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rhodes-law-websiteBeauCreations recently launched a new website for The Rhodes Law Firm.  We’d like to congratulate Tracy Rhodes, our long-term client, on her newly created law firm in Marietta.  The firm is new, but Tracy and her partner Caitlyn Kerr have many years experience in Family Law and Real Estate Law in North Georgia.  Tracy is a top-rated Family Law attorney on Avvo.  She’s also a great writer, and her blog posts on family law are attention-getters that attract people to her website while giving them much-needed information.

This is not the first website we’ve done for Tracy.  You can see a screenshot of the old website below. Built in 2012, it was straightforward and no-nonsense, which suits Tracy’s style.  While there’s nothing overtly dated about this website, you can see that design trends have changed a bit since 2012!

It turns out that savvy internet users pick up on modern web design even if they aren’t interested in design or can’t articulate what’s different.  It’s the old “you know it when you see it” thing.

And it’s not just about looks.  Modern websites are more user-friendly.  They grab attention right away, and help “funnel”  users to the right place, sans a bunch of extraneous searching & clicking.  They perform great on mobile devices, and make it easy for prospective clients to get in touch with you.

rhodes-old-websiteTracy was wise enough to know that an updated website was critical to the launch of her new firm.  She changed domain names as well, and we were careful to ensure that web traffic from the old site is forwarded properly to the new domain name.

Now, after about 5 weeks, we are able to assess monthly traffic.  The new site has gotten more than double the monthly traffic when compared to any month for which we have data on the old website. Additionally, the bounce rate — that’s the percentage of people who leave your site immediately — has dropped significantly.  This is an indication that visitors are finding what they want, and staying to engage with the website.

Tracy is always a pleasure to work with;  We wish her and Rhodes Law every success in the future!

screenshot-450We are proud to announce the launch of the Sports Venue Traveler website.  Rick Lindsay, the website owner, has been traveling the globe to attend major sporting events since his father took him to his first Dodgers game as a young boy.

Rick has made many contacts in pro and college level sports. He wanted to share his passion by creating a site where fans, coaches & athletes could log and track  their travels & events.  After a few false starts, he hired BeauCreations Web Design.

This database driven website presents a special challenge for the developer; it accepts entries from its users, then retrieves the data on demand, sorted by sport, author, date or venue.  Users can view each other’s data and even message one another, but their privacy is protected during the entire process.

Thanks to the power of WordPress and Formidable software, Rick’s website does everything he envisioned and more.

In addition to working on the “guts”, BeauCreations enjoyed doing the graphics and logo for this vibrant website.  Rick was a pleasure to work with, and we wish him every success with Sports Venue Traveler, the site that invites you to document your travels.

 

analytics

First, the disclaimer

I’m not an expert on Google Analytics.  That would take years; there’s a lot to it!

I’m a web designer.  I do small business websites, and I often set up Google Analytics for my clients. Since it can be overwhelming to make sense of all that data, I am writing with my clients in mind – to get them started, and to get them interested.

Now, it’s possible to completely customize your Dashboard (your data overview page), and there’s a good article on that from KISSmetrics: How Google Analytics Dashboards Can Make Your Life Easier. But my purpose here is to work with the standard Dashboard.

Specifically, I want to list and comment on my favorite links / data views.  I’m not promising to be comprehensive about it, either!  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Finding your way to the good stuff

analytics_overviewWhen you log into your account and click on the All Website Data link beneath your website name, you are taken to the Audience Overview page.

If you look at the left column navigation menu, you’ll see that Overview is the first link under the Audience section. Makes sense so far, doesn’t it?

 

navNow, if you click on Audience in the navigation menu, you’ll see that the Audience section collapses (it’s an accordion-style menu), and when it does, you’ll notice the two sections beneath it:  Aquisition and Behavior. Audience, Aquisition and Behavior will soon be your three favorite sections, so you need to know where they are!

Oh and, it would help to know what they are.  Think of it this way:

Audience:  Who is visiting your website?
Aquistion:  How do they find you?
Behavior:  What do they do / see on your website?

Who are my peeps? Audience > Overview

audience-graph

So, back to Audience > Overview.  Here you will notice that by default it shows you data from the past 30 days.  You can change that if you like. The graph at the top of the page shows the number of sessions each day, and if you move your mouse over it, you’ll get a detailed view. A session can be thought of as a visit.  A visitor (user) could view multiple pages in a single session, and the same user could come back  later in the day for another session. So, your number of users would be different from your number of sessions, and also from your number of page views.

audience-stats

The information beneath the graph is, for the most part, self explanatory.  You can see numbers for users, sessions, page views, average session duration, and percent of new (vs returning) visitors.

One stat needs special mention:  the Bounce Rate.  A Bounce happens when a user lands on a web page, them leaves your website without visiting any other pages.  A high bounce rate could mean that users are are not finding what they came for, or that they found your website by mistake.  Bounces are quite common –  after all, the average web users has the attention span of a gnat on meth! Consequently,  a bounce rate of 50% or lower is considered good.

Other fun Audience stats

Audience > Geo > Location: Shows a world map so you can see what countries your visitors come from.  Scroll down to see the list version, where you can compare countries and see who stays on your website longest (among other stats).

Audience > Behavior > Engagement: Shows how long people stay on your website.

Audience > Technology > Browser & OS: This interests me as a web designer.  I want to see  how many people are still using Internet Explorer, even after we web designers have told them not to!

Audience > Technology > Network: Lists what internet service provider (ISP) your visitors are using. This data, combined with the Browser data above, helps me infer what percentage of the website sessions were created by me.  While working on a website, I view many pages repeatedly, generating statistics (ie sessions and page views) that inflate the numbers.  Since I use Chrome as my browser and Comcast as my ISP, I can get some idea of what impact I’m having on the stats.  Good to keep in mind….

Audience > Mobile > Overview: Shows how many users are on desktops, phones and tablets.  You might be surprised!

How did they find me? Aquisition > Overview

channelsThe Aquisition > Overview page helps you see how users get to your website.  The breakdown is like this:

  • Organic Search:  They used a search engine
  • Referral:  They came from another website
  • Direct:  They typed in your web address directly, or had it bookmarked
  • Social:  They came from a social media site (probably your Facebook page)
  • Email:  They clicked on a link in an email (probably because you are sending out eNewsletters)

It’s helpful to know where your traffic is coming from.  But even more helpful is being able to correlate that with other behaviors.   You could answer questions like this:

  • Do my Facebook visitors stay on my website longer than others?
  • Who is more likely to buy a product on my website?  Organic traffic or Referral traffic?
  • Are my blog posts driving traffic to my website?

For instance, from the first line of the example table below, you can see that, for this website, organic traffic generates the highest number of sessions, and also the lowest bounce rate.
channels2
But it gets even better.  You can drill down by clicking on the traffic type in the table above.

If you click on:

  • Organic Search: You’ll see a list of keywords (search terms) that people used to find your site.  Brilliant!
  • Referral:  You’ll see which websites are sending you traffic.
  • Direct:You’ll see which landing pages people go to.  This lets you know which pages are being bookmarked or re-visited.

Other fun Aquisition stats

Aquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries: Shows the keywords / search terms that caused Google to display your website in the SERPs (search engine results pages).  This answers a different question from “which keywords do people use to find me?” (see Organic Search above)   Instead, it answers “which keywords does Google think are pertinent to my site?“. Just because Google decides to show your web address to a searcher doesn’t mean the searcher clicked on it.  If fact, the searcher may not have even seen it,  since Google might have displayed it on the 20th page for that particular search!

Fortunately, Google gives you a bunch of information along with these “queries”:
keyword_stats

  • Impressions:  Number of times Google showed your web address  (for that particular search term)
  • Clicks:  Number of times users clicked on an impression  (for that particular search term)
  • Average Position: Average ranking when Google showed your web address  (for that particular search term).  IE Was it #1, at the very top of the first page, or was it #90, where no one will ever see it?
  • CTR or  Click Through Rate:  The ratio of impressions to clicks.  4% is considered “OK”.

Aquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Landing Pages: Show the pages that users “land” on. These are the pages that Google is showing in the SERPS (search engine results pages).  So, they represent the popular pages, or the pages that Google thinks is most relevant to searches on your website’s topic.

What do they like? Behavior > Overview

The Behavior > Overview page is not that interesting, and it’s redundant with the links I mention below.  But I had to put a sentence here to keep with the format of this blog post!  Moving on…

Other fun Behavior stats

flowBehavior > Behavior Flow: A very cool graphic display of where people go once the land on your website.  It’ll make sense after you stare at it for awhile!

Behavior > Site Content > All Pages: Shows user stats for each page.  A good way to see the strong vs. weak pages on your website.

A note about the data

My Wilderness First Responder instructor told me that a set of vital stats (pulse, blood pressure etc), is practically useless by itself, because everyone is different. One set of vitals only tells you that your patient is alive, not how s/he’s doing.  To be meaningful, you must look at vital stats over a period of time;  you must look for trends.

The same applies to website stats, albeit for  different reasons. User stats are artificially inflated by owners and web designers checking the website.  Search engines have trouble telling if a new user is really “new”, or just a repeat visitor on a different computer.  And how long does a “session” last, anyway?

Google, our main source for this type of information, does not report all search terms, due to privacy concerns.  Hard to believe, I know –  but the point is that you are not getting the full picture.

Take these stats with a grain of salt;  they are not as precise as the appear to be. Better to look for trends as your website grows and improves.  Over time, if you continue to devote attention to your website, you’ll see results!

 

ac-screenshot

BeauCreations is pleased to announce the launch of the Azalea Chapter website!

The Azalea Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society provides information and resources for its members and the public, including  field trips, garden tours, co-op purchases, monthly newsletters and social events.

In Georgia, most of the world’s deciduous azaleas grow naturally, and most evergreen azaleas thrive. That may be part of the reason why this organization has a very dedicated and knowledgeable group of gardeners, scholars, speakers and photographers.

The website is built on the Joomla! content management system, and has some great features, including a rotating news carousel, an events calendar, a fantastic set of photo galleries, and an eNews mailing list that automatically sends blog updates.  All of these can be kept up to date by the organization’s board members, without the help of a web designer.

But the most impressive aspects of the website is the amount and quality of knowledge and resources it brings together;  it’s a must-visit for hobbyists, enthusiasts and experts!

I’m proud of my involvement with this website, and wish to thank Charlie Andrews, Azalea Chapter President, for his hard work and dedication.

Best Wishes to The Azalea Chapter!

girlI’m so excited I can’t stand it.  You might not be that impressed, but…

I just found a new WordPress plug-in called Resize Image After Upload by Jepson Rae.  As the name implies, it takes a photo or image that you’ve uploaded to your blog, and re-sizes it to a size that WordPress can easily work with.  Wordpress will then use TimThumb or some other app to further compress and re-size as needed for smaller images and thumbnails.

Why is this so exciting?  Because today’s cameras take pictures that are HUGE in terms of both size and space requirements, and until now there were only 3 options for my website clients who use WordPress:

  1. Learn quite a bit about image optimization for the web and maybe buy expensive software.
  2. Pay me to optimize images (and perhaps wonder what they’re getting out of the deal).
  3. Ignore all photo optimization wisdom and clog up your website with massive files (which leads to sloooow load times and other problems).

Now there’a better way, and I don’t have to explain to clients why they should care about image resolution, pixels and compression.

This nifty plug-in will do all the work in the background whenever a website administrator uploads a photo.  THEN (this is so cool), they can edit the photo right in WordPress!  OK, that feature’s been around for awhile but I just noticed it.

What this means is that regular folks can now get photos from their cameras to their websites without a hassle.  Woohoo!

When YouTube just won’t do!

After yet another looooong session spent perfecting a tiny video for a client who needs to host it himself, I’ve decide to share my notes and resources.

It is still ridiculous what you have to go through to optimize and host a video on the web these days, due to browser compatibility issues.  Presently, you have to serve 3 different file formats AND a Flash fallback for Internet Explorer!  Hopefully that will change soon, and this post will become obsolete.  In the meantime, I’m using it as a reference for myself, and perhaps an educational tool to help my clients understand why I have to charge extra for this service!

Not many people know how complicated serving video is, because YouTube and Vimeo have made it so very easy to upload and embed videos.  And that’s a good thing!  By all means, if you can possibly use one of these terrific services to host and share your video, then do it the easy way!

But what if you require private sharing – say – on a password protected page?  Or your client doesn’t want the YouTube logo and links all over the place?  Then you’re back to square one, and my page may be helpful:  http://www.beaucreations.biz/video-how-to.shtml

 

Notes & Caveats

  • This assumes that you are a web designer or webmaster (professional or hobbyist).  You need working knowledge of HTML / CSS, browser compatibility issues, and modifying .htaccess files 
  • There are many fine explanations and  resources out there.  Here is a very good explanation of the process by someone who knows a lot more than me:  http://diveintohtml5.info/video.html.  I’ve just simplified things a bit, and added some software resources for file conversions.  The real credit for making this possible goes to flowplayer, which is a great service that actually creates the Flash part for you – a huge time saver and an important peice.  Again, I’m just simplifying….

Here’s what he did:

  1. Chose the top two leading brands of flea control (xxxxxxx  vs  yyyyyyy for you pet-owners).  As it happens, they are quite different. So, our protagonist…
  2. He created an informed and thoughtful website about just that topic:  xxxxxxx  vs  yyyyyyy
  3. He put the website on a domain named…   can you guess?  xxxxxxx- vs- yyyyyyy  .org
  4. On his website, at the end of a very informative article, he funnels you into a choice between the two products, and..
  5. Links you to some inexpensive sources.

funnelThese links are probably affiliate links – meaning he might be getting a commission on a sale that comes from his website.  Honestly, I  don’t know.  But the point is that he could be making a small passive income from helping consumers decide on these two competing products, and making money no matter what people decide! 

It’s brilliant.  I’m not fully a committed capitalist, to tell the truth, but I admire his spirit.  And if you think it’s “cheeky” of him, remember this:  Either of these products is a good choice.  Our dog-friends are certainly better off when their people make an informed choice about this stuff.

 

OK, maybe  it’s not really my all-time favorite, but certainly it’s my fav of the ones I’ve built.

Just goes to show you can create a very very nice website from a WordPress template.  Now lest you think it’s all automatic, I’m here to tell you that template websites still require work, skill, communication and research to create and customize.  Otherwise, I’d be out of a job!

Anyway… add to the lovely template and my own experience the voice of Susan Lorek, a talented marketing consultant, and you end up with an attractive, functional, user-friendly website that also has terrific content and a strong marketing message.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!  Woohoo!

Oh…   by the way, here’e the website:  On Demand Marketing

You’ve seen the photos of  “credible corporate – types” on websites all over the internet.  Frankly, they’re often fakey and tired.

But stock images can be so much more!  Web Designers often incorporate stock graphics into their designs. Everything from background  wallpaper to  swirly lines to Facebook icons can be purchased as stock imagery.

Photos, too!

You can search on all manner of subjects.  When you don’t have photos to promote a product or a concept, or when your own photos are — ahem — less than professional, you can use stock photos.

Are they affordable?  Well, not always.  But if you shop at the right place, you might be surprised at the quality you get –  often for less than $20.

Try www.istockphoto.com ,
Dreamstime,
or Shutterstock.

From a web designer’s point of view….   support for being a minimalist

 

 

 

 

 

 

From this article in as website about vision