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As businesses realize the importance of SEO marketing, it's become increasingly difficult to rank a small business for their relevant niche keywords. Local SEO is a much less competitive (and therefore more realistic approach) for small businesses to make inroads in to search marketing. A local business should start by optimizing its own website. Including their targeted city's name in the page title is a strong indicator to Google that they're relevant to that city. The site's footer should include the local address and local (not toll free!) phone number. Not only does this let Google know that they're local, it's also convenient for their users.

Creating a Google Places page is critical. In many local searches, Google often shows the top ten businesses with Places pages before any of the search results. When creating a Google Places page, one must be careful to only include strictly relevant information as these listings are carefully moderated by Google. Local directories are important to increasing a business's visibility in local search. These directories are not only geographically-sorted, they're also used by Google as a contributing factor to Google Places called citations. We have a list of ten local directories that we recommend every business consider submitting. It's important to note that with any SEO effort, it can take up to six months before results can be measured. While SEO is an important part of driving sales, it is most successful when used as part of a diverse marketing mix.
When selling a product online, an e-commerce website's primary aesthetic purpose should be to depict that product in a compelling way. There is no better way to do this than with beautiful photography. Being unable to touch, smell, or taste the product, the user is relying on presentation to fill those gaps. Photos make users more confident which improves conversion rates. Sample photos from the EtherCycle studio:
The secret to great photography is to hire a photographer. Lighting is equal parts art and science. It's not just the gear. An expensive camera can just as poor photos as any other camera. If you doubt the importance of professional photos as an stimulus to sales, consider that in television commercials, the last three seconds are usually a still product shot.
Top: FireFox for Mac, Bottom: IE8 on Windows7
A client sent me a screenshot of a web page using @font-face. As Apple fanboys typography-enthusiasts, we reacted with the kind of revulsion that is normally reserved for a vegetarian in a Brazilian steakhouse.
Follow these ten tips, and in one day you will improve your customers' satisfaction with your brand, ultimately increasing your conversions.
  1. Links should have meaningful anchor text. "Click here" is meaningless.
  2. Edit your content, most people won't read more than 350 words of text on a single page.
  3. Use bullet points to summarize content.
  4. A humorous 404 page softens an otherwise annoying experience.
  5. Navigation should be ordered "nouns" then "verbs." "Home" is first, "contact" is last.
  6. Make your phone number easy to find.
  7. Unless you're the Chicago Tribune, your website probably doesn't need a "latest news" page.
  8. Your website has redundant, outdated pages that only you visit. Hide them to make relevant information easier to find.
  9. Redirect outdated or missing pages to their new appropriate counterparts.
  10. Headlines tell people what a page is about. Use them on every page.
Everything you do to make your customers life a little easier earns your brand that much more goodwill.
The unfortunate truth about SEO as a marketing niche is that it has become the domain of snake oil salesman. SEO, unlike graphic design or programming, requires no special skills and therefore has a very low barrier to entry. Additionally, the ethereal deliverable of improved traffic is easily faked. As a result, it is becoming increasingly common for unscrupulous internet marketers to prey on naive business owners. Don't be dissuaded, SEO is a valuable part of any web presence as long as you choose a reputable SEO company. Frustrated by SEO scammers, we devised our own link building strategies for Ethercycle. Ultimately, the most powerful SEO tactic is to create compelling content. Make your website for your customers, not the search engines.
We asked ten web professionals what they felt 2011 would hold for the future of web design. The overwhelming consensus was an industry-wide push into HTML5 and mobile e-commerce. Wes Keltner, Creative Director at Venom Cartel summed it up best:
Mobile e-commerce will explode to astronomical heights in the next 2-5 years. 2011 will be a pivotal year for it. Old are days of simply building an iphone app and dropping it in the app store. Companies need a complete mobile strategy, especially those looking to peddle their wares via mobile devices. A multichannel approach can be achieved using HTML 5 due to it's ability to function on most browsers (if not all by 2011) and the major smartphones (iphone, android, blackberry) can run mobile enhanced html 5 sites as well. Nieman Marcus recently announced that by the end of 2010 ALL of their products will be available via a smartphone. And with the help of FB, online ads and mobile ecommerce...that multi-channel strategy makes up for 18% of all their sales. Yeah, 18%! (source)
Companies will begin building mobile enhanced websites via HTML 5 because it's a more flexible, cost effective solution to building an app for each smartphone. Especially if you're shooting for mobile e-commerce. A complete mobile strategy will be the target of most big business in 2011 and the most cost effective, cool looking, great UI experience comes from HTML 5. Hands down.
Kari Scott, partner at Mad Dancer, expanded on the theme:
Mobile devices will continue to direct the trends in web design throughout 2011. The Tablet/Handheld revolution greatly changed things in 2010 and there is an obvious parallel seen in the direction that websites are taking in both their design and their development. The first evidence is seen in the decline of flash use throughout most sites now, with JavaScript offering smaller file sizes resulting in faster page loads and more stable environments on tablets and handhelds.
Design has also started to focus more on functionality and ease of use, as opposed to the bells and whistles and superfluous animation that flash once promised. In 2011, design will continue to focus on simplicity, but with perhaps a greater focus on integrating smart and subtle design into the page. Visitors want their info quickly and simply, however, clients don't want to sacrifice the "environment" that their brand can support.
This year, many large entertainment sites focused heavily on functionality with little regard to aesthetics, but I believe 2011 will bring a better combination of form and functionality. "Simplicity" does not mean boring! 2011 will bring about a wider range of experiences in browsing where design actually supports the content.
Conclusion: Flash is dead, HTML5 rocks our socks, and UX is king.
Before preparing a web design proposal, we always ask the following ten questions of any prospective client.
  • What does this site need to do?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What content do you have ready right now?
  • Is there any special functionality required?
  • Do you have a deadline?
  • What is the project's budget?
  • How often do you intend to update the site?
  • Do you own a domain name?
  • Who is your largest competitor?
  • How will you host the site?
It's best to conduct an interview in person (or over the phone) so that relevant follow-up questions can be asked. Email interviews aren't beneficial to anyone.
Since the release of the Google Nexus, Android has enjoyed rapid expansion and success, but is Android a victim of its own success?
There are literally hundreds of Android devices. Each device has a different hardware configuration. The result is a wide disparity of capabilities across the market. CPU, camera, flash, internal memory, Bluetooth, network, screen resolution, and wireless specifications can be vastly different on any two given handsets. To compensate for the diversity of these devices, developers must either abandon devices or develop for the lowest common denominator. The situation is illustrated by Rovio, the maker of Angry Birds, who has been forced to officially ignore nearly twenty phones. That's more than the total number of iOS devices.

Carriers and manufacturers have exploited Android's "open" platform as a means to add their own features in an attempt to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Aside from often creating usability problems, these unnecessarily customized versions of Android have delayed firmware updates for older devices, and even resulted in carriers abandoning phones entirely. Presently there are eight versions of Android application framework API that a device can support. With no clear upgrade path for many devices due to UI extensions like HTC Sense, the platform is even further fragmented.

Google's official line on the topic of fragmentation is that it's a non-issue. According to Android's Dan Morrill, "Fragmentation is a bogeyman, a red herring, a story you tell to frighten junior developers. Yawn." Yes, Dan, were Google to enforce their own Compatibility Definition Document with carriers and OEMs, that statement might even be true.