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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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  • 8 Rules for Designing Call-to-Action Bars

    A call-to-action (CTA) bar is a widget area on your page, typically in a color that stands out from the rest of the design and invites visitors to take an action. Using anchor text in your call to action can increase your conversion rate by as much as 121 percent. Call to actions matter, and the way you deliver them matters.

    You already know that UX is extremely important – the user experience is everything if you want visitors to stay on your site. Figuring out the best way to present even a CTA bar can mean the difference between strong conversions and weak ones. If you aren’t quite sure how to utilize a CTA bar, here are eight rules you can follow to make sure yours is as effective as possible.

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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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  • Are You Choosing the Right Colors for Your Website?

    When it comes to choosing colors for your website design, you are faced with an entire rainbow of choices. It is vital that you choose visually pleasing colors. On average, people form their first impression of your website within 50 milliseconds. That means if your color palette isn't visually pleasing, it takes the user less than a second to be turned off.

    Choosing the right colors for your website can seem almost daunting if you aren’t quite sure where to start. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true tips that will help you choose the perfect color combination to use on your site.

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  • Are Your Harnessing the Best Strategies for Your Social Media Channels?

    Social media is a must for today’s marketers, but knowing exactly how to market on each social media platform can be overwhelming. About 30 percent of millennials say they engage with their favorite brands on social media, so not having a specific strategy will at best be ineffective, and at worst damage your brand image.

    You only have so much time in a day, so utilizing your social media marketing time to the best advantage is important. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can implement that will improve your overall social media outreach and make your efforts more successful.

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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 Target Audience

    target audienceIdentifying your target audience is a crucial stage of your business website planning. You might think that your product or service is meant for everybody but marketing actually weighs heavy on time as well as your pockets. In order to reach potential customers and invest in the right place, you need to choose where to best spend your resources. Following are five easy steps which will help you in determining your target audience:

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  • How and Where to Use Filters on Your Business's Website

    Every day, more and more content gets added to the World Wide Web, and likely to your own business site. People are inundated with information to the point that finding the content they need is a challenge. A big help for most people is the ability to filter through all that data and find the narrow focus they seek.

    Filters are used for so much more than just the content on your website, though. Businesses also use them to monitor how employees use their time and access data about customers. Filters solve some of the top marketing challenges businesses face, such as managing a website and targeting content for an international audience.

    There are some clear places and reasons to use filters for your business website. Here are seven uses and examples of other companies using them well.

    1. Offer Clear Options

    Filters don't always have to look like a navigational hierarchy. You can simply list sizes or options in text or in the form of buttons. Think about the easiest way for your users to access the item and how you can present what they want without making them search for it. The simpler the process of filtering, the more likely people will order from your website.

    macys website offers expansive filtering options

    Macy's offers some expansive filtering options for people who visit its website. When you land on the page, you can filter down your choices by sales or departments, such as men's or women's. In the screenshot above, the selection has been filtered down to kids. The user is then presented with a choice of different sizes. Click on one and you can filter even further by price, featured items, bestsellers or new arrivals.

    2. Secure Your Site

    More advanced website filters also block the information sent out and protect personal data, such as customer contact information. Making sure you have a secure website is important if you want to be compliant with GDPR and other laws protecting the privacy of consumers. In addition to reliable filtering, you should make sure your site has an SSL certificate and an HTTPS prefix. Your site visitors should trust you to keep their private data secure.

    3. Narrow Down to Most Popular Choices

    If you realize most people who land on your website seek a specific item or category, then offer a filter for just those items and feature it on your landing page. This puts the information customers most use at their fingertips and improves the overall user experience (UX). Anything you can do to make the customer experience smoother and more intuitive gives you an edge over competitors.

    quinn company offers a "view machines" filter on their website

    Quinn Company offers a "view machines" filter on its landing page, which is useful to anyone looking for equipment. Rather than going through all the different areas of the site, the person can choose to view new, used or rental machines and further narrow it by categories such as asphalt pavers, backhoe loaders and portable generators. This takes the user directly to the equipment they need.

    4. Keep Filters Above the Fold

    Have you ever shopped on a page and the filters are difficult to find? It's frustrating when you want to narrow your choices but can't find the right options to do so. Keep any filter options above the fold and as near the top of the page as possible.

    Of course, as the choices narrow down and your filters get more specific, you may want to place options next to a product image. However, keep them above the fold as users navigate through your site. You don't want your user to have to scroll down endlessly page after page. You'll risk losing people who don't have much time to browse your site.

    5. Use Words That Make Sense

    When creating your filter choices, try to think of the words people use intuitively to look for items on your site. This might require studying searches and even polling your customers, but much of wording is common sense. You can also examine search trends on Google to get a feel for the words people use when searching for products and services like yours.

    biketours.com allows a search to  be filtered down in an interesting way

    BikeTours.com offers the ability to filter down your search in an interesting way. Once you choose a destination from the main page, such as France, it then provides filters near the top of the page in the left sidebar. Options include narrowing your search by departure month, rider level and average daily distance. Notice how the terms are simple and easy to understand. It addresses the questions and concerns someone might have when touring on a bike through Europe.

    6. Separate Mobile and Desktop Filtering

    About 50 percent of all internet traffic today is via mobile devices. However, the way people browse on smartphones and the way they do so on desktops is different. Think about this when choosing filtering methods, as well as the reduced screen size, and offer different options based on what type of device the user accesses your site with. Test your theories and make sure the changes resonate with site visitors.

    7. Decide on Higher Levels

    Figuring out the best ways to group different filtering options allows you to push specific products or narrow choices according to current events. For example, if you sell clothes, you might offer categories such as women's, men's and kids'. Then, when a user clicks on women's, they can filter the choices by occasions such as weddings, summer, new arrivals and so on. Think about the reasons someone might visit your site and what they might search for while there.

    ScotteVest.com offers some high-level options for filtering

    ScotteVestoffers some higher-level options that are simple and intuitive. For example, when you land on its home page, you can sort by men's, women's, outlet and sale items. Click on a category and you're given subcategories for specific vest types with color filtering options on individual items.

    Test Your Website Filters

    There are many different ways of utilizing website filters to improve the user experience and make your site more functional. However, it's also easy to narrow your focus too much and the buyer doesn't receive enough options to interest them. Choosing the right filters is a balancing act. Try out different concepts and A/B test them to ensure they resonate with your target audience.

    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 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 High-Quality Images Boost Your Branding Efforts

    Have you ever visited a website with images that didn't relate to the website or were extremely poor in quality? Your first thought was probably that the site wasn't very professional, and your overall impression may have been extremely negative. Today's mobile devices and PCs have higher screen resolutions than ever before. People expect sharp images and photos that aren't grainy.

    Around 77 percent of B2B marketers say branding is a critical aspect of their growth — images are only one part of that branding, but they make a huge impact.

    When it comes to branding efforts, the last thing you want your brand associated with is low-quality images. Fans of your brand should immediately expect high-quality, sharp images that draw them into the topic at hand and keep them interested. Your photos need to enhance the overall image of your brand and your professionalism.

    Here are six things to keep in mind as you boost the quality of your images and tie them into your branding:

    1. Choose Relevant Images

    Although stock photo sites abound, these images aren't always specific to your brand. If you want to tie your pictures to your branding, you must come up with guidelines for them so that they're immediately recognizable as part of your company. They should also highlight your products and services rather than showing a random person doing something generic.

    Truskin Naturals add splashes of natural images in a way that highlights their skincare products

    Truskin Naturals takes it to the next level by adding splashes of natural images in a way that highlights their skincare products. Note the high resolution of the photos and how they look almost as though you're there in person. The three-dimensional effect of the water splashing up is a powerful branding message about the natural ingredients used.

    2. Show off Your Brand

    As a business owner, you hear so much about not self-promoting or ramming your product down people's throats. However, remember that it's okay to show your product in images and add your logo. Most people follow their favorite businesses on social media, so let people know you're a business — they have to know before they can follow you.

    3. Evoke Emotions

    One of the best ways of connecting with your customers is via emotion. Figure out what emotion you want users to have when they land on your website and what images best convey that emotion. If you're looking for a feeling of warmth and home, determine what images best depict that emotion. A good measure of the emotion evoked is the one you feel when you first look at the image.

    Superior hardwoods uses images that show the superiority of their products.

    Superior Hardwoods of Montana has a customer base seeking high-quality products for their homes. Any images of their offers should show off the superiority of their products. The company achieves that goal from the moment someone lands on their homepage. The pictures of a gorgeous log home and rugged interiors featuring beautiful woods evoke a feeling of warmth.

    4. Know Your Message

    In one study of Facebook, brands that posted about once a week — between one and five times — doubled their engagement rates. Posting regularly to whichever social media platform you choose allows consumers to count on your brand and increases the likelihood that they'll look for your posts.

    Make sure you know what message you'd like to convey. Whether you're posting content, showing off an infographic or sharing someone else's post, make sure it matches your brand message. If your message is that you help customers overcome a specific problem, every photo you share on social media needs to align with that message.

    5. Be Authentic

    Have you ever seen an ad for a piece of real estate that didn't even come close to measuring up to the actual property? Nothing frustrates consumers more than an image that looks far better than the product is. While you do want to highlight your products in the best light, don't make them look like something they aren't.

    If your handbag is smaller than the average purse, make sure other elements in the photo highlight its actual size. An unhappy customer is likely to tell others how unhappy they are. They also aren't likely to order from you again if you trick them into thinking your product is something it isn't. Be upfront and honest — even with your photos.

    Gerber uses creative backgorunds in their images that shows their products true to scale and size.

    Gerber makes sure they aren't dishonest about their products since they make baby food and parents would protest loudly. Note how their images use creative backgrounds but are true to life as far as size and scale. They don't try to make their foods look like something they aren't. Instead, they let the product do the talking.

    6. Hire a Professional

    This tip is crucial — if there's one thing you should invest in, it's your images. Go ahead and hire a professional photographer who specializes in product shots. Your images will take on a personalized and professional quality that your competitors may lack. Professional-quality photos alone allow you to stand out from the crowd.

    Even on a limited budget, you can still find a couple of solutions to hiring out your images for your site and social media. Work with a photographer on a contract basis, only adding new pieces as your budget allows. You could also seek out a student at a local school who's getting ready to graduate and just wants to add to their portfolio. They're likely to work for a fraction of the price of an experienced photographer.

    If your budget doesn't even have room for a student, take free online photography courses and invest in the best camera you can afford. Study what other brands create and come up with ideas of your own. Even a small improvement in the quality of your images is a positive boost in the right direction.

    Revamp Your Brand Image

    If you've used images in the past that don't reflect well on your brand, slowly replace them a little at a time as your budget allows. Set up some basic standards and messaging for images going forward. Invest in the image content for your brand and attract new customers while keeping the old ones. Pictures are indeed worth 1,000 words — or maybe more — so choose the ones you use for your brand carefully.

    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 Accurately Appeal to Potential Customers

    What is that special “it” factor that makes some businesses more appealing than others? In a perfect world, you would put out a tweet or an ad and customers would instantly flock to your store or website. However, in the world of marketing, you have to do some very specific things to make an impact and grab the attention of potential customers.

    There are some specific psychological triggers you can use to appeal to potential customers. Figuring out what makes your target audience tick is the main component of appealing to them. Here are seven ways you can stand out to the exact people you most want to reach.

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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 Highlight Your USP On Your Website

    A Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, is a factor the seller presents to the target audience to convey why a product or service is superior to competitors. You can verbally mention a few advantages during a radio or television ad or show images that get your point across in print media.

    So how should you go about calling attention to a USP online within your website? Keep reading to get tips, as well as case studies from brands that excel at this.

    Showcase Industry-Related Knowledge

    Perhaps you sell a product easily obtained almost anywhere, but it’s an item that has varying levels of quality depending on the source. Since the late 1800s, the De Beers diamond company has used the slogan, “A Diamond Is Forever.” It has successfully established itself as a brand able to provide enduring jewelry that matches that phrase.

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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 Improve Your Video Marketing Campaign on a Limited Budget

    Everywhere you look these days, there are videos promoting brands. The world is saturated with video, whether it is on television, websites or social media channels. You might worry that you can't compete with big players because creating video marketing campaigns is costly. While creating a video can be expensive, you can also create one fairly inexpensively on a limited budget.

    Experts predict that by 2019, 80 percent of consumer internet traffic will be video viewing. When you consider that number, it's a no-brainer that you need to implement videos into your marketing campaign. Here are eight key ways to improve your video marketing even if your budget is mere pennies a day.

    1. Focus on the Unique Selling Proposition

    If you only have the funds to create a single video, really hone in on the quality. Make sure you get across your unique selling proposition (USP). Before you can create a successful video, you have to understand its purpose. What message do you want to get across to the consumer?

    blendtec videos mix unusual items to see if their blenders will take abuse

    Blendtec does a series of videos titled "Will It Blend?" where it tries to mix unusual items to see if its blenders hold up to extreme abuse. In the video screenshot above, the tester tries to blend Justin Bieber merchandise. He also attempts to blend a computer keyboard, Amazon Echo, iPad, iPhone and glow sticks.

    2. Get Your Customers Involved

    Ask your customers to upload their video testimonials to social media. Customer testimonial videos are among the most effective marketing tactics. These days, almost everyone has video capability on their cellphones, so ask your favorite customers to upload testimonials. Offer them a loyalty prize or discount, or host a contest to encourage them to create the testimonials.

    3. Go Live

    If you aren't already using Facebook Live videos, now is the time to get involved. About one out of every five Facebook videos are live, and live videos are watched about three times as long as non-live videos. Viewers tend to expect a more casual approach for live videos, so you won't be expected to have professional quality production. A live video is great to stream from an event you're attending, capture a speech you're giving to a local crowd or create buzz and excitement about a drawing or other marketing pull.

    martha stewart live streams holiday preperation videos

    Martha Stewart is the queen of housekeeping tips, and she proves that point in a live-streamed video that provides information on prepping for the holidays. The video features tips for outdoor decor. She uses her own branding by using Martha Stewart products to create the decor and explaining where viewers can buy these items, such as Home Depot.

    4. Get on YouTube

    If you're going to spend money creating a video and making it the best it can be, put that video on YouTube. YouTube is often overlooked as a social media channel, but has more than a billion users. If you want to reach a new audience, YouTube is a good bet. Something that is even more exciting about placing a video on YouTube, though, is that you can make it shareable. Others can embed your video on their own websites and share it on social media. You'll gain access to more than just YouTube viewers.

    5. Create a Sense of Urgency

    If you want a video that urges your customers to take action, create a sense of urgency in the viewer. The goal of your video should be to get the user to take some type of action as soon as they finish watching the video. The goal might be as simple as signing up for your mailing list or more specific, such as buying one of your products.

     quincy compressor video shows viewers how to prevent a catastrophe

    Quincy Compressor offers a film that introduces you to Daniel, a man trying to enjoy a day out on the lake fishing. The only problem is that Daniel's compressor at his business failed. The focus is on the catastrophe and how Daniel could have prevented it, urging the viewer to take action before they face a similar issue.

    6. Solve a Problem

    One of the most powerful things you can do in a video is solve a problem for the consumer. The Quincy Compressor example accomplishes this as well as the sense of urgency. The problem may be one that the consumer isn't aware they have until you point it out. To solve a problem, you must first understand your target audience.

    Why do most people buy your product or service? More than likely, the reason they buy is the problem your product solved. Know your target audience so the solutions you offer become clear and you can play them up in your marketing videos.

    7. Be Yourself

    Allow your personality to shine through in all the marketing you do for your brand, but especially in videos, which should entertain the viewer. Even a low-budget video can grab the attention of consumers if it is unique enough. You might not yet be able to afford an expensive marketing firm to come up with a campaign for you, but you know your brand better than anyone else. You can come up with something fun and interesting on your own for now.

     saddleback leather  shows off its sarcastic side to reach consumers

    Saddleback Leather does a good job of showing off its sarcastic side in its marketing videos. The leather company is a fairly small business compared to some of the bigger players, so this shows clearly how you can still reach consumers and make your video memorable without spending a fortune.

    8. Study Videos

    One of the best and cheapest ways to improve your videos is to study what other companies are doing right. Take the time to dig into videos online and look at the script, the tone, and even the angles and lighting. You may even want to invest in a course on Udemy or a similar site and learn some of the ins and outs of video production. While studying in this way doesn't replace years of education, you can pick up enough tricks to improve your videos and your bottom line.

    Improve Your Video Marketing

    Even small changes make your videos better and attract more customers. At the end of the day, improving your brand image and attracting new clients is the key to success. You may have a tiny marketing budget, but you can invest your time in creating something worthwhile for your brand. You don't have to spend a fortune to create an impact.

    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 Instill a Positive Company Culture and Receive a Strong Return

    Company Culture

    Millennials have entered the workforce, and generational stereotypes may create a clash that isn’t beneficial for positive work culture. At the same time, the generation labeled “narcissistic” isn’t unreasonable with all of their desires, such as requesting a flexible schedule. Their willingness to speak up encourages other generations to do the same.

    Companies need to avoid negative assumptions, and find out how to empower their new hires and existing employees in a growing and aging job market:

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  • How to Make a 3-D Printer Purchase Worth It for My Business

    3D printer

    A 3-D printer is capable of building some amazing things, from a 3-D-printed acoustic guitar to a handmade camera lens and medical models. Despite its incredible technology, a 3-D printer is a considerable investment that needs analysis as a business purchase. After the purchase, businesses should regard aspects like choice of materials, safety precautions and 3-D modeling education for optimal results.

    Businesses that want to get the best use for their buck out of a 3-D printer, helping impact their production process for the better, should heed the six tips below.

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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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Look at what a difference a website redesign makes!

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- Before and After- chesterfieldinsurers.com