One of the great things about working freelance is that you are never quite sure about where your work will take you. 2 weeks ago I was in Cheshire and more recently I’ve been helping out a business that is literally just around the corner from me.
Creative Cakes by Nicola is a Cwmbran based business that specialises in bespoke and quite fantastic cakes. I was contacted by the Nicola who runs the company because I was local and flexible we had a meeting and decided that we could work together. The Creative Cakes web site already existed but it needed to be slightly refreshed and there was need to add more pages and more photographs to it. Additionally like all web sites it would need frequent updating.
I’ve worked with Nicola to work out how the existing content management system worked so that more images could be added, and how to perform essential tasks like adding pages, and making updates to text and images.
I have to say that I have enjoyed this stint of working locally and also want to wish Creative Cakes all the best for their future.
And as for the cakes … well having sampled the wares I can confirm that they are delicious.
Writing good web site content isn’t just about writing. Its creating something that your audience can read, enjoy, and be informed by; whilst also being shareable and attractive to search engines. When you start thinking about all the roles that the text on a web site needs to fulfil it sounds a little daunting. Fortunately this type of writing is not so bad – especially when you break things down to simple tips or rules.
I’ve put together this list of 10 tips that will help write more effective content for your web pages and blog entries.
1) Use simple, clear and precise English. Keep sentences short and to the point. Leave no room for ambiguity.
2) Make sure that every page makes a definite point. Readers need pages that they get useful information from. Google is looking for pages with quality of writing. Make sure that your page is useful and good for the reader.
3) Keywords – words that people will enter to find you should be in the page title / page headline and first paragraph. Sprinkling these words liberally throughout a page in large numbers will not help you get found on Google.
4) Keep use of Keywords down. Keywords should typically only be about 4% of the text for each word. Keep repeating the same word(s) and Google will ignore the page.
5) Informative pages should contain at least 300 words. Anything shorter than that will not help as Google may deem this as too short to be of any value.
6) Make sure each has a specific TITLE and DESCRIPTIVE tag set for it. These help Google to index your site.
7) Reference external web sites from inside your paragraphs. Links written in context are very useful and will be seen as helping your reader.
8) Make it easy for people to share your pages. Consider adding social media sharing buttons to your pages.
9) Use images and videos. These improve interaction with your readers. Make sure you use good quality descriptive tags to this media.
10) Always use social media such as Google+, Twitter and Facebook to announce your pages and updates.
Websites perform better when they are frequently updated. Search engines see frequent updates as signs of vitality and continuity. Customers see updates as a positive thing; that your business is dynamic and doing well. However coming up with lots of new content and information for most small business web sites can be a difficult task. So here are 5 ideas that will help your web site seem new and fresh.
1. The Image refresh: Simply put just change some or all of the pictures. People are visual creatures and just updating photographs can really brighten up a web site for a minimum of effort. Good places to get photographs include iStockphoto, Fototlia and Flickr (but always obey the licensing terms).
2. Update your colour scheme. Simply updating some of site colours in terms of background colours, type colours, and menu colours makes an instant difference – again without having to come up with new material to put into your web site.
3. If you don’t have sharing buttons on your web site pages then add these. Sharing buttons simply allow your sites visitor to tell people on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ etc all about that page at a touch of a button. It is a simple update that adds more visual interest and can also improve how your website interacts with the larger Internet using community.
4. Consider a full theme redesign. This does not change the content of your web site – but does change how the pages are laid out, look and feel. It makes your web site look brand new – but all you have done is alter the look and not written any new information for it.
5. If you use social media such as Twitter, Facebook consider adding a system that shows your latest updates on your web site. This adds an area that automatically updates itself and contains your thoughts and ideas. If you are already writing useful posts for social media to help promote your business then bring them in and make better use of these updates.
Petals Training have a new and additional website. Whilst the original Petals Training Web Site continues to thrive this new site focuses on a fuller description of the expertise of the members of the Petals Training Team. You see each member of Petals Training is a first class train the trainer, but also has and additional area of specialism. These include IT, Business Skills, Personal Development, Complementary Therapies and Health and Safety. As you can see this is an impressive list that deserves space of its own.
For this project we decided to base the new web site on the original Petals Training theme. Keeping things like menu design and base typography but changing some layout options – for example the left and right hand columns have been removed. In doing this it was possible to create a web site that looked like part of the same family of web sites but which had enough of it’s own identity to better support the new set of services. From a development and budget point of view this greatly cut down on time and cost.
The site is built on a content management system, features are responsive design theme and creates a network of web sites between all the activities run by the members of Petals Training .
If you run a small business I just want you to spend a moment taking a look at this short article on the IT Donut Web Site.
My apologies for the long link – but all you need to do is click.
It cites recent research that highlights two problems.
- Micro and small business typically have 5 unchanging pages on their web site that do not represent the company.
- Most people would not do business with a company that has an out of date or hard to use web site.
The solution to this problem is to get a managed web site and to make frequent updates.
This is traditionally seen as being very expensive and out of the reach of a small business.
This is actually not necessarily true. There are some very cost effective methods of achieving this.
Here are 3 steps that would help solve the problem of an out of date website.
Update your web site to being content managed using an open source content management system. This removes software costs from the equation whilst still delivering you a high quality experience.
Put time aside to think about news information that your customers will find interesting. Write these down ready for inclusion on your web site. The same is also true for any information about your company or products. By clearly writing these down you are saving money and time with a web developer
Find a friendly freelance web site developer who is willing to make updates for you for a low fee based on your notes.
The key to solving the problem of a bad web site is to keep things current. It is something that sounds impossible – but is actually not to bad once you get a good working practice going.
This seems to have been a week of rebranding – and its only Tuesday.
This week Flexible Solutions received a new logo that brought the design work for the company in line with other members of the Fast Fluid Power Family of web sites. Branding like this is a vital part of letting people understand who you are so it was important for Flexible Solutions to receive its new logo.
From my point of view that meant optimising the logo for web uses and making changes to both the Flexible Solutions and Fast Fluid Power web sites in a timely and accurate fashion.
This kind of maintenance work is absolutely essential for all web sites. It’s important that sites reflect the current branding and personality of their owning company. Its also important that changes are made to a web site to make sure it is accurate, and current. Web sites are living breathing creatures that work best for their owners when updates are made. It is good for customers to see the changes and it is good for the search engines to see a site developing – it lets them know that it is important and not just an abandoned document left to float on the web. So from my point of view it is always good to be involved in this type of work.
From a businesses point of view – its a good idea to be able to develop a good relationship with your web person so that arranging updates is easy. I have to say its always been really easy working with the team at Fast – and its great to run updates from that point of view.
Existing customers – LARP Safety Ltd recently came to me for assistance with a rebranding exercise. The idea was to update the company logo to better the reflected how the company is today; once the logo was updated the new look and colour scheme was to be used as the basis for creating a new web site and all new company paper work.
After some thought the new logo was finalised during a Lync session – both L&RP Safety and myself are big believers in using conferencing and communication software such as Lync or Skype. The rich communication these provide – being able to view screens, and video for example make these online meetings highly interactive and valuable. Removing the need for travel time for either party also allows us to fit more into our diaries, but lets get back on point and talk about the web site.
Once the new look was created we decided on a typography heavy web site that clearly and simply expresses what L&RP is all about as a company. The opportunity was also undertaken to update the CMS and introduce new policies and techniques for site maintenance – allowing for a more efficient maintenance schedule in the future. This is important as part of the site is designed to aggregate health and safety news feeds- meaning that this web site could end up handling more information than a typical consultancy catalogue site.
The end result is a new look for the company, a very easy to use web site and a plan for keeping things going in the future. This is something that anyone looking for a new web site should be targeting; not just having a web site built but figuring out how to run content and software updates after the web site is finished. All web sites should have on-going care and attention and it is good to work with a client who values long term planning.
Sometimes I work on Government funded projects and sometimes the client is much smaller. This is about a much smaller client. One of my longest standing and most regular customers is closely associated with the Abergavenny Kickboxing club. Abergavenny Kickboxing is doing well – its members are winning National Level competitions. As a result the club felt that it needed its own website. They had a small budget for graphic and web design but weren’t sure how to get started.
They asked my for help and we together we came up with a plan. It broke down into these steps
- Based on an existing logo we’d create a new logo and top banner from the club
- Existing flyers would be repurposed as part of the sites graphic design and placed in a rotating banner.
- We’d use an open source CMS as the page foundation – one that club members had little experience with.
- We’d take an existing open source theme and make a few changes that would make it more suitable for use on the clubs web site.
- Club members would edit the web pages.
The result would be something that matched the club needs, be quick to develop and stay in a tight budget.
In effect what we’d done is make use of one modern computings most wondrous things. Open source software – something that cannot be sold but which can be legally modified. It creates nothing less than a vast reserve of opportunity from which growth and progression can happen. In this case it’s helping a successful club grow by allowing the construction of a low cost web.
Its also true for small business. You do not need to design everything from scratch. You can save money and time by adapting what exists to suit yourself. The end result can be effective and offer a useful experience to your users / customers.
Keystrokes Training have just received a web site theme design update. The new look is designed to be crisp, clear and easy to read on both a PC and a mobile device. All existing page content has been kept the same – one of the advantages of a theme change is that changes to existing content are minimised and all existing page links are maintained.
Part of the new design was to update the navigation. There is a plan to grow the Key Strokes web site – coming soon there will be a live list of planned courses with venue information. In light of this site menus were modified to give a better experience. This new planned courses system is not yet operational, but I will announce it here as soon as it is.
The third and final design consideration was Petals Training. Keystrokes Training is a member of the Petals Training association of trainers and it was important that the new design for the Keystrokes web site reflected the look and feel of Petals Training as part of a branding exercise.
I wish all the best to Keystrokes Training. This is definitely a site to keep an eye on as its owner is determined to do all he can to make sure the standards of IT and Train the Trainer courses in South Wales are kept to a high standard.