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Tips, resources, product reviews and general information relating to web design, web marketing, the latest trends and random thoughts from Keystrokes Design and Marketing.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Web Design 101 - Determining Your Colors

You've got your domain name, you know where it will be hosted and now you want to create your web site. Where to start? You can start by picking your colors or by sketching out a general site layout. We'll start with colors.

If you have a company logo, it is a good place to start when determining your color scheme. If not, a photo or graphic that you plan on using at the site can be an inspiration too. You will need one main color to act as an anchor for the design. You can pick one from the logo/photo or one that will compliment it.

Once you have a main color, go to ColorSchemer Online. You can plug in your primary color and then color schemer will give you a page of 16 colors that perfectly compliment your main color. You can even lighten or darken the entire scheme.

Pick your main color plus two to four accent colors. These will be your base for your web elements - like buttons, headings, table/container backgrounds, etc. Depending on the theme of your site, you may want a few more colors from the same grouping too.

I recommend trying a few different color schemes and getting input from others. Chances are, you will go back to the color scheme you tried first, but you may get more impact if you go outside your initial idea.

Need ideas using pre-done color schemes? ColorSchemer also has pre-picked palettes that can be pretty inspiring.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cool Tool Review - Skype

Talk to anyone in the world for free, using your computer? This sounds too good to be true, but it really is true! I was trying to arrange a conference call between myself and three associates in the UK. The thought of that phone bill was frightening! Luckily one of the UK associates suggested I download Skype. It was a fast, free, setup - taking no more than 5 minutes of my time. All I needed was a microphone and a computer. When it was time to have the conference call, my associate simply "skype-d me" and my computer started ringing. I answered the call with the click of a mouse and started the conference call. The line was clear - like they were in the next city. Amazing! I have even had a conversation with an associate while she was in China using Skype.

Where Skype has really been a life-saver though, is with the kids. My son loves playing games on the computer at the same time as his friends and they were always tying up my phone lines. His friend got Skype too, and now they "skype" and play on the computer at the same time.

You can even call a US or Canada landline for free using Skype on your computer. Or you can call ordinary phones anywhere else in the world from your computer for the price of a local call with SkypeOut.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Want Return Visitors To Your Site? Invite Them Back!

You just launched the most amazing web site you could have imagined, you've let everyone you know all about it, and you submitted it to the search engines - now what? Ultimately, you want your visitors to come by, look around, purchase a product or call you for a service. But you also want them to come back and do it all over again. Here are few tips to help bring back visitors over and over.

1. Content is key. Fresh, interesting content, that is. Dedicate an area on your home page that you can use to alert visitors of something new on the site, whether it is news, a product, a promotion or what not.

2. Give them a reason to come back. Provide a tool, resource, or product that visitors will want to get from you. Make it easy for them to get to it as well. Don't hide resources three-layers down or ask for a ridiculous amount of personal information first.

3. Invite them to bookmark your site. If your site is on their list of favorite sites, people are more likely to come back.

4. Personally invite them back! Add a Subscribe button to your site. Use an e-mail marketing tool like Constant Contact to build your mailing list. You can send subscribers email newsletters, product offers, announcements, and other site updates on a regular basis. As long as you don't over do it, this can really help you keep your site in front of your customers.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Looking for a Needle in a Host Stack

Once you have settled on a domain name and purchased it, what comes next? A place to host it, of course. There are thousands of companies who can host your site, and hundreds who would probably suit your needs just fine. So how do you find that perfect fit? It is kind of like looking for a needle in a host stack.

If you are having a designer create your site for you, you should probably get their input first as they may have a favorite hosting company. If you are going to take the do-it-yourself approach, then here are some things to consider.

What do you need your site to do? Will it just be a static e-brochure or does it need to work harder than that? Things you may or may not need:

  • Shopping cart
  • Email distribution lists
  • POP Email accounts
  • Database support
  • Content manager
  • Discussion forum capability
Once you have determined what you need, go shopping! Chances are, if you are just starting out, disk space and bandwidth are really not going to be an issue - just about everyone's entry level package will have ample space and bandwidth for your needs. Narrow your list based on which company and package have the features you anticipate needing. Now comes the tricky part - all other factors equal, what makes Company A's package more attractive than Company B's? How is their tech support? How intuitive is the control panel? Are there hidden fees? What is their uptime record like?

As I have been building web sites for about a decade, I have had a chance to interact with quite a few web hosts and have formed my own opinions. I currently have about 40 client and personal web sites spread out over three web hosting companies.

I have been using Jumpline.com as a hosting company since 1998. I can honestly say, they have never let me down! Their tech support is fantastic and chances are, when you call, you'll get one of the same people each time - they have not experienced much turnover in that department at all. I think they are a bit more expensive, but they are worth it. They offer a very stable hosting environment, great tech support and I have had almost no downtime in all these years. They do have many add-ons available, but they are not always intuitive to install and configure.

If you need custom or creative solutions, then Triangle Web Solutions is the one to go with. They are a smaller company, but offer the flexibilty that many of my clients need. Their control panel is one of the easiest to work with and their mailing list software is tops.

My newest favorite is Host Gator! I have been amazed at what they offer for the price. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, then Host Gator is for you. They have hosting programs to fit every need, the control panel is so easy, and the list of instantly available add-ons is unbelievable. I was able to install e-commerce software at no extra charge in a matter of minutes. They have mailing list capability, discussion boards that are easy to set up and Site Builder tools that even a novice could work with.

Finding the perfect fit may take some time and research, but it will be worth it!

Friday, June 23, 2006

What's In A Name - A Domain Name That Is?

You are getting ready to start a new business or expanding your current one to include an online presence, what is your first step? These days you might want to check what domain name is available for your potential business before you purchase your business cards. According to Domain Tools, there are 70,239,946 ACTIVE domain names, of which 52,143,813 are .com names. Over 176,792,761 names were active, but have since been deleted.

Before you go to purchase your domain name, I recommend brainstorming a bit and start with 5-10 potential names. Once you have this list, you need to go to Network Solutions or my personal choice GoDaddy.com to purchase your domain names. Network Solutions has long been the standard, trusted source for purchasing domains, but GoDaddy has proven itself as a leader in the industry and has the best prices for domains going.

Dot com is still king and if you can get a .com name, you really should. You may need to be a bit creative with your domain name - using a phrase or dashes between words, but there are plenty of names left and GoDaddy will actually suggest alternatives if your first choice is taken.

Purchase your domain name or pick up a few. You can always "park" them... but that is an entry for another day!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Diving in Head First

I never expected to start blogging - partially because I don't really like writing, but also because I just didn't think I had much to write about. Well, I have been sucked in! I have had so much fun reading two of my favorite blogs - V-grrrl and Energize.me and I started thinking about things I know.

I plan to post mainly about web related topics like, what to look for in a web host, ways to make your web site work for you, and such; however, there may be the occasional post about raising three kids while working from home, projects I am working on, or other random thoughts.

I hope you will find the tidbits and tips here useful and I welcome all comments!