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ITzetta Blog

This Blog covers some of ITzetta LLC's adventures as a growing design and outsource IT firm.

Elements of a Great Business Website

Elisabeth Windsor - Tuesday, May 01, 2012

There are some aspects that every website should have. You may have many different goals for your site, but the main goal should always be that it benefits the visitors / potential customers. People want to visit a site that caters them and meets their needs. Here are some ways to visiting your site a great experience for its users.

MEANINGFUL, RELEVANT, HELPFUL CONTENT

The content of a site is the single most important feature. Content drives everything. Without great content, the most eye-catching design, intuitive user interface, and best SEO work are useless. Your content should be focused on serving the customer, not bragging about your company. A visitor to your site wants to know what you can do for them, not how awesome your company is (Although I’m sure it is awesome).

Wikipedia doesn’t have the greatest design, but it’s content brings in millions of unique users a month. 

CAREFULLY CHOSEN DOMAIN NAME

Your domain name should be short, unique, simple to spell, and easy to remember. Some recommend using a keyword in your domain name for better SEO, but this can cause problems down the road if your company ever choses to expand.

LOGO

Your logo is the center of your company’s branding. It should be easily recognizable, so your brand can become well-known and trusted (if it isn’t already). Most businesses have their logo in the top-left corner of their site.

McDonalds has their logo and slogan in the top-left of its website with its own box for high visibility.

ATTRACTIVE & ORGANIZED VISUAL DESIGN

An ugly or confusing website can turn away visitors before they even take the time to look around. A poorly-designed site can make your site seem less credible. This doesn’t mean you have to have the most beautiful, fancily-designed site out there. Usually a clean and simple design that displays your content is an intuitive and organized way will serve your company best. Using design to add more personality and interest to your site is just the icing on the cake.

Apple has a simple and attractive design that uses images of its products to pull you in.

A THOUGHTFUL USER INTERFACE

When planning out your user interface, you’ll want to think about what the needs of the average visitor to your site are. Are they programmers or barely computer literate? It’s usually safest to go by the standards of what other sites are doing. Visitors won’t want to take the time to learn a whole new system of navigation. They like what they are used to.

PRIMARY INFORMATION ABOVE THE FOLD

Ease-of-use is a necessity for a great business website. Your customers are going to want to find what they’re looking for on your site quickly and freely. Having your primary information above the fold is a huge part of this. Your navigation should be there as well as your logo and a short statement that summarizes what your company does. Visitors to your site will be grateful that they didn’t have to hunt around for what your company is about.

PS. “Above the Fold” is a phrase to describe the top section of a website that is viewable on the screen without scrolling. This is usually the top 500-600 pixels.

A FOOTER

Every site needs a footer. The footer should definitely include another version of the main navigation. It should just be simple text, which can make things much easier, especially if your main navigation is made of images. The footer navigation also provides a space to house links to pages that are important, but not important enough to be on the main navigation. Contact information and social media links are also great features to have in a footer.

AN ABOUT PAGE

People want to know about the face behind the company. They don’t want to just interact with an impersonal business. An about page with a picture of yourself and a little bit of your background information can help customers to feel a lot more connected. Giving your company a relatable face gives your company credibility, as people can see there is a real person behind the business.

CONTACT INFORMATION

There are few things more frustrating to a potential customer than finding no way to contact you. People will want to be able to get in touch easily. Having a contact form makes it easy for both you and the visitor. They can easily send you any question or comment without even leaving the site. You should also provide an email address, phone number, and mailing address so your customers have the option to contact you in whichever way works best for them.

If you have a physical location, make sure to include that too, so people will no trouble finding you. You get bonus points for embedding a Google map so visitors can get directions without leaving your site.

Osmond Interactive has their phone number and email largest and most visible for quick access. They also include a map, social media link, more contact information, and a short contact form that won't frustrate users.

A SEARCH FUNCTION

This is mostly important for large sites, blogs, and eCommerce sites. Having a search function will make your customers’ experience so much better, since they can just type it what they’re looking for and go instead of digging through pages and pages. This is incredibly important for eCommerce sites. You want no obstacle to deter your potential customers from making a purchase.

SITEMAP

Your site should have two sitemaps, one for humans and one for search engines. Hopefully visitors won’t have to be turning to a sitemap to get around your site, but it’s always good to have an HTML sitemap. However, an XML sitemap is extremely important for search engines. It allows your site to be properly indexed by them. That means your site showing up in searches, which leads to more traffic.

CROSS-BROWSER COMPATIBILITY & RESPONSIVE DESIGN

Cross browser compatibility is a necessary evil. You may do all your internet browsing on Firefox, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will. Half your audience may be using Internet Explorer. To make sure your site provides a great experience for all users, your site should look good on all the popular browsers and platforms.

On a related note, the majority of internet browsing is shifting from being on computers to being from mobile devices. Responsive design allows websites to be viewed in a way that best suits whatever screen they are seen on.


Your website is a very public face of your business. Does it have these important elements? If it doesn’t adding them could bring a huge boost to your sales as well as customer’s opinions of your company. This list definitely is not comprehensive, but hopefully it provides a good start for improving your site today.

2012 Web Design Trends

Elisabeth Windsor - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Every year brings changes to the web design world. In this blog post, we’ll be looking at the new trends in web design. This post is inspired by the predictions Jake Rocheleau made in his “Web Design Trends in 2012” post. Many of these trends began to become popular over the last year, and are continuing to pick up steam in 2012.

RESPONSIVE WEB DESIGN

Responsive website design uses fluid layouts and media queries to properly display websites on any size screen, from a large desktop monitor to a tiny smartphone. As more and more people visit websites via their mobile devices, responsive web design is increasingly more widespread. It will soon become essential.

FIXED POSITION NAVIGATION

A fixed position navigation displays in the same area of the browser screen no matter how much you scroll through the site. It makes the navigation amazingly easy to find at all times. This can be very convenient for sites, as long as they don’t have a long list of navigation links.

CIRCLES

The web is mostly about straight lines and 90 degree angles. Circles can provide a nice visual break from the monotony of it all. Since they are so eye-catching, they are nice for important bits of information on a site.

VECTOR ART

Designers in general are improving their illustration skills. Many companies have a large vector mascot on their websites these days to personify their brand. These mascots bring a lot of character and personality to web design.

RIBBONS & BANNERS 

You will see these all over the place. The current popularity of vintage styling has brought old-fashioned ribbons and banners to the forefront of web design. Part of the reason these because so popular so quickly is because they are simple while still adding a lot of personality to a design.

CUSTOM FONT FACES 


Web designers can now use custom fonts in their designs without having to use images of text or only web-safe fonts. Font Squirrel is one of the sites (and my personal favorite) that will help you use custom fonts on your website. You can use one of their pre-existing @font-face kits or easily use their generator to create your own. These allow you to ship a font with your websites, so any viewer will see the correct font regardless of what fonts they have installed on their device.

MINIMALISM 

Clean and minimal designs are very popular right now. The beauty of these is that they allow users to navigate your site and find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. These sites are often a welcome change from the crowded, in-your-face designs and advertising that we often see.


What's your opinion on these design trends? Do you think any of them will stick around? What trends do you see coming up in the future? Let us know!

The Website Design Process at ITzetta

Elisabeth Windsor - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I recently posted the final article for the “Your Company’s First Website” series on the website design process. This post is similar to that. I just wanted to give you all some insight into how the design process works at ITzetta. If you just wanted to see the original article about the design process in general and couldn’t care less about how we do things here, you can see the original article here.


The first two steps are basically the same. You’ll have to come to an agreement about how and when the project will be done and how much it will cost. We also would very much appreciate any resources you have for us to use to create your site. This includes the purpose, target audience, branding, and content of the site. Having these things will make the design process go much faster.


Our initial site maps here aren’t too fancy. We just work with you to concept what pages your site may need. Pages can be added or deleted at any time, if need be. Having a basic site map just allows us to begin working on your website design.


The wireframes aren’t far behind. Sometimes we will even come up with a few of these before or at the same time as the site map to illustrate what each page will be used for and give a basic idea of what it will look like. Our wireframes are just the layout of the site pages, without any of the design.  We can work on these together to make sure all the information your site needs will have room to be included.


After these things are done, we move on to creating mock-ups. This is the most fun part for me, personally. Here, the size of the project usually determines how many mock-ups we do. I would say we usually do at least two different versions of mock-ups.


Once you’ve chosen a mock-up design for us to make into a fully functional website, we start coding. Sometimes we’ll even code a page up ahead of time so you can see what the site will really look like. It’s usually during this stage that we make a lot of changes based on your feedback. This is also our time to make sure everything looks and functions as it should.


Here at ITzetta we often do marketing beyond just a website. We have set up and designed many Facebook fan pages. We’ve created print ads, posters, postcards, and other mailers to promote different businesses. We make sites much more visible with great SEO work. You can see some of our work in our portfolio or on our Facebook page.


Thanks for reading! If you’ve been considering ITzetta, I hope this gives you a little peek into how our business works and if it will work for you.  We would love to work with you. Please contact us if you’re interested.

Your Company's First Website Part III

Elisabeth Windsor - Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This is the third and final article in our “Your Company’s First Website” series. In the first and second posts we talked about what to think about before starting the website process and how to choose a web design company. In this post, we’ll go through the website design process. Communication is always key, and knowing the steps your website will go through will allow you to be a part of the design process.


The first step will be to draw up a form of agreement with your chosen design company. This document allows you to define terms and conditions for the design engagement. It protects both you and the designer and defines what work should be done, when it should be done by, and how much it will cost.


Next you should provide the design team with the information about the site that was talked about in the first post. This includes the purpose, target audience, branding, and content of the site. If you don’t have these things already, it’s the time to get them. This can be a process you can go through with your design company. This is also a good time to choose a domain name for your site.


After this comes the site map. A site map shows what pages will be included in the site and how they will be connected. Once you’ve decided on this, a designer can start creating wireframes. Wireframes are like the empty shells of websites. They just show what will go where.


Once you’ve approved the wireframes, designer can move on to creating mock-ups. These are basically pictures of what your website will look like when it is fully functional, just without the functionality. These will include text, images, colors, your logo, forms, sliders, navigation, buttons, forums, and anything else your site will include. How many mock-ups you receive depends on your agreement with the design company.


Your job as the client is to provide feedback on these mock-ups so the designers can know what you like and dislike. As the designers receive feedback, they will be able to make changes and get closer and closer to the final design. Depending on the scope of the project, you could go through several rounds of mock-up revisions. This also relies on your agreement with the web design company.


When the final design is agreed upon, the actual coding starts happening. This is when the picture of your site turns into a real, fully-functional site. Interactivity and any special functions are added in during this phase.


A good design company tests their sites before they go live. This includes checking to make sure links, forms, forums, e-commerce, and any other interactivity work correctly. It’s making sure all images display right. It’s looking for any spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s seeing if the site looks good in all browsers and screen sizes. When all these worries are dissolved, the site goes live.


Even after the site is finished and launched, there’s always more to do. The site may need to be updated. A blog could be added to provide relevant information. Social media profiles like Twitter and Facebook could be set up for the company. SEO work could be done. Offline marketing could be done. All these things can bring in more visitors to your site and more customers to your business.


That’s it for this series. I hope it was useful for anyone looking to start their first website. If you’ve decided your company needs one, please consider ITzetta. We are a small design and development company in Sandy, OR and would love to help you build the website of your dreams.

Changes Coming to ITzetta Catalyst

Elisabeth Windsor - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There are some great new changes coming to ITzetta Catalyst. These will be here soon, so we will be able to implement them in sites we build from now on. The two new features that we’re most looking forward to are Liquid Markup and Site Import. Liquid Markup will allow our designs to have much more creative freedom and Site Import will save a lot of time for us (and money for you) if we work on an existing site of yours.

Liquid Markup

Liquid Markup gives us total control over the design of the sites we create. In technical terms, Liquid Markup allows this with unlimited module templates; output markup for object properties; loops; conditionals; new filter, sort, and paginate syntax for modules; as well as other methods.

Here’s what this means practically. In the past, if we had multiple categories of products, all of those categories would have to look the same. With Liquid Markup, each category can have its own unique look, if needed. For example, you could have a category of sale or clearance products that has a different look to set it apart from categories of normally priced items.

Liquid Markup can also be used to customize other sections of websites including:

  • Shopping carts
  • Product displays
  • Web apps
  • Blogs

All the design limitations of Catalyst we had in the past are now gone.

Site Import

Site Import is an extremely useful tool if you have a template or want to switch an existing site over to Catalyst. Previously, we could import a site into Catalyst, but we would manually have to code a template and apply it to every page. With the new changes, Catalyst now does that automatically. This could eliminate up to a few days’ time of coding.

These new features open up many new possibilities for our future designs. They can even be applied to existing sites to improve customer experience. What changes to your site would you want with these new features? Let us know!

Should ITzetta Be Your Web Design Company?

Brian Bredenkamp - Friday, March 09, 2012

If you're reading this, you've probably already seen our article on choosing the right web design company for you. Maybe you're considering ITzetta. If that's the case, we'd like to tell you a little about ourselves.

One thing I talked about over in the article is taking the size of the company into consideration. I wrote a little bit about the pros and cons of each. I would say for the most part it’s good to choose a web design company that’s about the same size as your company in its own field. That way it’s more likely that you have similar work flow styles.

There are five of us working here at ITzetta. We have Tyler, the principal web designer; Brian, the principal developer; Aaron, a web designer; Jordenn, a graphic designer; and me, a graphic/web designer. Despite being a small company, we’ve built sites all sizes of businesses; from small local companies to large corporations with locations all over the US.

In the article, I mentioned that hiring a local company can be a great way to help your local economy. ITzetta is located in Sandy, Oregon. We’ve gotten the opportunity to create sites for many other small businesses around here. You can check out some of them in our portfolio.

It’s good to choose a web design company that has built the type of site you want in the past, treats their customers well, and has appropriate pricing for the scope of your project. Here at ITzetta, we have created sites for a variety of different customers, but we specialize in e-commerce sites. We strive to meet each client’s needs in a way that is the best for their company’s success. This includes having great pricing. We even have different plans for the different types of websites you may want.

We would appreciate it if you considered ITzetta while searching for a web design company. We would love to create a website that brings your company to a whole new level. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back for our part III article on the design process!

Your Company's First Website Part II

Brian Bredenkamp - Tuesday, March 06, 2012

This is the second article in our “Your Company’s First Website” series. In the first post we talked about elements to think about before even beginning the web design process. In this article, we’ll see some of the factors that can help you decide which web design company to choose.

There are a few things to consider when choosing a design company. First, how big is the company? Large design firms may be expensive, but you’ll have the assurance that there are many people making sure your website gets completed. Choosing a freelancer may mean your website takes a little longer, depending on their workload, but it means you get direct one-on-one communication with the person designing your site. A small design company may not have the expertise of a larger one, but will have the benefits of being better priced while still having a solid team of designers and developers working on your site.

The physical location isn’t as important in web design as other fields, with information easily being shared electronically. This is mostly a matter of personal preference. Distant companies will be able to communicate with you via phone, email, Skype, etc. If you prefer to be able to meet in person, a local company is for you. Choosing a local company can be a way to support your community and mean short travel times if you need to meet in person.

Look at what kinds of websites the design company has created before. The company that is the best fit for you will most likely be one with experience working with your kind of business. Since the company already has knowledge of your field, they will better be able to create a site that meets your needs.

If you can, see how the company’s past clients feel about them.  You don’t want to make a commitment to a certain design company, only to find out they skip meetings, have bad communication, don’t meet deadlines, or didn’t create a final product that met the company’s needs. Look for testimonials. You could even choose to contact a company’s former clients on your own!

Know what different companies charge and what you get for what you pay. There will be some companies that are very cheap, but don’t create a good product. Others may seem outrageously expensive, but offer many options and services, several redesigns, and long hours perfecting your site. You will probably end up somewhere in the middle. It’s just good to keep in mind that you get what you pay for. The cheapest site might not be the best way to go.

Take your time to shop around when choosing a web design company. If you choose an inferior company, it could mean frustration and financial loss. If you choose a great company, you may be able to work together as your company needs different design products. Being able to stay with the same company means knowledge of each other’s work flow, knowledge of company values and goals, mutual trust, and even possible discounts.

Don’t miss the final part of this series on the design process! 


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