extremely powerful tool in any search engine optimization plan.

Web Usability and Why We Get it Wrong

Web usability is all about making sure that your website works for your visitors. Making sure your website provides it’s visitors with the information, functionality and user experience they want and expect sounds like good common sense but so often we web developers fail to do this.  One obvious reason for this is one that is becoming quite well known. Most visitors just don’t think about our products and services the way we do. It is easy to fall into the trap of designing for the internal audience rather than our target audience.

But there are other very important reasons. Many of those involved in designing and creating web sites, just don’t get how people actually work on the web. There is a strong tendency to approach the design of web pages and the creation of content as if it were print. In the print world people pay a lot of attention to the look and layout of the pages, documents, brochures they are reading. They spend quite a bit of time reading the details.

On the web this rarely happens. On the web visitors scan content. They just don’t have time to read every word on every page. Most of us have learned that we just don’t need to read everything. On the web visitors rarely make the best choices. Designers often think their visitors will look over all the information, links, buttons, and other content before making the decision where to go next. Far more typically a visitor will click the first link that looks reasonably close to what they are looking for.

Careful attention to web usability can have a great impact on this situation. Web usability practitioners pay close attention to how people think, what captures their attention, and what kind of mistakes our visitors are likely to make.

Relevancy: The Most Important Search Optimization Factor

And once you have decided to focus your attention on these search engines, the single most important factor to consider is relevancy. Search engines still make their most of their money from advertisers (and their ads). To make money they need to show their ads to as many people as possible. And the basic fact is that visitors choose to use a particular search engine because of the “relevancy” of the results they get. Think about it.

Then the critical job becomes making your pages more relevant to the major search engines. To do this you need to consider both “on-page” and “off-page” factors. The most important on-page factors are all related to keywords and the placement of keywords throughout your page. Other on-page factors include things like title tags, description tags, and anchor text (link text). But these also include things like bold or italicized text, text in HTML links, and alt tags for images. The most important off-page factors are related to inbound links (the anchor text, the text in paragraph surrounding the anchor text, and even the titles of pages linking to your pages. There are many more.  Systematically addressing these factors and carefully assessing the impact of your changes lies at the heart of any effective search engine optimzation effort.

Many people have asked me about the need to “submit” their websites to popular search engines. At one time there were plenty of services available promoting these kinds of services. But I can’t remember the last time I recommended this course of action for anyone. The reason for this is simple. Google is the single most important entry in the search engine market and Google clearly prefers to “discover” sites from the external links in other websites. Google clearly states this preference on their AddURL page. Submitting a site is clearly NOT necessary.

Search Engines: The Major Players

We all know that Google has a solid lock on the Internet search market, at least from an end-user point of view. But not everyone knows the other major players. At this time it looks like Yahoo!, Windows Live, and Ask also need to be considered, especially in any search engine optimization project. Google stands alone at the top because of it’s strong user base, but don’t forget it also drives the back-end of many other sites, most notably AOL, Earthlink, and AT&T.

Yahoo! is the next nearest competitor to Google in the search market. According to Comscore at the end of 2007, Yahoo! accounted for about 22.9% of all internet searches (compared to 58.4% for Google). Windows Live and Ask probably rank right behind in the vicinity of 10%. But Windows Live is agressively growing it’s user base; and ASK probably has some of the most interesting search technology. Most solid search optimization efforts are probably fairly safe in focusing on these four important search engines.