How to choose the right CMS for your business?

In today’s fierce business environment, there is no doubt that a great website is one of the most powerful resources at any entrepreneur’s disposal. Consequently, choosing the right platform to build your site is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.

 This is especially true if you’re opting to design and manage the website internally. Unless you are an advanced web programmer (and even if you are), opting for a web CMS will be the way forwards.

What is a CMS?

The term CMS is an abbreviation for Content Management System, and that’s exactly what it is. It is a platform that will allow you, the website admin, to build a domain that looks and navigates as you want it to.   

CMS facilities use templates to help you tailor the design of your website through various widgets and page options. Meanwhile, it is also the admin panel that enables you to create and publish actual content. Whether it’s a blog post or a product description page, the CMS will be at the heart of everything you do.

Unsurprisingly then, choosing the best option for your needs is imperative.

The important features of a CMS:

There are plenty of CMS options on the market, each offering their unique take on the design and management processes. Ultimately, your job is to find the service that best suits your needs. While those can vary from website to website, there are several factors that almost all web admins desire.

Any CMS platform worth its weight will boast those key features. These include, but are not limited to:

Mobile optimization: Smartphones have changed everything, and consumers are now just as likely to access data via handheld devices. Therefore, a CMS platform that automatically adapts design properties to suit all screens should be top of the agenda.

Simple design tools: A good CMS should boast great templates that can be adapted to suit your brand. Without the ability to customize and personalize the look of your site, it will fall flat. Likewise, it should enable the injection of images, videos, and other media types.

Granular permissions and workflows: A successful website should boast a steady flow of content, and your CMS should accommodate this. Whether it’s editing posts, scheduling them, or managing them doesn’t matter. Full flexibility and control are vital. Meanwhile, admins using staff members will want to an approval system in place.

Strong SEO facilities: Ultimately, the success and failure of the site will be determined by traffic levels. Any good CMS will enable easy search engine optimization. This could be through tags or a variety of other tools. Either way, a web design platform that allows a site to rank highly on Google is key.

Scalability: Speed is a crucial feature for any website, especially when it comes to loading times. If the CMS boasts the performance features to cope with a growing audience, the website will be in a far better position for sustained results.

Choosing the right CMS for you:

Essentially, no two website owners are identical. As such, the best option on the market may vary from person to person also. Before committing to a decision, make sure you’ve considered the following:

Your needs: Different CMS platforms are designed with specific businesses in mind. A small localized company may have contrasting demands compared to a global giant. For the sake of finding the right features and right pricing, understanding your desires is key.

Your audience: Ultimately, a successful website is built on the response of the visitors. Therefore, it’s imperative that your site is designed with their needs in mind. If they aren’t technically gifted, for example, choosing a simple template on a simplistic CMS is best advised. Essentially, aiming for familiarity and comfort is king.

Your budget: In business, it’s not simply a case of what you can afford. If your website is likely to gain only a few visits from a very select audience, is it worth investing heavily in an advanced CMS? Working with your budget, needs, and target market should point you in the direction.

Deciding for the right CMS can be overwhelming our technical team is here to help you make the best decision. So if you still need a helping, do not hesitate in contacting today!

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4 Ways Small Digital Firms Can Have Big-time Creative Power

DBurns is proud to have been awarded two Davy Awards – a reflection of our constant strive to remain creative.

Before getting to the premise of this blog post, I want to give a bit of the back story behind it. It starts with three words: We won, again.

We will be popping the cork on a bottle of Beckmen’s wine again this month. Why? Last month the awards honored our firm with three creative design nods for www.beckmenvineyards.com. This month it was two Davey Awards for the same site: a Gold in the Web Graphics category and a Silver for Visual Appeal.

Awards matter to us at DBurns Digital, but not for the reasons you might think. This is not about plaques on a wall and puffing our chests — these awards acknowledge that even small firms can build big-time creative concepts. It made us wonder about the formula behind our recent wins.  And it turns out that the ways small firms like ours maneuver around roadblocks — like limited resources — are the same ones we use to come up with winning creative.

We boiled it down to these ways small digital firms can build big-time concepts:

1 – The First Step is Preparation

When you see the end result of months of creative collaboration, the instinct might be to imagine food and alcohol-soaked sessions stretching into the wee morning hours. Then “Aha!”  — someone on the team comes up with a winning concept. Actually, that’s not how it happens.

The secret to delivering stunning creative is — first and foremost — preparation. You must know both your client and its target audience as intimately as possible. Their likes, dislikes, what they do for fun — every bit of information that is possible to mine, you should know. Creativity is a beautiful process that most people errantly think is simply spontaneous — like an epiphany you see in the movies.  It actually stems, first and foremost, from rigorous research and preparation — and from there blooms into something special.

2 – Next Comes Breaks and Stepping Away from the Project

Ever think too hard about something? It stunts your creative process, right? 

One way to keep that from happening is to force your team to step away from the project for a little while. This might mean taking a few days off and switching focus to another client — or taking a few hours off and doing something fun to divert your attention. When you do this, you prime your team to have those amazing epiphanies from  out of the movies.

3 – Balance Out Your Team

Make sure teams are composed of both your creatives and your analytical thinkers;  both your big talkers and your quiet folks.

At DBurns the programmers, marketers, interns, designers, front desk staff — everyone has input into the creative process if they want to contribute. There is no one type of person who makes biggest creative contribution. Everyone has potential.

4 – Don’t Keep Creative Discussions Confined to the Office

Staring at the same four walls every time you are trying to jumpstart a creative process is, well, boring.

We try and mix it up and do creative sessions outside the office. It depends on your staff and their interests, but those environments could be restaurants or coffee shops. Maybe the park, a bowling alley or even a yoga studio. For us, future creative sessions will likely involve all those steps — oh, and that bottle of Beckmen’s.

Looking for an award winning website for your company? Contact us!

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The Importance of Design to Inbound Marketing

When many think of inbound marketing, they focus on content alone. But what many overlook is the importance in design as well.

When many think of inbound marketing, they focus on content alone. And that’s not completely off base. Content is incredibly important to a successful inbound marketing strategy. But what many overlook is the importance in design as well.

A thoughtful and cohesive design can have just as much impact as the content on your website, leading visitors to spend more time on your site and thus leading to a higher percentage of conversions.

So, what is it about design that is so critical to inbound marketing? Here’s a few notable things:

A First Impression of Your Brand

If you’ve ever been browsing the web for something and you’ve come across a site that seems old and dated—and decided not to make a purchase there, then you’ll understand this one. Your site’s design is an immediate, first impression for your brand. Before any visitor reads what’s on your page, they will be absorbing the visuals, the colors, and the feel of your site in just a matter of seconds.

In the same manner that you make an impression when you meet someone for the first time, so does your website. This impression is very real and has a tangible impact on the end user’s behavior. If it comes across as sloppy, dated, unstable or confusing, then my guess is your sales numbers are reflecting it.

It Must be Easy to Understand

If a site is poorly designed, you’ll notice because you’ll likely have a poor or frustrating experience. You may spend a few seconds clicking around, eventually getting frustrated that you’re not sure where to go. On the other hand, a well-designed website is graceful and subtle. You understand what’s happening on the site and where you need to navigate to. You readily understand the business and what the offerings are.

A poor design experience can launch someone right off your page, and send them looking for your competitors. A thoughtful design will encourage them to stick around for a while.

A Strong Call to Action

A strong design will in turn have a strong call to action. The design will guide your visitors on where to click and what the next step is. The design will usher them through the next steps, whether it is to purchase, read more or walk through a slideshow.

Mobile Optimized

It used to be that being mobile optimized was a “nice to have” but nowadays, being mobile optimized is an absolute must. More than two-thirds of people are browsing their emails and websites on their mobile devices. Websites that are not designed properly are going to be cut out of their browsing preferences. This is something you can do fairly easily: update your website to be designed responsively and simplify everything across the board so it looks great across all devices and browsers.

Give Design the Respect it Deserves

Design, user experience and content all have a seat at the table, and the three must be in partnership to make a website experience exceptional and drive successful inbound marketing. We at Durns pride ourselves on our expertise in design; it’s our bread and butter.

Do you want to know how to enhance the design of your website? We’d love to help. Contact us to tell us more.

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Renovate or Rebuild: How Should You Improve Your Business Website?

So it’s time to make some changes and improvements to your business website.

Should you have someone alter your existing design, or start a new web presence from the ground up?

That’s not always an easy decision to make, and you will probably hear differing opinions on the subject. Never forget, however, that upgrading or replacing your website should be a business decision first and foremost, not one based on whims or artistic sensibilities. That means you should base the outcome on a set of business criteria, such as:

Your budget.

All things being equal, it’s almost always going to be cheaper to add a few pages or a new look, to your existing website then it is to build a brand-new web presence. But the more changes you make, the faster those hours can add up. And launching a new website is more about impact than anything else, so you’ll want to be sure you don’t save a few dollars now just to hurt your sales and marketing potential later.

When you need your new website launched.

In the same way, making some quick edits or renovations to your current website is generally going to be faster, but also limits you in how much you can actually improve your web presence. So plan early and think carefully about your calendar. If you have a bit of time to work with, you can be more ambitious with your plans.

Current versus needed functionality.

What does your website not do that you wish it would or could? Until you can really answer this question, deciding what kinds of changes to make to your website – and on what scale – is kind of pointless. Often, businesses that come to us thinking they just want to switch a few things in their layout find that what they really need is more marketing and lead generation power. In those situations, attempting to “fix” what they have doesn’t make as much sense as starting over.

Whether your existing website is responsive.

Responsive web designs, which adapt to viewers’ browsers and screen sizes, are becoming increasingly important because more and more people are viewing web pages through smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, it can be expensive and time-consuming to re-encode an old website for responsive capability, so adding this incredibly important feature could mean starting from scratch.

Your longer-term sales and marketing goals.

If your current website already fits perfectly into your sales and marketing plans, and gets good results, then there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, if you’re trying to do big, ambitious things with your company, you don’t want to let an out-of-date website hold you back.

Getting a “new” website doesn’t necessarily have to mean getting a new website, but the reality is that it’s sometimes faster – and even less expensive – to start from the ground up than it is to renovate the foundation of your old web presence. If you’re not sure what you should do, or how it will affect the final product and profitability of your business, why not speak with a member of our team today to get some advice based on your specific situation?

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Have You Finished Planning Your E-Commerce Holiday Campaigns?

Kids aren’t the only ones excited about the coming holiday season – most online stores generate half or more of their revenue in November and December.

That means the next few weeks could make or break your fiscal year, so shouldn’t you be as prepared as possible? Sadly, a lot of e-commerce website owners haven’t taken the basic steps they need to run their holiday marketing campaigns effectively.

To avoid making the same mistakes, here are a handful of ideas and activities you should take advantage of today:

Set up new product pages. Even if they aren’t ready to go live yet, you shouldn’t leave the design of new product pages until the last minute. Having them in place now, even if they’re unpublished, makes it easier for you to plan your email and pay-per-click campaigns. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your web design team being too overwhelmed to design and activate them during the holidays.

Put express shipping options into place. Every year, certain online retailers get a big boost of “last-minute” sales simply because they offer express shipping and fulfillment options for gift buyers who waited longer than they should have. Are you going to be one of the ones who profit from holiday shopping procrastination, or the kind of company that watches those sales go elsewhere?

Put together a strong pricing strategy. You may not have decided what kinds of discounts to offer during the holidays, but you probably already have a good sense of what your pricing strategy is going to be like. In order to ensure your margins stay intact, envision your campaigns from start to finish and think about what kinds of coupon codes or special sales you’ll add into the mix, as well as when you’ll use them.

Make a calendar for emails and social updates. Timely emails and social updates are two of the easiest things for a smaller e-commerce retailer to overlook during the holiday rush. They also happen to be two of your most effective tools for promoting specials and building sales. With that in mind, put an editorial and promotional calendar in place now that you can follow later. It will stop you from missing important steps when you’re overwhelmed.

Stress test your website and shopping cart. It’s critical you know your e-commerce site can handle the increased traffic and transactions it will see during the holiday season. Also, note that thieves and hackers are especially busy during that time of year, too, so it makes sense to beef up your encryption and make sure all software is up to date.

The holiday season is too important to online retailers to ignore or to leave things to chance. Take the time today to review your pages and campaigns to see whether there are parts of your site that need to be reimagined or redesigned before the holiday shopping rush.

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Designing Based on User Personas: The UX Goldenrule

Designs based on User Personas leads to a better UX.

User research is the “golden weapon” of website owners. Creating user personas, customizes the user experience also known as ux, you reach site visitors on a level that competitors might not. User personas are a tool that allows site owners to cater the experience to individual personality types. A user persona represents a group of people and how they behave; it will delve into what type of content they like, what products they purchase and even the types of experiences that engage that group of people. In an age when fast food franchises offer food the way the customer wants it, online shopping experiences offer suggestions based on the user’s past purchases and people are looking for a personal connection with the companies they do business with, using personas to help design your website only makes sense.

According to Pew Internet Research, over 74% of adults who are online use social networking. Social networks have refined their user (UX) experience, especially in recent years. When a member signs onto Facebook, for example, the system pulls up the top feeds it thinks that particular user will be interested in from friends. In addition, advertising is targeted on Facebook based on Internet browsing, age, history, gender and many other personal details.

It seems nearly every business is beginning to grasp the importance of a personalized experience and if you don’t embrace the concept, you could find your business falling behind competitors who do use user persona based design.

Even the Department of Defense has gotten in on the concept of user personas, spending millions of dollars researching how people use social media, which messages go viral and why some interaction is more successful than other types of interaction. In an article on ARS Technica, writer Sean Gallagher reports that mathematical principals can be applied to figure out what groups of users want and how they will react to a set of given online social interactions.

a/b tests

photo credit: Daniel Eizans via photopin cc

Interviews & A/B Testing of Personas

Your first step to classifying your users into types is conducting testing to see what types of people are visiting your website and how they are behaving. Not only do you want to test your customers, but you want to be sure you’ve grouped them correctly. If you create a user persona for a 20-year-old woman named Katie, she is probably more likely to want products geared to a 20-something than products for senior citizens. First, however, you have to figure out the details of Katie’s life.

First, you’ll want to conduct interviews of a portion of your customers. It isn’t necessary to interview each and every customer, but you want a good sampling, so aim for five or six customers in each persona type. Simply ask your current customers or site visitors if they’d be willing to answer a few questions. The questions should be based on the experience you want the user to have. If your main goal is to engage that type of user, then you need to ask questions about what makes them stay on your site, what would make them stay longer, etc.

You will want to focus your questions on:

  • Who your users are
  • Why they want to use your site
  • What are their daily, weekly, monthly, annual behaviors as related to your site?
  • Do they have any expectations that affect the way they see your site?

Once you’ve completed the interview process, you are going to create a user persona for that age group or demographic based on the average responses. It is usually best to throw out any extremes. For example, if you want to know how many times a day the persona visits shopping websites and one person answers once, another person answers fifteen and the middle four or five answer three, you will want to stick closer to three than one or fifteen. This is your baseline user. Yes, there are going to be extreme personalities in any user persona, but for our sampling, you simply want an average to aim at. This will satisfy the majority of your customers.

According to Usability.gov, it is best to stick to no more than three or four personas per site. This will help you target the user experience more effectively. You’ll want to watch for themes across the interviews. Is anything in particular trending? Do all users, regardless of age or background, want an easier checkout process? Once you’ve analyzed all the research, create your personas. Give each one a name and classify the average age, career, behaviors, etc. This part of the process can actually be a lot of fun for website owners as they create imaginary people that represent their target customers. What are the characteristics of each persona?

Now, decide which persona is your primary audience, secondary and so on. Starting with the primary group, create A/B Testing modules to see what types of tweaks make that user respond most often. You’ll need to set up landing pages so that all users in that primary group go to one of the landing pages (50/50) and measure the results after they land on that page. This will tell you a lot about what colors, wording and features this persona is looking for. Repeat with your other personas until you have a solid model of conversion behavior for each type.

Once you’ve completed all research, develop your persona by charting pertinent information. An example is below of things you might include:

  • Persona Grouping – age or other defining factor
  • Name of the Persona – such as Katie or Mary
  • Career – what type of career this personality type typically has
  • Detailed Demographics – family, age, religion, education
  • Why – what does the person hope to accomplish on your site
  • Picture that indicates that persona – Katie would be a young 20-something professional woman, for example.
UX Methods Infographic

When to Use Which UX Methods – Infographic

Designing by Customer Types

Personas will help with professional web design right down to the keywords you use. Because you know the way the persona behaves, you’ll have an understanding about the types of keywords that persona might search for.

Now that you’ve developed user personas, as you create different pages and features on your site, you can ask:

  • What will make this person want to stay on my site?
  • Does this feature speak to the core values of the persona?
  • What pages on my site is this persona most likely to view?
  • What call to action would work best with this persona?
  • What would make this person want to share the content?

In addition, you’re going to want to filter your site visitors to the experience that is best for him her. You’ve probably visited a clothing retailer site where the initial landing page asks if you are male or female and then subsequent questions. This is an example of a site using personas to direct you to the content best for you. Of course, you’ll also want good navigation for the rare person who doesn’t really fit well into a particular persona. For most people, filtering them through a series of simple questions will quickly take them to the content they most want.

Mistakes to Avoid

Not enough socialization: Social media has been embraced from teens on up to senior citizens. In a highly technological world, where you scan your groceries yourself, go through an automated bank teller and interact with machines rather than humans, people crave social moments with others, even if they are online and even if they are not as personal as face-to-face relationships. What social interactions can you provide for each persona that enhances the overall message or goal of your site?

Taking shortcuts because of small budgets: Creating a user persona can take time and money. Whether you hire a research company or a web designer to implement your ideas, costs can add up quickly. A company on a tight budget may be tempted to take shortcuts around the process or use the general personas from another site. This is a big mistake, because your customers are unique to your company and behave uniquely based on their experience on your site. If you have a small budget, then you’ll need to invest more time into researching your site visitors and what persona groups they fall into.

Getting too detailed: As mentioned above, creating personas can be fun, especially for creative types. It is easy to get so involved in the process of creating a user-character that you get too detailed. While you want a general idea of career, income, family, and values, getting too specific may hurt your efforts to create content that reaches a wide range of people in a particular demographic. Be detailed but not too specific and you’ll hit the right balance. Focus on ranges, such as that the persona makes between $60-75K a year.

Not updating the personas: Your business is fluid and your website should be, too. As your business grows and the industry you’re in changes, the persons who visit your site and are your patrons will also change. People also grow up, change careers, enhance their education and gain new interests. From time to time, you’ll want to update your personas to reflect this. Simply repeat the process of interviewing and A/B testing your customers to create new personas. You probably don’t need to repeat this process every year unless you’ve noticed a significant decrease in site traffic and/or sales. Every three to five years is a good time to review your personas and if they are still working for you. This can help your company determine if new personas should be created.

User Persona Example

Photo Credit: calliope_Muse via Compfight cc

Developing Personas

Development leaders need to be careful how they pose questions. As Linda Bustos wrote over on Get Elastic, Walmart learned this lesson the hard way when they asked customers if they wanted the aisles in Walmart stores “less cluttered”. Of course customers said yes because who wouldn’t want less clutter. Walmart lost billions of dollars in sales as a result of cutting inventory based on this one questions.

The question had one major problem. First, it asked something that most people would automatically say yes to without considering the consequences (i.e. less inventory means some items are not available and thus customers will purchase those items elsewhere). Second, customers may want an ideal shopping experience, but their behavior may not follow what they say they want.

This is why testing is so vital and why developers must carefully think through how they respond to the interview process and the A/B testing. Creating a site that is responsive to user personas and still increases sales takes creativity and common sense.

Yes companies should offer products and services based on user personas, but not to the tune of sacrificing the stability of the company. Introduce new services and products carefully and test any changes thoroughly. With a little foresight, good business sense and understanding of your customers, your company will stand out from competitors and see an increase in conversions.

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Entertainment Website Design

The entertainment industry is all about visual engagement. Your website must visually grab visitors from the first moment they land on your page. If your site appears clunky, outdated or otherwise less than stellar, it’s easy for your target audience to discount your prowess in the entertainment field.

The Best in Entertainment Website Design

We are leading professional website design agency and we are happy to help you transform your site into a visually enticing powerhouse. With our superior entertainment website design services, we can create a new face for your site that puts you on the cutting-edge of your field. If you already have a clear plan for your new site, we can easily make that vision a reality. If you are unsure of your site’s possibilities, our entertainment website design experts can discuss its potential with you, presenting you with various design ideas.

We’ve completed entertainment website design on a wide variety of sites, including those in the film, television, music, fashion and gossip realms. Whatever your company’s particular niche, we can design a site that seamlessly emulates your overall message in a wholly unique manner. We take the time to get to know your business, ensuring that your new design conveys your company’s values, personality and offerings to your target audience.

In your evolved field, you need top entertainment website design work. We’re proud to have the very best designers, programmers and marketing professionals on staff, ready to use their experience and skills to make your site as effective as possible.

We can cater to your specific needs, whatever they may be, thanks to our diverse services. Whether you need a database application, flash animation graphics, streaming video and audio, or interactive email applications, we can handle all your needs. Contact us today to set up a consultation with our entertainment website design experts.