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Archive for June, 2010

30 Jun
Posted by Kay

Using testimonials on your web site

A mainstay of positive marketing online is the customer testimonial. It might sound like something easy to plonk in, but a badly presented testimonial can be as bad as none at all. Here are some pointers about what makes a good testimonial, and how you can use them.

Why use testimonials?

A testimonial is like getting a recommendation from a someone about a business.     Presented well, testimonials add value to your website. They:

  • increase trust, because you obviously have happy customers
  • help the sales process, on the basis of increased trust
  • reassure customers that they’re making the right decision.

You should never write fake testimonials, though. If they are badly done, or are obviously fake, then that is like making yourself look bigger than you are. That sort of thing tends to drive customers away.

What makes a good testimonial

Good testimonials will look like real feedback from your customers. They will sound authentic, will not always be overly polished and perfect, and will be qualified by the testifier’s name, company, etc.

A good testimonial is also specific and quantifiable. We all get great feedback, that is a little bit vague. You need to avoid generic statements like ‘I saved a lot of time’, because it doesn’t tell your customers anything concrete. Better is ‘I saved [x] hours because of [y] and [z]’.

People put greater trust in a specific, reasoned statement because it points out where the benefits in using your business are.

How to use testimonials

There are many ways to use your testimonials. You can:

  • place them in your text wherever they are appropriate or relevant
  • display them in sidebars, pull-quotes, mast-heads (and so on), and have them cycle randomly
  • place them at key points in your sales or conversion process. This last is great for providing reassurance on your easy returns policy, or your fast shipping.

If you have a lot of testimonials, you can also display them on their own page. If you do this, keep in mind that people will have to actively view the page. The three points above ensure your potential customers will see them while browsing your site.

Don’t be afraid to get testimonials. Just ask!

Most of your happy customers will be pleased to give you permission to use their comments. And you do need permission. Make sure that you let your customer know how you would like to attribute the testimonial, and be prepared to tell them exactly how it will be used.

Other ways of gaining testimonials are to:

  • look through customer emails, or comments you’ve received
  • run a survey
  • offer a freebie, or bonus in exchange for comments

If you have the time or inclination, you can add a bit of sparkle. How? You could:

  • get audio testimonials
  • get video testimonials
  • add a photo of your customer
  • add a customer’s company logo
  • add links to the testimonials – and that helps them as well as you.

Changing the text is sometimes essential. But be careful!

When you get testimonials from your customers, don’t be afraid to ask for more detail. If you tell your customers exactly what you are after, they will very often be happy to help.

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to edit down very long testimonials. But it is vital that you don’t change the meaning. What you don’t want to do is risk getting complaints!

It is often essential to fix spelling and grammar in testimonials you gain. Again, be careful: changing the phrasing, or the terms used, risks damaging the text’s authenticity.

29 Jun
Posted by Kay

Cupcakes to help the RSPCA

Thanks to Alex Cearns from Houndstooth Studio for the tip – the RSPCA will be holding their fundraising Cupcake Day 2010 on August 16.

Across Australia, official Cupcake Cooks and Cupcake Eaters will be holding cupcake-themed events to raise money for the RSPCA’s much-needed animal welfare activities. Last year’s event raised 1.1 million dollars and the organisation is setting its sights even higher this year.

There’ s information on how to get involved on the RSPCA’s official Cupcake Day web site. It sounds like a delicious and fun way to help protect our furry friends from neglect and abuse.

28 Jun
Posted by Kay

Internet Explorer 6: goodbye to an old “friend”

It’s important for web sites to work on different computers and devices, and in different web browser software – and making sure that they work consistently is one of our jobs as web developers.

New browsers come out regularly, and as web users upgrade and change browsers, old browsers die out. That time has come to say goodbye to one of the more enduring thorns in our side, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6.

When it was released over nine years ago, IE6 was the most advanced browser available, and at one time held an astonishing 90% market share. Over time faster and more secure browsers came out – including two new versions of Internet Explorer and a whole raft of excellent competitors – but many IE6 users,especially in corporate and educational markets, were slow to upgrade. Having such a limited capability browser with such a large market share has really held back web development, limiting our ability to use new, more efficient and more advanced techniques when creating web sites.

In the past few months, IE6 market share has dropped to below 5% world-wide, and at Clever Starfish we’ve made the decision to drop support for this outdated browser. While web sites we create will work in IE6, they may have reduced functionality and will not look as good as in up-to-date browsers. This means we can take advantage of newer, better techniques on sites that we create, as well as reduce the time we waste trying to beat IE6 intro submission.

We encourage anyone running IE6 – or anyone with a friend, co-worker or family member running IE6 – to upgrade to a newer, more secure, and more capable web browser. We recommend:

25 Jun
Posted by Kay

The fine art of caffeine infusion

When the coffee shop at our local shops closed down, the Starfish team were faced with a dilemma. The nearest source of good coffee was too far away to be practical, yet productivity was suffering in some sectors of the team without regular doses of hot roasted goodness.

The answer was actually simple – we had almost no choice but to invest in a proper espresso machine. Dave set about doing some research and decided that the Isomac Zaffiro was a good fit for our usage patterns and budget – and it’s oh so shiny and pretty into the bargain.

Dave and Al are the Starfish baristas, and we keep a steady supply of fresh Five Senses coffee with regular deliveries. Levi doesn’t drink coffee but he’s very fond of hot chocolate, and Uli – despite having previously worked in a coffee shop, and being quite handy with a tamper herself – prefers chai latte.

When she’s feeling conscientious, Kay even bakes muffins for the full cafe experience!

24 Jun
Posted by Kay

For all your bottle shots

Long time Starfish client Jay Heifetz has launched a new web site to highlight a particularly specialty of his: bottle – and particularly wine bottle – photography.

The new site has a similar layout to his existing Heifetz Photography web site, but is branded Bottleshots. It shows off the top quality commercial wine bottle work that Jay is known for, as well as including some of his mouth-watering food shots.

Jay uses the Slideshow Pro Directory software to manage the web site galleries on both sites. Both sites also feature a client login area, where Jay’s clients can see galleries from their shoots.

Bottleshots – professional bottle, glass, and product packaging photography

23 Jun
Posted by Kay

Using Amazon S3 to keep your hosting bills down

Distributing large audio, video or downloadable files on your web site can take up a lot of your hosting account disk space and bandwidth resources. But there are ways around it: and Amazon S3 is one of those.

Australian hosting costs are high compared to some other places in the world, but if most of your customers are based in Australia, there are definite advantages to using Australian hosting. Using a service like Amazon S3 can really help to keep your hosting bills down.

How does Amazon S3 work?

S3 is a online storage web service from Amazon (yes, the online book store). Your web site, any databases, and email are still hosted on your regular hosting account, with all of the local response time and support advantages that go along with that. Large files, however, are stored and served from Amazon.
The disk space available is unlimited, and you are only charged for the amount of disk space and bandwidth that you use. Storage costs US $0.15 per gigabyte, and all transfers after the first gigabyte (which is free), are another US $0.15 per gigabyte. Regular hosting in Australia can often cost more than 50 times that much.

What sort of cost am I looking at?

Let’s say, for example, that you have 250 megabytes of video on your web site – around 1 hour in total, at high quality – and you have 500 people viewing some of that video each over the course of a month. If you have a number of product videos, presentations or lectures, that’s not an unreasonable amount, but it would add up to over 100 gigabytes of outgoing traffic. Assuming you have an Australian hosting account with a 10GB or 15GB bandwidth allowance, it’s not hard to see that you’re going to be well over quota for the month.

Fasthit, are preferred local host, have one of the cheapest excess bandwidth rates we can find at $10 per gigabyte. Westnet, another local host, charges $0.06 per megabyte, which equals $61 per gigabyte, while Telstra charges $0.08 per megabyte or $81 per gigabyte. It doesn’t take long for those charges to add up – and the last thing you want at the end of the month is an unexpected bill for $1,000 – $8,000 or more.  

Using Amazon S3 to store and serve those files, in comparison, would cost you around US $18.34 – quite a bit less than the equivalent Australian hosting account! Amazon provides a calculator to help you estimate what cost you are facing, based on the amount of disk space you require.

How good is Amazon S3?

The speed and reliability of the service is top-notch. Amazon based the system on the infrastructure they developed to run their own e-commerce empire, and guarantee 99.999999999% durability. While response times won’t be as fast for your Australian-based visitors as for locally served files, on average, for large downloads or video this is generally not a problem. For a visitor with a reasonably fast internet connection, it could mean an additional second or so before the video starts streaming or file starts downloading.

Several Clever Starfish clients are already taking advantage of Amazon S3 to store their large files. Contact us if you’d like to know how it could be used on your site.

22 Jun
Posted by Kay

A solicitor’s web site – in plain English

When Queensland solicitor and migration agent Richard Timpson launched his new law firm, he wanted to make sure that his web site not only looked great, but also sounded great – he’s aware that all too often lawyers use language that everyone else has trouble understanding. We got in our copywriter Leticia to simplify and clarify his text, and we think the results speak for themselves.

But first, Starfish Kristy designed Richard a logo, along with business cards, letterheads and an email signature. Then she moved onto the web site, incorporating elements from the new branding into the design.

The site is built using WordPress – one of our first sites to launch with the new version 3 – and is hosted at Fasthit. Richard is currently working with our search engine “guy” Judd on keyword optimisation and Google AdWords.

Richard new firm is off to a great start and we wish him every success in the future!

Richard Timpson Solicitors and Migration Agents

21 Jun
Posted by Kay

New look for Ferrari Furniture

We took over looking after local cabinetmaking specialist Ferrari Furniture’s web site a couple of years ago. The company’s rebrand as Peter Ferrari Furniture & Cabinetmaking earlier this year seemed like a great excuse for a site refresh – so we built them a new front end on top of their existing ColdFusion-driven bespoke CMS.

The new site takes better advantage of screen real estate to show off the fantastic work the company does, especially their highly visible projects in the retail space – and there’s more photos to come.

Peter Ferrari Furniture & Cabinetmaking

18 Jun
Posted by Kay

Don’t forget “offline” marketing

In the rush to get good rankings in search engines, sometimes it’s easy to forget that offline marketing can be a very effective way of promoting your web site too.

Is your web site address on:

  • your business cards and brochures?
  • in your Yellow Pages or White Pages ad?
  • local paper ads?
  • letterdrop flyers?
  • displayed in your shop window?
  • stuck onto your company car?
  • employee uniforms?
  • invoices, letterheads, envelopes?
  • email signature?
  • mentioned in radio or tv ads?

If your primary market is local to where you live, you are probably taking advantage of many of these kinds of marketing opportunities. So don’t forget to include your web site address!

17 Jun
Posted by Kay

A new beginning for a noted photographer

Tony Warrilow has a formidable reputation as one of Australia’s top wedding photographers. After more than ten years at Society Photography in Mosman, New South Wales, he has made a move to Margaret River in Western Australia and launched a new studio, Unity.

Tony’s new site is just a beginning – a blog and contact details – with galleries and more information to come later. The design is clean and minimalist to allow Tony’s work to shine. We look forward to working with him to expand on his site in the future.

Tony Warrilow – Unity

16 Jun
Posted by Kay

Stages of Development

This is a continuation of our series on getting a web site built. First we looked at our quotation process. Now we’ll look at what happens once you’ve accepted our quotation.

Design

Creating the look and feel of the web site is the first step. We’ll re-examine the original quote, anything you supplied to us, and the existing web site if one exists. Then we will send you a list of questions to further understand the site’s purpose, target audience and competitors. We want to get as complete an idea of your vision for the site as possible.

If you have an established brand, we’ll need a high-quality copy of any branding elements you have – your logo, brochures, photographs, and so on. If you have a company style guide – a document detailing the colours, fonts and acceptable variations on your logo – that’s even better!

From this information, one of our designers will create a ‘visual’ – a picture of what the site could look like. We’ll send this to you for feedback, and we’ll adjust and rework it until you’re happy with its look and feel. We will usually create two visuals: one for the front page, and one for an ‘internal’ (general content) page.

Content gathering

While we’re working on the design, you can start putting together the textual content and images. If you’re working with our copywriter Leticia, that means putting together notes and outlines for her to work with.

If you’re writing the content yourself, we’ll need the final content before we start placing your text into the site. You will be able to edit the content yourself, using the content management system, before it goes live. We are happy to advise you about what content you need.

You may wonder why we put the initial content in for you, given that the project includes a content management system. The reason is simple: we want to make sure it looks as good as possible. To get the best result, we need to place the text and make styling tweaks for things like bullet points, image treatments, table styles, and so on. This process is always easier when we work with real live content. It also means that when the site is ready for hand-over, it can go live right away.

If you’re getting search engine optimisation done, this is when we’ll get Judd involved. He’ll review the content and make recommendations on your content format and overall structure for maximum searchability.

Site development

Once you have approved the visual design, we’ll go through a process we call “cutting it up”. This is where we take the visual and make it into a real, working web site. We’ll put the in-progress site up on our development server, so you can view it as we’re working on it. We’ll place your content, and make any last adjustments.

When we’re nearly done, we’ll give you a password for the content management system, and instructions on how to use it. You can login and practise making updates, and you can make any final tweaks to the text.

Testing, deployment and review

We’ll test the site on the chosen target browsers and platforms, to make sure all of your end users have a good experience on your site. We currently support Internet Explorer 7+ on Windows, Safari 2+ on OSX, and Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 2+, and Opera 10+ on both Windows and Mac OS.

If you have a lot of users with older computers who might still be using Internet Explorer 6 (which is now over 9 years old), we can provide support for this platform. This will involve an extra cost for the additional testing time required. Internet Explorer 6 users will not be able to see the same design and features as those using other browsers, but the core functionality will work.

Finally, we’ll ask you to review the site to ensure it meets all your specified needs. Once we’re all happy, we’ll deploy it to your final hosting server. After that, all you have to do is tell the world your site exists!

15 Jun
Posted by Kay

Should you have music on your web site?

It’s a question that comes up every now and then – “Can I have music on my web site?”

The answer is not so much can you, but should you. And the answer is perhaps, if you really want to – with several important caveats. Firstly and most importantly, the music should never play automatically. Nothing is more annoying for a web site visitor than clicking on a link and being bombarded with noise that they weren’t expecting – and if your visitor is at work, it could even be embarrassing or get them in trouble. 

Secondly, you need to make sure you have permissions to use the music. Just because you bought a CD or a digital file doesn’t mean you are allowed to broadcast it. There are rights managed and royalty-free music collections that you can license for web sites, or you can get permission from the copyright holder.

In general, not a lot of business web sites have music, and this is probably because most web site visitors aren’t really interested in hearing your favourite track. Unless there’s a particular point to including it, you’re probably better off spending the time and effort on something else.