Web Design and SEO Blog


Is Your Ecommerce Site Charging the Correct Shipping?

by Mira Brody in Development, Tools & Tips, UX

Use this helpful shipping algorithm to accurately ship your merchandise.

Charging accurate shipping cost is an important factor when running an online store. If costs are calculated too low, you are losing profits, and if they are too high, you may lose customers!

Our team uses a packing algorithm to help solve these issues, most recently implemented on our newest eCommerce site for Shipton’s Big R. A ranch supply and hardware store in Montana and Wyoming, Shipton’s Big R has a vast inventory of products that customers can order to be shipped to their home. Their employees gather items and prepare them for shipment, including packaging them according to the algorithm’s instructions in the employee portal we built.

Here’s how the algorithm works:
  • Available box sizes are put into order, and packed, by volume. So, if your store ships items in 10x10x10 and 20x20x20 boxes, the algorithm will attempt to pack the smaller one first, then move onto the larger one.
  • All items being shipped are then packed vertically up the side of the box.
  • The items are then packed side-by-side as long as the item under consideration fits alongside the previous item.
  • If more than 1 box is needed to accommodate all of the items, then boxes of equal weight will be sued. If an item doesn’t fit in the box already being packed a larger box is used.
  • If the item does not fit into any of the box sizes, the item is shipped individually.

The end goal is to pack multiple items into multiple boxes in the most efficient way so as to reduce the number of boxes needed, simulating how a human would pack the items. The employee portal we developed for Shipton’s Big R has pre-defined box sizes and is comparable with different UPS shipping methods. When a customer is placing an order, all of these calculations have been completed by the time they reach the shipping options page, so that they are presented with an accurate shipping cost.

This helpful algorithm solves two issues for Shipton’s Big R: it calculates accurate shipping options so the customer is properly charged for UPS services and provides intelligent guidance to employees on how to efficiently package an order. This ensures they are being compensated for shipping costs, reduces human error, and speeds up shipping operations, making their entire operation more efficient. Learn more about this algorithm, or about the other ways you can improve your ecommerce site so that it benefits your business — by generating more sales — as well as your customers, by making their experience a positive one.

How Much Money Can a Web App Save You?

by Mira Brody in Development, Tools & Tips, UX

When a business is getting its feet on the ground, their first instinct is to build what we refer to as a “presence website” — a site that allows you to be found in search engines by your customers, and provides a point of contact. Once your business starts growing however, is the time to consider what else a website can do. While it can still attract new customers and serve existing ones, a website is capable of automating business tasks your staff may currently be wasting time on. So, how can a web app save your business time and money? As inspiration, here are some ways we’ve improved our clients’ administrative tasks —

Custom Scheduling System
We built a scheduling system so that Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport could book badging appointments — administrative work that was once done by employees. Now, those who need airport badges can simply go to the airport website, and choose a time slot, download necessary paperwork, and an email confirmation is sent after the appointment is booked. The appointments are then synced with the airport staff’s Outlook calendar.

User Accounts
User accounts allow users to manage their own data, instead of the work falling on a paid employee in your office. We have user accounts in many of the website’s we’ve built, and common features include:
  • Password/username reset
  • Updating/adding payment methods
  • Manage mailing list subscriptions
  • Notification settings
  • Transaction history
And much more! All of this is accessible to the user, instead of them having to call your staff.

Automated Subscriptions
Silver Screen Insider is a client with free and paid tiers of membership for their website — only certain sections of the site are accessible to free members. The site processes all subscriptions automatically, charging monthly membership fees, sending out expiration reminders and notifying users when a payment method has expired.

Payment Processing
We’ve done a lot of payment processing work for various clients — in fact, we have a business partnership with a local merchant services provider who will help you find the most cost-effective way to accept payment for your products and services. In addition to securely accepting all major credit cards and eChecks, your website can send out an email receipt to the customer as well as a notification to the business.

Manage Orders
We recently finished a web app for an ecommerce site that accepts online orders for both in-store pickup and shipment. From the web app, employees can login and manage incoming orders, pick from floor inventory, and prepare them for in-store pickup or for shipment via UPS.

Preparing Shipments
In the same web app mentioned above, some orders are prepared for shipment. To do this, we’ve integrated with the UPS API and implemented a packing algorithm to help employees properly package items. This algorithm takes the dimensions and weight of the items in an order and suggests which sizes of box and how many are needed to most efficiently ship the order. The system also keeps track of instances where its packing algorithm provided inaccurate suggestions, allowing our client to keep track of which items in their inventory might have bad weight/dimensional data or otherwise prove challenging to ship.

A website isn’t just a place to market your business, it’s a place to conduct business. As you grow, enhancing your website to do more can not only generate additional revenue by attracting more customers, but also save significant labor costs – all while continuing to serve your clients better.

If you are outgrowing the website you launched in the early stages of your company and feel a custom website or web app could make your operations more efficient, we’d love to talk! We can discuss options so that you can spend less time answering troubleshooting calls and more time growing and innovating.

Know the Difference: Bad Website or Bad Marketing?

by Mira Brody in Content, Design, Development, Optimization, SEO, Tools & Tips, UX

So, you just launched a new website, but your Analytics dashboard says your visitation numbers are low. There is a common misconception that when you launch a website, people will suddenly start rushing to to it — we like to tell our clients, “if you build it, they won’t come.” Ensuring your site is functional and well-designed is half the battle, while implementing a marketing strategy so that customers will find it, is the other.

So, what half are you dealing with? Here are a few development, design and user experience issues you can check off your list to start:

Branded and designed well.
Everything from your logo, to your company slogan and overall messaging is encompassed in the term “branding.” It allows your visitors to, at a glance, determine if they are in the right place and sets you apart form your competitors. Nike is a great example — consumers see their symbolic “swoosh” and see the “just do it” and know who they’re dealing with.

To learn more about the importance of branding, check out this article we did with BrandBoss Creative.

User experience answers questions.
When your website has a good user experience, it meets the needs of both your customers and your company. Providing informative copy, useful imagery and design and functionality that guides a user to make a purchase or contact you for your services are all examples of good UX.

There are lots of feedback tools available out there if you are looking for someone test your site.

Accessible on mobile.
Was your website built using responsive design? While five years ago it may have still been a question, for years it has been essential to make sure your site adapts to various screen sizes, whether phone, tablet or desktop. Google will penalize you not only for having a site not designed for mobile, but also for one that performs slowly, affecting your search visibility.

Use this tool to determine how mobile-friendly your site is, and this one to test its performance.

But what if I have all those things?

If you are confident that you already provide your site visitors with the above, but are unhappy with the amount of traffic coming — or not coming — to your site, you may have yourself a digital marketing problem. Here are a few improvements you can make on your own:

Check your Domain Authority.
Domain Authority is your website’s search engine score out of 100 and a great way to gauge the success of your content marketing efforts. The higher your score, the more prominently you will be displayed in Google search results.

Check your Domain Authority with this tool.

Optimize your content.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the effort of driving traffic to your site from search engines, and since 64% of all web traffic comes from organic search, it is a subject you should become familiar with. To touch on the surface, optimizing your content involves keyword research to learn what prospective site visitors are teaching for, and applying those keywords throughout your site so that Google can understand when your site would be a great search result for someone who’s interested.

Content marketing.
Reach out to your customers by producing a weekly, or monthly blog on your site. Fresh content is always looked upon favorably by Google, and you can then use this blog content to send your customers a periodic newsletter. Mailing lists are a great way to keep in touch, build a personable relationship with your clients, and drive them to your site.

It is just as important to build a website with good aesthetics and functionality as it is to implement a strong digital marketing plan to support it. With both halves of this coin in place, you should attract customers in no time. If you still have questions, or are in need of some fresh digital marketing ideas, don’t hesitate to give us a call! We have over 20 years of experience helping people do business online.

Expand Your Website and Invite New Customers

by Mira Brody in Announcements, Design, Development

Make your business’s first website the foundation for advancement.

Many new businesses start off with only the resources for a modest site. Having a presence online is not only a great way to market yourself and provide your customers with basic information about you and a point of contact, but also sets the foundation for an advanced site later down the road as you reach higher levels of success and grow as a company.

Just as you have the option of adding onto your existing home when you need more living space, your business may find they can do more by adding on to your website as you grow. OnSite Energy is a Bozem
an, MT solar power installation company for whom we built a custom site a couple years back. As their clientele grew and their office got busier, they found that administrative tasks could be automated by integrating a customer onboardingprocess. This process includes a series of questions and a space for the customer to upload photos of their project site. New customers can then log back into their personal portal and view progress on their project, update information and much more. These are all steps that once took employee resources — now completely automated by adding onto the existing OnSite website.

If you find that your business is limited by a site you have outgrown and are in need of more advanced features, know that it is always a possibility to expand and accommodate your needs — whatever they may be. Whatever stage you are in, your website should be saving you time and money and helping to grow your business.

Sell More: Using Your Website to Grow Your Business

by Mira Brody in Announcements, Design, Development

Investing in your website to vastly increase the success of your business.

For retailers, the advantages of a physical location are obvious — it’s convenient for your most local customers, you can offer personal service, and crucially for companies like ranch supply store, Shipton’s Big R, you can make repairs to the equipment that keeps customers running. Before making plans to expand your physical location further, however, take a good look at your website and its unique advantages:
  • It never closes for the night.
  • It keeps running, even when nobody's available to staff it.
  • It is always available for your customers, whether they are in Big Sky, Havre, or out-of-state.
  • With eCommerce functionality, it has space to stock unlimited inventory.

Deciding to expand your site to have eCommerce capabilities means you're reaching the ever-growing number of customers who prefer shopping online to in-store. You may have heard that since 2015, more Black Friday shoppers have shopped online than in-store.

Shipton’s Big R is one such company expanding their business using their website — not just by making sales for delivery, but to better serve in-store customers who want to order in advance and pick up in-store. With locations in Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY, including a service and repair shop, Shipton’s already has an established physical presence that they're tightly integrating with their website; contests and promotions on the website drive people to engage in the store, while the website increases the convenience and inventory being offered. Their online shopping experience was a true collaboration — they brought a great set of ideas and requirements, then we designed and revised with them to create a solution will put them on par with some of their biggest competitors and allow their products to reach buyers anywhere in the country.

It's all in the details. Key features that make the eCommerce experience great:

Merchandising – Products can be associated with departments and assigned to filter types so shoppers can easily find the products they’re looking for based on any metric such as size, color, brand etc. The site has advanced search functionality with relevancy matching.

Customer Engagement — Customers are given live feedback on the status of their order, with detailed information as items are pulled off the shelf and added to their order. When it's ready for pickup, has been shipped via UPS, an email goes out to keep them in the loop.

A client portal allows customers to login to do the usual functions but also includes an innovative reorder system. They can easily ‘pin’ orders that they wish to be able to quickly reorder in the future and can quickly reorder any past order through the portal.

Rapid Ordering – Registered users can view previous orders with the option of reordering either individual items, or the order in its entirety. This is great for ranchers or other business owners who need to restock feed on an ongoing basis. The ordering again, the site recognizes which items have changed in price or are no longer in stock before adding them to your cart.

Employee Portal — On the Shipton’s Big R website, customers can now either have an item shipped to their home or business, or pick it up at their store of choice. The employee portal allows Shipton’s Big R employees to manage these orders, properly pull items from shelves to prepare for shipment or customer pickup. This portal has the ability to communicate with the UPS API for shipping and Zebra printers for label printing.

Integration with POS/IM Software — The website is tightly integrated with Shipton’s point of sale/inventory management software – providing product data, availability for each store, pricing, sales and more. Payments are processed in real time on the website and orders are automatically imported back into their software.

There is tons more to this massive, custom ecommerce addition, which is going to allow Shipton’s Big R to reach new customers and provide improved services to their existing ones — milestones every business should ultimately strive for.

Is Your Mobile Page Speed Affecting Your Google Ranking?

by Mira Brody in Development, Google, Optimization, SEO, Tools & Tips, UX

A new algorithm will rank slow-loading webpages lower in search results.

Although overall mobile experience and load speed were already among the many qualifiers Google uses to determine your site’s ranking, now they are taking into account the speed of your site when accessed on a mobile device. This means if your site is slow to the point that it provides a poor experience on a tablet or phone, Google will bump you down in ranking.

What determines site speed?
Users want speed. In fact, you’ll start losing site visitors if a page takes longer than three seconds to load. First off, make sure your website is in fact, optimized for mobile. This means your website adapts to the size of the screen your visitors are viewing it on. Here are a few things that could be affecting the loading speed of your website:
Images — Imagery on your site that is not properly processed will bloat load times. Use an image compressing tool to downsize them into a more manageable form. For our customers: the image upload in My JTech will automatically compress any images you upload to ensure good performance.
Active scripts — This may be something your web developer has to check on, but poorly written scripts that make up your site can decrease your page performance.
Host — With cheap hosting companies, not only are you on your own with customer service, but their servers are overloaded as well. If you’re hosting with a cheap company such as GoDaddy, it may be affecting your site’s speed — if you’ve noticed poor performance, look into your provider and consider upgrading to a better-quality hosting company.

How to test your site’s speed.
Google provides a handy tool to test the speed of your website. Type in the URL you wish you test, and it’ll provide your score.

Google’s algorithm update that punishes slow-performing mobile sites will take affect in July 2018. This change is purely algorithmic, so there will be no details provided indicating which pages are being affected. To prepare, take the site speed test provided, and if you rank poorly give us a call! Don’t let your search ranking suffer due to poor performance.

Improve Customer Experience With…Sound!

by Mira Brody in Content, Design, Tools & Tips, UX

The good and bad of using sound effects on your website.

Sound is important — just listen to how awkward the movie Everest is without added effects to the dialogue, and how recognizable the “Inception noise” has become. Sound effects can add depth to your website as well, but the line between helpful and annoying can be very thin. Our designers have been experimenting with the application of sound to some of our projects to see if it can improve the user experience and we’d like to share some lessons we’ve learned along the way.

Bad Applications of Sound
We’ve all been to the website that sent us scrambling to find our computer’s mute button. Here are a few examples of when the sue of sound is a negative experience:
Overused — Although it can be tempting to get carried away, not every button, animation and tap of the screen needs to yield a sound effect. Users will quickly become irritated!
Autoplaying videos — In fact, noisy videos that play automatically are considered an intrusion by so many people that both Safari and Chrome block autoplay on all videos with sound.
No purpose — Ask yourself if the sound has a purpose or not. While sometimes fun effects can be appropriate, all applications of design — noise included — should be aiding the customer’s journey through your site.

Good Applications of Sound
There are appropriate uses of sound on your website; here are a few examples:
Interactions — Sound effects can help the user complete whatever it is they are trying to do on your site or web app, often providing reinforcement or additional information to the visual interaction. We recently developed a site that allows store employees to scan product barcodes to update store inventory. There are two sounds we implemented: a “success” sound when an item has been successfully scanned, and an “error” sound, when an incorrect barcode was scanned, or no barcode was found. The error sounds are paired with a helpful message telling the user why something could not be scanned. These sounds are similar to the ones your phone makes when you send a message or email, or take a photo.
Notifications — Because sound is processed using a different part of the brain than visual content, you can use sound to create awareness of something with minimal interruption of their main task; e.g. when your order was shipped, new messages have been delivered, or a download completed. If notification is a key functionality, the ability of sound to function even when the screen is off or another tab is open can be important.
Optional — Because sound can so easily overwhelm, annoy, or interrupt, provide users with the option to mute any persistent or repeating sounds. In addition, it’s not safe to assume that users have their phone, tablet, or computer's sound turned on — so your site or app should be designed to work seamlessly without any audio.
Adds dimension — In addition to being functional, a website’s sound can provide entertainment value without being too flashy. Our design team has been playing around with sounds that occur when a contact form is submitted, or information is saved, providing positive confirmation.
Accessibility — Even better is when you can implement sounds that will help those with accessibility issues. Those browsing the web with poor eyesight, for example, will better be able to access it with sound cues or a page reader, if you choose to provide those tools.
Where to get sound effects
It’s a fine line, and one that designers often walk when implementing sounds into a website. Now that you’re inspired, here are some resources for free sound sound effects:

Benefits of Client Onboarding Videos

by Mira Brody in Content, Tools & Tips, UX

Onboarding is the process a user goes through when they start their journey as a customer to your product or service. An onboarding video in particular can be an effective way of defining a strong relationship right off the bat, solidifying your client’s decision. The period right after signup is one of the best windows for people’s attention — welcome emails have four times the open rate when compared to any other type of email. When your welcome process includes a custom video for your client, this success increases exponentially.

We’ve recently started using an onboarding video as a tool for welcoming clients to their completed website project and would like to share a few things we’ve learned along the way.

Why Onboarding Videos Work
In a study conducted by Wistia, an internet video hosting and analytics company, they ran a test comparing two emails — identical, but one added a video as the top piece of content. The email with the video showed a clickthrough rate three times higher than the one with only a paragraph of copy. Here’s why:
  • Emotional connection — Being welcomed by someone from the team allows for an emotional connection, removing the “faceless cooperation” stereotype.
  • Community — Your client will feel welcomed into your community if they are able to see where and who you are.
  • Humanizes — Having someone speak directly to them, by name, allows your clients to see the people and personality behind your company.
  • Digestible — A video clip weaves your story, mission and product and services together into a single, approachable narrative. They don’t have to search your site for the information they’re looking for because you’ve laid it all out for them in your video; all they have to do is sit back and watch.

Once you’ve taken the time to shoot a personalized onboarding video for your new client, you’ve built a strong foundation for them to feel supported and valued. This reaction can be contagious — they are likely to pass this feeling and experience onto other potential customers with their recommendation of your company, building your word-of-mouth reputation.

Tips for Your Onboarding Video
Now that we’ve covered the benefits, here are some tips for creating your own client onboarding video:
  • Under a minute — A minute-long video is the sweet spot for keeping a viewer’s attention.
  • Greet them by name — Take personalization a step further by editing the beginning of your video so that it greets each client by name or company.
  • Use a compelling thumbnail — The screenshot or video still you use before the video begins playing is more important than you think. It may be the difference between a client pressing play or moving on. If you are embedding this video in an email, we recommend using a screenshot or video thumbnail image with a play button and linking that to the page with your video.
  • Solve problems — Show your client a tool or feature that will help their business right now, and instruct them to interact with it. For example, encourage them to fill out a feedback form!
  • Use humans — While there are many sources out there for creating animated characters, it is much better to use someone from your office, in person.

When a client has committed to you as a company, it is a great time to reaffirm that decision by creating a personalized onboarding video — it will help spark the realization that they've found the right fit. At JTech, we use our onboarding video to welcome a client to their new website, show them the product we’ve launched for them, introduce more of our team, and set the stage for a healthy ongoing relationship as business partners.

Welcoming Our New Marketing Intern!

by Mira Brody in Announcements

Please join us in welcoming Chelsea Kiew Yee Pei, who is joining our office this semester as a marketing intern. Chelsea is beginning her senior year at Montana State University and is looking to supplement her Major in Marketing with some hands-on experience here in JTech’s Digital Marketing department. She enjoys how Marketing taps into creative ways to communicate with different target markets and hopes to pursue Digital Marketing further, possibly in non-profit or political sector.

Chelsea moved here in 2016 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a part of the MSU school partnership program. Having lived most of her life in the city, she has enjoyed the quieter pace of life Bozeman has to offer, the friendly populous, and outdoor lifestyle. In her free time, Chelsea is a big film enthusiast and enjoys marathoning movies of all genres.

The Pellerin Company — Invest Intelligently

by Mira Brody in Announcements, Design, Development

The Pellerin Company was founded by Henri Pellerin and provides counsel to individuals as well as Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) seeking investment options. Based on the principles of Austrian Economics, this investment firm helps clients on issues ranging from personal finance, stocks, bonds, commodities, life insurance, annuities, gold and silver to general economic insights and strategies.

Our team was tasked with clear representation of the variety of services The Pellerin Company provides — which we executed as a modern, inviting website with a few classic touches. In addition to transparently outlining their strategies and fee schedule, The Pellerin Company also provides a reservoir of resources for those looking to educate themselves including books, articles, videos and interactive calculators to plan debt repayment and retirement. We invite you to check out this new website here.