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Latest EPORIA News: EPORIA eCommerce redesigns Alaska Smokehouse gourmet food website in time for the holiday shopping season, resulting in rave reviews from customers and increased site traffic, conversion and sales.
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Despite a slowdown in the economy, leading research organizations including eMarketer are forecasting online shopping to grow at approximately 6% over the next year, while in-store retail sales continue to decline.

At a time when all businesses are trying to maximize every sales opportunity, it is amazing to find that nearly 40% of small businesses still do not have a website. However, for the other 60% that do have a website, most of them are planning to continue their online marketing efforts full speed ahead according to eMarketer. The main reasons cited where the costs of doing business online being significantly lower than traditional selling channels and greater sales opportunities.

If you happen to be one of 40% of small businesses without a website, here are some advantages to selling online for you to consider.

  • Cost savings. Websites do not require high overhead costs such as rent and staffing that a retail store location does.
  • Selling online reduces order processing costs – customer orders can be placed online without phone calls or in-store interactions with your sales staff.
  • Reaching a wider audience, thereby increasing sales opportunities. Even if you don’t have visions of selling nationwide, an effective web site can broaden your businesses reach throughout your geographical region.
  • Allowing your company to compete with larger businesses by being able to be found online and generating new business 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Attracting new customers who would not have found your business by using conventional methods such as the yellow pages for your city or driving by your business location.
  • Ability to use your website as an online catalog and marketing tool for your existing customers.

In today’s world, where the average consumer first begins the shopping process on the Internet to collect information or directly make a purchase, your business cannot afford not participating. If you’re seriously looking at growing your business and reducing costs, bringing your business into the Internet age isn’t only an option – it’s a necessity.

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The web is like everything else in life; it constantly changes. This being the case, what may have worked for your business online a few years ago, may no longer be working today. This is why it is critical to choose an ecommerce platform that is highly scalable that can continue to grow with your business as your needs evolve.

If you’re thinking it’s time you made the move to a new ecommerce website, or if you’re unsure of whether you’ve reached that point. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can my website be found in the major search engines?
  2. Do I have a high visitor-to-sales conversion rate?
  3. Is my website using the latest ecommerce technology?
  4. Is my website easy to manage and can I make immediate updates as needed?
  5. Can my website easily grow with my business overtime or is it already outdated?
  6. Is my website effectively competing against my major online competitors?

If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, you are most likely in need of a new ecommerce website for the following reasons:

If your website cannot be found in the major search engines this is often due to design and code issues, which can best be resolved with a new website. In today’s online consumer world, no business can afford not to be found in the search engines where potential customers are searching for your products and services. There is little point to having a website if no one can find it.

If your visitor-to-sales conversion rate is low, this can be due to many site related factors such as your site design, page load times, and shopping cart functionality.

If your website isn’t using the latest ecommerce technology, savvy online shoppers are aware of this and are likely to abandon making a purchase from a site that seems less than professional or outdated.

If your website isn’t easy to manage from anywhere, at anytime, you’re missing out on opportunity. Successful ecommerce companies are able to adapt and react to market changes and update site content on the fly. If your ecommerce platform doesn’t allow you to easily do this, you’re at a competitive disadvantage to your competitors that can.

If your ecommerce website cannot easily grow with your business as your needs evolve, you will either be in a position to stick with a website that is outdated, or change to a completely different platform each time you outgrow your existing website. If your current site isn’t highly scalable to grow as your needs change, it is a hindrance to your business.

If your website cannot effectively compete with your competitors, you’re doing your competitors a favor. Think of it this way, if you go to website “A” and are impressed, and then you go to website “B” which looks less than professional (and outdated), more than likely you will hit the back button on your browser and contact the company at website “A”. This being the case, if your website isn’t presenting your business in the best possible light, it is more than likely doing more harm to your business than good.

These six questions are just a small example of the many questions that should be asked in determining if it’s time for you to take action on establishing a new website. In today’s hyper-competitive world of the internet, and the state of the current economy, you cannot afford to have a website that isn’t reinforcing your brand and producing measurable bottom line results.

If you think it’s time to take your ecommerce site to next level let us know. You will be amazed by the capabilities of our ecommerce solutions and how they can help your business sell more both online and in-store.

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Your web site’s primary and secondary navigation is important to users, search engines, and the overall success of your site. User-friendly site navigation is important to help both search engine crawlers and visitors find their way through your site. Therefore, the easier you make this process, the more pages search engines will index – and the more pages your site visitors will view.

The following are key areas to consider in establishing or reviewing the navigation structure of your web site:

  • Top or Top-Left: A sites primary navigation should be found at the top and bottom of the page, or along the top left side and bottom of the page. This is how users expect to find navigation.
  • Consistency: Your site navigation should be consistent on every page of your site.
  • Simple: Your navigation shouldn’t require much thought to use. Try to keep it as simple as possible.
  • Links to Home Page: Every page of your site should link back to your home page through your logo, top/left navigation and the bottom of each page.
  • Links to Contact Us Page: Every page of your site must contain a contact us link. There harder you make it to find your contact information, the less credible your site will be perceived.
  • Links to About Us Page: This is another page that should be part of your navigation structure site wide. Like your contact page, the About Us page also adds to your credibility. Make sure you’re sharing your story.
  • Links to All Main Sections: Your main navigation structure should link to all of your site’s primary areas.
  • Indicate Current Page: Through the use of breadcrumb navigation or other means, make sure the current page is easily identified in the navigation.
  • Proper Categories/Departments: If navigation is a big job for your site, take some time to think about dividing your navigation into sensible categories or product departments.
  • Accurate Descriptions: Link text (or image text links) should adequately describe the destination page that the link will take your visitor to. Very few people will click on a link that doesn’t make sense to them.
  • Use Alt Tags in Images: If using image-based navigation, make sure you’re using image alt text.
  • Link for Experts and Newbies: Your site navigation should be just as understandable by newbies as well as experts in your industry.

Keep in mind, that the better your site navigation is thought out and implemented. The more likely search engines and visitors will access more pages of your site. How’s your navigation looking? Is it clear and easy to understand? If not, make it a priority to improve it.

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Consistency

In this final post of our series on Guidelines for Good Web Design, we’re wrapping it up with the element that ties all of the other pieces together – consistency.

Consistency is critical to good web design to ensure everything matches. Heading sizes, fonts, colors, spacing, navigation, etc. Good web design should be consistently themed to be coherent from one page to the next and within a single page. Consistency is the most important factor that separates websites that are taken seriously and those that are not. Therefore, if you’re in the business of selling online, consistency in your design should be at the top of your priority list.

Consistency in your site design is about being professional. Inconsistencies in your web design are like spelling mistakes – they lower the perception of your professionalism. Whether your design is simple or complex, keeping it consistent will make it appear more professional and trustworthy in the eyes of your visitors.

The simplest way to produce a consistent web design is to do a lot of thinking and second guessing about how your visitors will use your site before it is ever taken live. Also, having good CSS stylesheets can be of a tremendous help in ensuring a consistent and visually appealing design.

Putting it All Together

As previously posted, the Guidelines for Good Web Site Design include the following elements:

  • Design for Scanning – Your site should be easy for your visitors to scan to find the information they’re looking for.
  • White Space – Effective use of white space makes your design look cleaner and helps to keep visitors on the path you want them to take with less distractions.
  • Site Navigation – Your site navigation should be obvious and provide your visitors with a clear sense of where they are on your site.
  • Design to Build – Out of this world web design is great, so long as it isn’t complex to the point of being a barrier to building your site.
  • Text and Formatting – The text you choose for your web site is among the most important design elements you need to consider. Put serious thought into fonts, text colors, font sizes, spacing, etc.
  • Usability – Think about who will be visiting your site, what they want, and what you want them to do. If your site is challenged from a usability perspective – it will also be challenged in creating significant conversion rates.
  • Alignment – Think of the alignment of a site’s design as a grid, with everything fitting squarely in place. The effective use of alignment can also have a positive effect on your conversion rates.
  • Crisp and Sharp Design – Think at the pixel level like a professional web designer would to ensure your design elements look as crisp and professional as possible. Fuzzy graphics, or poorly done text as images, only take away from the professionalism and trustworthiness of your site.
  • Consistency – As addressed in this post. Consistency can be considered as the glue that binds. Regardless of the elements you chose for your site design, consistency is among the most critical.

Click on any of the above links to read the previous posts in this series.

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Crisp and Sharp Web Design

Keeping your web site design looking crisp and sharp requires thinking at the pixel level. Sure, everything in your CSS will be pixel perfect, but in software such as Photoshop you’re going to have to work for it. To achieve a sharp design for your images and graphics you have to:

  • Keep the edges of your images snapped to pixels, which may involve manually cleaning up shapes and lines if you’re working in Photoshop.
  • Make sure any text that is created as an image is sharpened or smoothed for the best effect to match the rest of your web design.
  • Ensure you use high contrast were appropriate to clearly define boarders.

Look at your site, is it truly crisp and sharp across the board? If not, it’s time to start thinking in pixels.

Previous Post – Part 7 of 9

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Alignment in Web Design

All good web designers understand the importance of using alignment to create associations between visual elements of a web page, which helps site visitors easily understand the objects on the page.

Alignment in web design works by visually associating multiple elements in a way that the elements become instinctively related to one another or share some other commonality. In many cases, simply aligning images and text to the left of the page, or centering it, can make a big difference in how the content is perceived.

As a general rule, you can think of the alignment of a website’s design as a grid, with everything fitting squarely in place. As boring as this may sound it works, since it provides a strong sense of order and is easy for the eye to follow. Sure you’ve seen sites that violate the guidelines of structured alignment, and you may even remember them for that reason. However, for most of our needs, a lack of structured alignment takes away from the flow of our message. Especially if the message is to get a visitor to take action when they land on a web page.

Think about how you would respond to two different web pages that were designed to sell you something. The first page used a top left alignment, and the second page used a right bottom alignment. Of course the first page using top left alignment would make a stronger impression, since we instinctively expect important information to be presented in this manner. As simple as this example may seem, it is a good representation of how you should think about the alignment of your web design. In other words, the alignment should follow an instinctive course and offer a clear and flowing association of the various elements used.

As creative and fun as it may be to try new and different alignments in your web design, keep in mind human nature and what best presents the message you want your visitors to receive. Sure there isn’t anything new and exciting about top left alignment in design. However, it works, and if you’re in the business of selling online that’s what is most important. Results.

Previous Post – Part 6 of 9

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