Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preventative Website Testing

Back in my days as a programmer, our hardware techs used to use schedules for preventative maintenance on the computers. Each morning they would print out that day's list and proceed to test everything on it. As a programmer, we had similar routines that were performed regularly as a preventative measure.

When you are running a business, you have so many constraints on your time that you often put off tasks like this. But what did Grandma always say? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Even if you have a web person, it's always a good idea to have a good look at your own website. Doing so periodically will prevent many unnecessary problems and visitors will be assured a great experience.

So, here is a short checklist that I use to check my website, particularly after I have made changes to it.

1)  Be sure to test your website in as many browsers as possible. The main browsers of concern are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera. Many come in versions for both PC and Mac. They can be downloaded for free.

Tip: Rely on friends, family and colleagues for a quick visual check of your website, particularly if they use a different platform or a browser version you don't have.

2)  Check all links. You certainly don't want a visitor to your site to find a broken link. Most times they will leave your site immediately.

Tip: If you have links to other websites, check them especially. The other site may change also, rendering your link to it broken.

3)  Thoroughly test your forms. Make sure required fields are noted.

Tip: Fill out your forms incorrectly or leave fields blank to see how the form breaks. Make note of what happens and what changes you will need to make.

4)  Test all navigation, including back links. Make sure every page has a link back to a main page on your site.

Tip: If you link to other websites, make sure the link opens in a new window. You want your visitors to always be able to get back to your site easily.

5)  Proof read. Check for typos, proper grammar, and proper word usage.

Tip: Consider having a colleague, friend or family member proof read your site. They are less familiar with the content and more likely to spot an error. If you can, find someone who has a skill for proof reading.

Yes, this will take some time to do. But it will be time well spent. Not only can your catch errors early but you will also familiarize yourself with your site. That will payoff when speaking with prospects.

For more web tips, download my article "Top 11 Web Layout Tips for an Effective Website". It's FREE.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Make Appointments with Yourself to Get More Done

In late May, I joined a Mastermind group with a few other designers. If you are unfamiliar, a Mastermind is a group of like-minded individuals that help each other move forward by holding each other accountable. The Mastermind itself is the invisible member that is created when the group brainstorms together - it is greater than the sum of it's parts.

To start off, we created our to-do lists and exchanged them with each other via email. We meet every other week on a conference call to discuss our successes, our roadblocks, and brainstorm areas of concern. All of us have seen an increased level of productivity since beginning our Mastermind.

Recently, one of the members shared an article with us that offered a simple yet extraordinary tip to increase productivity even more (John Forde - Copywriter's Roundtable #472). Take your to-do list to the next level by adding when and where you will do it.

For instance, I need to write blog posts more frequently. On my to-do list for September, I committed to writing two posts. This is definitely an improvement for me. It's a good goal. A better goal would be to write a blog post Wednesday, September 1st at 9:30 am at my desk in my office.

Can you see how this will be more productive? I may actually get the two blog posts written for September.

Perhaps I could set an appointment weekly and get four posts written. Hmmm. This could be a good thing!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bartering Revisited

Last year, I wrote a post about bartering (see Bartering Services, 8/24/09). At the time, I wondered if bartering was a viable option for my own business.

As I write this, I am negotiating just such an agreement with a client. We are, luckily, in a position to provide each other with services that our businesses need. Set up properly, this will be a win for both of us.

So, here are the items I am keeping in mind as we prepare the paperwork.

  • cost of services provided are the same for both of us - an equal trade
  • the services being provided benefit both of us
  • that we have consulted our respective accountants and lawyers to ensure proper documentation
I am excited by this new avenue for my business. While I can't do it frequently, as cash flow would suffer, I think bartering could have it's place.

How could bartering benefit your business?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Getting the Most Out of Your Business Card

Just the other day I had the opportunity to look at a large stack of business cards. They had been collected as entries for drawings at two events.

What people listed on their business cards varied greatly. Some had the absolute bare minimum such that I was unsure what they even did. Others used the back to list services or a host of social media urls.

These days it's tough finding room on a business card for all your contact information. I have been looking at my own business card and wondering where it will all fit.

I thought now was a good time to share with you what I am planning on adding and removing from my business card.

First, I plan on adding my blog, along with my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter urls. I haven't used the back of my card so I have some prime real estate to make use of. I think I will add either my business pitch or a list of my services.

I am toying with the idea of removing my fax number from the front of my card. It seldom gets used and it would make more room for my social media urls.

So, what's on your business card?