design

10 Most Important Parts of a Homepage

The 10 Most Important Parts Of a Homepage

1920 703 Colin Smith

Your homepage: the front window of your business where you get to put what you do on display. The perfect setting to put your best foot forward. The first, and possibly only, impression on a potential customer or client. With so much at stake, you want to be as prepared as possible by leaving no detail unattended to. That’s what makes these the 10 most important parts of a homepage.

1) Headline

Have a single sentence clearly stating what your site has to offer. Get your viewers attention with something that has a little personality to it and leaves a unique impression. People are more likely to read this than your actual copy, so make it count.

2) Sub-Headline

This is your chance to further describe whatever it was that you previously stated in your headline. Elaborate a little more to maintain your viewer’s interest and prompt them to continue exploring.

3) Primary CTA’s

Guide your audience with a well positioned Calls-to-Action above the fold. These CTA’s should take the user to your main objective. If you’re an E-Commerce site take them to your ‘Shop’ page. If you’re selling a service, take them to the page with your differentiating factor.

4) Visual Support

Most people are visual learners, meaning seeing truly is believing. Beautiful, professional photography will be the best way to show off your products, service, or team. Try to restrict stock photography, though there is some worth using, and be sure to show your personality.

5) Benefits

What sets your company or product apart? A few key points highlighted on the homepage make for quick associations the viewer will hold with them as they peruse the rest of your beautiful site.

6) Navigation

Speaking of perusing, make sure your visitors have a clear navigation to guide them. Nobody likes hanging out somewhere where they keep getting lost with no clear way home. Keep it simple, easy to find, and readily available. If possible, include a search bar so if they want to find something specific, they can.

7) Logo

Like we said earlier, most people are visual. A logo gives people something unique they can instantly associate with your company, and the pleasant experience they (hopefully) had while visiting your site. Even if it was brief. Be sure to keep your branding consistent as well to further encourage association.

8) Contact Information

Make it easy for people to get in touch with your company. If you have a brick and mortar location, be sure to include that.

9) Social Media Logos

Give the visitor a way to connect with the company and see it’s personality a little more. Only feature buttons for social platforms that you’re active on, there’s nothing less engaging than a dead social media outlet.

10) Actionable Elements

Videos, downloads, blog posts, animations and other visual elements that involve user engagement will encourage a longer stay and more exploration.

A good homepage won’t look the same for every company in every field, and that’s a great thing. Just be sure you get you point across and give people an ample opportunity to know what you’re about, how to engage with you, and how to buy your product or service if they so choose. If you’re able to do all of that without someone leaving your homepage than I’d say you’ve done a good job.

mobile phone

Google Makes Mobile Site Mandatory

842 452 Marsh Williams

Well it’s now official. If you don’t have a website that is mobile friendly you’ll be harder to find on Google.

After months of proclaiming the importance of having a mobile website, Google has finally implemented their changes that make a mobile site mandatory as part of a company’s SEO strategy. Up until last week, Google operated on the honor system allowing companies to just say their site was mobile friendly, but no more. Now Google is the sole arbiter of this issue and no longer will just take a company’s word for it.

So what’s the impact?

Effective last week searches from a smartphone will include the term—mobile friendly—in the results. By including this tag Google is betting that companies will work to make sure their site is verified as mobile friendly: that’s the carrot. There is also a stick, as the new algorithm rolls out over the next several weeks, sites that are not defined as mobile friendly will be dropped down in the search engine results list. While this is not stated specifically it is pretty much guaranteed it will happen.

However there is a silver lining here. The days of having to have a separate website done in mobile format are behind us. Many content management systems, like WordPress offer a 2-for-1 capability. Any site constructed with these tools should be set up to be “responsive.” This means that you can have one website which automatically reformats for the device being used to view it, meaning there is no longer a need to have separate desktop and mobile websites.

If you’d like to know how your site ranks use this link and enter your domain name.

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

If you need other reasons to value a mobile website consider the following:

  • Mobile traffic leads the Internet
  • Companies with responsive design websites reduce their bounce rate by 11% on average
  • 66% of all email is opened on a mobile device, think what it means for a client to open an email on their smartphone and not be able to read your website when they click there.
  • In a 2013 survey Google reported that 90% of executives used their mobile devices for research and 34% said they abandoned sites that were not responsive

How To Create Well-Designed Emails

842 452 Colin Smith

A few months ago, we did a post for our favorite Attention Grabbing Email Marketing Campaigns. As was mentioned by a few team members (myself included) a well-designed, eye-catching email is something that we found to be the most attractive aspect of different campaigns. Being able to grab someone’s attention is the first step in getting the engagement you hope for in email marketing. But what makes for a well-designed email?

 

The goal is to motivate, not intimidate.
When we talk about good email design in a marketing sense, we are mostly referring to design that marries form and function. The reason this is so important is because it will motivate action, leading to a higher conversion rate. If an email is designed well, a viewer will clearly and calmly be able to locate and utilize a call to action, understand the incentive or promotion, and know who it’s coming from. As a marketer you want to make it as stress-free and appealing as possible. The consumer assumes all of the risk: lost time, doubt in a company, or doubt in security. Using design appropriately can reduce these concerns, and bridge the gap between you and your customers. Here are 5 ways to create an effective and attractive email:

Example Email from IFTTT

Example Email from IFTTT

 

  1. Use a Header– Put your logo or company name at the top of your email, making it clear who is sending the message.
  2. Create a Hierarchy- Just like any other form of content, having a hierarchy allows a reader to skim and quickly decide whether they are interested or not. It also helps to break up your content (someone is more likely to skim or ignore a large block of text.)
  3. Easy to Navigate– If a reader wants to learn more on your site, make it easy for them to get there. The easier you make this, the more likely you are to see conversions. One of the best ways is to have a Call To Action that is pronounced and clear.
  4. Use Imagery-The power of a picture has been praised repetitively. Using photo and video assets will always help. But it is important not to overcrowd and clutter with visual aids, using only what you need will also keep the file size down.
  5. Less is More- While this is usually true in most of design; it especially applies to email design. Having a clear message, promotion, or incentive tells your viewer exactly why you were contacting them. Keep your email simple, legible, and organized. This is the best way to get the attention you deserve for your content.

 

On average, viewers spend around 15 seconds looking at marketing emails. With such a small window of time to make the right impression, use your space wisely. The less clutter, excessive content, and clickable areas there are, the easier it will be to navigate and understand.

Attention Grabbing Email Marketing Incentives

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Email marketing has powerful influence on consumer buying decisions, and if you aren’t making it a marketing priority, you could be missing a huge opportunity for converting and retaining your customers.

Consider these stats for a moment:

  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message (Direct Marketing Association)
  • People who buy products marketed through email spend 138% more than people that do not receive email offers (Convince and Convert)
  • Over 70% of mobile purchasing decisions are influenced by promotional emails (Express Pigeon)

Just getting noticed by your subscribers is the first challenge, but what will be the incentive or carrot you dangle to get the next desired outcome? Here’s a look at some attention grabbing email incentives we’ve seen.

Gretchen Ardizzone

I’m pretty use to discounts or free shipping offers, in fact I almost expect them, but one of the most effective email marketing incentives I’ve received is Bauble Bar’s “The Buried Bauble.” It’s ironic because I don’t even wear that much jewelry, but somehow I’m always sucked in to “The Buried Bauble.” For 24 hours every Monday and Friday, Bauble Bar secretly marks down the price of one of the jewelry items to the guilt-free price point of $10 or $20. The email provides a clue for customers to locate the buried bauble online. For example last week’s clue was “It’s on like NEON.” Customers then search the site looking for the product related to the clue; in this particular case being led to a neon cord bracelet. Aside from staking claim on my bargain hunt, I typically the find myself perusing the site to see what else is new. The brand does a great job with enticing customers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and exposing them to other great products at the same time.

Shannon Blair

I believe email incentives that work are ones that stand out. Whether from a subject line that is quick and witty, to a body that is colorful and fun. Standing out and being creative is what catches my eye. Another huge bonus, when it comes to email marketing, is keeping the voice of your brand. I have the utmost respect for companies that capture my attention with a small amount of characters, then while reading through their email their voice remains prominent, yet attentive. May sound generic but Apple is an email marketing genius. They do all the things listed above that I love, as well as add their own flavor with sleek design.

Colin Smith

Something that always catches my eye while digging through my inbox is a well designed email. If it has attention grabbing visuals, I will usually take the time to read about the deal, product, or news. Recently I recieved a promotional email from Homage, and while I wasn’t looking to buy a t-shirt at the time, their quirky image of a mad scientist/warehouse manager offering “Dr. Dinker’s Mystery Pack”  was enough to make me reconsider whether or not I should add a few more shirts to the collection. Upon actually reading the email it turns out that the 4 Tees for $30 was well worth it. A good incentive is one that a customer can’t pass up. Hook, line, and sinker.

Nathaniel Seevers

I’m with Colin, a well designed email is one of the few things that grabs my inbox attention. After that it needs to be focused (short and concise) and also relevant. I don’t have time to scroll down an email forever. And don’t try to sell me on too many things in one message. TOMS, for me, nails this most often. Their seasonal focused emails puts all the information in one view with a great photo or graphic and minimal copy – usually supplemented by a solid offer.

Sonya Palmer

As Desktop applications have migrated to web apps, and online tools. I’ve really learned the benefit of investing in premium services. So anytime an email asks me to share how much I love their product for a extra offers, or maybe a free trial? I’m in!

Any email incentives you’ve found to be successful? Drop us a line in the comments below or hey, shoot us an email and share!

Photo Credit: takomabibelot

person walking down street

Social Media Changes: What We’re Looking Forward To

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In the competitive world of social media platforms it seems like the only thing that is constant is change. Over the last couple weeks Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all made major announcements for change. While some of these updates have rolled out in a phased integration, others (including us) wait in anticipation. While we wait though, we’re not shy to share our perspective on what this means:

Nathaniel Seevers

Word on the street is a new Twitter layout is on it’s way to a profile near you and including you. I haven’t received mine as of this publish. I’m not one of the cool kids I suppose but based on some early reviews and screenshots I can already make some educated guesses about parts of the new design I anticipate and parts I dread.

Excited to see more: tweets via a new mosaic, less straight line vertical format. The new design takes a queue from the Facebook timeline’s not so side-by-side content “tiles” to provide more information in a single view and even multi-column layout (pictured here) for photos and videos.

Not so excited to see more: arbitrary cover images. I’m confused as to how it’s useful or relevant to a micro-blogging/information resource/celebrity stalker platform like Twitter. I’m all for a little more visual tweet, the summary cards are cool and useful, but a 1500px X 500px cover image?

The bigger design question becomes, how does it all translate to mobile? Does the mobile side change at all? According to a report on TechCrunch back in October Twitter said, “75 percent of its 218.3 million+ monthly active users are accessing the site from mobile devices — or 161.25 million users. And mobile accounts for 65 percent of all its ad revenues.”

They’re a savvy bunch so maybe that’s what I’m anticipating the most; how it all ties into a larger overall strategy for my favorite social platform.

Gretchen Ardizzone

My first instinct when I heard about LinkedIn rolling out its publishing platform to all users was why would I want to blog on LinkedIn when we have a well-built, beautifully designed blog platform on our company website? So as I evaluated the functionality of this new feature, I had a few questions and considerations:

Will people be duplicating content they’ve published on their blog or will it be unique? I’ve already noticed some of the influencers I follow on Twitter linking to their LinkedIn posts, but I’ve also noticed some of it to be repetitive to the content I’m seeing published on their blog. That’s a big best practice no-no for me because you’re training me to stop following one of your channels of communication. It’s going to have to be original.

What kind of metrics can I measure? LinkedIn has some metrics around company pages, but there’s little around individual users to track who’s really reading the content (from what I can tell). We utilize several analytical tools to track our website traffic and can even identify posts that are most read. I’m all about generating the right content to the right audience, but part of being able to do that is having the analytics to support.

Does this shorten the time-span of content? Whatever post is published last will appear to any visitors of their LinkedIn profile. The only issue with that is the next post trumps the prior content. There’s no search feature to allow people to find the content they want based on relative topics. Some of our blog posts, while published maybe a couple months ago, still have application to business today and are not necessarily time-sensitive.

What can we expect from the quality of content we might start to see published? Most blog platforms are relatively easy to use anyhow, but from what it appears the simplicity of the LinkedIn posts take things to a new level. Will everyone adopt a blogger mentality? Yes, folks you still need a beginning, middle and end, and spell check is still required.

Will I start to see an increase in individuals who want to join my network that I don’t know? It’s one thing to follow me on Twitter, but I’m more selective of who I give access to in my network of connections. Just because my content resonates with you may not mean I’m ready to invite you into my inner circle…we may need to have coffee first.

With that said, we’re a digital marketing company and we’ll test it for ourselves before we close the book on this one. It does offer another platform for content to be published that our network might not otherwise reach. And honestly, I’m excited to see LinkedIn’s continued evolution. It’s not my favorite (or first-priority) platform, but I’m pulling for the continued changes because I see potential. The further blending of business and social is an opportunistic position for platforms.

Luke Pierce

If you read the news, are ever on the Internet, or simply converse with people on a regular basis you have probably heard of the staggering 19 billion (yes with a B) dollar acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook this week. This is one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech industry for over a decade and is the biggest news in social media in 2014. What I am struggling with is how to feel about it. I needed to take a closer look at the deal and answer some basic questions.

Why did Facebook want WhatsApp?

Given Facebook’s goal of trying to connect everyone on the planet, WhatsApp and its growing 450m users was a good way to take another step in that direction. But it wasn’t just the fact WhatsApp has 450m users, it was how it got there. WhatsApp reached 450m users faster than any other social network to date, including Facebook. In addition, they are adding users at a rate of 1m a day. Another staggering statistic is how active it’s users are with over 70% of WhatsApp users interacting with the app more than once a day. To put it in perspective, WhatsApp users generate the same volume of SMS messages as every carrier in the world combined.

What does it mean?

For now, not much. The CEO of WhatsApp has been brought on to the board of directors at Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg has said that WhatsApp will continue to operate as its own company. Mostly the acquisition just means that Facebook bought 450m users for its overall network, what they will do with them is to be determined.

Is it good or bad?

At this point, it’s hard to say. My hunch is that it is a good thing that WhatsApp went to Facebook and not Google, who were rumored as willing to pay more than the 19 billion Facebook paid for the app. The rumors said that Google was willing to pay more solely to keep WhatsApp out of the hands of Facebook, which sounds to me like they might have smothered the app if they acquired it. Anything with a user base growing as fast as WhatsApp, I want to see what it evolves into. However, with an acquisition this big there are bound to be some changes. The CEO of WhatsApp is very anti-advertising, but I would be surprised if that continued through the life of the app. If you are currently a user of WhatsApp it would be safe to assume you’ll see some changes in the future.

I’m excited.

When I read more about the acquisition and gathered my thoughts, I decided that I am excited. WhatsApp was, and is, growing at an incredible rate. Faster than anything we have seen before. With it’s mere 55 employees and relatively low yearly revenue, it’s hard to say if WhatsApp would be able to accomplish the same things that it can now with Facebook’s resources backing them. Overall, I’m just excited to see what WhatsApp might grow into.

Are you using one of these platforms in their new form or have an opinion on the updates? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear.

Photo Credit: SomeDriftwood

a compass and a map

Key Components of a Brand Guide

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

A well formed Brand Guide can act as a compass for business decisions and marketing strategies. It’s a reference to why the brand was started in the first place and a watermark for where you’re heading. It’s more than just the design components. More than just the looks. It should, as accurately as possible, describe the entire character. The promise, purpose, the walk, the talk and the look.

Putting together a full fledged Brand Manifesto can take some time but it can pay off ten fold across the life of your business. Consider the following key components of a brand guide when you get started.

Introduction

Give a quick synopsis of the brand. This is your prologue to the rest of the document. The “why” this document, your company, even exists.

Brand Platform/The Core

This is where you begin to flesh out the character of your brand. Just like talking about a close friend, you should be able to describe what your company’s goals are, what it stands for, the company’s personality. Are you a little goofy or very much buttoned up? The value for this section is in details such as below.

Proper definitions courtesy of Brand Channel.

  • Brand Purpose/Mission: How the brand will act on its insight.
  • Brand Values: The code by which the brand lives. The brand values act as a benchmark to measure behaviors and performance.
  • Brand Essence: The brand’s promise expressed in the simplest, most single-minded terms. For example, Volvo = safety; AA = Fourth Emergency Service. The most powerful brand essences are rooted in a fundamental customer need.
  • Brand Personality: The attribution of human personality traits (seriousness, warmth, imagination, etc.) to a brand as a way to achieve differentiation. Usually done through long-term above-the-line advertising and appropriate packaging and graphics. These traits inform brand behavior through both prepared communication/packaging, etc., and through the people who represent the brand – its employees.

Communication – who are you working to create a dialogue with and how…

Market – What is the ideal demographic? Who is our brand for?

Voice – how do we speak to the market? At Shout Out we worked through an exercise to identify an actual person representative of our company voice.

Visual Identity

Now it’s time to get into design guidelines. This part is incredibly important for maintaining a cohesive visual brand. Hand this section to partners, new hires, anyone impacting or using any part of your visual brand. It should contain:

  • Primary Logo and Proper Usage
  • Secondary Logo and Proper Usage
  • Logo No No’s
  • Typeface
  • Color Palette
  • Photography Style

In the end developing a proper brand guide can be an exercise in brand self-awareness as much putting together guidelines for others. Often times it helps to seek out the perspective of trusted contacts not directly involved with your company. Ask them to answer a short questionnaire based on what they do know about your brand.

Photo credit: Olga Filonenko

A Product of Craftsmanship

880 461 Shout Out Studio

Were pretty big fans of beer here at Shout Out Studio. Recently we were fortunate enough to do a collaboration on our own beer with local brewery, Seventh Sons Brewing, here in Columbus. It got us thinking. Craft beer isn’t the only thing now a days being made in small batches by talented craftsmen. Here is a list of some our favorite companies crafting incredible things:

Luke Pierce

Expert craftsmanship comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms of physical states (solids, liquids, and I guess I don’t know of any artisan gases yet but keep me posted). One brand that I use every day and admire their design, level of craftsmanship, and innovativeness comes in the shape of a wallet. zerOz was started by a guy with decades of product design experience, who was one day inspired to create a better wallet.

What I love about these wallets is that they aren’t your typical wallets. They are designed to complement a minimalist lifestyle as it encourages you to rid yourself of month old receipts, rewards cards you use once a year, and anything else that is dragging you down. Each one is made by hand in their design studio from a variety of Italian leathers that make up the look and feel of the wallet while they use recycled materials to give it structure. The innovation comes in the way the wallet functions. The wallet is like a card shaped cylinder with no top or bottom, the cards are meant to slide in and out in the same way you slide a new DVD out of its outer cardboard sleeve and it also has a strap on the back to hold cash. The wallet is an old product, but it is exciting to see new life breathed into it by someone with the expertise to do so.

It’s people and brands like this that make me excited to think of the possibilities when people apply their unique expertise and level of skill to craft new products for all of us to enjoy. There are a lot of talented people out there, I hope they too are inspired to go forth and craft something for us all!

Gretchen Ardizzone

As someone who was taught to sew at a very young age by my grandmother, I have a great appreciation for the skill, patience and attention to detail that goes into making something from hand. One Columbus retailer who caught my eye several years ago for their craftsmanship is Substance. The women’s apparel and accessories retailer offers a curated collection of name brand and local artisan products, as well as designs and produces their own collections. In fact, you’ll often see them making the pieces right there in store. In support of fostering new talent, the second floor of the space also provides a place for up-and-coming independent designers to showcase their work.

Not only does Substance embrace the craft of making a piece by hand, but they’re sharing that with their customers. The brand offers Design Lab workshops which allows individuals at all skill levels the opportunity to explore their creative abilities working side by side with designers to create a one-of-a-kind piece.

If craftsmanship is an important element of what makes your brand unique, make sure your customers see that online as well. Use Instagram to share the raw materials and fabrics of your product or short video of a piece in production, or consider Pinterest to share you brand’s inspiration or DIY ideas for the creative type. The purpose is to utilize the online environment as an extension to your customers and followers to tell those stories that matter to your brand and are relevant to them.

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Keys to a New, Better Website in 2013

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A new website might be in your organizations future. Maybe it’s even part of your new year’s resolution.

Here’s some keys to helping your new website be the best it can be in 2013.

Identify The Value of An Effective, New Website

Knowing how valuable the website will be for your business is absolutely critical before you explore who might be building it for you. Are you a software company and your website might help reduce your customer service calls? Are you an independent insurance agency who needs to compete with engaging websites like those of Geico and State Farm? Are you embarrassed to direct potential clients to your website? read more

Photo of newly sharpened color pencils

How Color Can Impact Your Business

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Color can play a major role in how folks think about your business

Color choice in branding and identity design can come from many different places. Maybe it’s simply your favorite color or the color of your house when you were a kid or it’s a representation of a word or phrase in your company name. All of those reasons are legitimate but another thing you might want to consider is the way your company will be perceived by others because of the colors you use. Some companies also think about potential saturation of a certain color or palette in their market. We did when developing the palette for Shout Out Studio, but we also wanted our colors to reflect our personality and intention. read more

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