Keepin’ it 200 (OK)

Category Archives: Marketing

Keepin’ it 200 (OK)

WordCamp Fayetteville #wcfay, a gathering of WordPress enthusiasts is being held June 22-24, 2018 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Being loyal WordPress fans ourselves, it only makes sense that Sharp Hue is a Proud Sponsor of WordCamp Fayetteville 2018.  

Since the Sharp Hue team will be in attendance at the conference, we tasked ourselves to create a shirt for the occasion that celebrates our unique brand. So, we went straight to the drawing board to sketch out a few possibilities.

Our process starts on paper

Putting pen to paper is the best way to jumpstart the brain and get ideas flowing freely. We wanted a design that our team members could wear proudly, while not resorting to the overdone designs like putting software code on a shirt. While that’s something designers and developers would understand, we didn’t want to create something so niche that people outside of our circles would be lost. We needed something that everyone could enjoy while also channeling our inner geek!

Our original sketches (four concepts shown above) ranged from baking cakes to a Rubik’s cube. Now, while walking around wearing a shirt with a cake on it would’ve been a great fashion statement, everyone really liked the idea of playing off the “100” emoji 💯 and its related hashtag #KeepIt100.  And so…

#KeepIt200 was born!

If you’re wondering by now why we’re Keepin’ it 200 OK, that’s because 200 OK is a status code used by web browsers that means “The request has succeeded”. The hacker looking graphic below provides some insight into that page loading process.  While most people have come across a 404 Page Not Found, very few realize that 200 OK is a status.  In fact, there are dozens of status codes if you want to check them out here:  HTTP Status Codes.

From paper to digital concepts

Now that we had a solid concept,  then came the question, “how could we incorporate our own personal twist?” So, we made several variations and plentiful design revisions. During these revisions, we determined it would make sense to have a t-shirt color that matched to a color or two on our logo for the sake of brand consistency.  We decided on using two colors so we could keep the shirts within our project budget.  You may have noticed the Sharp Hue logo is quite colorful which can mean more cost in screen printing projects.  We had our shirts inked with a company called real thread that has a really simple online ordering interface coupled with a great customer service team that takes care of you along the way.

Finding opportunity in every concept

$1M dollar, original, one of a kind prototype.

All said and done, the t-shirt concept that the team loved the most was a badge-style emblem that marries the idea of #KeepIt200 with being proud of our company’s history. See bottom right of the photo above.

We are always a little sad when a design isn’t used, however, we also love stickers!  While “Keepin’ it 200 OK Since 2006” is great for a Sharp Hue team member to wear, we decided that the “Keep It 200 OK” emoji style emblem was a great way for others to champion our brand.

After some tweaking and including the sharphue.com domain name,  Kevin Bourne, our newest team member who worked on this project, was personally rewarded with the $1 million dollar paper prototype! We had the stickers printed with Sticker Giant which was very easy.

So, what does #KeepIt200 mean to the team at Sharp Hue?

While the t-shirt and sticker were really fun projects to work on, there are some deeper meanings to how #KeepIt200 connects with the Sharp Hue brand.

  • We always give our best to whatever problem we’re solving or project we endeavor.
  • We think through all the angles and double check to make sure we’ve thought of everything.
  • We really love things that are high-quality, built-to-last, and pay respect to our craft.
  • Because 200 OK means the website loaded successfully, we feel this strongly represents everything we do behind the scenes at Sharp Hue to create Beautiful Websites That Work®

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a way to compare variations of the size, color and arrangement of your web pages’ elements in order to let you know which version provides optimum conversion. Split testing can let you know which changes increase conversion rates, unique visits, lead captures, signups and other calls-to-action.

A/B testing can reveal the truth about your design assumptions and alert you to interpretations you didn’t anticipate.

Where do you start?

When you perform A/B tests on your site you will want to keep your goals clear and in order. Ask yourself, “What do I want my visitors to do when they visit my site?”  Once you’ve answered that question, consider all of the basic page elements you have at your disposal that will facilitate that goal: your logo, action buttons, heading text, input forms, informational text, photography, and navigation items.  Create a design that arranges these elements according to what you think will best encourage fulfillment of your goals. Put your best foot forward and start your tests.  If you use a platform like Google Analytics Content Experiments to perform your A/B tests and have steady traffic to your site, the results should start to favor A or B within a couple of days.

What do I look for with my test?

A/B testing is not simply about identifying which page performs best.  It is about identifying why a particular page performs the way it does. The former tells you what’s popular. The latter tells you what your visitor wants and needs.  That’s the most important part.  Otherwise, you’re still guessing why your visitors took one path over another.

It is important to remember that when you test multiple changes simultaneously it can be difficult to determine why exactly a particular version was successful or unsuccessful. For instance, if you make a version where you move the logo and change the text in the same variation, then you have no way of knowing if the key factor was the position of the logo or the new text. The most valuable tests are ones that give you information on what your users prefer not just which version wins. One of the great things about optimizing your web site is that you can’t lose if you do your tests methodically. Each new test will give you the answer you need and eventually you will end up with a version that is better than the one before.

What else can I do?

Consider using a heat map tool like CrazyEgg to enhance your understanding of which parts of your site visitors expect to be clickable. Traditional analytics software like Google Analytics can tell you which pages are getting attention relative to other pages on the site; but they can’t tell you how far down your visitors scroll, which images and headlines they expect to be clickable or whether they ever saw your call-to-action button.

Optimizely is a popular tool used for A/B testing. It is a code generator that allows you to create variations of your website by inserting a snippet of code into the head of your pages to be tested. The code is generated through an online editor that lets you resize, move, hide, edit your HTML and more.  Unbounce is another A/B testing tool, but, unlike Optimizely, Unbounce includes landing page templates, lead capture forms, email lead notifications, Facebook “like” conversion tracking and even mobile landing page templates.

Conclusion

A/B testing can be a very useful process to help you optimize elements on your site that will lead to higher conversion.  Sometimes a particular design choice versus its outcome is not intuitive. You don’t always have to take the recommendation of an A/B test if you feel it may compromise your brand or messaging.  Use A/B tests to help you validate design assumptions and produce the best business result for your web site.

Going Mobile-Friendly

In 2011, mobile access to the web doubled to over 8%. In many of these cases, the site visited from a mobile device is the exact same site displayed on a laptop or desktop computer. Just because it can be seen, however, doesn’t mean it can be used. Most full sites viewed on a mobile device require you to pinch, flick, double-tap, or drag in order to access their content. You need both hands for these gestures: one to hold the device and the other to perform the action. A mobile-friendly site, however, eliminates this barrier and makes accessing essential information as simple as a single touch with one hand.

By displaying only essential information such as hours of operation; directions and location; contact information; service offerings; deals and promotions; and basic “about” information, mobile-friendly versions make it easy to identify critical information without the need to navigate a full site. Trimming down information from a full site for a mobile device and making it “touchable” rather than “pinchable” is one of the most significant advantages of a mobile-friendly site.

Awareness of these differences is important when considering the development of a mobile-friendly version. Jumping in headfirst, however, is not advisable. There are guidelines and considerations for going mobile-friendly. A substantial increase in capabilities is not necessary to create a custom, friendly version if your site traffic is minimal. More specifically, we at Sharp Hue use the metric that if 20% of a site’s traffic (as reported by Google Analytics) is mobile, then it’s probably time to put the design of a mobile-friendly site on the to-do list.

Bikes Blues And BBQ-mobileWordPress is one platform that simplifies the process for displaying a full site on a mobile device. Plugins such as the WordPress Mobile Pack, for example, will automatically rescale a site’s images, split articles into multiple pages, simplify styles and remove non-supported media. Plugins such as this enable these capabilities quickly. However, they are usually not customized or visually appealing. They don’t necessarily use the color palette from your full site and they don’t necessarily display the logo you’ve invested so many resources in creating. Further, plugins like this don’t necessarily make the mobile version of your site easier to use.

In addition to these pre-packaged plugins that can do most of the heavy-lifting, there are also mobile frameworks available, like jQuery mobile, that allow for custom, rapid development without the extensive resources necessary to build a full-fledged mobile application. Frameworks such as this make it easy to maintain a site’s color palette and logo. They also make it very easy to manage content from within the Dashboard if WordPress is used as the site’s platform. Using this technique allows changes to be made to two different sites with only one edit. This sounds elementary, but managing mobile content is a development consideration many people disregard. Developing mobile-friendly sites should always include thoughts about maintaining the mobile version in the long run.

Another consideration in developing a mobile-friendly site is redirection; i.e., how a site’s visitors will navigate to it. Generally speaking, when a URL is typed into a mobile browser’s address bar, a request for information is sent out. A browser can recognize that the request is coming from a mobile device and, in those cases, sends back a specified message. The message can be a command to redirect to another site like an “m.domainname.com” site, for example. The message can also be a serving of different content or even a stylesheet change.

WordCamp Fayetteville 2012-mobilePlugins can take care of this return “message” for you as well. We’ve found that Mobile ESP for WordPress is best suited for our needs. Many times, plugins like this are sufficient to do the job. It all depends on the needs of your mobile version. Sometimes you just need something that isn’t worth a developer/designer’s time to miniaturize a full website. Other times, a smaller, limited version of a site is needed, especially if the site owner wants to maintain their color palette and display their logo. In still other cases, the theme being used isn’t compatible with any of the available mobile plugins. In the case of WordCamp Fayetteville, which is yet another example, the full site is built on a multi-site platform administered by super-admins who work for WordCamp Central. Plugin compatibility isn’t an issue. It’s not even an option. The theme and administrative privileges of WordCamp sites don’t allow for the installation of plugins. It’s in cases like these that it’s time to create a custom, mobile-friendly site from scratch.

#9: Engage your visitors

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series…Social media is a great way to keep your customers in the loop and also to let them help you promote your products and services. Consider setting up a Facebook page for your company. Create a Twitter account that keeps your customers informed about interesting things you are doing. Use Linked In, Spoke, or the relevant community within your industry to network and build relationships.Word of mouth has long been one of the best means of marketing around. Now, it’s just as likely to be a text, a tweet, or an email as a spoken word. It’s still a great way to establish trust and strengthen connections. Social media is a two-way street. You can learn from your customers and your colleagues, and even from your competitors. Give your visitors as many ways as possible to give you feedback about your web site, company, products, and services. You’ll get valuable insights, and your visitors will feel more engaged with your company.The most important thing to remember in using social media is authenticity. Social media marketing isn’t the same as advertising. It’s a community, or a set of communities. Your business benefits from being part of the online community just as it does from being part of the community where you live. Contact Sharp Hue and we’ll help you get set up with Twitter, Facebook, and more. Check back soon for tip #10: Keep your site fresh

#8: Maintain a blog

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series… A blog can be a great way to communicate with customers on a more personal level. Your blog can educate visitors about your industry or provide some perspective on what direction your company is heading. It can show your expertise. A good blog can drive traffic to your website, help you rank with the search engines for more keywords, and add value for your customers.The key is to create interesting content that keeps visitors coming back for more. The questions your customers ask you are a great place to start. News in your industry is another excellent starting point. Your customers will come to rely on you to report the news that affects them. There are a number of different ways to create a blog, but not all of them will give you the results you want. To get the most for your business from your blog, you’ll want to integrate your blog into your web site, or to link the blog and the web site together well. You’ll also want to style your blog to match your web site, in order to reinforce your brand and to give your visitors a smooth transition between the two.Since there are many choices in setting up a blog to go with your web site, your best bet is to discuss your options with your web master or web designer.Contact Sharp Hue and we’ll help you install a completely integrated blog into your web site. Check back soon for tip #9: Engage your visitors

#6: Create a Call to Action

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series…

Even with fast web hosting and a search engine optimized site, your visitors’ experience has to be easy. Since your web site is connected with a business, you’ll have more to offer your customers than just the information and enjoyment they find on your homepage. Make sure you drive them all the way through the sales pipeline by creating text and buttons that make their next step clear.Spend some time thinking about, and perhaps researching, the optimal user journey for your customers. Identify the decision points along the way and plan to give your visitors clear guidelines every time they need guidance. When your customers want to buy, subscribe, or otherwise take their next step with you, make sure it’s easy for them to do so.

Don’t think you’re being too aggressive by providing those clear guideposts. In fact, you’re helping your customers. They’re wondering how they can get the great goods or services you provide, and you’re making it easy for them.“Buy Now”, “Sign up”, “Schedule an appointment.” Phrases like these, linked clearly to the pages that let your customers take those steps, keep your visitors traveling smoothly along the path to a satisfying transaction.Contact Sharp Hue and we’ll give you a free analysis of your web site’s usability. Check back soon for tip #7: Understand your traffic

#2: Create a Visually Appealing Home Page

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series…

When people first access your web site, whether it be from a search engine or by typing the web address in from your business card, they should land on a home page that represents exactly what you do. They should know immediately what you have to offer, and how they can get what you’re offering. Your unique selling point and the visitor’s next action step should both be visible within the first few seconds of opening your home page.That’s not enough, though. When your visitors get the message immediately, but it feels like an ad, they’re likely to click away. When they grasp the information but feel no connection with the site and no desire to deepen their relationship with your company, you lose them.Your visitors have to get your message, but they should also say “Wow,” and feel moved to click deeper into the site to learn more. People stay longer and explore further at a web site that is a pleasure to look at, that sparks curiosity, that engages them.Take the time to develop a home page that gets this response, and your web site will be a valuable member of your sales force.Contact Sharp Hue to have us create your website with “Wow”. Check back on Thursday, May 7, 2009 for tip #3: Make navigation easy

Corporate Identity, Logos, and You

When you look at a wall of business cards like this, it’s obvious that very few of them will stand out and catch a viewer’s attention. When you hand your card out at networking meetings, conferences, and sales calls, and it goes into someone’s pocket or briefcase with all the others, it may blend into the collection in the same way.

Will your business card stand out from the pack? Does your web site, flyer, e-mail, conference presentation, or letterhead bring your company to mind immediately? One solution will make all these elements of your corporate identity memorable: a well-designed custom logo.

An excellent logo can be used in all elements of your corporate identity package:

  • Corporate Logo
  • Business Cards
  • Web Site Design
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Promotional Items
  • PowerPoint Template
  • Microsoft Word Template
  • E-mail Marketing Template
  • Brochures
  • Letterhead
  • Product Profile
  • Corporate Graphics
  • Brand Usage Guidelines
  • Signage
  • Billboards

The consistent use of a well-designed logo helps to make your brand immediately identifiable and to establish trust and recognition, as well as taking that all-important first step of attracting attention. A well-designed logo makes your clients and customers open that envelope, read that e-mail, and save that flyer, because they know right away that it comes from someone they’re happy to hear from: you.

What is a well-designed logo?

  • The basic principles of design apply to logos as much as to all other designs. Simplicity, unity, balance, repetition, and intentional use of color and theme are essential. With logos, less is definitely more. You want an immediate impact on your first-time viewer, and immediate recognition after that. To get these effects, you need a striking and memorable logo. A professional logo design is a worthwhile investment.
  • A logo should be meaningful, as well. The logo Sharp Hue, Inc. designed for our new Visual Cart system echoes the leaf shape of the main Sharp Hue logo, but we’ve put it in the form of a friendly shopping cart, because that’s exactly what Visual Cart is: a user-friendly new electronic shopping cart. When your logo creates the emotional and visual impact you want, your brand benefits. We work simultaneously with font, slogan, icon, and color, keeping in mind your target audience, to ensure that your logo does its job.
  • We’ve moved past just making a great design on paper. In order to get the maximum from your design investment, you’ll want to use your logo on all the visible products of your company. That means that you’ll need to have your design in formats that will work for online, screen, and print applications. Sharp Hue, Inc. designs with vector graphics and “pixel precision” to ensure that the design will work with a variety of media. It’s also useful to make certain that your logo is invertable – that is, that it looks good on both light and dark backgrounds. This level of versatility maximizes the return on your investment. When we design your web site, we work with your existing logo, or design a new one for you, and make sure that it will shine with your web site design.

When is it time to change your logo? This is not a step to be taken lightly, since you’ve put a lot of time and effort into making your logo well-known and recognizable. Still, it is often an essential step:

  • When your original logo doesn’t capture the image of your organization adequately. In this case, the sooner you change to a better logo, the sooner you’ll see better results.
  • When your original logo needs modernization. UPS has redesigned their logo several times over the years as have many Fortune 500 companies. The basic UPS shield remains and the color scheme is similar, so they won’t give up recognizability, but the new look is sleeker and more modern in appearance.

  • When your business has changed. If you have expanded your market, increased your offerings, or changed your delivery systems in exciting ways, it might be time to show those changes in new visual elements.

Check out the logo design page at SharpHue.com for examples of fresh, visually appealing logos. Does your logo measure up? To arrange for a professional custom logo design, to make your current logo available for multiple media formats, or to design a web site that complements your logo, contact us today at logos@sharphue.com.

Web Site Content Tips from Wikipedia

On the web, content is king. Excellent, dynamic content lures the search engines to visit your site more frequently, turns your casual visitors into regular readers, and gives your web site authority that can improve your rankings.

What kind of writing does it take to achieve these goals? Consider Wikipedia as an example.

Nearly any noun you type into a search engine will have Wikipedia on the front page of results. Tattoos, nanotechnology, Guglielmo Marconi, pilates – almost anything you search for, there Wikipedia will be.

How is Wikipedia getting those results? And how can you get a similar effect with the content of your own web site?

It’s often more cost-effective to have your content written professionally, especially when delays or diversion of staff from other tasks make the opportunity costs of in-house writing high. Sharp Hue, Inc. can provide professionally-written content designed to be effective for both the people who visit your web site and the search engines. Our knowledge of the best practices for search engine marketing and our objectivity allow us to find the words that will accomplish your purposes, faster and more effectively than you can do it yourself.

If you really want to write your own copy, though, you could take a leaf from Wikipedia’s Manual of Style. Where Wikipedia’s style manual differs from the one you’ve had on your shelf since college, it’s often a good SEO move.

Here are some examples:

  • “If possible, an article title is the subject of the first sentence of the article… If the article title is an important term, it appears as early as possible.”

When you type a word or phrase into the search box at Google or Yahoo, the search engine looks for pages that start out with that word or phrase. Whenever possible, use your keywords right at the beginning of your page.

  • “It is not useful and can be very distracting to mark all possible words as hyperlinks. Links should add to the user’s experience; they should not detract from it by making the article harder to read. A high density of links can draw attention away from the high-value links that you would like your readers to follow up.”

While you generally want as many links as possible coming into your page, outgoing links from your page need to fulfill a specific purpose. Wikipedia’s point about the effect on human readers is very important; it’s also true that search engines will decide that your page is less important than the ones you link to if you use links out to do the job your own page ought to be doing.

  • “Using color alone to convey information should not be done. Such information is not accessible to people with color blindness, on black-and-white printouts, on older computer displays with fewer colors, on monochrome displays (PDAs, cell phones), and so on.”

The manual happens to be talking about color here, but this is just one of the many places where they make an important point: think about your reader’s experience. Usability is one of the essential factors in designing your web site, and that includes the text.

We’ve looked at examples that have to do only with online writing; most of the rest of the Wikipedia style manual is similar to the paper style manuals on your bookshelf. Is that less important for optimizing your site for search? No. Google considers pages with writing errors – poor spelling, punctuation faults, bad grammar – less trustworthy than well-written pages. So will your human visitors. Even when you write your own content, you should consider having it edited and polished up by a professional.

Sharp Hue can assist you with all aspects of your web design, from concept to content. Call us to schedule a demonstration of our new product called Visual Cart, an e-commerce system built around writing good content that is friendly to both search engines and people.

Three Keys to Getting Results with E-mail Marketing

E-mail is now the number one means of communication for business in the United States: last year, according to Forrester Research, e-mail messages outnumbered all other forms of business communication combined. No wonder. E-mail is the fastest and most economical method of direct communication. At the same time, “e-mail fatigue” caused by stuffed electronic in-boxes and increasing spam can lead to quick use of the delete button before messages are even read. The same Forrester report found that today’s computer users are 47% less likely to read all the e-mail they receive than those surveyed in the year 2000.

What does this mean for e-mail marketing?

Quite simply, your e-mail marketing has to reach a higher standard now than in the past. It has to embody the three Es:

  • Ethical
  • Effective
  • Economical

Ethical

You may not be thinking in terms of ethics when you plan your marketing campaign, but you are certainly concerned that your prospects – or their e-mail service providers — will banish your mass e-mailing to their junk mail folders. At Sharp Hue, Inc., we’ve found that ethical e-mail practices are the best defense.

Buying an e-mail address list or harvesting e-mail addresses from third-party sources seems like a quick and easy way to generate leads, but it is ineffective. When recipients don’t recognize your name, they are likely to identify your communication as spam before they even read it. If enough people identify your mailing as spam, you can face consequences: suspension of your account, for example, or identification of your e-mail address as a source of spam, making it useless for future contacts.

Instead, restrict your e-mail campaigns to those who would actually like to hear from you: your current customers, people who have signed up for your mailing list at your web site or in your office or at your vendor’s table, people who’ve shaken your hand and given you their cards.

Then make sure that your mailings include an opt-out sentence: something like “To unsubscribe from this newsletter, click here” or “If you’d rather not be included in future mailings, click this link.” Don’t worry that making it easy will lead people to unsubscribe. Research has shown that being given a clear choice actually encourages people to stick with you, since they know that you will respect their wishes.

Effective

There is nothing to stop you from sitting down with your e-mail program and shooting off a quick paragraph to all your clients telling them about your upcoming sale. However, considering all the e-mail they receive, your message will need to catch and keep their attention, and they need to recognize that it comes from you.

Sharp Hue designs e-mail campaigns, whether for newsletters, company news, or special offers, that are visually recognizable and compelling. We can prepare a design template for you that allows you to produce your own content, manage your own lists, and keep track of your own results – while maintaining the professional image that gives your clients confidence. We can also do it all for you, which can be a great option when the opportunity costs of diverting your own staff to the task are high.

Another factor in the effectiveness of your email is how it looks to recipients using different computers or browsers. You may have had the experience of sending a document to a colleague who uses a Mac when you use a PC, and finding that the document looked quite different. This kind of difference can show up even when it’s just a matter of using Firefox or Internet Explorer. We can make certain that your mailing will look the way you want it to on your client’s screens, no matter what computer, e-mail program, or browser they use.

With the amount of competition you have for your clients’ attention, the most effective e-mail campaign will involve the best quality e-mail. Make sure your communication is useful and enjoyable for your clients, and they will be glad to hear from you.

Economical

This is the first criterion for many businesspeople. E-mail marketing is quite simply the least expensive form of direct marketing available. Printing and mailing a black and white newsletter to a list of 5,000 prospective customers, assuming you get it camera-ready yourself, will cost you in the neighborhood of $3,000. An e-mail newsletter to the same size list, through Sharp Hue, would be nearer $600 for design and $100 for delivery.

Since all Sharp Hue e-marketing services include design and setup, and all are tailored to your needs, the total will vary, but the difference in the size of your investment remains significant.

Even when you choose to go for direct mail, QED Market Research reports that following up with an e-mail push has been shown to increase conversion rates by as much as 50%, providing a significantly higher return on your investment.

Sharp Hue custom designed e-mail templates allow you to send your own e-mail campaigns for $5.00 per campaign and two cents per e-mail address, with no monthly fees. The intrinsic savings of e-mail marketing can allow you to choose the full-service template design option without straining your budget. Additionally, campaign reporting capabilities like opens, clicks, and bounces give you instant insight into the overall effectiveness and ROI of each e-mail campaign you send.

Watching the three Es will ensure that your e-mail marketing is fruitful, not a victim of e-mail fatigue. Now is the perfect time to begin your e-mail marketing, or to sharpen up your approach to make it more satisfying. Contact Sharp Hue to plan your ideal strategy.