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  • Start Up Business - Becoming an Idea Machine

    idea machineA business idea as simple as selling clothing items in a retail shop can help you make good revenues and profits. But, look around and you will notice that the most successful entrepreneurs are those that are leaders in their own respective fields, and that is only is the case when they are based on a unique business model and idea. Let’s face it, no one can beat Google owners Larry Page and Sergey Brin in online search engines, Bill Gates in operating systems, or Mark Zuckerberg in social media websites.

    Their individual business models have been utilized and taken advantage of. The key to unlocking your entrepreneurship potential is to create your own individual business model and idea that fulfills a market gap and brings something new to make it truly unique and differentiated.

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  • Start Up Business Trends

    Startup TrendsDespite a rather bizarre U.S. election season, there are plenty of reasons to invest in 2017, especially in regards to the growth in start up business trends. Over the years, advancements in technology and elimination of barriers have made it easier for owners to establish their businesses in the services industry. In this post, we will look at the rise in start up business trends in three key areas: professional services, cloud services, and data services.

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  • 8 Menu Types You Should Consider for Your Company Site

    The menu on your website sets the tone for all the other elements of your site. The right menu type creates an overall website hierarchy and also puts first-time visitors at ease, guiding them where you'd most like them to go.

    Once a user lands on a company website, about 50 percent of them use the navigation to get oriented with the website before moving forward. Your navigation structure is arguably one of the most crucial elements of your site.

    Choosing which menu type to use is as important as the colors and layout of your site. Here are eight menu types you should consider as you design or redesign your company website.

    1. Hamburger Menu

    You've probably noticed that more and more sites are using the hamburger icon like you'd see on your mobile device to indicate that there are more choices for navigation. A hamburger menu frees up valuable space you might wish to use for other elements while still allowing you to include important links you otherwise might not have room for.

    However, use this option very strategically. Some studies show that the use of a hamburger menu may hurt user experience (UX). If your audience is made up of older people, for example, they may avoid the hamburger icon. A mere 52 percent of those over 45 years of age know what the icon means.

    Big Spaceship offers a simplistic, almost mobile device approach to navigation on their landing page.

    Big Spaceship offers a simplistic, almost mobile device approach to navigation on their landing page. There's a round icon that says "menu." When you hover over it, the icon animates into a hamburger menu such as you'd see on your mobile device. Click on the hamburger menu, and you discover the options for contacting the advertising agency to get more information about working with them. This menu structure is simple and to the point.

    2. Menu Bar

    A menu bar is something you've likely seen frequently during your online journeys. It's a bar with navigation options that appears either horizontally across the top of the page or vertically to the side. It almost always appears above the fold and typically just under the site header. A menu bar tends to have a background with buttons or solid text on top.

    There are certain features that users expect to see in the navigation bar, so keep those in mind as you're choosing your navigation categories. For example, you'll need choices such as home, about us and contact.

    3. Mega Menu

    A mega menu drops down when the user hovers over one of the elements on the page. It's one main panel that offers all the main navigation options on the website. Think of it as a sitemap that's user-friendly. Mega menus are useful to sites that have a variety of categories with choices under each category.

    Reading truck body uses the mega menu option to highlight the products they provide.

    Reading Truck Body uses the mega menu option to highlight the products they provide. Under each main category, they offer a number of options. For example, service body trucks are available with aluminum service bodies, Cranemaster bodies or steel service bodies. The mega menu allows the company to keep their main navigation structure manageable while still showing the various styles available.

    4. Drop-Down Menu

    A drop-down menu is another way to organize a lot of categories in a way that doesn't overwhelm site visitors. Unlike the mega menu that needs a hover, the drop-down menu forces the user to take action, such as clicking on the title of the button. When the user clicks on the button, the rest of the menu appears under the button. You can still expand this menu to take up most of the page, or you can keep the choices directly under the button as a bulleted list.

    5. Animated Navigation Bar

    Another element you can add to your navigation bar that makes it more interactive is a bit of animation. For example, if the user hovers over one of the choices, the text color might change or the choice might expand slightly in size. Make the changes fairly simple so as not to bog down the speed of the site. A slight animation grabs the user's interest and makes them take action.

    jack donuts does a good job integrating just the right amount of animation in their navigation bar.

    Jack's Donuts does a good job integrating just the right amount of animation in their navigation bar. Upon a first look, the text is white. Hover over any of the choices, however, and the letters change to a deep purple to match the rest of their color scheme. For those who have animations turned off, an alt-text box pops up that has the title tag of the button inside.

    6. Separate Page Menu

    Some sites need a separate page for each category to cover all the many links on the site. You often see this type of structure with larger eCommerce retailers and blogs. For example, if you sell hats and have three dozen cowboy hat styles and two dozen fedoras, you aren't going to put those links on your homepage. What you would do is have a button for fedoras and create a page that lists the different fedoras with links to more intensive descriptions and photos of each.

    7. Circular Timeline Navigation

    Do you want to get a little creative with your navigation? Circular timeline navigation works particularly well for history-based choices and to tell the story of your company from the beginning to now. A circle puts the focus on your navigation, making it part of the entire screen rather than the top or side of your page.

    BryBry received a nod as one of the best in navigation designs from Awwwards.

    BryBry received a nod as one of the best in navigation designs from Awwwards. The navigation is certainly unique in that it plays as a video, and you have to click and hold to navigate where you wish to go. There are some drawbacks to this type of creative navigation, such as confusion on the part of the user. A better solution might be to put navigation in a circular layout but lose the video component of having to hold to go to a new page.

    8. Fixed Navigation

    Want to keep navigation available at all times? Create a fixed navigation bar that drops down as the user reads down the page. A fixed navigation bar is particularly helpful on sites with lengthy content pieces. If the user suddenly decides to sign up for your services, for example, they can get to your services page with a quick click of the button rather than having to scroll all the way back up to the top of the page.

    Menu Types

    The above are just a few of the menu types available for your website navigation. The best menu type to use is the one that matches the overall tone and purpose of your site. You may even find that combining a couple of different models has the best results. Try out a few different styles, do some A/B testing and see which performs best with your site visitors.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • 9 Advantages of Your Tech Business Going Eco-Friendly This Year

    bright bulb close up 1108572

    What if your company could save money and change the world for the better? Going eco-friendly makes your tech business stand out from the crowd and shows you're tapped into the concerns of your customers.

    Around 88 percent of Americans feel protecting the environment is essential. The majority of people care about the Earth, and they'll support green businesses. In addition to attracting like-minded people to your brand, there are nine distinct advantages to your tech business going eco-friendly.

    1. Reduce Your Costs

    Reducing energy use and recycling cuts back on your costs. When the company as a whole looks at ways of lessening your carbon footprint, you'll save money on printing, energy used from lights left on and even temperature control issues.

    Some recycling centers pay for beverage cans or plastics, too. Not only will you do something beneficial for the environment, but you'll also make a little money back in the process.

    2. Use Less Energy

    When your company commits to green methods, embrace significant changes such as clean energy. Adding solar panels to your headquarters is one example of a way of reducing your energy usage and turning to more sustainable practices.

    SAP America creates software and provides software services. It's committed to using green energy and purchased more than 350 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy to run its data centers. As part of the company's commitment to sustainability, it also offers a free online course to help others in IT and digital technologies transform into an eco-friendly model.

    3. Attract New Customers

    One of the most significant benefits of going green isn't the reason you should choose sustainability, but a perk of embracing eco-friendliness — attracting new customers. People who are committed to reducing their carbon footprint seek companies with the same philosophy. You'll automatically attract a few customers by merely sharing your mission of a more sustainable business model.

    4. Gain Name Recognition

    A side effect of going green is that you'll gain recognition and possibly earn awards. Branding isn't an easy task for any company, so if you are mentioned in an environmental magazine or receive an award from a local organization, you'll get your business name in front of the public.

    Another tech biz focusing on sustainability is Die-Tech. It's won the MANTEC Manufacturing Award for Excellence in Sustainability for its efforts in green practices. A few of its endeavors include adding a pollinator garden, heating and cooling production areas via a geothermal system and using the land around its facility as a wildlife habitat.

    5. Have Healthier Employees

    Establishing greener practices means you're putting out less pollution and are more focused on the health and well-being of everyone in the building. Several studies indicate that green buildings produce happier, healthier and more productive employees. For example, adding certain types of green plants to the interior of your building improves air quality.

    6. Impact Climate Change

    No matter which side of the fence you sit on about climate change, there is no doubt that what we do today has an impact on the world we leave for future generations. While some tech industries create more emissions than others, reducing energy consumption and pollution is an excellent first step for facilities that manufacture electronics and those that provide services for digital devices.

    Sprint chose more sustainable business practices, such as reducing GHG emissions by 48 percent and using smart building analytics to reduce energy consumption further.

    7. Increase Profits

    When you spend money and energy updating buildings and the overall appearance of your brand in the community, you'll see results in the customers you attract. Building local goodwill has a $6 return for every dollar spent.

    People also state they'll pay up to 10 percent more for green products and services, but this statistic may vary by how dedicated your target audience is to the environment.

    8. Empower Other People

    As a leading brand, you have an opportunity to empower and educate others about sustainable practices. Offer classes, help your community start an organic garden and set the example for other business leaders in your community. As one company, you can only do so much to create change, but as a community, you can make big strides toward a healthier future for all.

    Google is a tech company with a strong commitment to going green. Not only does it focus on making better decisions in the small things it does, such as using resources more wisely, but it also offers users technology that helps it use energy more efficiently and in a more sustainable manner. Its data centers are as energy efficient as possible, too, reducing consumption as millions of searches happen on their servers every day.

    9. Attract Top Talent

    Another benefit most companies don't realize when choosing to embrace a green working environment is that you'll attract others who care about building a more sustainable future. Top candidates may want to work for you instead of a competitor just because they are doing something better for the world around them. If all other things are equal between two potential employers, the top talent may choose your company because of eco-friendly practices.

    Go Green and Change Your Company

    Going green does much more than merely protect the environment. Eco-friendly practices create a company atmosphere where employees consider more than the here and now. The company culture changes when businesses look outside themselves at what they can do to have an impact on the Earth. Positive changes start with small shifts in attitude. The advantages of going green are just added benefits your company receives for doing something good.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • Best Practices for B2B Companies and How to Convey Them on the Web

    Promoting B2B business online

    Marketing a B2B company can sometimes be a challenge. When you’re trying to get another company to buy your products or services, it isn’t quite the same as marketing to a consumer. If you want to make a strong connection online, you need to know the correct way to portray your B2B business.

    There are a few best practices any B2B company should follow when promoting themselves online. Here are seven of the ones you need to know.

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  • Building a Website – Identifying Your Business Objectives

    business goalsWhen building a website, most people want to skip ahead to the fun part and brainstorm all the advanced features they can add to it or even look at other sites for design inspirations. But graphics and features shouldn’t be the starting point. Rather, your focus should be on your objective oriented goals while setting measurable steps to achieve them.

    Where to Begin

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  • How Data Visualization Benefits All Industries

    Even the most skilled analyst has difficulty reading raw data because it's nothing more than a wall of text, numbers or data points. Looking at a long list of addresses and city locations, for example, doesn't really give you a clear understanding of the regions where most of your audience comes from. Sure, you can probably identify several cities or states, but that doesn't offer anything actionable.

    To take collected, raw data and turn it into something useful or practical, you must utilize a process called data visualization. More importantly, data visualization allows you to present data to nearly everyone on a team, even those unfamiliar with the information or content in question. For example, you can make charts and diagrams to explain a particular demographic or data set to executives. With the right tools, you could even just send them the visualized data, and they'll be able to
    understand it.

    Of course, none of this is possible with raw data.

    data visualization

    1. Understand or Identify Value

    One thing that is increasingly common these days, thanks to big data systems, is that the information we are collecting streams in endlessly. While not technically accurate, this notion is correct in the sense that you'll always have something new to process or analyze. The problem with raw data is that it may never reveal or even have inherent value. You may have a long list of telephone numbers or email addresses, for example, that give no clear indication of how or what to use them for.

    Step one regarding data visualization is to discern how valuable the data you have in your hands is. This enables several things, the most obvious of which is the option to put that information to use internally. But it also tells you what data is most valuable, providing you with even more assets to sell or barter with. You could take the data you have, for instance, and sell it on a second or third party marketplace. Even though it may not directly help with your brand and processes, it can still be valuable to someone else — and help you by creating an additional revenue stream.

    Visual content is a must if you want to capture the attention of your audience. But you would be none the wiser if you merely threw up some media on your brand's social profiles and then checked back every so often. You'd only be able to discern what was popular and what wasn't. You'd never be able to apply that information to future campaigns or posts. With data visualization systems in place, however, you can better understand which visual content works, how, why your audience likes it and even pinpoint exactly who likes it.

    2. Near Instant Access to Business Insights

    Whether you are at the top of a company as an executive or c-suite member or you're further down the ladder as a project or department manager, the information you need to make informed, accurate decisions is mostly the same. You need a clear, comprehensive picture of the steps you are going to take so that you can make accurate predictions and use this as a basis for your decisions.

    In layman's terms, you can look at various conditions or scenarios and gauge how they're going to affect your business.

    Data visualization processes allow you to see these connections, to make sense of what and why something is happening. For example, you can see how a particular decision affected your most recent shipments, and what that resulted in on the consumer side of the equation. This allows you to either change or optimize the process, ultimately, to boost that bottom line.

    Simply put, you cannot make a decision or take action — at least not efficiently — without the proper insights. Data visualization is the act of taking all the data you have and making it practical or actionable so that you can extract insights.

    AOL teamed up with a data analyst team at Dapresy to iron out a more actionable way to reach their audience with the data they were collecting. As a result, they were able to meet ballooning business objectives, unlock hidden insights and increase their customers' confidence in them.

    3. Stay Up to Date With Trends

    The general market is continually shifting, and when you have an ever-changing audience, you have to stay on the bleeding edge. It's difficult though, especially when it comes to making accurate predictions about trends, to predict which way they're going to go. If you align your business objectives to match a growing trend, and it does the opposite and disappears, you're going to lose out on a lot of opportunities and waste a lot of resources.

    Data visualization helps you take control of the situation and plan for the worst while optimizing for the best. It offers the insights and statistics to spot trends and opportunities early so that you can take full advantage of them.

    More importantly, with the data compiled and processed, decision makers and managers have the information they need to assess customer behaviors and conditions. This enables them to take appropriate action and direct the rest of the organization as necessary.

    This visualization of "daily routines of famous creative people" allows you to see what all key influencers have in common. You know that saying "great minds think alike," well this visualization proves otherwise. It also offers some other fascinating insights, so take a look when you have the time.

    4. Get More Minds Involved

    A data analyst or a data scientist is a professional that can look at various data sets and understand what it means and figure out what to use it for. That definition is a bit broad, but you get the gist of it. And there are many data analysts across a variety of industries, including marketing, retail, customer service and more.

    Of course, it costs money to employ a data analyst, and it does no good to have them or a related team confined to a single department or area. The data they are viewing and processing, needs to be passed to other key leaders and team members. In fact, a data analyst may not even know how valuable a set of information is if they don't understand other processes, tasks or projects going on at their company.

    Data visualization allows you to take data, which would otherwise be remarkably dull and confusing, and make it readable for everyone and anyone. It can then be passed on to other departments, getting more minds and team members involved. This opens up many new opportunities, especially if those looking over the visualizations can find a unique use for it.

    IBM was able to determine cities with the most commuting woes, simply by reorganizing the data they collected during a 2010 survey. This allowed them to better understand and present the data to everyone, not just an internal group of analysts.

    5. Improve Performance and Sales

    After launching a new product, you will eventually find out how it performs. You'll know if it sold well, how much money it made and maybe even what areas or stores had the most sales of the item. You could use that information to build a decent customer profile for future campaigns.

    However, the insights you collect without looking at the actual data are shallow and basic. You can't make a more informed decision with them. It would be like grasping at straws. It's still considered a gamble in many cases, because you may not fully understand why a product even sold well or performed poorly.
    By collecting loads of data and organizing it to be more viable through data visualization, you can improve the performance and sales of your brand. You can identify the product changes you made that improved or decreased sales as well as what future changes might correct any issues.

    The point is that data visualization enables you to boost your company's performance and sales because you can make sense of the vast amounts of data coming in. You can also discover more actionable insights and turn those insights into strategies.

    Lexie Lu

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has a cup in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How Does Social Media Marketing Affect B2B Businesses?

    Social media provides an excellent platform for marketing efforts, helping drive user engagement and acquire leads. Plus, 92% of B2B marketers utilize social media in their marketing efforts. As a result, marketers who do not embrace social media tend to fall behind the competition regarding reach and exposure.

    Although many perceive social media outreach as more suitable for business-to-community (B2C) outreach, the proliferation of businesses on social media has narrowed the divide between B2C and B2B. Social media aids tremendously in connecting with both consumers and other businesses. Seven strong social media strategies a company should incorporate into its marketing efforts include the following.

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  • How Free Services Lead to Increases in Revenue

    Giving away goods or services sounds a bit counterintuitive, doesn't it? After all, it costs you time and money to offer services to others, even if just in the bandwidth used by your site. However, providing free services without expecting anything in return may lead to an increase in revenue for your business.

    One of the highest levels of human interaction involves reciprocity — whenever someone gives you a gift, you feel as though you should give them one back. This type of mutuality drives business, but smaller companies often overlook mutual benefits in their marketing efforts.

    Think of your free services as a "give, give, give, get" marketing model. Not everyone you offer a free service to will buy from you, and that's okay, because some will. Offering free services leads to an increase in revenue over time and examples show companies using the principle of reciprocity effectively.

    1. Attract Browsers

    In an ideal world, every person who visited your website or popped onto your social media page would become a customer. In real life, very few people who land on your page convert into actual leads. You have a few seconds of their attention to grab them and collect their contact information. If you offer a free service, they're much more likely to share their email with you so you can make a deeper connection later.

    2. Establish Your Expertise

    No matter what industry your business falls under, you must establish that you're the authority in your field. You know more than the competitors, stand out in areas others don't and you connect with your customers on a level higher than other brands in your genre.

    Offering something free that ties into how much you know not only establishes you as an authority but enacts the reciprocity principle so buyers will think of you when they're ready to buy.

    wishpond establishes their expertise in matters of marketing to promote their all-in-one platform solution

    Wishpond establishes their expertise in matters of marketing to help promote their all-in-one platform solution. Webinars are free for anyone to watch and include topics such as "Collecting and Nurturing Leads with Your Website & Email Marketing" and "How to Get Thousands of Clients Using Sweepstakes and Contests." Wishpond doesn't ask for anything to view the webinar, but they do point out how their services help business owners grow their contact list and client base.

    3. Gain Social Media Shares

    One of the ways reciprocity works is when you give someone something of value, and they want to tell others about your generosity. While the person may not be in the market to buy what you offer, they are more likely to share your resources with others via social media and word-of-mouth marketing. It doesn't cost you much to provide a free service, such as a webinar or a free guide, but the results can drive traffic to your site and give you increased brand recognition.

    4. Offer Free Information

    For businesses where customers invest a chunk of money in your brand, offering a free quote may entice them into sharing their information and investing time in your business. If you run a service business, free quotes are often expected and may keep the competition from overtaking you.

    garrety glass offers a free quote on their landing page

    Garrety Glass offers a free quote on their landing page. The call to action (CTA) button is larger than the other buttons on the page and invites users to "Click to request a free quote." They also offer a look at some other projects they've completed in the area in case you'd like to see some of the work they've done before contacting them for a quote.

    Offering a free quote gives the user something without expecting anything in return. They may or may not buy the windows from Garrety Glass, but they're more likely to if the company spends time with them showing how they can meet their individual needs.

    5. Give a Bonus

    One way of enticing customers into ordering from you now is offering a bonus if they do so. There are any number of offers you can provide, including buy one get one free or additional add-ons for one of your services or products.

    In one study, an author looked at the difference between offering something for free and something for a penny. He offered a chocolate kiss for a penny and then for free. The value of the chocolate when offered free was perceived as higher. The moral is that you don't have to provide something which costs your business a lot of money, but if you offer it free, it has instant value.

    Whatever you offer does have to actually create value for your user. Offer something that makes their lives easier or helps them in the industry you're already in. Make sure the bonus is relevant to your business. Don't give away golf tees when you own a restaurant.

    6. Try Before You Buy

    Free trials are another way of attracting users, particularly if you sell software, a service or some type of food product. When the user tries the item, they're more inclined to buy it as long as it meets or exceeds their expectations. If the sample is free, they tend to think, "Why not?" Then, if the item is valuable to them, they're likely to buy.

    7-11 gives free samples of Slurpees on specified days

    7-11 started giving out free samples of their Slurpees on specified days and saw their sales skyrocket. The brand put no limitations on the free sample cups, other than the size of the samples. However, people could refill their cups or get as many samples as they wanted. People didn't, though, instead they purchased full-size Slurpees after tasting the treat and made other purchases as well.

    7. Establish Goodwill

    There is something to be said for establishing goodwill in your local community. Have a presence at a local event and give away something free to build a positive brand image. If you sell heating and cooling systems, give out hand fans at the local fair. Offer free trials of your product at a booth at a trade show. Give back to local charities.

    Your brand is more than merely the products you sell, so giving something away should also reflect the values and concerns of your top executives and what you stand for as a company.

    Offering something for free for a limited time creates a sense of urgency where users feel they must sample your offering and share their contact information before the offer goes away. Be careful here that you don't just say something is limited and then offer it for five years. Users don't appreciate feeling duped, so if you want to provide a limited freebie, make sure the number and period are minimal. You can always offer something else later.

    Rise Above the Competition

    Today's global marketplace is highly competitive. Successful businesses find ways of standing out from other brands. Offering a freebie is one way of attracting attention and drawing in new customers. Not only will you attract new customers but the principle of reciprocity will make them more inclined to buy from you in the future.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

     

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  • How to Create a Punny Web Design

    If your company’s underlying persona is fun and fresh, you may want to figure out a play on words or pun for your overall web design. People tend to associate a company with the outward appearance it gives. Using humor in your website design and branding efforts can be quite useful.

    Laughter in the workplace has several benefits, including relieving stress and encouraging creativity. You can easily share those benefits with your customers by implementing humor into everything you do. Just be careful, because not everyone has the same humor. The last thing you want to do is offend your potential customers. Here are six tips to keep in mind as you design your punny website.

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  • How to Effectively Monitor Your Competitors

    Thorough insight of your industry can aid tremendously in distinguishing your business strongly from others. You and your competition mold industry trends and approaches, so it makes sense to gain insight by thoroughly monitoring your competition.

    Monitoring competition has several benefits. For one, you can use a specific marketing campaign or social media strategy as a case study, without taking the risk that the competitor did by actually implementing it. By seeing what works, along with what doesn't, you can craft an enticing campaign in response.

    Monitoring is a great way to maintain cutting-edge knowledge of your industry. The five methods below are a great place to start for monitoring your competitors:

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  • How to Improve Your Site's UX in One Day

    The user experience is one of the most important things to focus on if you want to grab — and keep — your site visitors’ attention. In the modern digital economy, a website is one of the most powerful tools you have to promote your business. The last thing you want is a site that is cumbersome to the user or doesn't hit all the right marks. You have one opportunity to reach the person who lands on your page.

    In fact, the average site visitor only takes seven seconds to make up their mind about a site before potentially bouncing away. Creating a site with good UX is one of the quickest ways to improve your bounce rates and keep visitors coming back time and again. Here are six ways to improve your site’s UX in a single day.

    1. Add More White Space

    Creating more space between blocks of text and/or images makes everything easier to read, which can add to the overall function of your site. Stop trying to cram everything onto your landing page. The focus of your landing page should be pretty narrow for the reader.

    we are sofa is a good example of using whitespace

    Adding white space around your text and titles improves reader attention by about 20 percent, and makes your site feel updated and welcoming. A good example of a design with a nice amount of white space is We Were Sofa. Notice how the simple design has plenty of space around images and headlines, which allows site visitors to spot what they are looking for easily.

    2. Speed Up Your Page

    One of the elements that will impact your UX is how fast pages load. Most site visitors will wait just a few seconds for a page to load. A delay of a mere two seconds can send your abandonment rates soaring up to 87 percent, which can truly impact your conversions.

    amazon.com is an example of a website that contains fast page load speeds

    When you think of some of the biggest online retailers, what is one thing they have in common? Amazon and Walmart.com both load at lightning-fast speeds. People are busy. They want their online shopping experience to be quick and easy.

    3. Add an FAQ Page

    An FAQ page can help with any anxiety a consumer might have about purchasing your product and expand on information not covered in your product description page. If you’re hearing the same questions from customers over and over again, it’s smart to go ahead and create an FAQ page. This simple step allows consumers to find answers themselves, instead of having to wait on a reply.

    glass.com is a good example of a website that contains a well written FAQ page

    An FAQ also shows you are willing to be transparent, which can add a lot of credibility to your site. Glass.com has an excellent example of an FAQ page. This FAQ outlines everything from fees to ways to get discounts.

    4. Try Out Different Call-to-Action Buttons

    You already know the right call to action can entice visitors to convert into customers, but before you unveil your CTA, you should first try some A/B/C testing with different versions of it to see what is most effective with your target audience.

    For example, try varying the color, size and wording of the buttons. Once you figure out what works best with your audience, you can easily add highly effective CTAs in a single day, driving visitors to the place you want them to reach on your website.

    5. Make Your Site Responsive

    In 2015, mobile traffic grew globally by 74 percent, which means creating a responsive site is now essential for reaching all those people browsing the Internet on their phones or tablets. There are several steps you can take in a single day to create a more responsive site. First, you should check out how your site looks on tablets, iOS devices and Android phones.

    Do the images adjust to these smaller screen sizes? Is the text legible? Can you still navigate through the site with the menus? It is important to understand how your site adapts to each size of screen.

    If your site is running on WordPress, you can try a few plugins that will help with mobile responsiveness. When choosing the size of headers and other elements on the page, use percentages rather than pixels to allow the design to adapt easily. When in doubt, pull in a professional designer to help you fix any unresponsive features so you don’t miss out on traffic from anywhere.

    6. Readability

    The average site visitor is juggling a lot of different responsibilities. For example, a parent probably put in at least eight hours at the office, ran errands at lunch, went and picked the kids up from school and threw food in the slow cooker for later. Then, there were sports practices, homework or possibly a school event to attend. By the time they got home, they barely had time to eat, clean up the dishes and collapse onto the couch for a few minutes of Internet surfing.

    People’s brains are overloaded with an avalanche of information. They want to be able to quickly skim over information and get only the main points of what they need. It is vital to make your pages readable. You can do this with clear headers and text broken into short paragraphs. Bullet points make for “skimmable” reading material as well. Keep it short, to the point and easy to skim, and your readers will thank you.

    Making your site more user-friendly doesn’t have to involve a lot of complicated coding. A few simple fixes can make a world of difference in the UX of your website. The goal is to get visitors to stay and keep them coming back, so think about why you stay on the websites you visit and how your target audience lines up.

    Lexie Lu

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has a cup in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How to Increase Productivity From Your Creative Team

    increase productivity

    Productivity is something every business owner wants to increase, but typically struggles to figure out the right formula. When it comes to creative teams, the last thing you want is to squelch their creativity in some way. Finding the right balance between pushing them to improve and encouraging them to dream isn't easy.

    About one-third of employees are disengaged on the job, and lack of employee engagement costs companies somewhere between $450 and $550 billion each year. What if you could turn those numbers around and ensure everyone on your team felt engaged and productive, no matter the season or other outside influences?

    Part of productivity involves the worker and how well they focus and apply themselves. Not everyone has the same level of drive. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to enhance the productivity of your creative team.

    1. Encourage Collaboration

    In a study of over 1,000 companies, researchers found companies that encouraged collaboration between employees gained workers who were five times more likely to be high-performing. This makes sense, because working with people from different departments and with different skill sets spurs creativity and new ideas. Instead of only working with the creative team, if leaders pull in ideas from sales and leadership too, the brainstorming alone inspires new and exciting transitions.

    2. Improve the Work Space

    Even minor improvements to the workspace may help workers not get as distracted. While open concept offices are popular right now, some people work best in a quiet area without distractions. Allow for the advantages of an open concept while still providing pods or separate offices where people can go when they need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the office.

    Other things that help people perform at maximum capacity include ergonomic office furniture, such as desks that convert from sitting to standing and a variety of tools like mouse pads with wrist supports or comfortable chairs.

    3. Update Your Break Room

    Everyone needs short breaks from work here and there to recharge and return to the task re-energized. Is your break room a pleasant place for workers to spend time? Or is it a dark, closed-off dungeon of a room? Think about ways to enhance your break room space. Adding frameless glass panels brings in more natural light, for example, while still allowing the space to be set apart from the rest of the office.

    4. Offer a Long Lunch Break

    The modern office has shifted to a results-driven place. That works sometimes, but it can also create employee burnout. When employees step away from the task at hand, they may find they come back with a fresh perspective. There is a big connection between how engaged employees are and whether they get a lunch break or not.

    About 20% of American workers think their boss will see them as lazy if they take lunch breaks too frequently, and others worry about what co-workers think. Create a company culture that encourages regular breaks and understands breaks are important for refilling the creative well. Encourage your creative team to get outside and take a walk, too, or even visit a nearby museum.

    5. Allow Remote Work

    In a survey of over 3,000 workers, 65% felt they were more productive at home because of fewer distractions and interruptions from colleagues. Not to mention the stress of commuting to the office and the strain of office politics.

    Remote work is highly desirable and may even help your company attract some of the top creatives in the industry. The idea of working from home is quite attractive because of the savings in transportation and clothing costs, not to mention more time with the family thanks to the lack of a commute.

    6. Encourage Five-Minute Meetings

    Have you heard of a stand-up meeting? This is a quick, five-minute meeting (no need to sit down) where everyone gets on the same page and can, therefore, work more productively through the rest of the day. The leader can highlight a task that needs to be completed that day, update the group on goals or get an update from a vital component of a project. Five-minute meetings in the morning help avoid the onerous emails back and forth and the trips to co-workers' desks to find out where they are on a project.

    7. Use Project Management Software

    Project management software allows workers to see which tasks still need finished and who is working on what. And yes — project management software is even beneficial when everyone works under one roof. There is no lag time in figuring out where others are in their tasks. Team members see at a glance where everyone is and what still needs completing.

    For jobs where many different elements need to come together, look for project management which shows elements of the project or at least allows for uploaded files. This lets the writers see where the graphic designers are and the marketing professionals to see what everyone is working on at any given time. It's a seamless way of coordinating bigger projects and breaking smaller tasks into manageable parts. It also avoids a scenario where an important piece of the puzzle goes missing.

    8. Develop a Company Culture for Improvement

    Does your company inspire your workers to improve? You must invest in your employees with training and team-building workshops. Think about the long-term impact you want these programs to have on your team. Do you want them to work together like a well-oiled machine? That might not happen after one trust-building workshop, but it might happen after three workshops and a retreat. Think of these tools as investments that help your brand in the long run and build the best creative team and best employee bank in the business.

    In addition to team-building tools, consider productivity enhancers such as challenging your workers to get "one percent better" in time or talent with each task. Reward success and those who strive to learn and do better for your company. Offer software that helps them with productivity but doesn't invade their privacy. For example, a timer they can use on their desktop for spurts of work and break time is a welcome tool, but software that tracks their every move and makes them feel jittery isn't.

    9. Reduce Stress

    It only makes sense that a stressed worker is a less productive worker. Stress impacts our focus and ability to stay with a task for long periods of time. Reducing the stress for your team is a vital part of creating a productive group. The standard advice for combating stress includes exercise and activities such as deep breathing and personal activities the person enjoys.

    Get out of the office as a team and take a walk and get some fresh air. If things are getting particularly heated in exchanges between team members, encourage them to take a break alone for a bit and reconnect after they have time to de-stress. Host a yoga class during lunch time or plan classes for after-hours in activities the person might enjoy. Insist your team takes their lunch and frequent breaks to step away from high-stress situations and come back refreshed.

    Trust Your Team

    If you've hired well and worked at building your team, it's time to step back and trust them to do what they do best. Many managers make the mistake of micromanaging their employees. This isn't a good use of your time and it frustrates highly skilled workers — many will just leave and go somewhere they feel more trusted to complete the tasks they're more than capable of completing. Give them the tools needed to grow and then allow them the freedom to become more productive and valuable to the team.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How to Provide Resources for Your B2B and B2C Clients Effectively

    If you manufacture any type of product, you likely run both a B2B and B2C aspect of your business. Single purchases of a product to a consumer are possible because of how popular e-commerce is today. While you once needed a middleman to effectively distribute a product, today you can sell it yourself and cut a step from the process.

    Most companies today sell products to both consumers and businesses as a way to increase their revenue and build market share.

    1. Update Your Shopping Cart

    Experts predict that by 2022, online sales will reach about $700 billion. E-commerce grows each year and should continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Reaching both your B2B and B2C clients online requires a cart that can handle retail and wholesale prices and a way to register those with a wholesale license.

    Another aspect of catering to both B2B and B2C is by offering services that both consumers and businesses want. Think about sites such as Walmart that now allow people to sell goods on its site, but they sell those items to consumers.

    rakuten sells products to both consumers and businesses

    Rakuten is an example of a site selling to both consumers and businesses. Businesses can set up a store to sell their goods and consumers purchase items from the site. It offers three options for companies to partner with them — Sell on Rakuten, Become an Affiliate, or Advertise on Rakuten.

    2. Split Your Marketing

    You only have so much of a marketing budget, so you'll have to decide how to split it up effectively. Marketing for B2B and B2C are different. When marketing to consumers, you want to give them a reason to purchase now and tap into their emotion. When selling to other businesses, you must inform the client about how your product or service can help them and be clear about the value proposition. Where you market also changes based on who you market to.

    3. Separate Info

    If you serve both B2C and B2B clients, take the time to create separate areas that cater to them. This allows you to customize the experience based on what information that client wants and what questions different kinds of customers have.

    shipley energy separates its services into two categories, home and business

    Shipley Energy supplies heating oil to both homes and businesses. To reflect the different needs, it separates its services into two categories — For Your Home and For Your Business. It then breaks down the services it offers for each, with a focus on the needs of most homeowners on one side and the specific needs of business on the other, such as fleet fueling. The text is a bit different for each type of customer as well.

    4. Vary Pricing

    When you serve consumers, the pricing is fixed for the most part. You might offer a sale here and there or free shipping with a specific order amount, but the fixed cost of the product remains the same. However, when you work with businesses, you might quote a different price depending upon the size of the company and how big of an order they send your way.

    The easiest way to handle separate pricing structures is to ask businesses to contact you for a personalized quote. They can still connect via email or a form, but offering a custom quote allows you to review the specifics of the potential order and come up with the best offer possible that is competitive with other companies similar to yours.

    5. Deliver Goods More Efficiently

    When you unify your B2B and B2C processes, you have a better handle on overall inventory and delivery logistics. You can invest in better software and processes to track sales and shipping through all points of the process. Even if everything goes through a single department, you can still separate business and consumer orders by having different people in charge of those accounts.

    adobe creative cloud

    Adobe Creative Cloud is an excellent example of a site that delivers digital goods based on the needs of both B2C and B2B clients. Individual users subscribe for $52.99 per month and access features for one person, but businesses can create a license management and deployment program for multiple employees. Prices vary based on needs, and the system varies slightly depending upon the requirements of the customer.

    6. Offer Different Customer Support Options

    The technical and customer support needs of consumers is different from that of business owners. Take the time to adequately train staff to handle your different types of customers. It's smart to have two departments, since business needs are quite specific and different from consumer concerns. Make sure your customer support team is a well-trained machine that handles issues immediately and professionally.

    Integrate Both Aspects

    Integrate both B2B and B2C operations to save money and effort. With a little foresight, you can serve both types of customers effectively. Having just one website lowers overall costs. Customer experience is enhanced as you get a firmer grip on the prices you can offer businesses and remain competitive.

    There are some situations where it's best to separate the two different sides of your business and offer both a B2C and a B2B site and separate processes. However, there are still some marketing and customer service features you can integrate into a cohesive whole.

    Lexie 1

    Guest Blog Author: Lexie Lu

    Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design trends and always has some coffee nearby. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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  • How Your Business Should Be Giving Back This Holiday Season

    holiday donation

    Successful entrepreneurs and businesses give back to the local community and, thus, earn the support and respect of community members and nonprofits. By teaming up and showing you care, your business can amplify its presence in the area and compete with larger entities.

    Success is intrinsically tied to how well the community is thriving on economic, social and cultural levels, so small businesses must remain active participants in their community. Give back with the support of your staff and by networking with area businesses. Try these seven outreach methods to boost how your company gives back this holiday season.

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  • Multiple Locations Does Not Mean Multiple Websites

    Whether you run a huge corporation with locations all over the world, or you started a small business that has expanded into neighboring towns, centralizing all your operations into one website simply makes sense. Not only will you reduce costs in design and web hosting fees, but customers of one location might be interested in other locations.

    Creating a separate website for each location is a bit old school, and designers did use that model once upon a time. But, with modern location tools and the ability to segment websites, it is less troublesome to serve up unique pages for each location while keeping everything on one website. Google is also shifting the way that it looks at keywords, domains and websites so that it is not as necessary as it once was to ensure you use a keyword specific to that location.

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  • Should My Company Invest in Making a Mobile App?

    More and more companies seem to have apps these days. It's a fun thing to tell customers they can download your app, but if you don't think through the pros and cons, an app may wind up costing a lot of money and producing little return. Some industries benefit more strongly from an app than others. However, as a rule of thumb, nearly every company benefits in some way.

    The use of mobile apps is on the rise. Mobile app downloads should reach 284 billion by 2020. Here are some of the reasons you should consider adding a mobile app and a few examples of companies doing mobile right.

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  • Start Up Business - How To Get Help With Funding Your New Business

    start your own business helpEntrepreneurs require funds through which they can establish their startup businesses and establish a foothold in their industry. However, they usually do not have enough funds and need investment from external sources.

    In the modern era, there are a number of opportunities available for startups to get funding and spread their reach via digital means. However, the abundance of choices also makes it difficult to opt for appropriate resources that can help them cover all expenditures. It is necessary to find the business niche first then perform a search to determine which method is most suitable.

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  • Start Up Business - Maintaining Social Media Presence

    girl searching social mediaSocial media offers the perfect platform for businesses to connect with their target audiences. A strong social media presence has become a necessity for businesses both large and small.

    The fact that social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and others have millions of active users makes it too powerful of a platform to ignore. A company can leverage the power of social media to create a strong bond with their customers, build a brand image, and see their profits climb exponentially.

    While the importance of maintaining a social media presence cannot be ignored, not all companies have the resources including time and manpower to manage a full-force social media campaign.

    The solution, however, is simple: Outsource!

    Outsourcing social media marketing provides many benefits. Here are five ways businesses can benefit from outsourcing social media management to an experienced firm.

    1. Get the Help of Experts

    When you outsource social media marketing to an experienced agency, you can leverage their experience, expertise, and knowledge in creating a strong social media presence. Companies that offer specialized social media services use tested strategies for creating an online presence. This makes the costs of hiring the experts worth it in the end.

    2. Create a Consistent Brand Message

    You should have a consistent brand message across different social media sites. An expert social media agency will tightly define the brand message and integrate it across multiple platforms. A consistent brand message is important to connect with customers.

    3. Social Media Analytics

    An expert social media agency can perform advanced analytics allowing you to gain more insights about your customers. You will know which products or campaigns get the most positive response from online users. The information gathered through social media analytics can help fine-tune your overall marketing strategy.

    4. Save Time and Effort

    While posting on social media sites may look simple, it's not as easy as it seems.  Managing multiple social media accounts is time-consuming. Creating posts and responding to users requires a lot of effort. There are a lot of things to look at to create the perfect post.

    By outsourcing the activity to an experienced social media company, you will be able to divert the saved time and effort of the in-house team to more important aspects of running a business.

    5. Dedicated Team of Experts

    When hiring a social media agency your business obtains the services of a dedicated and knowledgeable team of experts. The team consists of top-of-the-line social media experts, graphics designers, content marketing strategists, and certified digital marketing specialists. Their combined efforts will do wonders for your social media campaign.

    A social media consultant can take the pain out of managing a presence in the cyber world. The rewards of outsourcing to an experienced social media agency exceed the costs. If you want help in creating a social media presence, you can contact BCS Website Services by dialing 804-421-2400 today and book a consultation.

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  • Start Up Business - Risk Management

     Risk Management is an efficient process through which risk can be minimized and suitable steps can be taken to reduce their negative impactsStartup Businesses begin at an inherently high risk when they are launched. They can sustain for long periods of time only if they generate profits and attract customers through their products and services. Proper strategic planning must be done to ensure the business will perform well.

    Risk is a crucial factor that can suddenly affect business planning and cause challenges to its survival among competitors. Risk Management is an efficient process through which risk can be minimized and suitable steps can be taken to reduce their negative impacts.

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