Web Design and SEO Blog
Jun201530Announcements, Design, Development
With the new season, consider whether it's time for change on your website.
Photo credit: Josh Felise, Unsplash
As the seasons change here in Bozeman, Montana, and we migrate outside to enjoy the summer air or open our doors and windows to clean out our dwellings, all business owners should thoroughly consider the state of their online presence. Is it feeling stuffy or outdated?
As the seasons change here in Bozeman, Montana, and we migrate outside to enjoy the summer air or open our doors and windows to clean out our dwellings, all business owners should thoroughly consider the state of their online presence. Is it feeling stuffy or outdated?
JTech offers a great opportunity for a website overhaul — meant to update and streamline the look and feel of your site, including adding responsive website design to support mobile devices — all of which can be done without drastically altering your existing brand. Because we use a lot of the content from your current site, an overhaul is much cheaper than building from scratch, but the results of your brand refresh are invaluable not only to your customer experience, but to your revenue as well.
We are currently working on two responsive overhauls for local businesses: Bank of Bozeman and Clark Film Buying. Their overhauled websites will be accessible on any device, whether it be desktop, tablet or mobile phone. Bank of Bozeman and Clark Film Buying’s finished products, to debut soon, will feature easier navigation, freshly updated search engine optimization and a more modern aesthetic.
Because of the rapidly shifting way that your customers access and use the internet, what’s needed to attract and retain customers with your website is a moving target. A website that was cutting edge five years ago is likely not to impress or even meet your customer’s needs today. If you feel your site is outdated, contact us, and we will be happy to show you exactly how your site can move your online business forward and attract more visitors.
Jun201523Announcements, Design, Development
Our advanced web development team has been working with Montana Health Network, located in Miles City, Montana, using responsive website design to complete a comprehensive rebuild of their entire site as well as a section devoted to the Northeastern Montana Area Health Education Center (NEMT AHEC). AHEC is a grant-funded program that works to train health professionals in underserved communities as well as encourage students to pursue the wide range of careers in healthcare. They currently serve fifteen counties in the Northeastern region of the state and have relationships with over 65 medical facilities, colleges and universities to help spread healthcare knowledge.
Making MHN’s custom website responsive will ensure it is easily accessible from any device. The new Northeastern Montana AHEC section of the site is a great place to find out more about the Montana Education Center as well as read about their programs with local schools. The AHEC section also offers staff profiles, news, contact information and a brief history of how the Montana AHEC began. JTech looks forward to continue working with the Montana Health Network to make further improvements to their site.
Photo credit: Florian Klauer, Unsplash
You can spend a lot of money building a website with all the bells and whistles, but if it doesn’t have engaging content, no one is going to use it. Whether you own a large eCommerce platform, a small business or blog from the comfort of your home, maintaining the interest of those visiting your website is absolutely crucial. At JTech, we’ve discovered an effective balance between poignant copy and strong SEO in order to get people to the websites we build as well as retaining their attention and making their visit memorable enough to return again and again.
SEO — a balancing act.
Search Engine Optimization is the application of keywords and phrases in conjunction with marketing research processes to highlight the meaning of your webpages, helping to boost your site to the top of the organic search results in which it is highly relevant. Although marketing is key in keeping your website afloat, SEO by itself won’t build or maintain the audience you need to ensure your business’s success. Even if you’re performing well in search results and receive a lot of traffic, your visitors will leave and forget about your site all together if they aren’t engaged or impressed by your content. This is why a healthy balance between SEO and writing copy for human indulgence is vital to the strength of an online company.
When visiting a site for the first time, readers quickly determine what your content is about and whether or not it’s applicable to what they need. Long-winded SEO paragraphs or sentences stuffed chock-full of keywords written for GoogleBot are not going to provide a positive outcome for such visitors. Copy written for humans should be specific, easily understood and — due to the rapidity at which people browse — scannable.
At JTech, we focus on writing copy and applying SEO as a single, blended procedure. While our talented marketing team are experts at researching the best SEO application for your site’s success, we find a way to apply search-targeted terminology organically into your copy to keep your visitors reading through to the end. People don’t read advertisements; they read what’s interesting to them, which is why it is important to not only think about what’s in it for your organization, but also, what’s in it for your customer?
Tell your story.
If your business has a story, chances are, you’ll want to tell it. Humans are natural storytellers; we seek tradition and relationships in our everyday interactions. When a co-worker tells an anecdote about their weekend, our brain automatically goes: “That reminds me of the time when I…” Relating our own experiences to stories told by others is how we establish our footing.
So, if you have a story, tell it. Too often are “About Us” pages left scant. This is where people go to learn about you and look for a reason as to why they should choose your company over another. Healthcare-Malpractice.com an organization we are currently building a custom website for, utilizes the power of their own story on their website to great effect. In fact, their philosophy, one that they use to sell their product, is woven strongly throughout every page of their website. Because they are employed by patients who are victims of healthcare malpractice, their goal is to comfort as well as earn the trust of their site visitors — a tone that shines through clearly and aids their campaign.
Another example of a company with a strong backstory, is the well-known shoe and apparel store TOMS. Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, was inspired by a trip to Argentina to help those in third-world countries. Although his story has grown beyond shoes, their iconic style remains popular and his website contributes much of its space to display what the non-profit is, how it all started and their current efforts to continue that story.
Content outside the obvious.
Having good web content doesn’t stop at informational storytelling and SEO. In fact, the way you phrase your error messages, form instructions and page headers can drastically shape your users’ experience through your site as well as build a relationship with customers outside the site using email blasts, newsletters and social media.
Small, seemingly insignificant bits of content need to fit the context of your site and your user’s progress in their journey through it. Notifications such as error messages, 404 page text (when the server cannot find the requested URL) or company guidelines should all be crafted sensitively, with the user’s anticipated mood and expectations carefully taken into consideration for each individual situation. Consider whether your copy should follow a brand persona, as in the case of Shipton’s Big R, a client we developed a website for recently. Their 404 page is consistent with their branding, which has the potential of making a frustrating moment more lighthearted and personable.
A way to continually engage with your customers and potential customers is by keeping in touch through blogs, email, newsletters and social media. At JTech, we publish a variety of announcements, business and technical blogs throughout the month to keep our customers engaged and educated. These are great outlets through which to build relationships, not only by continuing to communicate using your business persona but also by earning repeat visitors and links to your website.
Social media in particular is a great medium for you to provide compelling, consistent content that makes your customers feel more comfortable and conversational with a business; above all, news feeds on sites such as Twitter or Facebook are a place for casual conversation. You can then use this engagement on a more personal level to post not only conversational statuses or tweets, but also news articles, blogs or eCommerce promotions, linking customers back to your website.
Not more; better.
In a society where we are constantly posting, uploading, tweeting and blogging, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the quantity and inconsistent quality of content these days. We don’t need more copy, we need better copy. Not only can your businesses benefit from eliminating those little grammar and spelling errors that may exist on their site, but you can also improve the user experience by having professional, personable, resonating copy that your visitors can easily locate, relate to and retain.
At JTech, our process of generating copy is rooted deep in the initial strategic planning of your website, during which we’re learning your company’s story and how best to tell it. Because of our holistic approach to web design, all of our team members are consistently collaborating, never leaving a piece of what it takes to build a successful online business by the wayside. The efforts of our copywriter, web developers and internet marketers are seamlessly fused — making for an unparalleled mix of analysis and creativity. The copy on your custom website is bound to not only initially attract, but also keep customers coming back.
JTech can offer assistance improving existing copy or creating fresh copy for your website. Contact us to learn more about how our services can help you and your customers and we would be happy to help.
Jun201516Content, Social Media
Social media builds a bridge between you, your customers and your website.
Photo credit: Michael Haslim, Unsplash.
Social media is an exceptional way to supplement your business’s website impact with your audience, and is an invaluable tool to boosting your marketing efforts, driving more traffic directly to your site. Social media is being used by a large number of companies; many consumers expect it and are skeptical if you don’t have a presence. Having a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other form of social media allows you to build a persona for customers to interact with as well as reach a customer base that would otherwise fall through the cracks. It’ll provide you with a clear view of who your your shoppers are and what they are saying about your brand and allow you to observe visitors and adjust your marketing plan accordingly.
Because social media is foremost a place for socializing, using these channels allows the opportunity for a greater share of your customer’s attention. There is the potential for your company to have improved visibility as well direct them to your store with promotions and coupons. Instead of just adding these incentives on your website or in an email blast that went straight into someone’s junk folder, they will appear somewhere we know customers visit many times a day: their preferred social media news feed. The overlap of promoting your product, engaging with your customers on a personal level and supporting them with their concerns, users are less skeptical about exploring your page links, allowing you more freedoms in advertising to attract a larger user base. It also provides a channel for quicker response times with issues visitors might be experiencing with your eCommerce site or your products, providing instant feedback.
Using social media as a part of your online business’s marketing efforts is a tool many have caught on to fast — even, possibly, your competitors. It is a free resource that can be used to drive tons of untapped customers back to your website, browsing your products. Opening a business account on Facebook or the like won’t magically change your company overnight, but social platforms do provide the necessary means by which you can drive a significant improvement in visitor retention and interaction. If you are interested in driving traffic from social media sites to your business's website, want some advice on which platforms would be right for you, or need help launching or maintaining that part of your organization, contact our marketing team, and we would be happy to help.
Jun201510Optimization, Tools & Tips
Photo credit: Paul Genyk, Unsplash.
Your website's load speed has the ability to maintain or lose the attention of valuable customers. Without a speedy site, your business will suffer.
If your webpage takes longer than three seconds to load, you are at risk of losing customers and therefore responsible for lost revenue (1). If your visitors are finding you via a Google search, you are competing directly against other possible resources. A fast page load is favored by search engines and also gives your customers confidence in the quality of your site, while a slow load quickly erodes interest, patience and trust. Even if your site is at the top of search rankings, if it takes too long to load, your visitors are likely to go back and follow a different link in order to get the information they need.
We understand the need for speed on the internet and how it affects visitor rate and eCommerce. Amazon once discovered a 20% drop in traffic from just a fraction of a second delay (2) — although web users seem like an impatient bunch, they’re the driving force behind the success of your online business, proving that speed should always be a foremost consideration in web design.
There are a number of common ailments that cause slow loading times on websites, many of which are related to one-size-fits-all websites powered by WordPress and its ilk: plugin overload, bloated themes, social media widgets, too many advertisements, large images, design theme and subpar hosting. At JTech, our holistic approach to web development resolves all of these issues, ensuring that your site preforms exceptionally, never sacrificing aesthetics or functionality. We offer all customers a managed hosting plan which guarantees optimized code as well as a server that’s quick to deliver your site to visitors. If you have any questions about how to improve the speed of your website, please contact us.
Jun20152Tools & Tips
Shipton's employment application is designed for usability on devices of all sizes.
Your website is a place to do business — and just as with your physical locations, it’s important to consider what your business needs to operate. You’re likely targeting customers already, helping them find information or to purchase a product. Are you also addressing prospective workers who are there to check opportunities for employment? Providing an online application process will allow you to reach a larger number of applicants and by offering greater convenience, can provide the first step in building a hard-working, motivated team.
At JTech, we’ve worked with a few clients recently to design employment resources for their websites. Shipton’s Big R, a full-service ranch supply company in Billings, Montana and Sheridan, Wyoming, has an employment page where current job openings are listed by location. The selection of a position will bring you to a responsively designed, multi-step application with a progress bar indicating their progression toward completion. When an application is submitted, a print-ready PDF is automatically generated for review and a digital rendition is stored for Shipton’s Big R to easily access.
We also built an employment application for Montana Health Network. Theirs is a hybrid approach — a single page application with an option for applicants to provide their resume. Estes Park Medical Center provides online resources for both prospective paid employees and volunteers and has an online application as well as a PDF version for those who prefer to fill out a hard copy, maintaining accessibility in all forms.
Providing an employment application is a great way to find and cater to the needs of future outstanding employees, as well as reducing wasted time processing paper applications. When paired with our responsive web design services, your online application allows you to offer convenience to applicants whether they’re on a mobile device or on a desktop at home. Contact us if you feel your organization would benefit from the addition of an employment page on your website and we'd be happy to help.
May201526Announcements, Design, Development
JTech’s Bozeman website design team has just completed an advanced Payment Portal website for Frontline Processing, a merchant services provider for businesses throughout the nation. Frontline Processing allows merchants to process credit cards and checks as payment, create gift and loyalty cards, collect recurring payments such as rent or dues and much more. The Payment Portal that JTech’s website development team built for Frontline is deeply integrated with their CRM (customer relationship management) software and provides a useful suite of support and administrative tools for Frontline’s expert staff to manage merchant applications.
Frontline’s Payment Portal is built using responsive web design, focusing on mobile optimization for on-the-go processing with live chat support services for immediate assistance. Frontline partners with banks and other merchants, who have the ability to customize a branded version of the Payment Portal. The application system has an auto-save feature, generates automated email reminders for applicants with incomplete applications and provides useful contextual feedback throughout the application process to guide applicants.
Frontline’s Payment Portal website contains a number of advanced features and provided exciting integration work for our web developers. The project turned out to be a great success that will provide an easy way for Frontline’s customers to take payments and grow their businesses.
Implementing AJAX infinite scrolling to improve usability.
Infinite scrolling has emerged as a popular web design pattern over the past four or five years — early adopters included Google’s image search, Facebook’s news feed, and Pinterest’s inspiration boards. The appeal is easy to see: using AJAX, content is loaded as a visitor nears the bottom of a page — making sure there’s always more content to see so it’s more likely that they’ll stay on the page. It eliminates paged navigation and the friction of clicking on a link to load a new page in the middle of reading or parsing information. Instead, you just keep scrolling.
Reducing friction, or user inefficiency, has a significant impact on user experience, both for better and, if implemented carelessly, for worse. If implemented well, infinite scrolling will boost interaction, leading to more visitors, better engagement and (for those with a storefront) improved sales. Applying infinite scrolling to the wrong situation will frustrate your users and drive them away.
At JTech, we use infinite scrolling on the news page of our own website, in our custom content management system and in specific contexts for our clients. We don’t believe it’s a panacea, but it’s a great tool and we’ve found ways to work around its problems that can make it the best choice in a number of circumstances.
The Gem Gallery's product pages use infinite scrolling.
Environment is everything.
There are factors that influence where infinite scrolling is appropriate. Images, for example, can be scanned and processed more quickly than text, which takes some time to absorb and is more easily overwhelming. Our developers at JTech had this in mind while building a website for Gem Gallery, in which shoppers can browse their beautiful pieces of jewelry on a single, infinitely scrolling page. We also do this on our own publications page, where you can filter your results by publication type and read through our articles without the barrier of clicking through the next page.
Other companies have noted the effectiveness of these infinite scrolling image searches, such as Pinterest, Flickr and Instagram, to name a few. You may notice a difference when switching between Google’s web and image search results. The largest contrast is that image search uses infinite scroll, while traditional paginated results are used for web search.
The devices being used are an important part of context as well. Due to its friction-less nature, infinite scrolling is particularly useful for responsive design on mobile, as flipping and sliding your finger is much easier than having to click on a small page number or “next” link. Petfinder, a popular website on which users browse adoptable pets by location, species and breed, uses page numbers on their desktop site but infinite scrolling on their mobile application. Whether or not somebody scrolls to view more content is dependent upon the relevance of the information and the ease with which it can be accessed, a subject discussed more thoroughly in a previous blog, Everyone scrolls: designing below the fold.
Issues with infinity.
There are times when we find that infinite scrolling is not the answer. Etsy, the popular eCommerce site for buying and selling homemade items, implemented an infinite scrolling pattern at one time and found that it resulted in less clicks; in this case it limited user interaction. By presenting an overwhelming amount of information to sift through, infinite scrolling can inhibit visitors from reaching the search result or article they are looking for, which will lead to user frustration. Here are some common issues with infinite scrolling and how we’ve solved them here at JTech:
1. Where’s the footer? Scrolling through infinity implies by definition that you never reach a conclusion. So what if you need to reach the website’s footer, where important information or links are provided? Facebook, with its infinite newsfeed design, made it impossible for users to see the footer. On our site, we’ve solved this by anchoring the footer to the bottom of the window so that it’s available regardless of how far you scroll — and by adding a small amount of transparency to the footer itself, a subtle preview is provided of the content that you’re about to scroll to.
2. Search Engine Optimized? Since content on an infinite scrolling page has a single URL, there is concern about search engine optimization (SEO) for sections of content and whether Google’s search algorithm can effectively find page content requested below the initial page load. On JTech’s news page, we’ve embedded p=2, p=3, and so forth, into our URLs for news results so that Google will recognize each scroll load as its own page and take any content — no matter how far down — into consideration when displaying results in their search engine.
J.K. Adams uses a load more button to give users back some control.
3. Loss of control and bandwidth mitigation. Unfortunately, many users feel a loss of control when they are unsure of how many search results remain, exacerbated by the fact that infinite scrolling typically renders the length of the scrollbar unreliable as an estimative how much content is left on the page. A solution that limits bandwidth consumption (particularly helpful on flaky or capped mobile connections) and creates limits on the amount of content being loaded at once is a “load more” button; a result that also helps in reaching the footer.
We implemented this practice when building an eCommerce site for JK Adams, a high-quality kitchen appliance company based in Vermont. After scrolling by the initial page, there is a "load more results" button, allowing the user to decide how much content they wish to commit to — an example of deliberately increasing friction to help the viewer and conserve bandwidth and regain control. Twitter has an ideal version of this as well: initially presented with a page of tweets, you can choose how much more content to view by clicking their “load more” button.
In our custom content management system, My JTech, we use AJAX to load infinite results when viewing a database, but overlay page numbers and show your progress through the data set (e.g. “page 2 of 4” and “71-99 of 181 records”), allowing you to mark your progress and to quickly jump to the data you were looking for without scrolling through the whole list again. This is possible because we estimate the page length so that the scrollbar is a reliable indicator of your progress through the data set. We've also developed an approach that makes content “disappear” after you’ve scrolled past it, dispelling the sluggishness or clogging that can sometimes be associated with infinite scrolling when too much content is being stored in the browser’s active memory.
It’s important to remember that infinite scrolling is a useful design pattern — serving the needs of those using the website — rather than just something to deploy because it’s flashy. Consider the problem you’re trying to solve (for instance, a large number of products in your storefront that you want visitors to view) and how infinite scrolling might help, then test your results to reveal any new problems you may have created in the user experience.
The encumbrances associated with the AJAX infinite scrolling web development pattern can be overcome by careful consideration of the content and context. When used correctly, it will add convenience to your webpages, which leads to more user interaction. If you have any questions about when it is appropriate, have invented a solution to an obstacle, or have concerns about using an infinite scrolling pattern, feel free to contact us and we’d love to talk.
May201519Announcements, Design, Development
If your company is one driven by the ongoing promotion of various events, an interactive calendar may be a useful addition to your website. JTech’s advanced web developers recently worked with two Montana businesses to add interactive calendars to their sites, both of which have been a huge success.
The Gallatin Valley YMCA color codes their calendar items — class registration deadlines, summer camps and curriculums — in a clean, highly-usable presentation. Clicking an item brings you to a details page and when applicable, a link to an event registration application.
Shipton’s Big R, a full-service farm and ranch supply store, is thrilled with their interactive calendar, which is developed responsively for a great user experience at any screen size. Shipton’s Big R hosts a dizzying variety of local events, from pet vaccination clinics to music festivals to handgun training courses. Because they have five locations in Montana and Wyoming, the event details page has a directions map and allows you to add an event directly to your device’s appointment calendar as well as download an event flyer.
An interactive calendar can be a great addition to your website if your organization or business organizes events and needs a place to promote them that is easily accessible to your customers. Contact JTech to see if integrating a calendar into your website is the right addition for you.
For years now, JTech’s Montana web development team has enjoyed our professional relationship with Montana State University and the MSU students who have worked with us in our internship program. It is always exciting to get hardworking students here in the office as it not only adds depth to their college experience but it also provides us with a fresh set of eyes, new skill and enthusiasm that helps us help online businesses thrive.
Please join us in welcoming Jason Trueblood, our new marketing intern. He is a sophomore majoring in Business-Marketing and although he has lived in Bozeman for a couple years now, is originally from Columbia Falls, MT. Jason views his internship with us as an opportunity to supplement his classwork with some hands-on experience in the business marketing world. When he is not in the office or classroom, Jason enjoys fishing, hunting and playing golf. We’re glad to have you on the JTech team, Jason!