Ecommerce in Arizona

How to Make Your Ecommerce in Arizona Site Happen

If you plan to sell anything online, having an ecommerce in Arizona plan is as important as your original business plan. Because you’re exploring new territory, making decisions about technology and marketing, and establishing a new set of vendor relationships, a well-thought-out plan will serve you well.

Your ecommerce plan starts with website goals. Who are your target customers? What do they need? Are they getting information only, or can they buy products at your site? These key questions, asked and answered early, will determine how much time and money you’ll need to develop and maintain an online presence.

Second, decide what products or services you’ll offer. How will you position and display them? Will you offer both online and offline purchasing? How will you handle shipping and returns?

As you explore the web for vendors to support your e-business, have a clear idea of how you want to handle the “back end” of the business. If you decide to sell online, you’ll need a shopping cart component, which is a means of handling credit card processing, and an organized order fulfillment process.

Finally, even if you build an amazing website, don’t assume people will find you on their own. If you want to develop a consistent flow of traffic to your site, it’s essential that you plan, execute and maintain an ongoing and multifaceted promotional strategy that’s carefully targeted to your audience. This is in addition to the promotions, advertising and marketing you already do for your brick-and-mortar business.

The Name Game

Once you’ve decided to have a website, one of your first “to-do” items is to make a list of possible website names or URLs. Then run, don’t walk, to the nearest computer, log on to the internet, go to your favorite search engine, and type in “domain registration.” You’ll find a list of companies, such as NetworkSolutions, GoDaddy and Register, that will guide you through the simple domain registration process. For a modest fee, you can register a domain name for one or more years.

If the name you decide on is taken, you’ll want to have at least two or three backup options. Many of the domain name registrars, like GoDaddy or Register, offer several alternatives that are still available. From the available names, choose one that’s easy to spell and remember, and describes what your company does. Make sure you’re not imposing on someone else’s trademark or copyrighted name. In many cases, the name of your company, with the addition of dot-com (www.[YourCompanyName].com) is a suitable domain name that you should definitely register. Once you’ve chosen a name, prompts on the domain registration site will guide you through a simple registration procedure.

With your ecommerce name established, start telling people your domain name and promoting it heavily. Print your web address on your business cards, brochures, letterhead, invoices and press releases as well as on your product packaging and within product user manuals and advertisements. Stick it on other items, too, such as mouse pads, T-shirts, promotional key chains, and even your company’s van.

Website Basics

Once you’ve registered your domain name and have a plan in place for what you want to offer prospective and existing customers online, the next major challenge is designing and building your actual website or online presence. A well-thought-out site outline includes:

Content. The key to a successful site is content. Give site visitors lots of interesting information, incentives to visit and buy, and ways to contact you. Once your site is up and running, continually update and add fresh content to keep people coming back.

Structure. Decide how many pages to have and how they’ll be linked to each other. Choose graphics and icons that enhance the content.

Design. With the content and structure in place, site design comes next. Whether you’re using an outside designer or doing it yourself, concentrate on simplicity, readability, and consistency. Remember to focus on what you want to accomplish.

Navigation. Make it easy and enjoyable for visitors to browse the site. For example, use no more than two or three links to major areas and never leave visitors at a dead end.

Credibility. This is an issue that shouldn’t be lost in the bells and whistles of establishing a website. Your site should reach out to every visitor, telling that person why they should buy your product or service. It should look professional, and give potential customers the same confidence they’d get with a phone call or face-to-face visit with you. Remind visitors that you don’t exist only in cyberspace. Your company’s full contact information—company name, complete address, telephone and email—should appear on all or most of your individual web pages and be displayed prominently on your site’s homepage.

At this point, you have two options: You can bring your detailed outline to a prospective web designer, or you could go the do-it-yourself route. Once a designer has your outline, the process will be more efficient, but creating a website from scratch can still be costly and time-consuming. Consider researching one of the many website or ecommerce turnkey solution services, which allow you to design, publish, and manage a website or ecommerce site by customizing website templates using online design and management tools. These services are inexpensive, powerful, and allow you to create highly professional websites with no programming skills.

Once you know what tools and resources you’ll use to create and manage the site, the next step is to organize your site’s potential content into a script. Your script is the numbered pages that outline the site’s content and how web pages will flow from one to the next. Writing a script also ensures your website is chock-full of appropriate content that’s well-organized. Page one is your homepage, the very first page that site visitors see when they type in your URL. Arrange all the icons depicting major content areas in the order you want them. Pages two through whatever correspond to each icon on your homepage.

To create a successful website, all the elements must work seamlessly. Sure, having top-notch content is essential, but it must be displayed in a manner that’s easy to understand, visually appealing, simple to navigate, and of interest to your target audience. It’s not just about what you have to say, but it’s also the manner in which you present that content that will either attract or repel your audience.

Finding the Host with the Most

Now that your site’s design and content creation are well underway, the next step is publishing your site on the internet. For this, you have three basic options. The first is to host it yourself on a computer that can be dedicated as a web server (or a computer that’s permanently connected to the internet) and has a broadband internet connection. This will prove costly to set up and maintain. For most online businesses, this isn’t the best option, at least in the beginning.

The second option is to use an established and reputable web hosting company, which stores and manages websites for businesses. There are several large, well-established web hosting companies that cater to a worldwide audience, including Yahoo!, Google, and GoDaddy. Or you might prefer a local, small-hosting provider, since they offer a direct contact—especially important if your site goes down. Most of these companies also offer domain name services, so you can sign up when you choose your name.

A third option—and the most popular (as well as least expensive)—is to use a website turnkey solution, a company that provides all the site development tools and hosting services in one easy-to-use, low-cost, bundled service, which is entirely online-based. In other words, to create, publish, and manage your website, you don’t need to install any specialized software, and no programming is required. Using an internet search engine, enter the phrase “website turnkey solution” or “ecommerce turnkey solution.” Also, check out what’s offered by Yahoo!, Google, GoDaddy and eBay.

Ecommerce Needs

Many ecommerce entrepreneurs turn to web hosting companies to solve all their ecommerce needs, such as handling credit card transactions, sending automatic email messages to customers thanking them for their orders, and forwarding the order to them for shipping and handling—and of course, domain registration and hosting.

Another option is to incorporate an electronic shopping cart module, which allows people to place their orders online and process their credit card payment transactions. A site using a shopping cart module should have these four components:

1. Catalog. Customers can view products, get information and compare prices.

2. Shopping cart. The icon works like the real thing. It tracks all the items in the basket and can add or delete items as the customer goes along. It’s like an online order form.

3. Checkout counter. The shopper reviews the items in their cart, makes changes and decides on shipping preferences, gift-wrapping and the like.

4. Order processing. The program processes the credit card (or payment option), verifies all information, and sends everything to the database.

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Why Every Media Website Redesign Looks the Same

If web design is art, we may be entering its minimalist phase.

Website redesigns from some of the most-visited media destinations on the Internet may be leaving users with a bit of déjà vu since many are sporting the same visual elements.

“It’s sort of the same way that all cars look more or less the same. There’s only so many ways you can design a doorknob to where it’s going to be effective,” said Brad Frost, a web designer that has worked on the websites for TechCrunch and Entertainment Weekly.

Cars and doorknobs serve a purpose under certain constraints, just like websites. But unlike those everyday items, the demands on websites have changed drastically as audiences have taken to different devices.

Time.com is a prime example: Clean lines, big pictures and defined columns dominate.

Time.com is also “responsive,” a relatively new concept that combines development and design to allow websites to conform to a wide variety of screen sizes while still providing a useful experience. The rise of responsive design has been driven by steadily rising mobile traffic combined with the introduction of a wide range of devices.

Mobile was this crisis that woke us up from this shared delusion that the web was this fixed width,” said Josh Clark, a web designer and developer.

“To a certain degree, websites always look the same. Design is fashion and it follows trends. We’re in the middle of a trend of big and clunky, not just because of responsive design but also because of touch,” Clark added. “As touch has spread from small screens to laptops and desktops, all desktop designs have to be touch-friendly, and that has influenced the aesthetic, too.”

Numerous major media sites have shifted to responsive design with similar results — multi-column, boxy and flat designs that look almost strangely similar. NBC News has its main column on the left, but the similarities are apparent.

At first, it was tenable to create multiple sites: one for mobile, another for desktop. Now, more sites are moving to the responsive design as a one-size-fits-all solution. There are simply too many different screens and experiences to plan for.

“Your head is going to explode trying to support that stuff, let alone afford it,” Clark said.

It’s the ad economy, stupid

It’s challenging enough to try to build a site that looks good while also contorting to fit various screen sizes and resolutions. Adding in a static element adds a whole other dimension.

“Media sites have a specific limitation called an ad unit that really limits the flexibility of design, because unlike every other unit, this ad can’t change size,” Clark said.

Online advertising guidelines are set by the Internet Advertising Bureau so marketers and websites can have a common market. Rigid ad sizes may help sales, but end up being a pain for designers.

“You have these dinosaurs grasping at straws, that haven’t been able to move as fast as the rest of the industry, and it creates a real restraint,” Frost said.

Sports Illustrated, which rolled outs its redesign, has a similar three-column design. The site is pictured below incorporating Viagra ads.

Design and conquer

Responsive design is a crucial element of modern web design, but doesn’t necessarily explain the entire similarity in aesthetics.

The lack of shadows, gradients or really any elements that attempt to illustrate depth are gone, in favor of what is known as “flat” design.

Flat design arose in concert with mobile. In addition to having a modern look, the minimalist motif looked impressive on smaller screens while also minimizing page load, meaning that websites would come up faster on slower mobile networks. Flat design is also a hallmark of many of the new media sites.

Kelly Sutton, a web designer and software engineer, credited Microsoft’s Metro, a design language that helped usher in the era of geometric, boxy shapes with bold colors that was a hallmark of its ill-fated Windows 8 operating system that rolled out in 2012.

Since then, there has been a rapid adoption of that style, Sutton said, including by Apple in iOS 7 and Google.

“I think digital design for web and app design is moving into a peacetime of sorts. The last two years have been very much wartime,” Sutton said. “The great flattening has happened over the last two years, but things are kind of settling down.”

The Internet of tomorrow

Responsive design is still a new concept that is changing as designers and developers figure new ways to marry form and multi-function. Dan Mall, founder of web design firm SuperFriendly, noted that while responsive design is only about four years old, many of the programs being used to build new site are much older.

“I think there are really great tools that are coming out, but I think that we as an industry are still wrapping our heads around what it means to design for different context,” Mall said. “I think as the tools become more intuitive and the process becomes more intuitive, it will free us up to start thinking about these things in different ways.”

The designers that Mashable spoke with pointed to a variety of sites as examples of forward-thinking responsive websites, including blog publishing platform Medium, gaming site Polygon and digital magazine The Great Discontent.

Thinking differently might also include recognizing the limits of responsive design and planning accordingly.

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What is an SSL Certificate?

What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. Typically, SSL is used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer and logins, and more recently is becoming the norm when securing browsing of social media sites.

SSL Certificates bind together:

  • A domain name, server name or hostname.
  • An organizational identity (i.e. company name) and location.

An organization needs to install the SSL Certificate onto its web server to initiate a secure session with browsers. Once a secure connection is established, all web traffic between the web server and the web browser will be secure.

When a certificate is successfully installed your server, the application protocol (also known as HTTP) will change to HTTPs, where the ‘S’ stands for ‘secure’. Depending on the type of certificate you purchase and what browser you are surfing the internet on, a browser will show a padlock or green bar in the browser when you visit a website that has an SSL Certificate installed.

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Essential Components You Need to Have in Your Home Page

Your homepage is likely THE most visited page on your entire website. In fact, you may want to start thinking about your homepage as a landing page that’s designed to convert visitors. Research shows that a website’s home page usually gets more than 50% of all traffic compared to any other web page on the site. For that reason alone, it’s worth paying attention to this important component, and make sure it includes all the pertinent components to make it convert as many visitors as possible.

1. Headline & Sub-Headline

Perhaps the first thing people will notice when they arrive on your home page is the headline. Is it clear? Is it interesting? Does it capture attention? You literally only have a few seconds to grab a reader’s attention before they decide to stick around or back out, so make sure your home page includes a clear and simple headline to start things off on the right foot.

Following your main headline, a sub-headline is in order. Basically, it should be a one- or two-liner about what your website is about. It should briefly describe what you do and what you offer, and focus on your target audience.

2. Featured Image

Web pages – including home pages – are much more likely to retain the attention of visitors compared to pages without images. The majority of people who are perusing your site are visual in nature, so give them what they want. Use an image that is relevant to your website’s purpose, and one that is able to evoke action and emotion among your readers.

3. Call to Action

You don’t just want your visitors to check out your home page then back out of your website altogether; instead, you want them to scope out your site and move from one page to another. For this reason, it’s important that you include at least one clear and compelling call to action that entices visitors to delve deeper into your site. Just make sure that this call to action is above the fold without readers having to scroll down to find it.

4. Benefits to the Reader

Why are your readers on your website? What good does it serve them to spend precious time navigating your site? Give your readers a reason why they should be there, and the benefits that your products or services will offer. The more you can show how your business can help your website visitors, the more likely they’ll be to buy from you.

5. Features

Use your home page as a resource to list the features that your website and your business offers. This will provide your visitors with a clear indication of exactly what’s offered by your products and services.

6. Easy Navigation

You want people to click through your website, so make it easy for them to do that. You can significantly reduce your bounce rate by providing your visitors with a clear path into the other pages throughout your website. Be sure to include navigation buttons at the top of the page, and include a search box to make it easy to find what they want.

Does your website’s home page already include all of these components? If not, it’s time to revamp things to optimize this essential website page to reduce bounce rates and increase conversions.

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The Cost to Build a Website for Small Businesses

As a business owner there are inevitable expenses that you come across. However, you typically want to know what these costs truly bring to you. You may ask how much does a website cost? It’s much like the suit you wear to a business meeting, each type of suit has it’s own associated cost due to many factors.

Putting our analogy aside we’re going to break down the pricing groups and what is typically associated with these brackets.

The Cost to Build a Website

Under $1,000: Websites under $1,000 are typically designed and developed by a singular person. They come with very little custom design and little strategic input.

$1,000 – $2,500: At this price point, expect to have strategic insight, as well as some input on information architecture and how social media marketing will tie into your site.

$2,500 – $5,000: For small businesses this is considered a sweet spot. You’ll receive comprehensive and thoughtful input on the design of your website. The design of the sight will also incorporate support for your business goals and social media integration.

$5,000+: This price range is typically associated with larger website (100+ pages) and/or e-commerce abilities. Both of these areas require a considerable amount of investment in design and development.

While this is only one model to keep in mind when reviewing the cost to build a website this model is considered to be the industry standard. If you have any questions or would like a free consultation reach out to us today by giving us a call.

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3 Stages to Creating a Successful Homepage

Creating the homepage of your website is the biggest moment for your digital marketing campaign. You’ve created a budget, hired an agency, created copy and details for colors and icons, and gathered opinions. After all this is not only your company on the line but your brand right?

Think again.

Looking at the home pages of successful growing businesses you’ll see that they evolve overtime. You’ll also notice that they follow a process of evolution that moves in 3 stages.

Stage 1: Validation (What You Think Customers Want)

When you first launch, you’re really just testing a hypothesis: that you’ve created a product the market wants, and you’ve presented it in a manner compelling enough to convince visitors to try or purchase it.

Sure—personal experiences, research, and conversations with prospective customers can go a long way toward helping you launch with messaging, positioning, and branding that hits the mark, but here’s the truth: no one has any idea how effective their marketing will be until traffic starts hitting the page.

Everyone wants to put their best foot forward when making a first impression, but this might not even be the first impression that matters.

Stage 2: Co-Creation (What Customers Say They Want)

Once you have customers, actually talking to them will be one of the best ways for you to zero in on the words and phrases they use to describe how your product has helped them.

When you see and hear how your customers are using your product to solve their problems, how it makes them feel, and how they think you can improve it, you’ll gain invaluable insight that can push your positioning, branding, and marketing forward.

Stage 3: Authority (What You Know Customers Want)

Steve Jobs famously said, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

This quote initiated great conversations about customer feedback, and in many ways it also applies to the second stage of home pages.

After all, if people don’t really know what they want, why rely on their language to create your copy?

The first thing to realize is that not everyone takes Jobs’ opinion on this matter as gospel. There’s plenty of evidence that customers often do, in fact, know what they’re talking about.

Balance is important. Your customers may tell you exactly where they want to go, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to hold their hands and guide them along the way.

That’s why many companies utilizing direct customer quotes or language on their home pages eventually move on to something else. Not because they’re getting bad results, but because as companies grow and the brand evolves, they tend to seek new territory—different places to take their existing customers, and alternative places to find new customers.

Continuing Home Page Growth

Regardless of where you are as a company—whether you have zero customers or thousands—some things never change. You’ll always want your home page to convert more visitors into customers. You’ll always want a brand that customers love.

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