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6 Web Design Essentials For Any Small Business Website

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Not too many years ago, it was almost unthinkable for a small business to invest in their own website. Today, however, it is less of a choice than a necessity if you want to engage with customers, and stay ahead of your competitors.

Website building is more accessible now than ever before, with a wide range of tools and services available to help you create your brand vision in online form. Nevertheless, setting up a business website can be a daunting process, especially if you are new to the world of online marketing.

The on-the-move consumer has little time or patience for poorly-designed websites, so your landing page, and every page thereafter, needs to be structured with purpose and precision. Fortunately, this is not as difficult as it might sound, and if you keep the following checklist in mind, you will soon have a business website to be proud of.

1. Clarity and simplicity

When users land on your homepage, it can take mere seconds for them to decide whether to explore further or move on. As such, you need your landing page to clearly display who you are and what you do. Additionally, using consistent branding throughout your website, using your organization’s name and logo, adds cohesion to your content, and reassures visitors that they have not accidentally left your site.

Most internet users want to be able to navigate a website quickly and without confusion, so your layout is of critical importance. In recent history, there has been a trend towards shorter and shorter menus. Now, many sites display only three menu options, with the aim of quickly directing visitors to the key areas of the website.

Ultimately, your goal here is to make your website as easy to navigate as possible, both for internet users, and search engine crawlers. The simpler it is to crawl and index your site, the more likely you are to be able to secure a good search engine ranking.

Another upside to a simplistic design is that it will load faster, meaning visitors are more likely to stick around. When the Financial Times updated their layout at the end of last year, they reported that a one second reduction in loading times could boost engagement by 5 percent.

2. Personality

The rise of social media marketing has brought about significant changes in the way consumers evaluate businesses and products. You are not, and should not be, an invisible entity hidden behind your brand; your customers want to know who you are and why they should be excited about your business. Furthermore, it is your passion for the products or services you offer that should shine through in your content, and establish your website’s unique personality.

This doesn’t mean you need to reveal your deepest darkest secrets, or divulge personal information. Bear in mind, anything that you put on your website needs to add value, and be relevant to the overall plan. Think about the details you can share that highlights the best characteristics of your business, or that will cause visitors to feel more comfortable and familiar with your brand.

  • Describe who you are and how your business came to be. What drew you to this industry, and where do you plan to go with it?
  • What is your business all about? Give a brief, but clear description of the products or services you offer, and what makes them unique.
  • Set out your values. Perhaps your materials are organic, or sustainably sourced. Maybe your business is carbon neutral, or is regularly engaged in community initiatives. This is your chance to highlight the details that have no place elsewhere on your site, but that you would like your customers to know.

3. High Quality Content

At the same time, it is important not to overload your landing page with content. By selecting key pieces of information, you ensure that these are the first things visitors learn about your business. Consider features such as a landing page video, so you can introduce yourself or your services in more detail, without filling the page with a wall of text.

Throughout your website, your content should adhere to SEO best practices, and always aim to offer something useful to your audience. If you are renovating an existing site, you should also go back through old content, removing anything that does not add value, and sprucing up anything that remains.

4. Business Tools

Do not be afraid to make use of the wide range of tools and applications available for building and running a business website. These applications are not for everyone, but when applied correctly, they can reduce your workload and streamline many time-consuming processes.

For example, you might consider an e-commerce CMS to facilitate the management of product pages, and generation of uniformly structured page links. Similarly, if you are managing social media accounts, or running a blog, content delivery systems can help you schedule posts, and deliver your content on a regular timetable. Shopify is one that brings blogging and ecommerce together nicely, but you’ve also got ones like Squarespace and Wix — your web technology will have a big impact on the overall affordability and design of your website, so choose carefully.

Efficient use of business tools can free you up to focus on other matters, such as creating new content, or engaging with customers. Many tools can also help with the collection of data analytics, providing you with valuable information about consumer behaviour, and the success of individual pieces of content. You can also use tools like chatbots to help customers along the customer journey, though you’ll have to ensure you still remain approachable.

As with all aspects of web design, you will need to weigh up the cost of using these tools against the long-term gains for you and your business.

5. Security

For any website, security is a primary concern. After all, no one wants their data or their content to be compromised. For small businesses, having a secure website is even more critical, as a breach could not only put you and your site visitors at risk, but also can be extremely damaging to your organisation’s reputation.

If you have an e-commerce site, ensure that you are using a secure payment system, such as PayPal or Stripe. In addition, if you use a content management system, or any other third party applications, you should double-check their security standards, and be diligent about keeping them up to date.

Even if your website is not used for sales, it is still important to have HTTPS enabled on your website. You can do this via a Certificate Authority such as Let’sEncrypt, which provides free-of-charge automated certificates, in accordance with TLS security best practices.

That tiny padlock in the corner of the browser can be the difference between a new customer, and a visitor who never makes it past the landing page.

6. The Grand Plan

While this is the final item on the list, it is also the first step towards creating or improving your business website. Every aspect of your design should have a purpose, from menus to image placement, and even the structure of your URLs.

Whether you are starting from scratch, or renovating an existing site, you should create a comprehensive plan, going into as much detail as possible on every aspect of your design. This will enable you to identify potential challenges, costs, and long-term goals for your website. In addition, your finished plan acts as a coherent blueprint for when you finally turn your idea into a reality. Following in the footsteps of tech giants like Amazon is also a good way to grow your online presence — remember to always research the competition and keep tabs on their websites.

A Long-Term Endeavor

Remember that your business website is an ongoing project, not a static entity. This means you can always add or adjust things later if necessary. It is generally far better to create a fully functional, aesthetically optimized website with fewer features, than one bloated with half-finished pages and ideas.

Your site will need grow and change with your business, so constant improvement and reevaluation is essential. Pay attention to consumer feedback, analytics, and shifting trends, so you are always able to stay ahead of the curve. A successful business website requires regular maintenance and renewal, so it is vital to set aside the time to keep your content fresh, and your brand narrative current.

Even so, establishing your website is already half the battle. The rest relies on the same diligence, dedication, and passion for your business that has gotten you this far in the first place.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketer & Blogger

I’m an ecommerce marketer by trade, and I run a blog in my spare time where I like to talk about content and blogging. I love taking people’s ideas and making them into digital realities. Big advocate of having an customer experience — something I’m currently trying to implement on a few stores of my own!

BusinessArticles is the popular online Hub for quality business articles. We publish unique articles and share them with our social followers.

Tech

5 Benefits of Custom Business Software Applications

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As companies continue to invest in their technology and processes, it is becoming apparent, one size does not fit all. The same goes for investing in business applications through out of the box software packages, software consultancies or application frameworks. While business owners may choose generic software applications, there are many benefits to developing custom programs. In this post, we will cover how those custom applications can drive growth for your business.

Flexible Applications

Surely, custom applications have the maximum amount of flexibility. You can program everything just the way that you work. With a completely custom business solution, you have the ability to create any process, workflow or application that your company needs. Moreover, an off the shelf application will have a hard time meeting the level of flexibility of applications design specifically for your processes.

Improved Security

Especially if you have a good team, a custom program will have higher levels of security. Since custom applications are unique to your organization, there is a much lower chance of hackers learning the ins and outs of your software. Compared to mainstream business solutions that cyber criminals can test against, the unique development of your software is less likely to get targeted. Absolutely, a security conscious business that wants to prevent hackers could benefit from custom built applications.

Direct Integration

Moreover, custom business systems directly integrate with your existing processes. If you already have other software running for various company departments, it’s easy to keep them. Your custom applications can pull and push data as needed to create the perfect solution for your organizational needs. This makes the integration process easier, giving your company time and resources to grow.

Web Based Management

In addition to integration benefits, custom built systems allow you to build fully web based management tools. According to Unim – Business management system, custom web applications are replacing bloated project management and CRM tools. Best of all, they are accessible to your team members, partners or clients from any web browser. With a custom web-based application, you have full control over what is accessible online.

Custom Is Scalable

Over time, the needs of your business will change. A custom software will support your business growth rather than limit it. Compared to “one-size fits all” software, the capacity to change, automate and scale your software is critical to organizational growth. It will meet the needs of your current business processes while adapting or evolving to the needs of the future as well.

Growth should be a major priority for your business. If so, then integrate custom business systems into your future plans. The flexibility of the technology will allow your employees to work smarter, not harder. Your systems will be more secure while integrating with existing processes. On top of that, custom business apps offer the option for web based access or limitations. Finally, your custom business system will help your business grow now and then adapt to the new needs in the future. Positively, a custom business application can give your company the added resources to accelerate growth.

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Finance

Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies What’s All the Fuss About

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“Blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” are among some of the most-searched terms in Google recently thanks to news about BitCoin’s price surging. Most people don’t have a clue about what these terms are (hence the searches) but they do know that cryptocurrencies are a form of investment like forex. Unfortunately, while the principle is similar because cryptocurrencies are a traded form of currency, the way BitCoin works is completely different to any kind of currency pair that you can find.

To help you out, we’re going to talk about blockchains and cryptocurrencies to help you achieve a better understanding of what it’s all about.

Defining Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies

Let’s start with the basics and explain what these two terms mean.

  • Blockchains are essentially digital edgers where transactions in cryptocurrencies are recorded. It’s a form of technology that enables cryptocurrencies to exist in the first place. Think of it as a gigantic database where every single transaction is kept in chronological order. You don’t need to understand how it works if you’re interested in BitCoin or another cryptocurrency, but it’s nice to get a general overview of what it implies.
  • Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that utilize encryption techniques to safely regulate their value and also validate transfers. These cryptocurrencies are independent of banks and they’re generated digitally. Two good examples of popular cryptocurrencies are BitCoin and Ethereum. There are many different advantages to both the currencies and their values fluctuate drastically over the years. Ethereum, for instance, was worth $10 per unit in 2017. Currently, they are quoted at around $800. Ripple is another popular cryptocurrency that has recently grown in popularity.

Now that you have a basic understanding of blockchains and cryptocurrencies, let’s see what the fuss is all about and why it’s making waves in the news.

Advantages of Cryptocurrencies

So why use cryptocurrencies over regular currency? Here are just a couple of the most popular advantages:

  • Lower transaction fees. Unlike other currencies, there are lower fees involved when making payments with cryptocurrencies.
  • Immediate transactions. Transactions are immediately resolved when using cryptocurrencies unless a third-party is involved.
  • No risk of fraud. Cryptocurrencies are completely digital and, unlike paper money, cannot be counterfeited.
  • No risk of identity theft. Since your personal information isn’t handed out when making payments with cryptocurrencies (unlike credit and debit cards) you’re not at risk of identity theft.
  • Decentralized currencies. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized which means that there isn’t a single source or authority that governs it.
  • Universal use. Virtually every country can adopt cryptocurrencies because they are not bound by various rates like exchange rates. They can be universally used as long as a cash system supports it.

Industries That Use Cryptocurrencies

As you might expect, cryptocurrencies are slowly becoming more mainstream and being used in all kinds of different industries. One of the first industries to adopt the use of cryptocurrency is the technology industry. Early uses of cryptocurrencies involved being able to purchase goods on the internet or trade digital items and pay for services. There are now many uses for cryptocurrency on the web, such as being able to make donations with it or accept crowdfunding payment.

Nowadays, the use of cryptocurrency is widespread and marketers are all over it, using social media, blogs, lead generation pages to spread the word. So which industries are using it right now? Some car dealerships offer vehicles for BitCoins and there are even some realtors that accept BitCoin payments. With the use of BitCoin expanding so rapidly, don’t be surprised to see your local coffee shop offering goods for cryptocurrency in a few years or even months.

Here’s some information on two of the most popular cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin and Etherum and why you should take notice of Ripple…

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the world’s first and top cryptocurrency that had gained popularity and a huge increase in value. It was created in 2009 by a person under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Its main feature is that transactions can be made without the middle man – meaning that no banks are involved!

You can use Bitcoin to book hotels, pay for Xbox games, and buy furniture. But most of its hype has recently come from people trading it. As of now, its price is $8207.77 whose price used to be past the $10,000 mark in 2017.

Another reason why Bitcoin is amazing is because it can be mined. A person (company or group) can mine Bitcoin through record-keeping and advanced math. This is how it works, when someone sends Bitcoin to someone else, the network records it and then records the other transactions and places them on a “block.”

Miners use powerful hardware and specialized software to convert the blocks into code sequences known as “hash.” Once a new has is made, the miners who found it are awarded in Bitcoin. As of now, miners can obtain 12.5 Bitcoins which worth around $225,000 at this time.

Bitcoin is ranked first because it started new concepts such as “decentralization” and “peer to peer trading.” We would see other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum use this concept to help users make apps and trade their currencies at a rate that’s faster than Bitcoin.

Speaking of Ethereum…

Ethereum

Ranked second on our list is Ethereum. Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is running on a public blockchain network. While Bitcoin and Ethereum are completely different in technology, their largest distinction is their difference in capability and purpose.

Ethereum’s blockchain is used to run program code for any decentralized application. Instead of miners obtaining Bitcoin, they receive Ether, the main currency that fuels the network.

Ethereum also has smart contracts, which acts like a self-ran computer program that automatically execute once specific guidelines are met. Since they are running on the blockchain, the code can run without downtime, third party interference, and without censorship.

What makes Ethereum a top cryptocurrency is its ability to let startups create decentralized apps. They can receive funding from other Ether owners to help power their app without the long process of seeking a venture capitalist to invest in them. Ethereum is now priced at $857.70, which we can only expect it to grow due to the development apps on its platform.

Ripple

Ripple is the third top cryptocurrency on our list. Like other cryptos, Ripple has a distributed ledger network that allows users to help each other validate transactions. This makes it more efficient and faster than traditional centralized authorities.

What stands Ripple apart is its transaction speed. On average, Bitcoin takes about 10 minutes to complete a transaction. Ripple can accomplish this task in under 60 seconds. This makes Ripple more appealing to a mass market, who needs a faster network to help them pay for goods.

Ripple is currently developed by Ripple Labs. As of now, they have of 100 billion XRP available, as its unable to be mined. Ripple’s current price is now $.73, making it the cheapest option on this list.

While other cryptos are used for separating financial transactions from centralized banking, Ripple seems to do the opposite.

Closing Thoughts

To conclude, we believe that each of these cryptocurrencies provides a lot of value into today’s current market. Not only are they bringing in new financial options for users, but their combined technology helps make transactions safer and faster. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how these cryptocurrencies will act as blockchain technology continues to evolve.

Disclaimer: This post was made to educate users on cryptocurrency. Don’t take it as investment advice.

Sources:
https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/what-is-ripple/
https://www.coindesk.com/information/what-is-ethereum/
http://money.cnn.com/infographic/technology/what-is-bitcoin/
https://www.cnet.com/how-to/what-is-bitcoin/
https://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/what-is-bitcoin-currency-crash-10409961

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Tech

Proactive vs. Reactive Live Chat: What are the differences?

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Why Is Live Chat so Important?

Live chat is an important addition to any company website. It makes things easier for everyone. Without any doubt, live chat benefits both the business and its clients. For many online service providers live chat is an absolute necessity. For others it isn’t, but it still can be a great vehicle toward a successful online presence and increased trust.

User statistics clearly show that live chat increases the credibility of a company, helps build better connection with the clients, provides back and forth interaction with the users. In turn, this feedback helps keep the services relevant and aligned with the customers’ needs and helps resolve any potential issues in a timely manner. Lastly, the modern live chat applications of today provide an invaluable insight in the ways people interact with a web page and about their points of interest.

Compared to email or phone support, live chat brings much greater benefits.

The Differences Between Proactive and Reactive Live Chat

One of the things unique to live chat is the fact that it can be offered proactively to the people visiting your web page. Neither email, nor phone are suitable for such service.

These differences between proactive and reactive chat are significant and should be checked carefully. They can be summed up in a few categories. To find out which offers better customer experience, greater satisfaction and potential for conversion, a statistical analysis must be completed.

First of all, reactive live chat is there when the customers ask for it. Proactive, on the other hand, occurs when the communication is initiated by the chat operator, who offers assistance before the visitor has requested help.

When it comes to speed, things are a bit blurry. Reactive is fast, this much is undeniable; on average, a chat request is addressed within 23 seconds. It is infinitely faster than email and considerably faster than phone, in most cases.

Then again, how do you measure the speed of a proactive chat?.

Reactive chat is good for the customers. They usually remain happy, with an engagement rate around 7.8%.

But things get even better for the proactive chat. The engagement rate is only 2%, but customers approached proactively are 6.3 times more likely to make a purchase than those left to their own devices.

Sounds amazing, does it not?

But there is more. If you use proactive chat together with a reactive chat service, the results will be magnificent. The number of satisfied customers and volume of purchases can increase anywhere from 40% to 100%.

All of this is possible, thanks to a few simple implementations, as the best live chat applications can be put to a good use within hours.

It is important to realize just how valuable live chat can be. It is vital to understand fully how it works and what the different types are.

Once you obtain that knowledge, you can use it and achieve great results for yourself and your business.

No matter what your website looks like, live chat has the potential to increase greatly the customers’ satisfaction and engagement. Check out this awesome live chat infographic for more information.

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