Posts Categorised: Website Advice

Your About Page Sucks – Let’s Fix It!

youraboutpagesucks

Be honest now, how long did you spend writing the About Page for your website?

An hour? Two? Not even that?

The About page is one of the first pages a new user will visit when they get to your site. It’s where they learn who they’re listening to, find out what’s in it for them, and make their all important first impression.

You need to spend time on your About page. It’s really important.

Let’s walk through what should be on your about page.

You’re a human, not a machine!

You need to engage with your audience. They’re on your site for a reason, and generally that reason is a) what you’re talking about, or b) what you’re selling.

You are the defining factor. And the last time I checked… you’re human, not a machine. So why does your about page sound like the generic description of a kitchen appliance?

Throughout your About Page you must use your personality. Talk as though you’re talking to a friend, tell jokes, be sincere, be engaging. Talk like you’re trying to take your audience out on a second date. 

Once upon a time…

… there was a girl, fresh from university, with bright eyes and a thirst for business. For months she trawled to the ends of job applications, hoping to find her place in the dark and misty world of web design. One day, she happened upon the job of Junior Web Developer, and (armed with a Macbook Pro) began her long quest of making websites for the most courageous of people – the creative entrepreneurs. 

One of the most engaging copy writing or marketing tactics is to include stories in your copy. I really had you going with that snippet, right? You were with me, walking through Mordor-like hills and battling beastly Web 2.0 demons.

I’m not saying your stories need to be totally in the style of the Grimms, but have fun with them, eh?

Recounting stories of how you’ve worked with past clients, your experience in your profession, or your own endeavours really helps your reader connect with you. It gives them a much needed window into your world, and helps you stand out from your peers.

Who the hell are you?

At some point on your About Page you’re going to have to go into a little more detail about who you are, where you came from, and what you actually do. You can mix some of this in with the other copy, or create a separate area for that information.

Having already explained that I’m a web designer, and told my reader how I got there & what I can do for them, I tell them a few more bits about me towards the end of my about page…

I’m based in Huddersfield, UK, but don’t let that put you off – we still have the internet in Yorkshire. I live with 2 crazy cats, 1 hyper golden retriever and 1 astrophysicist. I design and make things under the name of Finest Imaginary, which I work on 50/50 with Kim Lawler Creative  (or, you know, sometimes 80/20, or 100/100 when I’m stupid).

I prefer whisky to vodka, have a serious relationship with gherkins, and leave a trail of shoes around my house.

Nothing too in depth, pretty brief, but it gives my reader a little more of a connection with me. Who doesn’t leave their shoes around the house?

Take them behind the curtain

Depending on your type of business it can be cool to show a little “behind the scenes” on your about page – photos of your studio, an idea of where you create your magic, maybe even a brief “day in the life”. Take the reader on a bit of a journey into how your business looks outside of your pristine website.

On my Finest Imaginary About Page, I often swap out photos from my making desk, showing half-finished pieces and a peek at how my jewellery comes together. These photos are often the ones that end up being used in publications (they’re pretty interesting!).

Now What?

Don’t forget your calls to action! After reading your About Page you need to direct your reader to what  you want them to do – is that visit your contact page? Your social media links? Sign up to your newsletter? Make sure you’re pointing them in the right direction!

So go, rework your stale copy, make your About Page fun to read, and connect with your audience!

If you liked this, you might be interested in a little something I’ve got up my sleeve. Make sure you’re signed up for my Newsletter to be the first to know. 

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Should You Niche Down or Branch Out?

niche-down-branch-out

When I started my freelance web design business I was all about making bank.

I didn’t want to live on noodles and I had a mortgage to pay. I took on any scrappy bit of work that came my way, tried my hand at anything, and learnt a bunch of skills along the way. Over the past few years I’ve become a lot more selective with the work I take on, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try my hand at different things.

“Niching Down” is becoming a very popular career choice amongst web design freelancers. Choosing one particular route on which to focus their career (PDF/eBook design, websites for certain professions only, working with just one CMS or framework) and making it clear that they don’t do anything outside their realm.

How incredibly fucking boring.

For me, one of the most exciting things about being a freelance designer and developer is the ability to work on a variety of different projects. I get to work with interesting people in different fields, learn more about what they do, and build up my skills. I get to try out new CMSs, explore new technologies and future proof my career with a bevy of transferable skills.

Jack of all trades, master of none…

Are we really still banging on about that old adage?

Things are different now. Things are fluid. People expect you to have a variety of skills, especially as a freelancer, rather than just one core attribute.

I work with a lot of independent companies and one-person shops who want the whole shebang — branding, print design, web design and development. It makes it a whole lot easier for them to work with just me (and maybe another person) rather than having to hire 3 or 4 separate people.

Skills in the web design business are pretty transferable, we’re in a really good position to diversify and leverage what we know.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s awesome to specialise in stuff (I specialise in Web Design, WordPress development and Shopify), but don’t disregard new opportunities to learn and experiment — who knows, you might find you really do enjoy making interactive PDFs.

Along with specialising, you can cherry pick projects that appeal to you more and tailor your portfolio with the work you really enjoy.

But doesn’t niching down mean I can charge more?

Yes and no.

If you become the best PDF designer, then yeah, sure, you can charge more than the other PDF designers out there.

But here’s the thing…

A client comes to you wanting a PDF for a new service they’re offering. They want to use it as a free promotional tool to gain sign-ups. Sure, you say, and get underway with the project, finish it in no time (you’re the best, after all!), and the client is super happy.

However, you’ve just served your client what they asked for, rather than solved their problem.

Your client wanted a promotional tool for the new service they’re offering, they’re looking for a PDF because that’s what they think they need. It’s what everyone else in their field is doing, so it must be the thing they need too, right?

Your job is to figure out if it actually is what they need. Maybe they’d be better served with a small information website? Or a social media campaign? Maybe there are other things you could bolt on to what your client initially wants to more successfully solve their problem.

Having a broader knowledge of the different ways you can solve your client’s problem will serve them better, and they’ll pay even more for that.

Here’s what I think…

Niching down in such a strict sense closes a lot of doors, doors that hide some really interesting and exciting projects. When you niche down you get comfortable and complacent, which is a very dangerous place to be in a fast-moving business like web design (and other design fields, for that matter).

Having a broad skill set can really help to future proof your career, if you’ve devoted yourself to one CMS, or PDFs, or even a particular profession, what would you do if that CMS became obsolete? If a brand new universal document format took over? If the work there suddenly dried up?

If you enjoy the variety that freelance work provides (and I mean, who wouldn’t?) then why restrict yourself by niching down? I much prefer the idea of specialising, a route that leaves you & your business in a flexible and agile position.

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Why I moved my online shop to Shopify

why-i-moved-to-shopify

The best thing about running a blog, a product based business and a service based Web Design business, is that I can shower my clients with my own personal experience. With the clients I work with, and the majority of projects I work on, I’ve actually been there and done that, reaped the rewards and trudged through the failures. I can tell my clients what’s worked for me, alongside giving them advice seated in experience rather than speculation.

Recently I’ve been working a lot with Shopify, both for new clients and existing clients. In the past I might have suggested other ecommerce solutions to my clients, in fact I’ve built a fair few ecommerce sites on Magento, WordPress (with Woocommerce and Jigoshop), Big Cartel, OsCommerce… you name it!

I’ve enjoyed working with Shopify on my client’s shops so much that I decided to move my own shop over there, too. I was previously on Magento and not really enjoying it, before that I was on Zencart. While both served their purpose, I’m super glad that I’m now running through Shopify.

Here’s why Shopify is winning for me at the moment

  • Ease of use. Compared to Magento, and even Woocommerce, Shopify comes out on top for me (and for my clients) because its admin area is bomb-awesome. It’s really easy to use, both for seasoned web people and for those with just a little web knowledge. If you can send an email, you can use Shopify’s admin area.
  • Security. I’ve had a few issues with Magento over the past few years, and even with the strictest security settings I had a client’s store get hacked last year. There seemed to ALWAYS be security patches and updates coming through for Magento, which didn’t give me much confidence in it. Shopify, however, is hosted on their own servers so you don’t need to worry about security – you’re paying them to deal with that for you! You also don’t need to worry about purchasing an SSL certificate as the payment system is all taken care of on the Shopify side.
  • Templating system. For me, the templating system on Shopify is really easy to use. I won’t get too in depth about it, but I will say that it’s a lot more flexible and easy to understand than the system for Magento (and even Woocommerce).
  • Updates. With any hosted ecommerce solution (Woocommerce, Magento) you’re going to need to run updates. With both Woocommerce and Magento, I’ve had some seriously shit experiences (Magento was determined to break every. damn. time. an update was run, and Woocommerce would update and break the theme). Shopify, however, runs all of its updates on its own server, so you don’t need to do anything. It’s bliss. BLISS.
  • SEO. Since moving to Shopify I’ve definitely noticed an increase in SEO. The site load time is really fast, which I think is a big contributing factor, and I was sure to use a theme that was well made for SEO.
  • Updates Pt 2. Shopify is continually rolling out new features. I kept seeing all these cool new things appearing with my client’s shops, really great features that make the day-to-day running of the shop really fun. There’s even a really cool new feature where you can sell directly on Pinterest using your Shopify store as a feed (not yet available in GBP, unfortunately).
  • Choice. Shopify does have a monthly cost attached (I believe it’s totally worth the fee), but you can choose between three levels of subscription, each one with different benefits and incrementally lower fees. I have clients successfully running stores on all three levels, and one of my clients has even gone so far as to use Shopify for her brick-and-mortar POS. I use the Professional (middle) level subscription, which gives me more than enough features for my needs.
  • Apps. The Shopify App store lets you add “apps” to your shopify shop to extend its basic functionality. Some of these are free and others are premium, but they let you customise your shop to your own specifications. It’s not as in depth as customising with Magento (you can really get into the nuts and bolts with that one), but that might be a good thing!! My “go to” apps are Mailchimp, Product Reviews and Order Printer.
  • Support. I’ve found the level of support for Shopify to be superb, and that’s just from me requesting features from a developer point of view. They’re always quick to respond on email, and really want your input on making their product better. My clients have also been in touch with the Shopify support team and had nothing but good things to say.
  • Community. There’s a great community forum around Shopify, and chances are if you’ve got a question, it’ll have been answered there.

These are the not-so-good things I’ve found about Shopify

Unfortunately it can’t all be smooth sailing, and there are a few little irks that frustrate me with Shopify. I’ve notified the Shopify team about a few of these and as they’re always rolling out improvements for the system, I’m hoping that some of them will be addressed soon. None of these were game changers for me, but they might be for you…

  • You can’t have sub-categories (or “collections” in the Shopify vernacular). This is a bit of a bummer as I really wanted to subcategorise my jewellery “Jewellery > Necklaces”, “Jewellery > Brooches”. Instead, you need to create all collections as top-level items and then just fib a little in your navigation.
  • The front-end (admin facing) theme customiser isn’t as good as it could be. This is just me being a spoilt and picky developer, but I can certainly see room for improvement here.
  • The basic order printer is very basic. I use integrated labels to ship items (so I print out an order on one piece of paper that has labels for you to peel off with the address) and needed a way of customising the invoices to work with this. In the end, I needed to use an (albeit free) app to achieve this level of customisation.
  • Email isn’t supported through Shopify so you do need to have email hosting elsewhere. You can either use Google Apps, or a small hosting package through a host of your choice (I always recommend Krystal or A Small Orange).
  • The blogging system on Shopify isn’t that great, but it’s not built to be a blogging platform after all. For my clients I tend to build a blog subdomain running WordPress.

So there you go! That’s why I moved my shop to Shopify and why I’m very happy with the service they provide. I’ll continue to recommend Shopify to my clients, and hey, if you want to hire me to help you set-up your own Shopify store (even if it’s just getting you going with a default theme) then do get in touch!

Disclaimer: I’m a Shopify Partner, this means that if you sign-up for Shopify through any of my links then I stand to get a monetary bonus. I do honestly love the service though, which is why I use it for my own product based business. 

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Clean your list

clean-your-list

You’ve got a mailing list for your business, right? You should have, anyway. It’s a great way of collecting customer and client leads, and yourself on their radar. Mailing lists have been around forever, unlike twitter/instagram/facebook/periscope. They’re not going anywhere fast.

I’ve been working on building the mailing lists for my two businesses for the past few years. They’ve got a fair number of subscribers, and I send out occasional newsletters about sales, blog updates, new products etc. I get a fair level of engagement, and a low unsubscribe rate.

My lists are on Mailchimp, I looooove Mailchimp and have been a long time fan. You might have yours on Aweber, Mad Mimi, or any of the other mailing list providers out there. Chances are you pay a certain amount each month, or per send, for your mailing list. It’s usually dependent on the number of subscribers you have and can sometimes come to quite a hefty business expense.

So here’s what I did last week…

I removed around 25% of the subscribers from each of my lists.

Whhhaatttt? From the lists I’ve been building for years? Isn’t that like, a whole year’s worth of subscribers?! Pretty close, actually. But here’s the thing…

I removed subscribers who hadn’t opened, let alone clicked through from, the last 5 email campaigns they’d received. 

Considering the frequency I send out emails that’s around 6 months worth of no engagement. I was paying hard earned money to send emails to these addresses that either:

  • Deleted the email without opening
  • Had it disappearing into spam
  • No longer used that account

What a waste!

(NB: open rate tracking can be a little unreliable, but it’s a good starting point with clearing out your list)

Here’s what’s awesome about having a list clear out

Clearing out your list this way means that the stats from your remaining subscribers should be much improved (your open rate, click through rate, and overall enagement percentages will increase), which is AWESOME if you have a business that relies more on engagement than subscriber numbers (and let’s be honest here, it’s the engagement that counts).

It also means that you’re not gonna be invading the inbox of someone who obviously doesn’t want you there anymore (Bye, Felicia!). They might come across you again at some point, and it’d be better for them to think “oh! I thought I was subscribed to that list, I better sign-up again” than “Ugh, there’s that annoying brand that I keep trashing in gmail”.

You’re list is less likely to be flagged as spam. Chances are, if someone’s trashing your newsletter without engagement, it won’t be long before they report your emails as spam. Erk.

And of course, they amount you spend on your list each month will decrease until you get your list back up to the same numbers.

My Challenge for you!

Go take a hard look at your lists. What’s your engagement like? How many people didn’t open any of your last 5 emails? What about the last 10?

Mailchimp has some really great segmenting tools to allow you to create groups based on the engagement of your subscribers, which is even more powerful than open-rate. You can read more about how that works here.

You could also try and run a campaign to re-engage those subscribers who haven’t been very active lately, maybe offering a discount, or a special reward for opening the email.

Either way, I want you to give your list a good hard clean. Dust off those cobwebs, make your list even more powerful for your business, and engage with the subscribers who really want to get your emails!

This post isn’t sponsored by Mailchimp by the way, I just really, really like their service! The links to mailchimp throughout the article are affiliate links, though, so clicking them and signing up for Mailchimp could yield an affiliate bonus for me. 

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Is your website mobile friendly? It’d better be!

google-mobile-ready

Ah, Google. Holding the fates of search traffic in its hands. The next Google algorithm change on April 21st means that your site’s mobile friendliness is going to be taken into account.

Let me break it down…

Google’s Algorithm

Google’s algorithm is a program that uses several bits of information to display the relevant results when you do a search. Google uses things like keywords, content age, your location and PageRank to decide what to display. The next algorithm change on April 21st 2015 is a move towards showing content that displays nicely on the device the searcher is using.

Mobile friendliness as a ranking system

Google will use your website’s mobile friendliness to decide where it should appear in the search results on mobile devicess. This is huge because so much traffic now comes from handheld devices. Check your stats on Google Analytics, I know that my site gets approximately 25% of its traffic via mobile.

mobilestats

Why are Google doing this?

Google want their users to receive the best quality search results possible, and that means serving them content that will display nicely on, and be optimised for, their devices.

How do I know if my site is mobile friendly?

The easiest way is to use the free tool that Google has created, the Mobile-Friendly test. By entering your URL, Google will check to see if your website is already mobile friendly.

Screenshot 2015-03-30 15.38.30

If you get this message, you’re all set.

Screenshot 2015-03-30 15.39.43

If you get this one, you’ve got some work to do (you won’t even believe what website this was, a huge, huge blog).

Help! My site’s not mobile friendly!

There are a few ways to fix this, and it all boils down to what platform you’re running your website with. Briefly, here are a few fixes for common set-ups. Google have also created a great resource on the options available for you, read that here.

Self Hosted WordPress

  1. If you’re thinking of upgrading your theme, or getting a custom design, make sure you’re getting mobile friendly (or responsive). The base themes (twentyfifteen for example) are all mobile friendly.
  2. You can use a plugin that will server a different version of your site to mobile uses. Jetpack and WPTouch are two such plugins.
  3. Convert your current theme with the help of a developer. This can be messy, though, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Blogger

The easiest fix for Blogger is to simply turn on your mobile template. Blogger provides one by default, and whilst it’s not the prettiest of templates, it does what it does. Head to your blog template settings, and click the gear icon under the “Mobile” template. Then select a mobile template. Voila!

Of course, you can also go down the route of using a mobile friendly template in the first place, which will look way better than a default Blogger template!

Things to keep in mind

Based on the previous few years, mobile traffic is only set to increase. While you might want to put a quick fix in place now, it’s imperative that you take time to consider how your website behaves on mobile devices from now on in. That means making sure that your site looks bomb-awesome on all devices, not just desktop. I’ve offered responsive web design as standard for the past few years, and I’ve really sung its praises to all my clients. If you’re set to start working with a web designer any time soon, make sure your site’s going to perform well across all devices.

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