Ante Meridiem Design: New York based website development company

20 May 2012

10 Benefits of having a content strategy for your website

Perhaps you have said or thought the following regarding web content:

The designer will help me figure out what content will be best for my site. I will come up with some text when I have a chance. Let’s make a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account, and post things related to the business. Is content strategy really necessary? My product and site design are compelling enough to speak for themselves.

Here’s what actually happens. Coming up with content without a plan is tedious, so you put it off. Because the designer is not responsible for the content on your site, the project stalls for a few weeks before you cough up an inadequate amount of it. In a burst of enthusiasm, you create a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account, only to realize that maintaining all of those takes too much time and effort. After a few weeks, you run out of enthusiasm and ideas, abandon your efforts to build a content empire, and return to running your business. The remnants appear half-hearted and unprofessional to your customers, and you fall behind businesses who use content strategy to their best advantage.

Developing a strategy for how to create and distribute content to market your business might sound too time consuming or expensive. To convince you that’s not the case, consider the following benefits of content strategy.

  • It gives content a specific set of purposes that are directly related to your business goals.
  • It saves time and energy spent developing content in ways that don’t work.
  • It aligns your content to the right platforms.
  • It helps you figure out how to use content you already have.
  • It asks you to think about what people want to hear rather than what you want to say.
  • It converts fragmented bits of text into one cohesive marketing package.
  • It assigns responsibility for creating content on a regular basis.
  • It gives you a way to evaluate the success of your content in terms of number of visits to your site, products sold, etc.
  • It makes SEO a lot more meaningful.
  • It allows web designers to focus on the job they’re happy to do.

Read a related post on content strategy for small businesses:
3 content strategy basics for small businesses

16 May 2012

5 signs that you can trust a web designer

You are about to invest thousands of dollars into a website, so how do know that the designer you are thinking of hiring will deliver the goods? Or, perhaps you paid a designer who then disappeared for a few months, and you want to make sure that the next designer you hire won’t do the same. Judging by the designer’s portfolio or a phone conversation, how can you tell that he or she will prove trustworthy? Here are just a few signs to look for:

1. Their portfolio features real projects, not templates.

Any designer can show off their talent in the form of hypothetical or personal projects, but functional sites for real companies indicate that this designer can communicate well and complete work from start to finish. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily look for examples of past work that match your own project, because good designers can adapt to a variety of styles and business models. Rather, make sure that the designers portfolio is evidence of collaborations, not just a showcase of their own “vision.”

2. They keep you informed about about specific steps of the process.

Even in the initial e-mail exchanges and phone conversations, the designer should be able to break down the process so that you know what to expect and when. Otherwise, you might end up with promises but no results.

3. They respond to you quickly.

Failing to answer your questions in a prompt and clear manner suggests that the designer is disorganized, doesn’t care, or doesn’t know what they’re doing. Choose designers who will give you their full attention and communicate as efficiently as possible.

4. They have worked with someone you know.

Ask friends or people in your industry about who designed their site and what the process was like. Listen to recommendations from satisfied clients, especially sources you personally trust.

5. They offer a price that is fair, but not too cheap.

You should be suspicious the moment a designer names a price that sounds too good to be true. All good design is expensive because you are paying for the considerable time, skills and effort it takes to create and maintain the final product. A “good deal” is almost always synonymous with ripoff.

2 Apr 2012

What determines the cost of a website

If you’re searching for the average price for any website, stop. You won’t find it. The cost of each website is unique because it consists of many different factors that can be added or subtracted depending on the needs of the client and the skills of the designer.

First, there is a direct correlation between quality and cost. Quality design takes time, sweat and experience, and there are no shortcuts. Stay away from so-called good deals, because cheap prices deliver poor quality and often require additional payments. Simply put, you need to invest money into the design of your website if you want to generate business, and if you are not willing to do that then you are not serious about your business. The website is the brand, so sloppy design and functionality suggest a sloppy product and customer service.

Second, the concept of the website is a large factor in determining cost. Visualizing the site is the first and often most difficult part of the process, so web designers will charge more for projects that have highly complex and unique concepts.

Each project is different, but here are five questions that most web designers will ask before they can give you a fair estimate:

1. How many pages will your website have? There is a big difference in price between 5 pages and 500 pages.
2. How much interactivity do you expect to have? Will there be e-commerce, sign-up forms, social media integration? Each interactive feature is an additional cost.
3. If you want a blog, will it be customized?
4. How often will you update the site?
5. Do you have a tight deadline? Expect to pay more if time is an issue.

24 Mar 2012

I need a simple website and other unrealistic expectations

I just want something simple and clean

One of the most common misconceptions is that “simple” websites are more economical than “fancy” ones. There is no such thing as a simple website. Simplicity is the most difficult design aesthetic to achieve, and the effort and skill required to produce quality design costs a lot of money. Would you expect to pay as much for a blazer at H&M as a custom tailored suit? Of course not. Read “A Word on Design Value” if you’re not convinced about the correlation between cost and value.

Can I have a little bit of everything, please?

Many clients give designers a laundry list of elements they would like to include in their website: a blog, e-commerce, newsletter, etc. They ask for services just because they have heard it’s a good idea, but rarely do they stop to think about how each element will help their business. To avoid paying for services you don’t need or buying more than you can maintain, start with the most essential elements. You can always add more later.

Content? I hadn’t thought about that

Here’s a classic scenario: the client contacts a web designer and both parties discuss the project at length. It sounds like a good start, but the project stalls for a few weeks. Why? Because suddenly the client is faced with the task of articulating all of the content that will be on their website. Writing a few short paragraphs about your business often proves to be more challenging and time consuming than it seems. Designers are responsible for the look and functionality of your website, not the content. You have to decide what text will appear on each page, or pay a professional to do the work for you.

My website will market itself, right?

After their website is up and running, many clients sit back and expect the popularity and sales of their business to increase. They think that their website will appear on the first page of the relevant Google search immediately. These things will only happen if you are willing to promote your website by making it an integral part of your overall marketing strategy.

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