What is Flat Design? Seattle Web Design

What is Flat Design? Seattle Web Design

Flat web design is something of this season’s hip new trend, but by all appearances, it’s here to stay, and for good reason. Flat web design is rooted in some of the best web design elements, combining simplicity with clean lines, simple fonts, and minimalist design to create web design that really stands out, even when multiple websites use similar design. Flat design combines elements of visual style with simplicity to create the illusion of 3D while retaining simplicity. If you want to get in on the trend, your design needs the following features.

Simple Typography

Your typography says a lot about who you are, but a simple, plain, and easy to read font says more than the most interesting font in the world. Helvetica and Sans Serif are very popular fonts for this, but they are by no means the only option.

Shadows and Illusions of Depth

Flat design usually has an illusion of depth or 3-dimensional structure, so you need shadows, illusions, and lines that create depth wherever possible. This is fairly simple in theory, but you do need a designer who knows what they are doing in order to pull the look off.

Transparent, Interactive Design

Transparent but interactive design is one of the biggest and coolest themes you will find in transparent design. This often translates into translucent or opaque menus and buttons that allow you to see the button and press it, but also see through it, so that it looks more like part of the site rather than an ugly button. When used with buttons, it’s known as a ghost button, but it also works with menus and other text holders that would otherwise be quite intrusive.

Minimalism

A minimal design, complete with large graphics and plenty of blank space would have been rare ten years ago, but today, simplicity is in. Flat design incorporates minimalistic styles, imagery, and design, uses large graphics and lots of space, to create a site that is easy to take in, simple, and not overly complicated. Because simplicity vastly affects user experience, this can also boost your customer’s satisfaction with the site, as well as the design quality.

Flat design is rapidly evolving to fit new parameters, and often moving outside of the box or format that the first flat websites used. This allows you to create something truly unique, that stands out from other sites, while integrating a beautiful and popular design style.

Almost-Flat design, or Flat 2.0 is a little bit more complex, offers more flare, and is a good alternative if you’re not completely into minimalism, but still want simple with a touch of 3D. Flat 2.0 integrates many of the features of flat design, but allows you to fit in more content and more design. Because flat is not all or nothing, you can also choose to integrate elements that you find appealing, while sticking with more traditional web design options for other parts of your site.

Contact Rory Martin, a Seattle web developer, for a consultation or quote for developing your website.

How Important Is User Testing? Seattle Web Development

If you’re hiring a Seattle web development team to build your website, then you should be considering user testing. If you’re only planning on having a one or two page website for your marketing, then it isn’t as important, otherwise user testing can affect your website and it’s impact in a variety of ways. If you have a good web development team, they should actually ask you about it and include it in the fee, and the following reasons include why.

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UX – UX is the buzzword in development and design right now and for good reason. User experience is incredibly important, if the customer isn’t happy, you don’t make sales, or at least not as many sales. Getting user testing allows you to ensure that the website is fully functional, easy to use, and that it makes sense to the customer before you put it in front of actual customers.

Bug Check – Developers can check for bugs all day, but nothing is quite as good at finding issues like a fresh pair of eyes. This is the same reason that many game developers now host open betas. Not only do end users have an easier time finding bugs because they aren’t familiar with the website, they’re also using it like a customer would, which is something that you most likely won’t be able to do.

User Based Recommendations – You might think your website is perfect, your developer might think it is perfect, but without the end user thinking it is perfect, it isn’t. User testing ensures that the website makes sense, works, and looks good to people who will actually be working with it, so it is important if you want it to be user friendly. This applies to design, graphics, written content, and development decisions like menus. It also helps you with getting out of the box of your own creativity to see how it looks from someone else’s point of view.

Comprehension Check – Many website users might not have the same education, life views, or language level as the people creating your website. Having normal people use your website to test it out ensures that the website makes sense, on a design and development level, as well as a language and graphic level. Ensuring that they fully understand the website is very important because comprehension does affect your sales

User testing can be a hassle, especially if you have a large and complicated website, but the more you expect people to be on your website, the more important it is. If you have a store, you should have 4-6 or more people testing your website. If you have a very large store, you should aim for more. If it’s a smaller website, such as a restaurant page, you can usually get away with a smaller test group.

If you want to know more about how user testing works at local Seattle web development companies, contact Rory Martin for more information, or for a consultation.

How to Optimize Your Off Page SEO – Seattle SEO Tips

SEO is a very complicated process, and optimizing your website for search might seem a bit akin to making a magic potion if you’re not getting help from professionals. However, the basics are relatively easy to understand, and one of those basics is off page SEO. If you’ve learned how to optimize your own web page for search using keywords, content, quality, descriptions, web page structure, and so on. Off page SEO is another thing entirely, and there are a number of do’s and don’ts for Seattle businesses on the web. The following tips from local Seattle SEO companies should help you with improving your off page optimization.

Don’ts for Off Page SEO

SEO has changed a lot in the past few years, and while more and more algorithm points are added to Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines, many others are taken out. Google uses over 200 factors in their ranking, and over 2,000 subfactors, so it’s impossible to influence them all. In fact, most people go wrong with SEO by trying to influence their off page SEO, when they should mostly be leaving it alone. The following don’ts should be avoided.

Guest Blog For Links – If you’re putting up guest blogs linking back to your site, don’t. Links from external websites can be valuable to you, but they can also hurt your optimization. You also don’t want to ask for reciprocal links, as these can also hurt you.

Use Directories – Some people will tell you to publish your website in numerous directories with links back to your page. This is not a good idea. Consider adding your website with links to your social pages, Yelp,  and the Better Business Bureau.

Comment Farm – If you’re commenting or paying someone to comment on other people’s blogs with links back to your site, it is a waste of time.

Post Duplicate Content – Some marketers still follow an old and very outdated policy of posting different versions of the same content on multiple sites, using snippets from an article as an article on another site to direct traffic, and otherwise creating duplicate content. This can hurt your SEO.

Use Press Releases for Links – You should only post press releases to try to get media coverage, not for links.

Essentially, any time you’re using articles, content, blog posts, YouTube videos, press releases,

Do’s for Off Page SEO

Off Page SEO is essentially any SEO done off of your website, so by nature, it is mostly beyond your control. The following points are items you can do to help boost your off page SEO.

Build Relationships – Building networks and creating relationships in your niche, with local neighborhood businesses, and with local companies allows you to build more than just links, but you might get the links anyway.

Share on Social Media – Social media is a big thing in SEO, so you should make sure you’re sharing and sharing regularly. Creating valuable, sharable content that other people will love and post as well adds to the value. Social links and signals don’t count for much individually, but the more active your social profiles and activity on your links, the better your off page SEO.

Running a good SEO campaign requires a balance between careful on-site SEO and careful off-site quality control and monitoring. If you want to make sure that you’re getting it right, consider hiring a professional Seattle SEO company to help you with the details.

How Seattle Businesses Can Use Pinterest For Marketing – Seattle Social Media Marketing

Pinterest is one of the most popular websites in the world, and in fact, ranks #3 for most used social media sites. While that is bound to change, as usage frequently fluctuates for social media, it is still something to consider when you get started with your social media campaign. For Seattle users, deciding whether or not to use Pinterest as part of your social marketing campaign should depend on your target demographic and primary consumer base, as Pinterest has several sets of very specific types of users. Knowing who to market to, how to do it, and how to use the platform can help you with boosting your visibility on the web, increasing sales, and creating positive ROI from your time spent on the platform.

Target Your Demographic

Knowing who you are creating pins for can help you with creating successful imagery, boards, and ideas to market to them. Identify your target demographic, find out what they share, what they like, and what they love, and then integrate yourself into that niche. Simply pinning photos of your products is rarely enough, unless you’re running a bakery or a nice restaurant. Find out how to market your products with attractive imagery before you attempt the platform.

Create Sales Not Memes

While you could spend your time pinning funny photos and memes, you can also use Pinterest’s for business function. Businesses can now place “buy”, links back to their website, and prices directly on the pin. This allows you to create style shoots for products, pin them, and then create direct ROI as pinners who want the item visit your site. If you add in a small discount code on your website, you can boost chances of converting them even further.

Use Group Boards

Group boards should be used with caution, but they should still be used. The first thing to watch out for is that you don’t want to waste your time on a group board that primarily has other businesses sharing on it. They won’t buy anything and you won’t gain anything but fake hype from it. Instead, look for currently active boards that people are pinning from your niche into. You want groups with at least several hundred users. You also want to make sure that all of your pins are highly relevant to the board.

Promote Yourself Locally

Most people aren’t aware that promoting yourself locally can help you with sales, but if you have a Seattle business, then you want to say that to your demographic. Whether you’re creating boards with names like “Seattle bakery” or a board with imagery from the street your business is on, you can get involved with the local online scene from your area, which will, in turn, help to boost local, offline sales.

Use Boards and Pins in Blogs

Pinterest allows you to share and embed boards as well as pins, which allows you the unique opportunity to cross promote your blogs and your boards on each platform. Pinning images from your blog and then putting them directly in your blog post allows you to create a “pin it to read later’ function, so that users can pin your blog photo, and then get the link from the pin. You can also put Pinterest boards directly in your blog posts for cross promoting and growing your Pinterest.

If you have a Seattle social media marketer, they can help you with identifying your demographic, creating a marketing plan, and then implementing it to create ROI for your business. If you want to know how it works, contact Rory Martin for more information.

Branding Websites for Marketing – Seattle Website Design

Whether you’re already on the web or looking to build a website, branding is something that you should be paying attention to. While not something that every business utilizes, branding is an important and powerful part of your web marketing toolkit that will allow you to build recognition, brand loyalty, and  most importantly, a brand personality, that will represent you everywhere on and off the web. If you’ve chosen fonts and colors for specific reasons, organized your store in a specific way, or created a visual identity for yourself, then chances are you’re well on your way to branding. If you still need your Seattle web designer to brand your site for you, the following will help you with what it is, why you need it, and how to get started.

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What is Branding

Branding is essentially creating a visual identity. Usually, it starts with something as simple as your logo, but it doesn’t stop there. Your font, images, colors on your site, graphics, style, and even spaces between text all contribute to your visual identity. Branding is deciding on a specific look, feel, and style that will represent your business. You want everything to look the same, even when it’s in different formats, displaying different images, and offering different services. For example, if you write up flyers and print out business cards, chances are you want both to have the same font and the same logo. This extends to your website, which you can incorporate into your visual identity family.

Why Do Seattle Websites Need It?

Brands are trusted. Businesses are often not. Creating a recognizable, visually identifiable brand that your customers and potential customers can recognize anywhere they go is important if you want to earn and retain that trust. Branding yourself on the web allows you to establish yourself as a company with an identity. It also allows you to create a public perception of yourself through your brand imagery, using colors that the public associates with certain things, images, and graphics that suggest quality, trust, and value. It also allows you to differentiate yourself from competitors, because a good brand stands out.

How Do Seattle Business Owners Get Started?

The best place to get started is by finding a great Seattle graphic designer or web designer. You might already have an idea of how you want your website to look, but if not, a good graphic designer can help you, help you pick colors and styles that mean the right things, and ensure that everything looks great. The most important consideration is that you look at their portfolio first to make sure that you are happy with what they’ve already done. You can also check reviews, any recommendations they have, and their social pages to see what you think about the designer before you hire them.

Want to know more about how branding your business can help with building your reputation on the web? Contact Rory Martin for more information, or to get a consultation on your brand.

How to Protect Your Website From Hackers – Seattle Web Development Tips

If you have a business website then, you no doubt, worry about hackers, viruses, and other issues that could not only affect your website, but also your business reputation. This is especially important if you offer online purchases through a shopping cart. Even if you’re just starting to set up and build your site, the following tips from Seattle web developers can help to ensure that you take the right steps to protect your site. While these tips do not include coding issues, you can talk to your web development team to ensure that they are integrating security into your design.

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Use Secure Logins

While you may be tempted to use your default logins, or ‘administrator’ plus “password123″, you should usually be a bit more creative. Some hackers are nothing more than good guessers, and some use software to input commonly used password and username combinations, until they get lucky. Make sure they don’t by ensuring that your password is a string of complex numbers and letters, with special characters, and that your username is something other than your name, ‘administrator’, or similar. A good idea is to use the name of your first pet plus your school locker number or your first phone number if it’s a personal website, or a randomly generated secure hash if it’s a website that multiple people are using.

Consider Security Plugins

If you’ve gone with popular CMS like Drupal, Joomla, or Wordpress, you can choose multiple security plugins to ensure that your website is as safe as possible. Options range from apps that only give you a few tries to log in until they lock you out, to those that email or text you if you’re logging in from a new location.

Don’t Integrate Third Party Flash Apps

Unless you’re using apps from a very trusted source like Google Maps, try not to integrate third party applications into your website. JavaScript and flash injection both allow hackers to insert malware into visitors computers directly from your website.

Purchase a Security Script

Buying security is a must if you want your consumers trust. Most web hosts offer security certificates, but you can also purchase them from popular antivirus companies like Symantec’s Norton. Posting these on your website tells your visitors that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. If you don’t know how to set this up, don’t be afraid to ask your developer.

HTTPS

If you’re running a store, asking for personal information, or even asking for email addresses, you should consider setting up HTTPS. This means that your site is secure, as is the connection, so that hackers cannot access the information under normal circumstances. Once again, just ask your developer.

Knowing how to protect your website is important, especially with more and more vulnerabilities found in websites. If you want to know how to protect your specific website, ask your developer, or hire them to build in more security.

How to Handle Links with Modern SEO – Seattle SEO TipS

SEO and links have always gone together, and in previous incarnations of SEO strategy, have even dramatically affected ranking. Today, links are less important, primarily because most search engines have to sort through spam and black hat techniques, which create link farms and use guest blogs for links. With that in mind, the wrong links can actually hurt your search ranking, especially on sites like Google, with complex and sophisticated ranking techniques. If you want to get started with using links to boost your ranking, these tips from local Seattle SEO marketing companies will help you with getting started.

How Do Links Help Your SEO?

Links boost your Search Engine Optimization by boosting your perceived impact. Essentially, most search engine algorithms use inbound links to decide how many people are paying attention to you, how much attention you’re getting, and how much value you’re adding. Sites with more links going to them add more value to a link going to you, while sites with more links going out then coming in add less value to your link. Essentially, it’s like playing cards for chips, whoever has the most chips wins, and whoever has the least isn’t usually given that much attention. While the system is more complicated than that, you can get the basic idea from it. Links tell search engines that other people are listening to what you have to say, and that perhaps, they should too.

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Do All Links Help?

Do all links help? Well, no. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to abuse links by ‘farming’ them, or using directories to create massive amounts of links directly to their website, to create a false appearance of influence. This is an extremely bad idea because most search engines will now penalize you for having too many links from sites that mostly have outbound links. They’ll also penalize you for putting up 15 or 20 websites and interlinking them to build your ranking. This can negatively affect your ranking, so it is important to avoid it.

Bad Ideas Include:

Paying for links

Guest Blogging for links

Using link directories

Paying for a “100% Real Google Safe Link Building Technique Skyrocket to the Top OF Search in 24 Hours” type thing.

Putting up dozens of press releases for link value

What Links Should I Have?

Valuable links come natural sources, they are relevant to your website, and people click them. A link with no clicks is a link with no value. Unless people are following your link, your website usually isn’t being benefited from it.

Good link ideas include:

News stations

Social media shares

People blogging about your services or reviewing your products

Mentions from larger websites

Features, shares, or mentions from similar websites

How do I Get Valuable Links?

A valuable link is a natural link. It is one that has been added for the benefit of the reader and not for the company. It is also on a completely relevant website or page. This might seem difficult at first, but the truth is that if you’re doing things to get links, you’re probably doing it the wrong way. Instead, try making connections, doing newsworthy items that will get you local mentions, appearing at local events and festivals, and getting yourself involved with other people. Not only will these things generate hype on and off of the Internet, they afford you the ability to build connections that are more than just a meaningless link that might not actually help you out with the next search update. You can also offer to create meaningful and relevant blog posts for similar magazines, websites, and news areas, in exchange for a company mention.

Want more help with building your search engine optimization strategy? Contact RoryMartin.com for a consultation to see what we can do for you.

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Using Instagram to Market Your Business – Seattle Social Media Tips

Instagram is one of the largest social media platforms out there, and unlike Pinterest, is incredibly mobile. With more and more users on their phones, promoting yourself on an active, mobile friendly website is becoming incredibly important. For local Seattle businesses, that can sometimes mean leaving YouTube and other slow-to-load social media sites for their desktop marketing, and moving to more tablet and phone friendly sites like snapchat and Instagram. Because Instagram is by far the more valuable for marketing, we’ll discuss how local Seattle businesses can integrate it into their marketing tactics.
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Don’t Forget to Hashtag

The hashtag is as much a part of Instagram as it is on Twitter, so don’t forget to use it. Find out which brand relevant and local hashtags you can get involved in, and try to join in. Remember not to hijack hashtags, as that wont’ get you anywhere.

Share Fun Photos

Instagram is all about photograph and short, 15 second videos. Essentially, it’s perfect for an audience with a low attention span. If they’re scrolling through their feed, you want to attract their attention enough to get them to stop, double tap, and maybe even visit your profile, before going back to their feed. What can you share? Art, style, humor, inspiration, and sales. Most businesses use Instagram as a sort of lookbook or style book, think a mobile magazine that updates constantly, instead of once a month.

Don’t Just Post Pictures

It’s easy enough to post pictures, especially if you’re in the food, fashion, or sports industry, as all of these have a huge following on Instagram. Instead, you should figure out how to get involved with your local community. Local Instagram challenges, local hashtags, and interacting with stars in the niche (I.E. Irene Papas if you sell yoga gear), can help you with promotion, gaining followers, and building your brand value.

Post Regularly

The golden rule of social media is to post often, and to do so regularly. Create a flexible posting schedule that has you putting up at least 5 photos a week, and usually closer to 10. You don’t want to spam your feed, but you also want to keep people interested and let them know you’re still there.

Watch Trends

Just like Twitter, Instagram has trending hashtags. Watch them, get on them, and sit back to see traffic coming in. You might not make any sales off of trends, but you can jump on the bandwagon and find followers that you might later turn into customers.

Don’t Forget to Reward Followers

The easiest way to convert social media followers to customers is using incentives, but you don’t want to overdo it. Taking special occasions like a business anniversary, a follower milestone (I.E. 1,000, 2,000, etc.) and turning them into giveaways can give you leverage for building your fanbase and followers. Simple “regram and tag three friends to enter + you have to follow the page” giveaways can generate a great deal of followers. You can also offer coupons and discount codes to Instagram followers to help boost their conversion into actual sales.

Don’t Pay for Followers

An Instagram follower has no value as a follower. It is just a number. Furthermore, most Instagram users are smart enough to know that if you have 10,000 followers and no likes or comments, you’re probably faking it. Avoiding the temptation of paying for fake followers builds your trust.

Interact

Take five to fifteen minutes a day to interact with your followers on Instagram. Follow people who interact with you a lot, and try not to spam anyone. A lot of people are highly active on Instagram and they will see if you’re just pasting the same comments onto everyone’s photos. Take a few minutes, make a few meaningful engagements a day, and keep building on that.

Instagram is a rapidly growing platform, and while not valuable to every business, it works well as a marketing platform for many. If you need help with Instagram or other social media management in the Seattle area, contact Rory Martin for a consultation.

Five Tips for Choosing a Local Seattle Web Developer

Finding a quality web developer is notoriously difficult on the web, especially with thousands of overseas companies who operate under dubious credentials and often offer themes or pre-built websites under the pretense of a custom site. Going local is the easiest way to ensure the originality of your site, but it also allows you to find a company that understands your local customer demographic, local website trends, and that you can meet in person to determine their actual suitability for the job. Whether you’re looking to hire a one-off Seattle web development team to build your website, or need a long-term web specialist for maintenance, updates, and constant development, you can use these tips for choosing a good local Seattle web developer or team.

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Understand the Market

The first rule of hiring a web developer anywhere, not just in Seattle, is that you have to understand the market, fair pricing, and what you can expect for the money. If you’re accustomed to choosing outsource and offshore companies with engineers and developers primarily in India and Pakistan, then you’re going to be able to afford considerably less if you go local. However, you also have to know normal pricing for a website of your size and standard, so that you can get a fair quote, without feeling that it is over the top or too cheap. Your best bet is to set a budget in advance and then figure out what you can get for that budget before you go ‘shopping’ for a developer.

Decide on Skills and Requirements Up Front

You wouldn’t hire a Japanese sushi chef if you wanted a French Crémeux, and the same goes for web development. While some developers are experts in everything, that’s rare and usually quite far fetched. Instead, look for a developer who has the skillset you need (I.E. JavaScript, PhP, and HTML) and make sure they can work with it before you hire them. There is no one size fits all developer, unless you’re happy with whatever they can build you.

Look for a Past History

While it may sound unfair to only hire experienced developers, you wouldn’t hire an inexperienced person for most other jobs, so don’t risk it with your website. Choosing someone with verifiable experience, standards, and hopefully references you can use to verify claims and ensure that the developer hits deadlines and offers quality websites is an easy way to cut out a lot of hassle.

Check their Portfolio

Finally, you want to know that you like their work and that they are capable of building you a website that you love. Checking your prospective web developer’s portfolio is the easiest way to make sure that they will offer you the website you want.

 

Want to know more about how a local Seattle website designer can help you? Contact Rory Martin to see if we’re a good fit for your needs.

What Seattle Companies are Doing Wrong with Web Design

With over 644 million active websites on the Internet, it can be difficult to make yourself stand out. Luckily, there are far fewer local Seattle websites to compete with, but you’re still going to have to make yourself stand out. While the average small business now recognizes that they need and should have a website, not everyone goes about it in the best way. A website is your brand on the web, and it has to be just as convincing as any physical storefront. Because many consumers are now visiting mobile websites before they go to a store for the first time, your site is becoming more and more important. With that in mind, here are few things that Seattle businesses frequently get wrong, and help from local web designers on how to fix those problems.

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Forgetting to Research Your Demographic

If you’re in a hurry to get your website up, a new business, or don’t think you need a target demographic, you could be making a huge mistake. While some people don’t think they need to target anyone and others try to target everyone, both options are a mistake. Researching your target demographic allows you to market your website directly to the people most likely to need your services or products, allowing you to create more churn and make more sales.

No Marketing

No one likes to be marketed to but if you have a whole website with no calls to action, no links driving people to buy things, and nothing at all to tell the consumer that they should be spending money, then you’re probably missing out. Integrating strategic calls to action, links to products, and creating landing pages for users who search for your content on the web can be crucial to your success.

Overly Complicated Design

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The 90s and early 2000s saw a rash of poorly designed websites with flashing banners, jQuery animation, and really cluttered design. If your website looks like an advertisement board, has more images than free space, or crams something into every possible space, you’re probably telling customers that you aren’t professional or modern. Go with simple, elegant, and easy to use.

Not Updating Your Content

Regularly updating your content, even if it’s as simple as changing all of the listed dates on your website once yearly, is crucial to being on the web. Customers like to see activity so that they can see you’re a relevant, real business. Consider linking your social media so that consumers can see your likes and social activity, keep a weekly blog and update it weekly, and post regular updates.

Using the Wrong Designer

The wrong designer can completely ruin your website. Whether you’re paying more than you have to and going way over budget, or paying less than you should and getting a substandard website, you’re making a mistake. You’re probably also messing up if you decide to do your website yourself, unless of course, you’re a qualified website designer. Go over your budget, decide how much you can make back from your website in a year, and choose a quality designer with a good reputation based on that criteria.

If you want to know more about quality Seattle web design, contact Rory Martin for a free quote.

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