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  • Is the World Flat?

    The world wide web, that is! While the roundness of the earth has long been established, the state of web design has fluctuated greatly over the years. Today, flat design is where it is at when it comes to presenting a professional, modern image for your business.

    What is flat design? Simply put, it is a design style that emphasizes simplistic elements and graphics over more complicated, three-dimensional images. A good example of these are drop shadows, 3D text, rotating gifs, background gradients and textures. While a sprinkling of these on a website may still work, by and large, the switch to flat design elements is seen as a more modern approach to websites.

    In the early days of the internet, once people learned how to create their own webpages, it was anything goes. A basic free-for-all meant that one added scrolling text, animated gifs, exotic typography, layered images, floating text, drop shadows and beveled call to action buttons to their heart's content. Oftentimes several of these elements, or perhaps even all of them, appeared on a single website! The result? A confsing, chaotic mess that drove site visitors mad! That's hardly the reaction you want your customers to have when they visit your website.

    At the dawn of the new millenium, a somewhat cleaner design approach appeared, narrowing down design elements to one or two per page. Gone were the obnoxious scrolling texts and animated gifs of a jumping bunny or blooming flower. While this was a welcome relief, other design elements that are today viewed as questionable remained, such as drop shadows and background textures that made no sense to the purpose of the website.

    Enter flat design. In the last couple of years, the pendulum has swung from adding anything and everything possible to a website just because you could, to creating simple websites with a very clean, minimalist approach. Clear call-to-action buttons should appear on each page, with a layout that gently guides your site visitors in a way they would expect without any extraneous design elements to distract visitors from their main purpose in visiting your page. In short: keep it simple, silly!

    We recommend everyone take at least an annual review of their website to see if it reflects current design trends. Business websites that do not have a modern, professional or clean look may drive customers to their competitors. If you think your website needs a refresh, contact us to see what we can create for you!

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  • Psychology of Color

    I saw an interesting chart the other the other day on the “psychology of color”. In this case, it was mainly targeted toward paint colors and home decorating projects. But I got to thinking how color can have an impact on our websites as well.

    Color is one of the first cues we have, as web consumers, when visiting a new website. Color is the first thing our eye perceives, even before any text is read or graphics are observed. The split second we have once we tap a url into the address bar of our browser until it loads fully goes a long way to making a first impression on your customers.

    It’s important to tie color into the nature of your business. For example, one would expect a day spa to have a soothing color scheme, perhaps muted pinks, taupes or greens. A sports car dealership would be best served by concrete grey, black or even red – masculine, strong, aggressive. What color would you expect a landscaping service company to use? Green, of course!

    As part of an overall design statement, color is a very important element. You have choices when it comes to your color scheme. The most popular color schemes are:

    Monochromatic – a single color used throughout your website

    Analogous – use of 2 colors next to each other on the color wheel (red and orange, for example)

    Complementary – use of 2 colors opposite each other on the color wheel (blue and orange, for example)

    It’s important to remember, too, that each color has positive and negative attributes. For example, red can be seen as energizing, bright and passionate, but depending on the use, it can also read as aggressive, angry and temperamental. Additionally, color combinations take on different tones as well; the complementary colors of red and green, while an attractive scheme, may automatically lead many to think of Christmas, which may or may not be appropriate for your website.

    Think about your brand, and how you want others to feel about it. Then tie your overall color scheme – website, business cards, marketing materials, signage, logo, etc. – to this feeling. There is an old saying that you are “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. The colors you choose for your marketing materials, including your online presence, can either sizzle, or fizzle. Give some careful thought before you randomly choose just any color scheme to represent your brand.

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  • You Got Something to Say?

    For anyone with a web presence, and particularly for those who sell their products and services online, customer feedback can make or break your business. Recently studies suggest that up to 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members. What’s more, up to one-third of consumers say that online reviews are a major factor in their purchase decisions. (Source: Website Magazine, June 2013) They lend a sense of credibility to your product or brand, create trust, and generate interest.

    Everyone likes good feedback for a job well done, but how do you get it? Delivering quality products and services to your customers is “the easy part”; getting those same customers to provide feedback on their shopping experience can be a difficult, yet crucial part of the equation.

    AFTER THE SALE

    Follow up with your customers after the sale is always important, but many small businesses fail to recognize this as an opportunity. If you send postcards thanking a new customer for their business, ask them for their feedback. Point them in the direction of your website feedback form, or include a postage-paid card they can use to submit their comments.

    MAKE IT EASY

    Always make it easy for your customers to provide feedback. Don’t simply ask for it without any method by which to submit it. Users are far more likely to click a form with a few yes or no questions than write a paragraph about their experience. Consider adding a form to your website specifically for this purpose, which is emailed directly to you. This allows you to control the testimonials you see on your website, and also provides an opportunity to correct any problems or address any concerns of your customer.

    BE VISIBLE

    You should also add your business to the online review platforms available, such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Yahoo Local, Google Places, Trip Advisor, and others. Once you have established a presence there, ask your users to review your company at one of these sites, and provide the link directly to your page.

    USE WHAT YOU’VE GOT

    Never miss an opportunity to use someone’s feedback as a review. If someone compliments your product, ask them if you can quote them on your website. If you receive positive postings on Facebook or other social media outlets, contact them directly and ask them if they would be willing to submit their feedback on your website (or other formal channel for receiving customer testimonials). If you have a business Twitter account, re-tweet positive comments from users. Even comments said in passing can become powerful tools to attract more business.

    GIVE A LITTLE, GET A LOT

    In order to garner reviews, sometimes you have to give a little in order to get something back. One suggestion is to offer a free trial-size product or an introductory rate for a service in exchange for the consumer’s feedback. The advantage here is two-fold: it encourages new customers to try your product, and gives them a sense of duty to provide feedback afterward.

    BE CREATIVE

    Solicit customer feedback in new, creative ways for the most engaging testimonials. Maybe you could have a contest with a product giveaway for their review. Or ask users to upload a video to Youtube or Facebook that details their product experience. Have a drawing in your shop where people can leave testimonials before leaving. As always, make it easy for them: a simple postcard form, rather than a long narrative, is going to be far more utilized.

    HANDLE – DON’T IGNORE – NEGATIVE REVIEWS

    Some people believe that only positive reviews should be posted online or on a business website. This is easy to understand, as no one wants to paint their own company in a bad light. However, your goal is to lend credibility and trust to your brand. No one has 100% positive reviews all the time, and everyone has an occasional off day. IT’s far more important for customers to see how you handle those interactions, rather than trying to gloss over them or pretend they don’t exist. If you receive a negative review, follow-up with the customer at once. Whether you feel justified or not is not the issue; the customer FEELS as though you fell short. Acknowledge it, apologize sincerely , and ask them how you can make it better for them next time. Offer a coupon or a freebie to earn their business back. Go over and above what you would expect as a consumer, and there’s a good chance others will see this negative review as a positive.

    DON'T KEEP IT A SECRET

    Once you receive a good review, don't keep it a secret! Tweet it, Facebook it, send out an email to your customers ... anything you have to do to get the word out there about you and your company. Often, a simple Facebook post or re-tweet can inspire others to offer their feedback too!

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Thank you for stopping by Aspire Marketing Partners website and blog! I hope to share with you the insight I have gained in operating a small business, and I welcome comments from others with similar experiences. It's when we join together to form a vast collective of ideas, insights and experience that we will gain the most!

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