Tag Archives: web design

Improving the Add to Cart Button

Last October I posted an infographic detailing the importance of a webstore’s add to cart button. David Max from Perception System recently expanding on the infographic with additional formatting details and statistics for 2014 . Sometimes the smallest details lead to the biggest sales.

Check out the infographic below (Source: Perception System Blog):

Add-To-Cart ButtonCourtesy of Perception System

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Add to Cart Infographic

Overlooking the simplest details often leads to the biggest problems in website design. Take for instance, the “Add to Cart” button on a webstore. This simple yet essential button contains a myriad of design possibilities that no two webstores approach in the same manner. Size, color, even the words that appear on the button hold influence over visitors. Just like other visual decisions, some looks are more pleasing and user-friendly than others.

So how do most webstores approach the look of their most important button? E-Commerce website builder Volusion recently offered detailed research data highlighting the subtle intricacies of the Add to Cart button, which you can see through the infographic below:

Infographic 10 17 2013222 Infographic: Constructing a Higher Converting Add to Cart Button

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Templates – The Fickle Shortcut

In the world of information design, templates exist for everything under the sun. Blogs, resumes, websites, everything under the sun has a shortcut that will, in theory, do the design work for you. All you have to do is plug in your information, and viola, all done. Templates are vital shortcuts.

Templates are also dangerous. Very very dangerous.

We use templates because we want to increase efficiency and maintain consistency. Fantastic! I agree, templates are great for that. The danger of templates comes in the form of preexisting templates. I’ll clarify with this bold statement: the best template, nay, the only template you should ever use, is the one you design yourself. For all the thousands of preexisting templates for whatever project you have, they will ultimately hamper your work for two reasons:

1) Preexisting Templates are Unoriginal

If you use the first template on the list of templates, your work will look the same as everyone else who chose the same template. You don’t have to create a resume or website so radical the likes of which no ones ever seen, but you will be far from unique. Originality stands out in today’s society.

2) Unsatisfactory Design Flaw

Everyone differs on the idea of a perfect template. Mainly because everyone’s individual needs differ. Your individual design ideas do not have the 100% eHarmony compatibility match somewhere on the internet. Although several templates may come close, one or more lingering small details will always haunt you during the entirety of your project’s lifespan. Your project will not be perfect if you are not satisfied.

Fortunately, an easy solution exists.

Note in my bold statement that I said “design” and not “create.” Templates, much like programming and website coding, don’t need to be made from scratch. The simplest way to create a template is to borrow ideas from pre-existing templates. By taking individual features you enjoy from multiple templates, you create a design that not only works 100% for your needs, but also looks a bit less cookie cutter. Just because you are selecting a template does not mean you cannot change it. The template police will not hunt you down.*

Being willing to get technical helps a lot. A willingness to edit a few simple fields (color, font, size) goes a long way towards change you enjoy. Resumes are easily tweaked in word/OpenOffice, for the blog/web page designer, a little CSS editing is all you need. A simple Google search points the way.

Templates are important, and taking some time to make one you are happy with will pay off in the long run. A happy template equals happy projects. 🙂

*Though you should not use copyrighted/protected work without permission, of course.

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Usability Testing – Avoid Front Page Overload

I learned many web design tricks in graduate school. Many of them seem rather obvious in hindsight, like putting the most important information at the top of the web page. After all, the more scrolling viewers go through, the less likely they will see all of the information on the page.

Web Design Rule #1: Web page visitors are very impatient. Don’t make them think.

The obvious solution to preventing scrolling is to eliminate scrolling entirely. Well, some scrolling is inevitable (I certainly cannot write blog posts that short!) but the key idea remains the same: put your key information front and center. Yet this is a double edged sword. While users should see the most valuable information first, cramming too much information in that limited initial space is very dangerous.

Since I happen to work in medical equipment sales, I’ll use two medical equipment manufactures to demonstrate this point. Take a look at Sklar Surgical Instruments. See anything interesting? That’s the problem, there’s too much interesting to see. This little three column layout is not only crammed with so much information, the information is badly prioritized. While the “what’s new” header in the left has some interesting new information, technically the middle and right columns also present new information.

In the end, the average visitor will have difficulty focusing on one section of the site. I admit the layout holds some merit for frequent visitors who want to quickly see what is new and exciting with Sklar. Yet this overload of “new” is quite unfair to first-time visitors interested in what products Sklar sells. That little yellow products link is not easy to spot.

Quick Aside: I’m not a big fan of three column layouts, though I admit it holds value for e-commerce stores. The company I work for, Medical Device Depot, happens to use one rather effectively. Then again I might be biased. 🙂

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Clinton Industries utilizes a very effective front page. New information cycles through the middle, while easy navigation to their products other details are easy to spot. You simply cannot get lost when looking for products when it leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for you to retrace your steps.

One more fun fact: serious usability testing utilizes eye tracking. Technology actually exists which allows testers to track where a person first focuses their eyes on a web page.

This is why a high Google pagerank is important.

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WYSIWYG Web Design

wysiwyg / Adjective: Denoting the representation of text on screen in a form exactly corresponding to its appearance on a printout.

Although I’ve been experimenting with HTML & CSS since High School, it was not until my later undergraduate years that I really started to dive into the building blocks of website creation. After all, as an English/Communications major I needed to supplement my abstract writing skills with something practical that I could put on a resume. Taking the time to learn website coding payed off well for me; it helped land me a job as a webmaster for Medical Device Depot, a medical equipment store where I alternate between updating the company website and tinkering with Mac 1200 EKG Machines. Did I mention I also assist with their advertising? 🙂

Anyway, when I started working on their website and fixing product pages, I grew very familiar with wysiwyg web building. Wysiwyg is an awkwardly short way of saying “what you see is what you get.” In other words, you use a robust HTML editor to sort of paint a picture of what you want on your webpage. When you’re done, the HTML editor generates a lot of (horribly written) code and you end up with a nice literal representation of what you designed. Incidentally a lot of blogging sites, including WordPress, utilizes a wysiwyg-style editor for users to design blog posts. If you’ve ever started (and subsequently abandoned after one week) a blog, you may have used a wysiwyg editor without realizing it.

Note that I said the code was horribly written. Unfortunately even the most robust HTML editor cannot keep up with the constantly changing human brain, and the right combination of erasing and re-inserting data can result in an awkward mess that can be difficult to fix in the limited editor program. Wysiwyg editor’s do not always like the idea of the undo button. They may get violent with you if you try to undo a mistake, resulting in an even bigger mess than what you began with.

Take a chart or table for example – you want to create a very even 4 column x 3 row table to display data, say different dimensions and sizes on a piece of furniture. You might tell the wysiwyg editor to create this table, and viola the table appears. However, if you make one simple misstep or need to change the table dimensions halfway through entering data, then your local wysiwyg editor may decide to turn your table into a piece of abstract art that you cannot fix unless you obliterate the entire table and try again. This is why some web designers shun wysiwyg and stick to doing all of their coding by hand with good ol’ notepad (or notepad++).

I respect the viewpoint of those web design purists, and I agree that wysiwyg has it’s faults. Yet those user-error faults won’t stop me from using it. This is partly because I’ve worked with my local wysiwyg editor for almost two and a half years and I know every pitfall to avoid. But mainly it is due to the fact that, because I am pretty good at coding HTML by hand, I can dive into the HTML code and fine-tune those silly coding errors as they appear. If that table example I described above occurs to me (and it occurs often), I can just look at the code, add or remove a <td> or <tr> tag, delete that moronic fixed-width cell padding the editor likes to toss in and viola – awesome looking table. Well, nowadays I just insert my homemade table code when I need a table, but that’s the general idea.

Sure the wysiwyg editor may create some unnecessary header tags or throw in a silly amount of <br> (blank line) tags that may cause a purist coder to faint, but that’s ok. I don’t need super awesome neat looking code. Website visitors don’t see that stuff. No, I need code that works. And if you take the time to develop your skills with HTML produced via wysiwyg and handmade code you’ll get code that works with minimum frustration.

In related news, this blog post is a fancy way of telling the world that I’ve started experimenting with Adobe Dreamweaver. I look forward to using Dreamweaver, which incidentally allows for an amazing blend of wysiwyg and hand-coding, to make websites in the future.

It also helps that I can put it on my resume.

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Search Engine Optimization: A Primer

While creating an effective website is important, most website creators will also want to generate as many visits as possible. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.

SEO involves making minute adjustments to your website in order to give it an improved presence on popular search engines such as Google or Yahoo. Used properly a website can show up higher on a search engine, vastly improving traffic to the website.

SEO Methods


Keywords are words and phrases that define your website. Search engines track keywords when determining the page rank, a variable that determines how high up your website will appear on search engines, of your website. Significant consideration must be taken in determining what keywords will be effective for your website.

Make a list of keywords. Consider a couple of important words or phrases that define your site. Use words that people will search for when looking for your website. Single out a few keywords that you think will work best to place on your website. For example my website for this class is a local environmental group, so “environmental cause” or “Maryland environmental group” are two keyword possibilities.

If you are uncertain if people will use your keyword to search for your website, several keyword tools exist online to give you a detailed report of how often your selected keyword is used. Google’s Keyword Tool is one such example, giving a comprehensive breakdown of monthly hits along with other notable trends.

Place these keywords in your website. There are several locations where your keywords can go. These include:

  • Page Title – One of the biggest sections search engines will evaluate to determine what is on the web page.
  • Meta Data – Although not as frequently today, meta-tags help some search engines categorize websites. Meta tags are inserted into the HTML of a website and are not typically visible to the viewer. Fortunately several website editors (including EditMe) will take care of this for you if you give them your keywords.
  • H1 Header Text – The H1 header is the biggest header and is commonly used for titles and other critical information. As such, search engines like to analyze it.
  • Page Content – The main page content should include your keywords. Although it helps to use the keyword multiple times within your page, you should not go out of your way to include it. Unnatural keyword placement results in keyword stuffing and can hurt your visibility on search engines.

Be patient.Search engines won’t instantly pick up on your keywords overnight. It will take a couple of days for engines to register the keywords and integrate them.

Page Linking

Good website navigation does more than just help your user navigate your website; it also helps search engines access your webpage. Search engines use web crawlers to explore your website and pull out searchable information like keywords. Good keyword placement is useless if the search engine cannot access your pages.

Homepage navigation is key. Crawlers will start at the homepage and progress from there to other sections of your website. Pages that are not linked from the homepage or pages immediately linked to the homepage can be easily missed.

Consider linking to similar websites. Known as reciprocal linking, two mutual websites that link to each other will boost rankings on search engines for both websites. This also has the practical effect of increasing traffic to your website from users to the website you link to.

Fun fact: Avid blog readers may be familiar with spam comments, artificially-generated comments from bots with a link to a website that you are…usually better off not visiting. This is a variation of page linking, albeit a rather unethical one.

These are just a few examples of using SEO to increase your search engine presence. The week 9 reading on SEO provides a more comprehensive look at SEO techniques including more specific information on the ones listed in this blog post. There are also a number of books dedicated to the topic.

Perfectly optimizing your website to meet SEO standards can take a significant amount of work. Agencies exist that are dedicated solely to assist organizations and other individuals in making a website SEO-compatible. In addition, consultants serve as search-engine optimizers. If you are a business attempting to construct a high-ranking website, hiring a specialist will make the process much easier. Google offers some useful tips on what to look for in a search engine optimizer.

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