Tag Archives: google

Why Google Plus is About to Change the Web

Google+From Jason Hiner at the TechRepublic – This is the way Google always wanted social networking to work, and this time the company may have pulled it off.  Google’s previous social attempts have been unmitigated train wrecks, if we’re being completely honest. Open Social failed because Google couldn’t get Facebook and other social networks to buy into the idea of a shared social identity. Google Wave missed the target by not being useful enough to attract any users. Google Buzz freaked people out by naively overstepping its bounds on privacy.

So when Google unveiled its latest social experiment last week — called Google+ — I was extremely skeptical. Still, Facebook is so malignant in terms of privacy and such a mess to use and configure, that I was more than happy to give Google+ a try. I just expected it that it would be a speed-dating relationship like most of my product reviews and destined to last no more than a few weeks at the most.

Damn, was I wrong. After almost a week, I fully expect this Google+ thing to turn into a long-term relationship. I mean we’re not buying matching workout suits or anything yet, but this is definitely more than just a crush on the hot, new thing.

To start, Google+ is what Google calls a “field trial” — a fancy way to say that it’s still in beta. For now, it is open mostly to technology industry insiders and the press. Google reasoned that since reporters were going to be writing about Plus anyway, they might as well let them to kick the tires. Wise move.

Vic Gundotra, Google’s SVP of Social and the head guy in charge of Plus, said, ”We chose the initial seed very carefully. We wanted a lot of diversity, so we have people that represent over 42 of the world’s languages… We’re trying to really test the product, make sure that we meet people’s privacy expectations, that the systems are working, [and] that we can scale. We’ll slowly grow that initial seed as we’re ready.”

The other Google executive running the Plus project, Bradley Horowitz, added, ”Field trial is the right term. That’s not a euphemism. There’s a lot of rough edges in there and a lot of learning we have to do. The feedback we got in the first 24 hours is tremendous.”

Even with its rough edges and without the masses of humanity having access to Google+, the core experience is pretty powerful and it’s easy to see where Google is going with this.

As I wrote over the weekend while diving into Google+, the most attractive part is how easy it is to find, add, and organize your friends (I cited that as the main reason you won’t hate Google+). The friend issue is the heart of all social networks, although it’s so obvious that it’s often overlooked. In fact, Twitter still isn’t very good it, Facebook is a little better, but both of them now look like neophytes compared to the way Google+ does it.

The friend feature on Google+ is called “Circles” and it turns out to be an intuitive mashup of friending (from Facebook) and following (from Twitter). Circles are basically sets of friends that you can drag and drop into groups mirroring your existing social circles — Family & Friends, Colleagues, Local Techies, etc. — rather than just the one big lump of friends you have on Facebook that can result in moments of “worlds colliding” since you have to share all of your updates with all of your friends. On Google+ you can selectively send updates to different circles, and you can also quickly click between the news streams of your different circles.

You can also make circles for people you don’t necessarily know but are interested in following their updates (e.g. Tech Journalists, Famous Engineers, Web Celebrities, etc.). This is where Google+ echoes Twitter because people don’t have to follow you back in order for you to add them to one of your Circles. At that point you’ll see all of their public updates, and most of these folks make the majority of their updates public in order to be seen by more people (it’s the whole social media narcissism meme and it has already transplanted itself on Google Plus).

The real killer feature to Circles in Google+ is how easy it is to find and add friends. Everywhere you see a user’s name or avatar you can simply mouse over it, click “Add to Circles” and then select which circle to add them to. On Twitter, it took me about three years to find about 200 really interesting people (mostly in technology and the media) worth following. It took me less than three days to find that many on Google Plus. Of course, most of them are the same people, so Google+ has the advantage of speed by letting us quickly re-coagulate our existing social graph on the new service.

Google+ Circles

I’m not predicting Google+ will replace Facebook and/or Twitter. This will definitely not be a zero sum game. Facebook has the most to lose from Google Plus, but it’s going to be years before Aunt Jenny and your plumber show up on Google+ the way they recently showed up on Facebook (and it’s possible they never will). All three of these social networks — Facebook, Google+, and Twitter — will still be going strong three years from now. People will gravitate to them for different reasons. They’ll go to Twitter for news and to cyber-stalk celebraties. They’ll got Facebook for private networking, water cooler chats, and games.

So where will that leave Google+?

I’m glad you asked, because that’s the real point here (sorry to bury the lede). To start, Google+ is mostly going to be made up of digital influencers — technology executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals, as well as social media mavens and technophiles in the press. Don’t underestimate the power of this broad group. It’s the same group that has catapulted Twitter and Foursquare into mainstream consciousness in recent years. A large percentage of this group is already in the “initial seed” of Google+ users and they are the ones who have been raving about it for the past week. Look for a lot of them to decrease (but not eliminate) their Facebook usage and spend more time on Google Plus.

However, once you get past the technorati, then the story is going to get really interesting, because in the long run, Google+ is going to be less of a destination and more like the connective social tissue of the Web. I’m talking about social networking moving beyond a walled garden like Facebook or even a controlled ecosystem like Twitter.

Pieces of Google+ are likely to be decentralized with tentacles extending across the Web, the mobile Web, and various computer, smartphone and tablet platforms. In some ways, Facebook and Twitter have started doing this already. They’ve put share buttons and boxes on external sites. They’ve launched client apps for multiple platforms. Facebook has even allowed sites to use the Facebook platform as their engine for user comments. However, the ultimate goal for Facebook and Twitter is to drive users back to their sites where they can be monetized.

Google has a different goal. It needs all of this social data about what people like, how they are socially related, what content they share the most, what context they share it in, and more in order to power its search engine and better organize the world’s information. That means Google’s social motivations have little to do with driving people back to plus.google.com. It’s ultimately about enhancing search and not allowing Facebook to hoard so much of the world’s social data.

That’s why Google has already submitted it’s iOS app to the Apple App Store. That’s why it is already talking about opening up Google+ Hangouts (group video chat) to other video services and clients. It’s why Google is putting little +1s all across the Web and in its search results (even though they aren’t very well connected to Google+ yet). In order to satisfy its appetite for social data, Google ultimately needs Google+ to be ubiquitous across virtually all platforms — both in terms of accessing the service from devices but even more so in terms of micro-connections to the service from third party apps and sites.

Think of +1 integrated into mobile content apps, Q&A sites, blog comments, product reviews, music services like Pandora, etc. Now, imagine reading a product review and giving it +1 and then instantly seeing what all of the people in your “Tech Pros” circle have posted about that product — all without leaving the site you’re on. That’s where I see Google going with this and that’s where this could permanently change social networking on the Web into a much more integrated experience. And, if Google+ succeeds, it would likely force Facebook and Twitter to move in a similar direction.

Nevertheless, one big question here is how far will Google go with the open strategy? Can it avoid the temptation of giving Google+ pre-eminence to its internal platforms, such as Android, Chrome browser, Chrome OS, Gmail, and others? Will it build great apps and functionality for other platforms as well? For example, will it build a client for Windows Phone 7, even though Microsoft is its biggest rival in search? Will it work with Apple to make FaceTime (which has also promised open standards) compatible with Google+ Hangouts? Those are the kinds of litmus tests I’m going to be watching for.

Still, “Google+” is the perfect name for this because it’s ultimately an add-on and a force-multiplier to the existing Google experience, especially its search engine but also to the broader Web in general. Google+ will be a social layer on top the existing Web. At least that’s the vision. This time, Google might just pull it off.

So why is this important to you at all?  We at Hansen Web Design track emerging social networking technologies carefully because down the road, it may be important to your business, just as Facebook and Twitter are now.  Smart businesses know how to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media to extend their reach and marketability.

Keep an eye on Google+.  It will likely be a player.  The exact role it plays in your business has yet to be determined, but watching it and understanding it will make it much easier later.

The Browser Wars and How They Affect You

Browser WarsAt Hansen Web Design we monitor and test web sites in multiple browsers every day, so we need to keep track of what’s happening with the various browsers out there – how they handle basic HTML code, CSS, operating systems – anything that will affect the look and feel of your website.  It’s important that you keep track too – why?  Not just for the reasons we track them, but for another very important reason – speed.  We want your websites to load fast and design them that way to the best of our ability, but you can help things along by using the latest and “right” browser for your needs.

Tom’s Hardware has been tracking the latest round of the browser wars and has completed a superb review of the latest versions of Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, FireFox and Safari.  The results might surprise you!

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter

Michael McDonald of San Francisco used to post his videos on a blog, but now he uses Facebook. Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.

“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.

Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.

Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

Indeed, small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women’s blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said.

“If you’re looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “You aren’t going to find it on Facebook, and you aren’t going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter.”

Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as shifting with the times. Entrepreneurs have taken some of the features popularized by blogging and weaved them into other kinds of services.

“The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging,” Mr. Rainie said. “It’s just morphing onto other platforms.”

The blurring of lines is readily apparent among users of Tumblr. Although Tumblr calls itself a blogging service, many of its users are unaware of the description and do not consider themselves bloggers — raising the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.

Kim Hou, a high school senior in San Francisco, said she quit blogging months ago, but acknowledged that she continued to post fashion photos on Tumblr. “It’s different from blogging because it’s easier to use,” she said. “With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that’s it.”

The effect is seen on the companies providing the blogging platforms. Blogger, owned by Google, had fewer unique visitors in the United States in December than it had a year earlier — a 2 percent decline, to 58.6 million — although globally, Blogger’s unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million.

LiveJournal, another blogging service, has decided to emphasize communities. Connecting people who share an interest in celebrity gossip, for instance, provides the social interaction that “classic” blogging lacks, said Sue Rosenstock, a spokeswoman for LiveJournal, which is owned by SUP, a Russian online media company. “Blogging can be a very lonely occupation; you write out into the abyss,” she said.

Source:  The New York Times

At Hansen Web Design, we realize the importance of social integration and your website, and we can help you integrate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others.  With platforms like WordPress, you can post news on your website and Facebook simultaneously!  Need help setting up a Facebook business page?  We can assist you with that as well.  Call or email us today!

A Curious Guide to Browsers and the Web

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the WebTwenty years ago this month, Tim Berners-Lee published his proposal for the World Wide Web. Today, the web is an explosion of pages and apps teeming with videos, photos and interactive content. These powerful new web experiences—such as “The Wilderness Downtown,” our HTML5 collaboration with the band Arcade Fire—are possible thanks to cutting-edge web technologies that bring all this content to life in the modern browser.

But how do browsers and the web actually work? What is HTML5—or HTML, for that matter? What do terms like “cookies” or “cloud computing” even mean? More practically, how can we keep ourselves safe from security threats like viruses when we’re online?

To help answer these questions, we collaborated with the wonderful illustrator Christoph Niemann to publish an online guidebook called “20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web.” This handy guide is for those of us who’d like to better understand the technologies we use every day.

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web

“20 Things” is written by the Chrome team, and continues our tradition of finding new ways to help explain complex but fascinating ideas about technology. Many of the examples used to illustrate the features of the browser refer back to Chrome.

We built “20 Things” in HTML5 so that we could incorporate features that hearken back to what we love about books—feeling the heft of a book’s cover, flipping a page or even reading under the covers with a flashlight. In fact, once you’ve loaded “20 Things” in the browser, you can disconnect your laptop and continue reading, since this guidebook works offline. As such, this illustrated guidebook is best experienced in Chrome or any up-to-date, HTML5-compliant modern browser.

For things you’ve always wanted to know about the web and browsers but may have been afraid to ask, read on at www.20thingsilearned.com (or, you can use the handy shortened URL at goo.gl/20things). If you find “20 Things” informative, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family!

Posted by Min Li Chan, Product Marketing Manager, Google Chrome

Internet Neutrality?

Recent developments could affect the way we surf the Internet in the future.  For example, Google, who once championed true Internet neutrality for everyone, recently partnered with Verizon to basically state that the rules wouldn’t apply to wireless companies…

The following article is taken from the August 16, 2010 issue of the New York Times and is suggested reading for everyone.  At Hansen Web Design, we not only stay on top of current web design and business trends, we follow technology issues in general that could affect the way you run your personal site or business online.

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SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday at lunchtime, as Google employees dined al fresco, a hundred protesters descended on the company’s Silicon Valley campus. A group called the Raging Grannies sang a song called “The Battle Hymn for the Internet,” and others carried signs reading, “Google is evil if the price is right.”

They were there to complain about what they saw as Google’s about-face on how Internet access should be regulated and to deliver a petition with about 300,000 signatures.

Several of the groups at the protest, like MoveOn.org and Free Press, once saw Google as their top corporate ally in the fight for net neutrality — the principle that the Internet should be a level playing field, with all applications and services treated equally.

But a week ago, Google stunned many of its allies by crossing the aisle and teaming up with Verizon Communications to propose that net neutrality rules should not apply to wireless access and to outline rules for the wired Internet that critics say are riddled with loopholes.

Google’s compromise with Verizon is the latest collision between idealism and pragmatism at the company, which has long promoted the idea that its mission, organizing the world’s information, is for the public good, as underscored by its unofficial motto: “Don’t be evil.”

Some say that as Google has grown up and become a large multinational company, it has been forced to start weighing its business interests against the more idealistic leanings of its founders and many of its employees.

“I don’t know that Google pondered the moral decision this time,” said Jordan Rohan, an Internet and digital media analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “I think the business decision to cooperate with Verizon superseded the other complications and side effects that it may cause.”

Google strongly defends its proposal with Verizon, saying it does not violate net neutrality principles and, if adopted by regulators, would protect wired Internet access more than it is protected now.

“We don’t view this as a retreat at all,” Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy, said in an interview. “Google believes very strongly in net neutrality.”

But the proposal left Google’s former allies, as well as many other technology and media companies, feeling disappointed and even betrayed. The risk, they say, is that without adequate regulation, Internet access companies could exercise too much control over what their customers can do online, or how quickly they can gain access to certain content. They could charge companies for faster access to consumers, hurting smaller players and innovation.

“Google has been the most reliable corporate ally to the public interest community,” said Josh Silver, president of Free Press, an advocacy group. “That is why their sellout on net neutrality is so stunning.”

The proposal from Google and Verizon was all the more surprising to some advocates because it was released just as broader talks brokered by the Federal Communications Commission were close to producing a draft compromise agreement, according to three people briefed on the talks, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because the talks were supposed to be confidential.

Unlike the Google-Verizon proposal, the agreement would have imposed some rules on wireless Internet, these people said.

“We were very close,” said one person briefed on the talks. Both the F.C.C. and Google declined to comment on those discussions. After reports of a Google-Verizon deal emerged, the F.C.C. called off the talks, which in addition to those two companies included AT&T, a cable industry group, Skype and the Open Internet Coalition.

Though Google has long said that it thinks openness rules should be applied broadly to Internet access, the company was persuaded that wireless is different because it is evolving rapidly and there is more competition, Mr. Davidson said. Wireless carriers say they need more leeway to manage their networks because it is difficult and expensive for them to add more capacity.

The shift was also a pragmatic compromise to get “broader support, in this case from Verizon and hopefully others,” he said.

Still, Google’s new position on net neutrality represents a scaling back of the company’s ambitious goals. When Google began building a presence in Washington in 2005, net neutrality was one of the first issues it embraced. And over the years, Google’s drive to open up the wireless industry became a corporate mission, backed by the company’s financial might.

In 2007, Google made a $4.7 billion bid in a government auction of wireless airwaves. The company’s goal was not to win the auction, but to raise the price above a threshold that would set off rules forcing openness on the airwaves. Verizon won the auction and soon plans to deploy a high-speed network that will be bound by those rules.

In January, Google introduced its own phone, the Nexus One, and opened an online store to distribute it. By selling directly to consumers, Google was challenging the control that wireless carriers have over the distribution of phones, especially in the United States. But Google quietly killed the Nexus One and the phone store this year.

Analysts say Google’s new, more conciliatory approach to the wireless industry was born of necessity.

Verizon offers a number of smartphones that run the Android software from Google, and Verizon is handling growing amounts of data flowing through its network to and from those phones. The volume will only increase as new mobile devices are developed and people use them to watch movies and do other bandwidth-intensive activities. Meanwhile, Google is looking to the mobile Web to feed much of its future growth.

“This is about Google becoming friendlier with the wireless industry so that more Google searches are conducted on wireless devices,” Mr. Rohan said. If wireless was exempted from net neutrality rules, Verizon could limit the use of some applications and spend less money improving its network, or get paid by Web companies for delivering content.

Some people see echoes of Google’s decision to go into China in 2006. In that case, after a lengthy internal debate, Google put aside its aversion to censorship and decided to enter what quickly became the world’s largest Internet market. Google has since pulled its search engine out of mainland China after online attacks that originated there, but the decision to do business there tarnished the company’s reputation among human rights advocates and disappointed many employees.

“I don’t fault Google and Verizon for striking a deal,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and a longtime supporter of net neutrality. “A large private company is always going to operate in its own interest, and for anyone to believe otherwise would be naïve.”

Professor Crawford, who is critical of the proposal, said the F.C.C.’s lack of action on access rules pushed Google to seek a compromise. “Google had no choice but to cooperate with the friendliest carrier it can find, which is Verizon,” she said.

But disappointed consumers and advocates seem to be holding Google to a different standard, in large part because of the image it created.

“If the world of business is an ugly world full of rats, they’ve managed to create a bushy tail for themselves and come across as a very, very cute rat with terms like ‘Do no evil,’ ” said Scott Galloway, professor of brand strategy at the Stern School of Business at New York University. “The downside of that is that people have expectations that they’re going to fight these quixotic battles, and the bottom line is their obligation to their shareholders.”

Not all believe that Google has betrayed its principles. Some longtime Silicon Valley chroniclers say they still think Google is trying to do the right thing, not only for itself, but also for the Internet as a whole.

“I would rather have a company like Google that means to do no evil and is struggling with compromises on these hard issues than a company that doesn’t see a struggle,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and chief executive of the technology publisher O’Reilly Media. “Most companies don’t even see things in those terms.”

An Example of What You Can Do With Google Maps

For those of you who follow the Tour de France, this is a wonderful example of what you can do with Google Maps on your website.  The following is from the Google Latlong Blog:

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As a former professional cyclist, nothing beats the thrill of being in the peloton and racing towards the finish line. Although I’ve traded in my cycling career for life as a Googler, I’m still a fan and enjoy watching my former teammates and friends battle in races like the Tour de France, which started on Saturday. While the cyclists were preparing to tackle the pave of Arrenberg and the Cols in the Alps, I got to thinking about ways that we can bring that experience to the hundreds of millions of fans who will be following the Tour de France over the next few weeks. Google is home to many other cycling enthusiasts, so we got together to work on ways to build a My Tracks-based gadget that will allow all the other fans to follow the action like never before.

The My Tracks application for Android phones lets you record and share your own outdoor activities, and now Team HTC-Columbia will use a special version of the app with SRM to transmit their telemetry and location in real-time as they make their way through the 3,642 kilometers of the Tour de France. The nine riders (sadly, now eight, as Adam Hanson was injured on Sunday) on Team HTC-Columbia are carrying HTC Legend phones with ANT+ that use My Tracks to capture their location along with their power, heart rate, cadence and speed. On www.google.com/mytrackstour, you’ll see a Google Map showing the team members’ location on the course and a detailed telemetry report. You can observe how Michael Rogers’ heart rate spikes as he attacks the climbs in the Alps on Stage 9, see how many watts Mark Cavendish puts out in the sprint on the famous sprinters’ stage into Bordeaux, and see just how fast riders climb the famous Col du Tourmalet.

Google Map for Tour de France

From the image above, you can see how Maxime Monfort took the lead during Stage 2 between Bruxelles and Spa yesterday. Right now, the riders are racing in Stage 3, which takes them across the border into France and you can follow all the latest action on our website or directly on your own iGoogle page.

The team also built a map gadget that is available for you to embed on your own website or blog. We’re also publishing an API that any web developer or broadcaster can use to build their own custom application or use to enhance the live television coverage. I’m excited about the potential for web developers and broadcasters to make use of the API and data in creative ways to help all the Tour de France followers (myself included!) get even closer to the action.

This project was the work of many Googlers in their 20% time, and as cycling fans ourselves, we’re happy to be able to share it with the world. We hope you enjoy this unique way of following Team HTC-Columbia over the next few weeks.

Posted by Dylan Casey, Product Manager

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At Hansen Web Design, we can set up a custom Google Map for your website as well.  We can set up custom imagery, custom icons, custom routes – there are quite a number of features that are possible now that weren’t just a year or two ago!

Why Do You Need A Web Site?

This is for you small business owners – Very often, a small business owner asks us how much a website will cost. It’s a funny question to be discussed in another article, but after a couple pointed questions, we provide a quote. Generally, his or her eyes get quite huge and they look like they’ve been kicked. Yeah, you can get an overseas chop-shop to throw your content in a template for you for $200. But let’s talk about what a website can do for your business, and what those goals are worth to you. Now decide if you want to hire someone who’s capable of achieving those goals.

Get Found

The simplest and most obvious goal of any website is just to “get found.” People shouldn’t struggle to find you, and preferably, you should be easier to find than your competition. Not all web designers know how to build a website that will allow search engines like Google and Bing to find you, and usually it takes a specialist Internet Marketer to run monthly campaigns to keep you up in search results. These days, it’s all about content. We’ll write an article on that in the near future.

Generate More Leads

Even if you have a simple brochure website, it doesn’t do much good if people that find you leave your website right away. You want people to contact you, and generate qualified leads.

ROI: Return On Investment

Probably the biggest hurdle for a small business owner to cough up a few hundred to a thousand dollars for a simple website is the unknown about ROI. It’s difficult to know what your website will do for you, especially that there are so many people who say they’re qualified. But if your designer can demonstrate how to get your site found, and how you’ll generate more leads, it should be simple math to figure out how long until your website pays for itself.

Add Credibility

If your website was built by your neighbor’s aunt’s beautician’s son who’s “good with computers,” you might be better off not even having one at all. Just like dressing professionally, being clean and presentable, having business cards and a business phone number, having a well-designed website adds credibility to your business. Imagine you’re your own customer. If you found two websites, and one looked terrible and was difficult to use, and the other was clean and professional, who would you contact? Does a badly designed website tell you a business is “lean and thrifty” or “not a serious business person”?

Reach a Broader Market

Say I have a small brick and mortar operation selling “Joe’s Widgets.” I only serve my local community of 20,000 inhabitants, because why would someone drive 30 miles to buy my widgets? Reaching a wide audience in the real world is expensive. On the web, just being there makes finding your wares a click of the button! Even without any advertising, having your products online makes it available world-wide. FREE

Advertising

Once you have your own website, it’s simple to devise FREE marketing campaigns. Newsletters to direct people to your site can cost nothing. Putting up your latest promotions and online-only coupons and deals can be done within minutes by yourself, if you have a Content Management System (CMS – also a future article!). Simply tell your existing customers, “hey, check out my website for special deals!” People aren’t going to drive 4 miles to Joe’s Widgets every week just to see what’s there, but if they get an email, and they like your service/product, it’s just a click away!

Free Up Your Employees’ Time

As a small business owner of Joe’s Widgets, we have a lean staff. We are happy to answer any and all questions about our products and services. Our personal service is what sets us apart from our competition. However, there is simply no need to be fielding 12 calls a day asking how late we’re open! That information should be online and easy to find. Time saved for your employees means more productive employees. And it likely saves your customers’ time, too, making them happier!

Empower Your Customers

Let your customers answer each other’s questions! It’s easy to set up a discussion board where your customers and your staff can interact. Quite often they’ll come up with answers you didn’t think of! It will save your employees more time from answering questions and will give your customers a feeling of community, developing brand loyalty and increasing exposure. It will also get them involved in your products more and provide them with a larger support group.

Get Valuable Customer Feedback

After a customer leaves your store with a new Widget, wouldn’t you love to ask him how he likes this new model over the last one when he gets home? What other questions would you like to ask him? How would his answer change the way you do business?? Sending out follow-up emails to customers to fill out a survey form (for prizes, points or coupons) can get you valuable information.

Save Money on Printing

Many businesses spend thousands and thousands of dollars printing expensive catalogs, brochures, and fliers. Offering the information online and sending out emails costs nothing! Oh, and think of all paper and trees you just saved!Now you have some idea of some goals for your website and how the web can boost your business. There are many more ways than the 10 listed here that the web can save and make money for you. How much are these goals worth to you? Check out Hansen Web Design’s portfolio and pricing – then contact us for your free quote to get started today.