Alt Tags

When I was in college, one of my classmates was a guy named Brian. I remember that Brian did everything online. He bought his clothes online before most people would even think about it. He was an early Facebook user while most of us were still figuring out MySpace. He purchased his groceries online long before COVID made that the thing to do. Brian did everything online. Everything. One other thing I remember about Brian – he was nearly completely blind. One thing that helped Brian out considerably when he does things online, is the image alt tag. 

The image alt tag is the alternative text for that image. It describes what that image is. Simply put, if a user can’t see the images on our websites, their screen reader programs will be able to read off the alt tags to help provide a reference of what the photo is. Some people have a crazy idea that the alt tag is for Google and search engines. Let me be crystal clear on this – the alt text is for users with visual disabilities first and foremost. The alt text is there to make our websites as user friendly and accessible by as many people as possible. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to fill out the alt text for an image and provide the description of what is happening.

When you’re entering the text for the alt tag, if you can, use a keyword. Yes, having the alt tag filled out with keywords can be helpful from an SEO standpoint, but it is a distant second compared to making the site user friendly. It is one more chance to help spell out to Google what the keywords for the page are. Not just that, but it’s that extra step of work that Google likes to see. As site owners, if we take the time to provide quality alt text that can explain the image, and not game the search engines, we increase our chance of getting a better search ranking. Again I cannot stress this enough – the alt text is for users with visual disabilities first.

As I mentioned, including a keyword in your alt text, if it makes sense, can help your search ranking. But like so many other black hat seo tactics, if you are attempting just to game the search engines, they will sniff it out from a cyber-mile away and your site will suffer the consequences. Simple stuffing the alt tag with your main keywords and your company name likely won’t provide much to a user with visual disabilities. Simply explain the photo in a few short words and include a keyword if applicable. If there is no way to really work in a keyword, it might pay to ask if the question is really needed or if it’s the best photo available for the page. If a keyword for the page doesn’t fit in the photo, that might be a good indication that you aren’t using the right photo for that page and for the users, whether visually disabled or not. 

The alt tag is an incredibly important part of the images we have on our website. For users with any visual disability, it can make our site so much more welcoming and engaging. A site that is more user friendly and engaging tends to equal better conversion rates and successes. Whether we are selling clothes, groceries, or offering a cool social network, we never know exactly the abilities our users will have. Taking the extra time to fill out simple things like alt text, can mean all the difference in the world to users like Brian. Let me reiterate one more time: alternative text is for users with visual disabilities first, search engines come in at a distant second. 

If content is King, then layout is Queen

I’ve mentioned before that when it comes to a website, content is king. What Google and users want when they are looking at your site is high quality content. 300 words of text on a page is minimum. 2000 words of text on a page is great. But all that text simply displayed in essay form, will be overwhelming for most readers. The trick is to break up the content. 

If the content on our websites is King, the layout is Queen. The layout, realistically, is almost just as important as the content. I can’t imagine the dread my high school teachers would have when they’d have to read essay after essay that was submitted for homework. Double dreaded if they were hand written. Unlike those essays that are paragraph after paragraph, with a website there are endless ways that we can improve the layout. Adding in client testimonials, image galleries, videos, and call to actions are just a few of the easy ways to break up the monotony of plain text. 

With Elementor, Full Scope Creative’s favorite WordPress editor, it’s easy to setup these different breakout or highlight sections. In the Elementor editor, you can save a section as a template, and then easily drop it into any page where it might be needed. The great thing is, once the basic template is in place, the design will stay the same, but you can easily update the content of it. For example, on a site we’re currently building, there is a breakout section that spans the full width of the screen and has an image gallery. When that template is used on a specific page, say Window Cleaning, that gallery can be set to only show Window Cleaning images. When it’s used on the Solar Panel Cleaning page, it is set to only show Solar Panel Cleaning images. All done through the easy to use templates, but customized to the page.

If a paragraph is even running a bit long, simply adding in an image through the text editor is a great way to break up the text. Keep the image a bit smaller (no 2,000 pixel width images here) and position it to the left or the right. An image every other paragraph or so, especially on a wordier page, will help users to keep navigating the page. If it’s a sales page, be sure to include an option to buy or complete the transaction every no and then.

Not only will improving the layout of your websites pages be easier to read for users, it will also help lead to more conversions. More breakout sections or highlights means more chances for a call to action. More call to action buttons means a greater chance to bring a user to the key page to make the sale or fill out the contact form or schedule a meeting with you.

Having great quality content is key for a website. 2,000 words of quality text is great for a webpage, especially for SEO. But paragraph after paragraph after paragraph, can be an overwhelming site for most readers. Yes, content is King on a website. But while content is King, the layout is Queen. 

Getting the most out of images

It can’t be stated enough how important good images are on a website. They can make pages more inviting, easier to read, and play a key role in SEO. When it comes to getting the most out of the images on your site, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

I’ve blogged before about optimizing images, and some tools available on the web for that. But another key aspect to go along with that, is sizing images to fit what they are going to be used for. For example, if an image is going to be displayed at a size of 100×100 pixels, there’s no need to have that image be 1000×1000 pixels. Even if the larger image is optimized through tinypng.com, it will still be considerably larger in file size than needed. Whether you are using a program like Photoshop or a website like resizeimage.net, sizing the image closer to the actual size that it will be used on the site is the first step. 

When you are saving the image through Photoshop, be sure to select the correct file format. Odds are, you will use either JPG or PNG. The key determinant in which to use comes down to the image background. Do you need to maintain any areas of transparency in the image? If so, you will need to use a PNG. While PNG will provide transparency, it is also a larger file size. So if there is no need for transparency, a JPG will work perfectly. 

A third point to be mindful of is the name you give to an image. An image might have a name like img123.jpg from the camera, but that says nothing for what the subject of the image is. This is a great chance to use your site keywords as part or all of the image name, and paint a sort of word picture for what the image is of. For example, img123.jpg says nothing about an image, but jane-doe-ceo.jpg will tell that it is a picture of the company CEO, Jane Doe. The same can be applied to any keyword on your site or subject of the photo.

There’s a lot that can go into getting the most out of the images used on your website. But being mindful of the image size, the file type, and the name of the image, will help get the most out of your images. Good images will make your website that much more approachable, and give you the best results possible.

Speeding Up Images

In recent years, a website’s page load time has been an increasing factor in search engine ranking. While there are a number of things that can impact the speed of a site, one that can be easily fixed is to optimize the images on your site. One of the easiest ways to optimize your images is to run them through tinypng.com. 

Tinypng.com is a free resource that will take any uploaded image, PNG or JPG, and compress the image size. The great thing about tinypng.com, is not just the ease of use but also the fact that while it can save up to 75% or more of the file size, the quality of the image stays the same. You can even upload and save multiple images, again either PNG or JPG, at one time to save yourself even more time.

Optimizing images through a program like Photoshop is ideal, and can help save even more time, but it isn’t required. There is a pro version of tinypng.com, but if you are only managing a single site or two, the free version will work just fine. While the compression saving on one image may not be much, applying that to all the images on your site can easily add up. If you’re looking to improve the load time of your site, start by running your images though tinypng.jpg. It’s a free program, won’t take away from the quality of your images, better load time, better Google ranking. I think you see why I like this program. 

Popups on a Website

Do you remember those good ol’ days of the internet when a website would have countless popups? Popups that had everything from spam to annoying advertisements to non-relevant news articles and every great now and then it would be something helpful. I don’t think anyone misses those days. Popups can be a helpful tool to use on site, but they were so overused years ago that there needs to be a lot of thought that goes in to when and how to use a popup in 2019.

First things first, when you decide to put something in a popup box on your site – don’t do it. Odds are there’s a better way to get that information across than on a popup box. Popups can be more than just annoying on mobile devices, they can be impossible to work with if it is not set up properly. So step one – don’t use a popup, there is like a better option. Let me help you with this a little, things like special holiday hours, a great sale, construction going on in your area, and your new office dog you got do not belong in a popup.

When you do have something that does in fact warrant going in a popup, I can’t stress how important it is to have a big HUGE close button on the popup. Be sure to test your popup on as many different devices as possible to make sure that the great big HUGE close button is easily accessible and can be clicked on any device. Not sure if your close button is big enough? Make it bigger.

And for the popup design, make sure it matches and meshes with your site design. A popup that has a completely different design might grab attention, but to most users it’s going to do nothing but scream “DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!” (yes, I heard that line often growing up. And yes, I have had Mrs. Robinson sang to me many times). When a lot of users see a popup they are going to have natural instincts kick in and close the popup as soon as possible. If the design matches the site you can increase the odds of users viewing the information you’re presenting in the popup.

Popups could have been a great tool for websites to use, but with the abuse and overuse that went on with them in the 90s and early 2000s (and still to this day) they are tough to use. When in doubt, don’t use one and find a better way to convey the information. If you do put a popup on your site, don’t leave it up all the time and be sure to give users as easy of a time as possible in closing it. 

Website Headers

Every now and then I’ll stop in to a new store that I haven’t been in before, feel somewhat overwhelmed at the experience, and really not know where I want to go. A trip to a new grocery store was like that for me once. My options were to go left, right, forward – and I could see a set of stairs going up to who knows where. I could see the produce section, the meat counter, and I could hear someone saying, “Would you like to sample…?” Truth be told, it was a little confusing for me. (I just wanted to find the two items I was looking for – bananas and green olives. You know, the usual.) A website can give that same feeling of being overwhelmed to users, especially when it comes to the header of the website.

When we talk about the header of the website, I’m not referring to things like the individual page headings (H1 tag for you HTML junkies); we’re talking about the area at the very top with the logo and navigation. This header is usually above the main content of the site and has a few elements that can help a user navigate through your site as well as increase the chances of a conversion (however that may be measured on your site). The elements we usually find in a header are the logo, navigation, a Call To Action (CTA), oftentimes a tagline and/or links to social media, and the business phone number and email address.

I’ve been on some sites where it almost feels like they are wanting to cram every last little detail about the organization into that header space: the year the company was started, if it’s family owned, calls to action such as “sign up for this newsletter” or “request this catalog,” a million different social media links, and all kinds of other stuff. The kind of stuff that should be on the site, but not in the header. While we’re at it, let me just say: for the love of all things good and righteous, do NOT put a slideshow in the header. 

What should you put in the header? Keep it simple: your logo, navigation, a tagline or Call to Action, and links to social media. That’s all. There are a number of ways to do this. One of the most effective ways that we’ve found is to do a sort of ‘header sandwich’: we’ll have one line of smaller text going across the top that has the social media links, phone number, email address, and depending on the business. possibly their street address. Below that, we’ll have the logo on the left side of the page (or sometimes centered), and a tagline or call to action on the right. Below all of that is usually where the navigation will go, though sometimes the navigation is off to the right of the logo. Why do we usually follow such a layout? Yes, this formula may get repetitive, but with well-planned creative and design elements, we can follow this extremely effective layout that has proven successful time and time again, site after site.

I know it can be tempting to add a ton of information and features into your header, but keep it simple. Just like going into a store, we want to help give visitors clear direction regarding where they should go next and help them navigate through the experience. If your site isn’t getting the results you were hoping for, start at the top, and see what the header looks like. Oftentimes, a cluttered and overcrowded header will have a negative impact on a site’s overall performance.

Contact Forms

For many websites, it would be considered a win if they users goes to the contact page and fills out the contact form. Contact forms are a great way to provide an easy an non-intimidating way for users to get in touch with us. There are, however, two main problems with contact forms that we run into quite a bit.

The first problem that we see a lot is that the forms are simply too long. Yes, at the end of the day you may need to know 15 questions about your clients to be able to help them, but the contact form isn’t the time or place to gather that info necessarily. As I’ve said many times before, you really do need to KIS your contact forms and Keep It Simple. Once the users fills out the form we can reach back out and dive into a deeper conversation with them. We’ve even got a few clients who will have a user start with the simple contact form that they can quickly review to determine if they can work with the user. They then direct that user to a more in depth contact form that will get them more info they need to fully help the user. By doing that, we can ease the user through the process and not hit them with what feels like a million questions right away.

Another problem we see a lot isn’t on the front end of the website so much, but is a complaint we hear from site owners quite a bit. They tend to get hit with a lot of spam through their site. It’s a common form for spammers to target. Thankfully, it’s really easy to prevent a large number of those spammers from having a field day with our forms. Simply install Recaptcha. Again looking at WordPress and two of the most common contact form plugins, Formidable and Contact Form 7, they make it really easy to add in a recaptcha field. All you need to do to use Recaptcha is get a set of configuration keys from Google (don’t worry, they’re free) and enable them in your plugin settings. The Recaptcha will show up usually as a checkbox that users will have to click in order to submit the form. If you enable Recaptcha and still get a lot of spam, you can switch to the somewhat more annoying version that shows users 9 photos and they need to select the ones that all fit a given criteria (such as selecting all the photos that have cars in them). This version of Recaptcha is a bit more cumbersome for users, especially on mobile device, but does help cut down on spam even further.

As a side note – if you’re using WordPress and install many of the leading contact form plugins, don’t just use their out-of-the-box contact form. Take the time to at least remove the “Subject” question from the form. Most users are not going to have a good idea what that is suppose to mean and you can fill in the subject line on your own in the admin section of WordPress. Odds are you’ll complicate users or add in a question that at minimum doesn’t need to be there.

Contact forms are a great tool to use on your website. They just need a little bit of configuration to keep all the pesky and annoying spam away. They can also be put together in a way to make it a quick and easy way for clients to get in touch with us – and that’s always a win at the end of the day.

What should you do if your website is down?

In the past month, a couple of clients have notified me that their website was down. For them, it was an easy process to correct the issue. They reached out to us at Full Scope and we walked them through fixing the issue. In each of these particular cases, the domain names had expired. We were able to walk them through the process of getting the domain name renewed. If you don’t happen to host your website with Full Scope, here are a couple of great tools that can help.

First, go to downforeveryoneorjustme.com. Simply load the site and enter in your domain name. You will get a notification telling you if the site is down for everyone or if it’s just down for you. If it is just you, you’ll want to check if there is a firewall blocking you from getting to your site. On the other hand, if it is down for everyone, you know to get in touch with your hosting provider as the problem is occurring for your customers as well.

Another helpful tool, although a bit more technical, is whatsmydns.net. Each website is hosted on a server that is assigned an IP address (1.2.3.4 or 48.38.74.89 for example). It’s not a bad idea to figure out what IP address your site is on and keep that information stored somewhere. If you find that the IP address is different from what it’s been in the past, there’s a good possibility that something changed with your domain name’s DNS settings. If your domain name is stored with a registrar such as GoDaddy or ENOM, log in there and see if anything has changed.

Finally, you can also run a WHOIS search at http://whois.icann.org/ . Doing so will give you a detailed report that includes the domain name servers and settings for the domain name. The main piece of information to look for here is the name servers. When your site is up and running, make note of what the name servers are set to. They’ll be something like “ns1.fullscopehost.com” and “ns2.fullscopehost.com” or something similar. If the name servers have changed, again, log in to your domain name registrar and see what was changed.

If you are a Full Scope Creative client who experiences your site being down, just reach out to us. We’ll go through to check for any potential causes of the problem and correct them to get your website back up and running quickly. If you don’t host with us, we will still do as much as possible to help. The three steps above are the first steps we take in order to find out what is going on with the website.

Why I Don’t Like Slideshows

In years past, I was a pretty big fan of having slideshows. Scrolling photos on the home page of a website was useful and successful in helping to generate conversions from “browsers” who are just viewing your site and getting ideas to customers who actually reach out and make a purchase or take another action to interact with your business. But as is often said with anything in the website design realm, Bob Dylan said it best: the times, they are a-changin’.

In the fast paced world we live in, a website is at its most effective when there is one (maybe two) key tasks a user is being prompted to take. Oftentimes that task is referred to as a “Call to Action.” Most business owners know what that one activity is that they want site visitors to do in order to convert that person as needed. Previously, we used to say that a slideshow kept users on a site for a few seconds longer; however, things have changed and we simply are not seeing those results anymore. The biggest focus on many of the sites we’ve built recently is to encourage or entice the user to engage in one of those Call to Action graphics and complete a conversion.

The problem with slideshows is that they provide little value and have considerable downsides. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to someone who made a conversion on a site, be it buying a product or filling out a contact form, who said, “Ya know, it was that third image in the slideshow that made me do it…” The space that was taken up by that slideshow can still be used for a large image, but done in such a way as to help with the goal conversion.

The harm in using a slideshow is simple – load time. Anytime you have a slideshow on your site, it’s going to require JavaScript. The more files that have to be loaded, the longer it will take the site to load. I remember when I first started designing websites; we were told that we needed the page to load in 8-12 seconds. When I started Full Scope Creative, it was half that at most. Today, we are lucky if a user will wait 3 seconds. Therefore having a slideshow load with the required JavaScript (which takes an extra .25 – .50 seconds to load) is simply no longer an option. On a mobile device, the images will likely be so small and clunky that there will simply be no benefit whatsoever of having them.

There are countless other things that can be done in that place. Putting a strong Call to Action is what will drive your results. With several of the sites we’ve done recently, we still use a larger image at the top of the site – but that’s not what drives conversions. Specifically, Call to Action graphics or buttons are what drive those successes. For many of our clients, that Call to Action is more important than any other feature on the site. Why let a slideshow take up those valuable resources, such as load time, when there is simply no benefit to it?

The Role of the Headline

One part of every web page that can be a little confusing for many people is the main heading. It’s the one large piece of text, just a few words, that is featured in a prominent location somewhere on the page. Far too often, I see sites and pages that are attempting to do too much with their headings or H1 tags. The role of those headings is actually pretty simple.

The role of the heading isn’t to sell the product or service, nor is it to explain the whole page. A successful heading will simply grab the reader’s attention and make him or her want to read the full page. It’s really that simple. Sure, it is possible for a heading to sell a company’s product or service, but for many businesses, it’s going to take more than simply a heading to get the job done. The heading should be there simply to generate interest and get the reader to scroll down the page.

If you’re looking to have better headlines on your site’s pages, here are a couple of things you can do. First, you need to understand which problems your user is having and how the information on that page will solve that problem. What pains or problems are they currently experiencing that the information or product offered on that page will solve? Once you know that pain or problem, write out the headline using no more than five words. If it’s more than five, there’s a good chance that a lot of people won’t pay much attention to it.

If you can find a way to work in an emotional or pain aspect to the problems you are looking to address, you’ll be able to connect with your reader in a way that will leave them needing to know more. The sale can be made in the next couple of paragraphs or the next chart or image – but not through the heading. Use the heading to grab the reader’s attention to encourage the user want to read the page.

While proper use of headings (or H1 tags) can be puzzling for many people, they don’t have to be. It may help to think of a heading on your page like a headline in a newspaper: it’s there to quickly grab your interest and make you want to read further. Short and to the point is the key here.

If you need help with headings or any other issues you may be experiencing with your website, feel free to reach out to us here at Full Scope Creative. We’d be happy to help you reach your customers in the most effective ways possible.