Web Design and SEO Blog

Jul20165

Building Foundations with OmniGraffle

by Mira Brody in Design, Development, Tools & Tips

Omni Graffle and web design.
An example of some of the objects we use to build flowcharts with OmniGraffle.

OmniGraffle is a program from the OmniGroup for Mac and iOS that allows you to produce diagrams, flowcharts and more. We primarily use OmniGraffle to create flowcharts that will eventually manifest into advanced websites. These flowcharts help us to map out the structure of a site, allow us to more accurately determine the appropriate project budget, and to present the team with a tangible outline of the project we will soon be working on. Here are a few features of OmniGraffle we find most useful for use in web development:
  • Custom stencils — We almost exclusively use our own, personally designed stencils. Stencils are groups of vector art, pre-sized to our specifications, which make the elements on our flowchart immediately available for our use.
  • AppleScript compatible — OmniGraffle processes AppleScript, allowing us to put our diagrams to work. We created an AppleScript called jtCount, which allows us to keep a tally of all the different elements in a single flowchart, saving us tons of time. We use it to count the number of each object to help us formulate the project’s budget and we can count how many iterations exist of each object.
  • Canvases — Multiple canvases per document allow us to wireframe different states and pages of our websites. Within each canvas OmniGraffle offers discrete layers, which allows a huge amount of information to be stored on a single document in an un-chaotic way. We layer notes on top of flowcharts, so that important information is available, but can be hidden if the chart gets too cluttered.
  • Magnets — Magnets are used to affix your connecting line to a specific position on an object, as they otherwise connect to an object at the point of the shortest distance. This helps to keep your flowcharts organized and make visual sense.
These are just a handful of the many tools available in OmniGraffle. If you’re interested in more, in depth analysis, check out our article on SpeckyBoy. We’ve found OmniGraffle extremely useful in web design and are interested in hearing about your experiences with OmniGroup products as well!
Jul20161

The Good and Bad of Customer Reviews

by Mira Brody in Content, Optimization, SEO, Social Media, Tools & Tips

customer reviews for your business.
More and more people are choosing to express their opinion about an experience they had online through Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google Local and even a company’s Facebook page. Because 90% of customers claim their buying decisions are directly influenced by online reviews, this feedback is a big deal for your business. In addition to swaying a purchase, reviews make up nearly 10% of how search engines decide to rank you in results.

So, what are some things you can do to ensure your customer reviews are helping and not harming your business?
  • Make sure the active review sites you are associated with are legitimate. You can do this by claiming your business’s Yelp, Facebook, Google+ or other social profiles and make sure there are no “fakes” out there created to slander.
  • Consumers actively seek out and want authenticity. Your best bet is to let them come organically rather then bribing people to leave you positive feedback.
  • Encourage your customers to leave reviews by linking your social media sites to your website.
  • Train staff to ask. The best time to ask for feedback is when you have delivered them a product they are happy with and you can be proud of; most satisfied customers are more than willing to leave a positive review.

Once in a while, you’ll get a bad review. Because 67% of consumers will only read 6 reviews or less before forming an opinion, it is best to keep your average rating up and positivity the most visible. Here’s how to deal with a negative review:
  • First, find out if it is legitimate. The internet is a mixed bag of good and evil and there are trolls who exists to bring a business’s rating down.
  • After determining that the reviewer is a real person with a legitimate concern or issue, treat it as an opportunity for conversation. On Yelp, for example, you can reply to reviews, allowing you, the business owner, an opportunity to respond to the disgruntled customer and see if there’s anything you can do to improve their experience.
  • In addition to starting a conversation, a customer may bring up something negative you had not considered before; instead of being stubborn, use this as an occasion to learn and improve.

Reviews on your social media sites, such as Yelp, Facebook, Google+ and Trip Advisor, determine how many customers make it to your business to complete a purchase. While positive ones build credibility in your brand, too many bad reviews can cause your search raking to suffer. Obtaining good reviews should be a top priority, and if you are suffering, feel free to contact us. We can build a marketing plan for you that will maintain a high ranking and keep you in positive light.
Jun201629

JTech is Closed on The Fourth

by Mira Brody in Announcements

Happy Fourth of July.
Independence Day is a time to enjoy yummy food in the company of family and friends and celebrate our great nation, which is why the JTech office in Bozeman, MT will be closed Monday, July 4th. We will reopen Tuesday, July 5th!

We hope all of you have a fun and safe Fourth!
Jun201624

Don’t Take the Bait

by Mira Brody in Content, SEM, SEO, Social Media, Tools & Tips

Clickbait does more harm than good.

yellow journalism clickbait.

You’ve probably come across it, but Clickbait is the content online that is sensational or provocative, and deployed simply to spike curiosity and draw attention — essentially “baiting” you into clicking their link. If the motivation for clickbait is vested in a website’s attempt to garner more readership, then it all began in the late 1800s with Yellow Journalism. Yellow Journalism, defined as sensationalistic, exaggerated, ill-researched, and often untrue reporting, had one goal — to outsell the rival paper.

Words that decrease clickthrough rate.
Words that decrease clickthrough rate.
These goals are reflected in media today and readers continue to fall for it. Studies show that curiosity actually causes a lapse in cognitive thinking, and it is during that lapse that we are most likely to click on headlines such as: “What the candidates’ rally music says about them!” Spoiler alert: Nothing.

Now while that lapse in thinking may have succeeded in earning a few clicks here and there, using clickbait-y words in your headlines has shown to actually kill a site’s clickthrough rate in the long-run. That’s right, putting the wrong word in your headline can destroy your credibility, regardless of the quality of the rest of the content.

So how do you avoid falling into the clickbait pit? Here are a few pointers that’ll help you come up with compelling, intelligent headlines that draw readers in and maintain the integrity a hardworking writer deserves:
  • Be clear — We live in a fast-paced world of media where ambiguity frustrates and falls short. Write a headline that will state clearly the subject of the article. Instead of “You’ll never guess which singers died 40 years ago!” consider The Sun’s front page on August 16, 1977 “KING ELVIS IS DEAD; He was 42 and alone.”
  • Include a keyword — Adding a keyword or two in your headline will not only establish the topic for your readers, but also help with search engine optimization so they can find you in the first place.
  • Short and sweet — Headlines between 20-40 characters are the best for page views and conversion rate.
  • Define your medium — If you’ve published an infographic or photo gallery, analytics show that revealing that in the headline will increase your visitors. “Baby Otter Learns to Swim [photo gallery]” is more likely to get hits because people are going to be more attracted to an article if they’re promised photos of a baby animal.
“The news is not a game. I don’t want to guess. I want you to tell me.” -@SavedYouAClick; the hero we need.
SavedYouAClick, the clickbait spoiler.

We are busy people in a world of unlimited information. We want to know that the minutes we take out of our day to read something is going to be worth our time. Don’t compromise good content with a bad title just to get a few extra clicks. Chances are, the audience you actually want won’t be attracted to it and your credibility as a reliable source will suffer.
Jun201622

Embedding Google Maps to Enhance User Experience

by Mira Brody in Design, Google, Tools & Tips

Outpost's Snazzy Map matches their branding.
Outpost's Snazzy Map matches their branding.
If you have a physical storefront or office, chances are, you’ll want to include that information on your website so customers can find you. What better way to display your location than to embed a Google Map!

Aside from simply providing a visual display of your physical location with context of the surrounding area, here are some of the benefits using Google Maps on a website can yield:
  • Familiar interface — Due to its prevalence, most internet users are familiar with Google Map’s interface so, for the most part, using your site’s map will be a seamless experience for them.
  • Customize — Snazzy Maps is a website that provides a library of map styles in their CSS so that you can modify the colors and style of a Google map to match the branding of your site. For example, the Outpost Restaurant has an old-timey western color scheme to match their branding.
  • Interactive — While Google maps provide panning, zooming, satellite view, terrain view and many other great options, we add the ability to expand a map to fill the screen so that they are both visual and functional, particularly on small-screen devices. On Price Rite Drug’s website, we also added support for Google’s Driving Directions engine.
A custom Google Map for Price Rite Drug.
Price Rite's Snazzy Map includes Google's Driving Directions engine.

Displaying where you’re located can be much more than a simple roadmap — it’s an experience, and it needs to be a positive one. Whether it’s providing an interface they are familiar with and can easily navigate, or going the extra mile to add customization and extra features, you can be sure potential customers make it into your store or office.
Jun201620

Your Right to a Secure Website May Be In Danger

by Josh Reynolds in Industry News

The Department of Justice is making changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that will increase law enforcement’s ability to hack into your computers. If you own a website, you will be affected. This change is being pushed through to Congress, who have until December 1 to change it, or disavow it completely.

This rule change will allow a judge to issue a warrant for law enforcement to remotely break into your computers and access and/or copy your data. You can read more about the issue on the EFF’s website here.

There are many organizations concerned about the future of our digital security that are urging others to join them in taking a stand to protect our civil liberties and also to bring attention to this attempt to sidestep our legislative process. In short, Congress should reject this proposal immediately. If you run a website, you should consider embedding this banner onto your site to spread the word.
Jun201619

Rehashing the Hashtag

by Mira Brody in Social Media, Tools & Tips

How to use hashtags for your business.

Hashtags are a way businesses can tag their posts with keywords, making them easier for social networks to organize and users to search. It’s a great marketing tool embraced by major brands, such as Coca Cola, Oreo and McDonald’s and is supported by most social media platforms now, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How do they work? If you add a hashmark (#) before a word, phrase or sentence without punctuation or spaces on a social media site, it will link you to the conversation about that hashtag. For example, #LoveWins went viral last summer after the Supreme Court ruled it legal for same-sex couples to marry, sparking an outpouring of status updates, posts and photos, all united by this single hashed phrase.

Hashtags are a great way to market, express an opinion on a trending topic or be humorous, but there are a few dos and don’ts to be aware of, especially if you’re a company trying to maintain a positive reputation.

DO NOT:
1. Overdo it. Hash-tagging an entire sentence makes your post obnoxious and illegible. No one cares that #WeGotANewPrinterAndItPrintsLikeBobRossPaints — it probably won’t match any trending topics and the specificity deems it useless from a marketing standpoint. So is: #I #love #hiking #outside #trees #grass #birds #sunset.
Solution: Posting about a company retreat or summer camp? #YNP #FindYourPark to accompany your Instagram shot of Yosemite Falls will suffice and benefits the marketing campaign of our National Parks.

2. Use a tragedy to market. Don’t think it needs to be said? Entenmann’s made the unfortunate mistake of using the hashtag #notguilty, not knowing it was at the time trending as a response to the Casey Anthony verdict. The Lesson? Check the context of a hashtag you are about to use! We will cover how to research trending hashtags further down.
Entenmanns tweets the wrong hashtag.

3. Create a hashtag you don’t want to know the answer to.
JP Morgan launched a marketing campaign via a question and answer session with the hashtag #askJPM. Over 54,000 inquiries attacking the bank’s business practices and legal troubles drove them to cancel the Q&A session.
Solution: Don’t go out of your way to invite negative attention.

DO:
1. Research hashtags in your market. Post Planner has a pretty useful list of safe, popular hashtags used in various industries and Sprout Social offers a program that will track your business’s trending topics on social media. It is also helpful to check an industry partners’ social media pages to see which they are using.

Oreo's Twitter won the Superbowl.
Oreo's Twitter won the Superbowl.
2. Jump onto the trend bandwagon. Trendy topics are usually morphed into a hashtag — use it to your advantage! Oreo Cookie’s Twitter account was one of the first major brands to use #SuperBowl #blackout and it left a lasting impression on consumers.

3. Be humorous. Although it is important to stay professional, when you’re representing yourself on social media, people are looking to connect in a more down-to-earth fashion. Charmin’s #TweetFromTheSeat and Denny’s #CollegeIn5Words were hugely successful marketing campaigns driven by hashtags.

Jimmy Fallon's hashtag sequence.
On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon features a segment called #Hashtags featuring the week’s funniest trending hashtags.

So don’t find yourself intimidated by that little thing we used to call the pound key. When used correctly, it is an extremely powerful marketing tool on social media and can earn you followers, shares and likes, garnering more traffic and recognizability for your brand.
Jun201616

Practice Makes Perfect: Checking a website for quality assurance

by Mira Brody in Tools & Tips, UX

From screen size to browser to operating system, you can’t make assumptions about what hardware or software your customers are accessing your website from. Since we carefully test each website we build, we thought it would be helpful to put together a checklist of our own testing process so you can be sure your customers get the best experience on your site.

Browsers — The most popular browsers in the United States are: Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox. Test your site on all of these, as each have their own quirks that sometimes effect the way your site appears and operates.


Operating Systems — Even the same browser can produce different results on different operating systems. We test sites in browsers on Macs and Windows. Since we’re Mac-based, we use Parallels, a program that allows us to run Windows on a Mac, and there are ways run virtual machines on other operating systems as well.

Devices — Mobile browsing, as predicted, surpassed desktop browsing in 2014, which makes responsive design a top priority. Testing your site’s breakpoints on different devices, such as a phone or tablet is important to make sure your webpages are collapsing correctly and are navigable on all mobile devices.
  • Tip: Don’t have different testing devices? See if your community has a mobile device lab. Also, if you’re on a Mac, be sure to try Safari’s responsive mode.

Personas — User personas are a common technique used for site testing. For every project, we create a handful of user personas: customer profiles with demographics, hobbies, needs, goals, even a photo. They are then distributed for testing and often help us discover aspects of the site we wouldn’t have noticed without stepping into someone else’s shoes.

Teamwork — Sometimes it just takes another set of eyes…or seven. In addition to user personas, it is a good idea to have the team as a whole individually run through each webpage, as everyone is going to have a different perspective and catch different things.
  • Tip: Send your test URL to a few friends and family. Even if they are unfamiliar with the industry, their outside perspective may help reveal things you didn’t consider.

Workflows — Instead of just flipping through each webpage aimlessly, it is important to look at your website as different types off workflows to help you spot flaws. Some examples are:
  • What is someone looking for when they come to a contact page? Are the fields functioning properly? Are the required ones erring properly if left blank? Is the notification going to the correct email?
  • How should the site work when a customer is making a purchase? Is the shopping cart updating? Are shipping, tax and discount offers adjusting the total properly?
This type of testing often reveals bugs or issues with the site that may not have otherwise been discovered.

The fact that cars are rigorously tested for functionality and safety before they reach the sales market should illustrate how important quality assurance is to the products we use everyday. While your website might not be as life-or-death as an automobile, a malfunctioning site can be frustrating for your users and embarrassing for your business – proper testing will prevent this. Although we work hard to extensively check the websites and web-apps we build, as the manager or owner of your business, ensuring that it works properly for your clients is ultimately up to you. We hope this article has helped you think of some new ways to look at your site and ensure it is ready for your visitors to enjoy!
Jun20169

Our Custom Fonts Article Has Been Published By Web Design Ledger

by Mira Brody in Announcements, Design, Development, External Publications

WebDesign Ledger is a source for designers and developers.
WebDesign Ledger is a source for designers and developers.
“Custom Fonts in Modern Web Design” is an article that outlines the benefits of editing your font files to contain only what they need — something we do for every site we build. This allows us to produce fast-loading vector art unique to the business’s branding, such as moose and bison iconography for Outpost Restaurant, as well as decrease the number of requests required when loading a page, improving overall performance.

We invite you to read this intriguing article in its entirety on Web Design Ledger — enjoy!
Jun20166

Voice Search: Asking a lot of our devices

by Sam McCue in Google, Infographic, Optimization, SEO

Voice Search.
“Siri, what does the weather look like this weekend?”
“OK Google, what does DSL stand for?”
“Cortana, what are the odds of the Lions making it to the Super Bowl?”
“Jarvis, where is my suit?”

No matter the device or question you ask it, voice search has become an incredible asset to everyday life.

We decided to conduct a short, informal survey about voice search with the goal of gaining insight on how people actually feel about it. Of the whopping 55 respondents, only one does not search on a smartphone or tablet devices at all. Here are the results from those who do!
top uses of voice search.
The “other” slice, at 24%, represents all search categories where no two were the same. Asking for directions is the big winner. This makes sense, given that 59% of people admit the activity they are most often doing when voice searching is driving. Nothing strange there, considering the handsfree laws that are enforced for drivers.

Another insight we wanted to glean was how people felt about voice search.
voice search saves time.
There wasn’t a huge margin between people’s feelings towards the amount of time voice search saves them. Where it gets even more interesting, is that of those respondents who continue to use voice search, a large margin of them feel that their voice searches yield less accurate results in regards to what they are trying to find, than traditional typed searches.
voice search accuracy.
Interestingly enough, our survey revealed that 22% of respondents didn’t feel that voice search has a legitimate future, rather it would eventually become irrelevant and go the way of the floppy disc.
the future of voice search.
How do we use this information? Optimizing your website for relevant keywords that are easier for Siri to parse, or OK Google to pick apart is a good start, in case customers are using voice search to find your business. If your target market is in an area with a regional diction or accent, make sure it won’t interfere with the chosen keywords.

While still trudging up the adoption curve, voice search has a promising future as companies like Google invest more and more into the technology. There is no doubt that we will see more improvements in the years to come.