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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Understanding Search Engine Optimization

February 1st, 2008

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Adobe Contribute vs. RisingLine WebSite 2.0

January 15th, 2008

FAQ: How does Adobe Contribute compare to RisingLine’s Content Management sites?

Our WebSite 2.0 sites are based on the open source application CMS Made Simple which is completely different than Adobe Contribute. CMSMS offers all the non-technical editing capabilities of Contribute (in a much more productive
server side software model) plus it offers all features and capabilities to develop an enterprise class site.

WebSite 2.0 offers all the features that would be available through a developer using Dreamweaver and a content manager using Contribute with the notable differences that WebSite 2.0 is exponentially easier to use and after we configure it on your Web server doesn’t require a technical expert “developer” even for many advanced features such as dynamic drop down CSS menu systems.

Here’s a brief list of the major differences of Contribute when compared to WebSite 2.0:

  • Contribute is client side software. This means that you will only be able to edit a website on a desktop that has Contribute.
  • Contribute requires that every user be licensed. This can be a costly process if there are a lot of users set to update a website.
  • Contribute is a website editing tool, not a website development tool. A web developer is still required to build the initial website design (usually using Dreamweaver).
  • Contribute edits one page at a time, making complex design elements such as navigation menus hard to manage if they aren’t controlled through a single source, like a database, Server Side Includes, or XML file.
  • Updating a website’s content through Contribute can be a much slower process than using a server side CMS system like WebSite 2.0, since each page must be downloaded (and uploaded) individually.
  • User cannot access source code, therefore any function code must be edited in a secondary program such as Dreamweaver.
  • Contribute is a proprietary solution that is based on the concept that other Adobe software will be involved in the production process . . . our Content Management software is open source and does not require other specific software for optimal performance. In other words, there are no additional software purchases intended for those who use WebSite 2.0

Regarding editing and adding content to WebSite 2.0 . . . any skilled user or developer can work with WebSite 2.0 at their own level so there is nothing that really can’t be done, it would just depend on the skill level of the user.

We have different permissions that can be turned on for individual users depending on their expertise (or you can turn them on/off yourself). For example one user may be non-technical so we might just give him/her permission to edit
the content of one page, while another may have more technical aptitude so we would give them permission to create & delete pages, move pages around in the site structure, and edit any page.

A user could also be given the ability to edit the design skin(s) for a site if they were skilled in XHTML & CSS. Also, you have direct access to the code level of the content (and even the entire page if you want it) just by pressing a button on the page edit screen.

Another significant difference is that our WebSite 2.0 sites are coded for optimization with the major search engines. There are a lot of details in the code that we optimize for the target keywords of your pages that would require much more manual coding with a Dreamweaver / Contribute platform.

In addition we configure your Web server for optimal indexing with search engines and utilize Web 2.0 technology, namely Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to increase our clients search engine profile whenever possible. We’ve written a number of articles on SEO that go into the topic much more:

http://risingline.com/blog/labels/Search-Engine-Optimization.html

What you should know about Web design

November 5th, 2007

Web design, when compared to printed design, has some unique pros and cons. A big “pro” is the flexibility of publishing to the Web. A printed marketing piece is designed once and published—most organizations don’t find it plausible to go back and reword a paragraph after 10,000 copies have already been printed.

With Web publishing it’s relatively easy to have a Web developer make changes after the initial publication and the cost is nominal. Content Management Systems like our own WebSite 2.0 take this benefit a step further by allowing even those who aren’t trained web developers to easily login to their site and make text and graphic changes.

On the “con” side of Web publishing a big challenge is insuring your target audience views your publication as you intended. Each type of Web browser interprets how to display any given page of HTML code—for example Internet Explorer may display a page of HTML differently than FireFox or Safari. Noticeable discrepancies can manifest even within different versions of the same browser. So, a site design tested only with Internet Explorer 7 may look great in that browser, but look like a mess in another. While this is a challenge, the risk can be mitigated by testing the majority a site’s design and layout on the most popular browsers which are reported monthly by W3C and presently consist of FireFox, Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7.

Not only should a Web sites appearance in popular browsers be considered, but also the individual operating environment that any given user may set themselves should be taken into consideration. For example, if the default font size is set too small by the designer (a common occurrence in my observation) users may be inclined to increase the text display size in their browsers. When this happens the browser will reformat a Web page to fit the larger text. It’s prudent to first choose a readable text size and then to design a site to look presentable when text size is kicked up a notch or two.

Another important consideration of your site should be the size of monitor (i.e. the pixel resolution) that your target audience is likely to be using. There are two basic types of design to accommodate this: fixed width and liquid or floating width. There are a lot of considerations when deciding which route to go, but in general, business sites are most often fixed width (as you’ll notice by surging through Fortune 500 sites) with liquid width sites typically being to best suited for sites with lots of text copy…reference sites, academic sites, or blogs for example.

Business oriented sites often fall into two categories. The first, to take fresh prospects through a sequential process of establishing your credibility/trustworthiness and persuading them to become a customer. The second is accommodating existing clients who are retrieving information, executing transactions, making a payment, viewing schedules, etc. The best practice principles of persuasion and usability lend themselves most often to fixed width design because fixed width designs allow more control over the visual presentation quality and encouraging concise bill-board style statements and discourage verbose copy that statistics show most people don’t read and find counter productive to their goals of being on a site.

Sometimes, there is an impression that the “white space” displayed to left and right of a fixed width design is undesirable. While each situation is unique, this empty space is often a benefit when attempting to communicate to a Web audience. A computer monitor full of text/graphics dilutes messaging by creating clutter. As Steve Krug points out in his classic, Don’t Make Me Think, one of the most common roadblocks to creating persuasive and effective Web sites is too much copy . . . he advocates designing Web sites with a “billboard” mindset—concise, appealing messages that tell the target visitor what they need to know without having to wade through clutter.

The white space, which coincidentally is only noticeable on displays larger than the site was optimized for, can in fact create a very desirable mechanism to funnel your prospects attention to the most important statements about your organization. That’s why you may have recalled seeing those full page Wall Street Journal ads, that some deep-pocketed corporation paid a large sum for, that are mostly white space. It’s draws a reader who is being overloaded with pages of information like an oasis in the deserts and captures their full attention.

At the risk of this post becoming verbose itself, I’ll stop here and post more on this topic in the future. As I’ve done before, I highly recommend that anyone responsible for a professional Web site read the aforementioned book by Steve Krug. It’s not a book about the technicalities of Web design, but provides an invaluable executive guide to understand the fundamentals of an effective and profitable Web site.

Serve Your Customer

October 7th, 2007

I recently read a good piece on CNN that demonstrated how a few select entrepreneurial companies understand their customer is the lifeblood of their organization. This subject is important to me as I witness more often than not companies not taking customer orientation seriously. From one particular semiconductor company here in Boise, I hear it stated quite often that its goals are “market orientated,” yet the strategic goals and the advertising campaigns are constantly focused on its products and production procedures. Listen up, it’s not about what you do, who you are, or what you sell, but rather about who you sell to and what they need. Successful companies know how to empathize with the market by understanding the wants and needs of existing and potential customers.

Furthermore, employees are typically patronized by their top management on how they are the engine that makes the company go, but in reality, no company exists without customers and organizations should be structured and focused on addressing that principal. Yeah, happy and excited employees make for a better productivity; but I’ve worked for several companies that lose money and customers and the end result is always the same: low moral despite catchy internal motivational slogans or non-customer related group incentive programs. Getting straight to the point, quit wasting time on slogans and pep talks and goals that have nothing to do with serving the customer.

To conclude my mantra, organizations exist for one purpose and one purpose only … and it’s not in business to build widgets, to be innovators, to motivate employees, or to attain the most marketshare … but to serve those customers who keep your company afloat.

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