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.

The “Call Us Now!” Button

There is a concept in physics that states that objects in motion tend to follow the path of least resistance; people work in much the same way. When looking to solve a problem, we tend to look for the path of least resistance. I know that for some of us (myself leading the pack) we’re a bit impatient and want results and answers right now. When it comes to our websites, we can take that ‘path of least resistance’ mentality and incorporate it into solving our users’ problems, especially when it comes to getting in touch with us.

A friend of mine was recently in need of some repairs to his house after a storm. He picked up his phone and did a Google search just like most people do. He found a contractor and knew they could handle the work based on the first page of their website. In addition, there was a very convenient button that said, “Call Us Now!” When he clicked that button, his phone rang the contractor’s office. They answered and had someone out to his house quickly. He didn’t have to dig around and look for a phone number, write it down, or even copy and paste it. Just one click and he was dialing the contractor.

I know it’s probably not the most optimistic outlook of our society to say that we’re too lazy to copy and paste a phone number, but it is where we are at in 2018. We’ve become so accustomed to instant gratification. On more than one occasion, I’ve decided to order pizza from a different place because the first one’s website didn’t have an easy to use, “Click here to order!” button that rang the pizzeria. We like things NOW and don’t want to wait the small amount of time it takes to copy the telephone number, open the phone, paste the phone number, and hit the green call button. We want things now.

Having a simple button on your site that says, “Call Us Now!” – especially on your site’s home page – is a great way to work in that instant gratification we all desire while still accomplishing the goals of your site. The best part is that adding such a button is a relatively easy thing to do, possibly something you can even do on your own. If you find you’re struggling with it, CALL US TODAY!

When a Site Navigation Gets Long

Last week, a client asked for some help adding a new link to their site. The problem they were having, was that their main navigation was now being broken into two lines. Not only did it not look great from a visual standpoint, it was also a little goofy to navigate through. That’s a common problem we’ve seen with several clients over the year. Either too many pages are added or the pages names get to be too long. There are a couple of options that can be explored when this happens, each with its own benefits.

Creating drop downs

One of the easiest ways to handle a navigation that is getting too long, is to add in drop downs. Often times, you’ll find that certain pages just sort of “go together,” and those pages could easily be grouped together in a drop down menu option. For example, if you had a link for Regular Menu, Healthy Menu Options, Gluten Free Menu, and Low Calorie Menu, those could all easily be grouped together under an new (and shorter) main menu heading of Menu. When a user hovers over Menu they’d see all four options and be able to select the page they are looking for.

Creating top navigation

Another option, one that you might need to contact your web designer for help with possibly, is to a create a second navigation. A very common and effective layout that is used on sites is to have the logo in the very top left corner, with a tagline or call to action feature in the top left, with the main navigation then in a line under that. If your site is laid out similar to this, you can create a new, second, and likely smaller navigation bar across the very top of the website (above the logo and tagline). In this sidebar, you can move links for pages such as Home, About Us, Contact Us, and social media links. Doing this will likely free up a fair amount of valuable space for other, more crucial pages.

Decreasing font size

A third option that can be explored, though one that should be used very carefully, is to decrease the font size in the navigation bar and decrease the space between links. With this approach, you’ll definitely want to work with your web designer, because they will need to update the CSS file and they’ll know just how small the text can safely be and how close links can be without causing issues for users. There have been times we have used this approach, but normally only when there is one word that is getting knocked down to a second line. If there are several lines, we will select one of the first two options.

The main navigation of your website is the easiest and main way for many users of your site to go from page to page and explore the site and content, and eventually make a conversion – be it making a purchase or filling out a contact form. The sites main navigation should be given plenty of consideration, especially as the site grows and new pages are added, thus making the navigation bigger. It’s by no means a reason to not put a new page on your site, just might require some additional thought as to where the new link will be placed and how it will impact the main navigation overall.

Stock Photography On Your Website?

At Full Scope Creative, we love having slideshows on the sites that we design. Slideshows can do so much for a site. They provide some action to the site. They provide a visual chance to highlight some different aspects of the business. It’s almost scary, though, how many sites we look at that are using stock photography in the slideshows.

A photo is worth a thousand words. The problem with stock photography is that the same image that is on your site could easily be on your competitor’s site as well. The image could be saying great things about you, but it could be saying those same great things about your competitor as well. If your competitors are using stock photography, this is a great way for you to gain additional credibility in the eyes of many users. Even if the photos are done in house, they capture the uniqueness that is your company. We have a couple clients who use photos that were taken on their iPhone and they work great because they show the look and feel the business.

I’m not saying to never use stock photography, sometimes it is an unavoidable necessity. When you do need to use them though, follow these simple steps if possible.

  1. Don’t use the photos from the first page. Just like on a Google search, not many people go past the first page, even though the sites on the second page still have worthy information. Not as many people will use the images from the second or third or fourth page of a stock photography site. Those images still have a decent look and feel to them, but they don’t have quite the frequency of use as the ones on the home page, thus giving you a better chance of avoiding images used by competitors
  2. Don’t do a general search for something like “family.” Instead, drill down to something a little of specific like “Family outdoors” or “Active family.” Doing this will sometimes bring up additional photos that might have been several pages deep in the initial results.
  3. Probably most importantly, take a look at top 3 competitors, if they are using stock photography as well, make sure you use different images.

Like many things, stock photos have a time and a place. A slideshow on the homepage of your site really isn’t one of them though. If you do need to use them though, make sure you spend a little extra time to find ones that might not be used quite as much as the one with 6 business people all in gray suits with their arms crossed and big beaming smiles (I believe I’ve counted six companies just in Green Bay that that particular group “works” at). Getting your own photos taken might take a little extra time and cost some money, but it will be time and money well spent.

Do users know what to do on your Home Page?

It’s easy to argue that the most important page on a website is the homepage. It’s the page where a large number of users will start their experience on your site. Sadly, though, far too often we see sites with a homepage that is either too distracting or gives no clear direction to the user.

On some sites, it almost seems as if the designer of the site or the business is trying to fit all the sites contents on the home page. Sometimes there is a snippet of info about every aspect of the particular business. I’m not saying that every part of a business isn’t important, it’s obviously important or it wouldn’t be a part of the business. That said, the homepage of a website should be kept clear and really only focus on a couple of key part of a company. Hence the reason on a lot of our designs, we like to highlight or focus on 3 key aspects of a business.

A homepage should really be used to direct users to more information. Once they land on the homepage, we’ll provide that quick little piece of info (image, text, maybe a video) and then provide a link to get to another page of the site that has more content. These internal or sub pages can be loaded up with info (well loaded up to an extent, of course). It would almost be the equivalent of walking into a grocery store and being bombarded immediately with someone telling you about the sale of the day, someone offering you a free food sample, someone from the bank that has a location in the store wanting you to open an account, someone from each department of the store telling you about the great products they have. It would be far too overwhelming for that first 20 feet of a store. Ever notice that when you walk into many stores there is an open area that allow you to see the sort of flow of the store? The homepage of your site should act the same way.

If your website isn’t performing quite as well as you’d like it to be, take a look at the homepage. Is it possibly too cluttered? Look at your business and ask yourself “Are there three really key areas to what we do?” If so, highlight those three key areas on your site and help guide the users to additional content that they might be looking for. Don’t bombard users with too much on the home page. Let them enter the website, take a quick look around and find a natural flow of the site.