Zero to Profitable: Taking Your Business From No Online Presence to an Awesome One

You had the million dollar idea – that’s awesome and congratulations, but (as we’re sure you already know) the dream must become a reality.

For most industries these days, it’s going to involve a web presence. Creating one is tough stuff, though, and most people don’t even know where to start. That’s why we’re here to help!

Before you start a fervent social media or SEO campaign, you’re going to need somewhere to send people – a kind of virtual home base for your business. That’s why we recommend that your first step be to…

Get a website.
Whatever your budget or level of web experience – there is a solution for you. The important thing is to have a place on the Internet that has the most pertinent information about your business. Be sure to clearly state what your new company does and how to engage your services.

If you have a more complicated website that will be under construction for a while, you might consider a Facebook page as a temporary home base. We want to emphasize the “temporary” bit because ultimately having an established website will lend your business far more versatility and credibility than a Facebook page alone.

Create content.
Whether it’s blogposts, video, or images, creating content that establishes you as an authority in your field can do wonders for your business. It can also help you later on with an inbound marketing strategy. Even if it’s one post a week, blogging is a great way to quickly improve the SEO ranking of your website, too. Not convinced? Try this article on for size.

Share, share, share.
Now that you’re creating great content and have a site to send people to, you should definitely jump into social media! There are lots of different networks with different audiences, but most businesses start with Facebook and Twitter. We’ve got an in-depth article all about choosing a social media platform right here!

Consider your SEO.
It’s really surprising how much carefully choosing your page titles and blogpost keywords can boost your organic Google rankings. SEO is all about placing your website on the first page of results for your preferred keywords. The tricky part is actually choosing those keywords!

Pro Tip: at first, you’ll want to pick key phrases like “pizza shop in memphis” – the more rare the better!

Repeat.
Now that you’ve got a website, a social presence, and a SEO strategy, you’re ready to go back and revise! What did you neglect in your first website? Do it now! Is there a social network that might more specifically apply to your field? Join it! Has your SEO strategy secured your targeted keywords for you? Branch out and get more! Good luck!

6 Text-Driven WordPress Themes

Not all of us are photographers, but so many WordPress themes seem focused on images. When choosing a WordPress theme you might want to ask yourself how much time you want to put into your photos. Is it enough to warrant a full width carousel? Do you want seven photos on the homepage?

Text can be beautiful, too. So if you’re really more of a writer, embrace it because there are lots of great WordPress themes just for you. And here are six great ones!

FREE

Lefty: This theme is sleek, striking, responsive, and FREE. Even though it’s shown with photos, it would definitely look great with just text. What else could you want?!

Lefty

 

ManifestThis is a beautiful, clean, and narrow theme that is also totally free. It’s a great theme for anyone who doesn’t need a sidebar. (Not responsive)

Manifest

 

Pinzolo: Another minimalist, responsive and FREE theme.

Pinzolo

 

Twenty Thirteen: Let’s not forget about WordPress’s homemade themes! It’s free, responsive, and very modern!

twenty-thirteen

 

PREMIUM

Auguste: Only $15, this theme available on ThemeForest incorporates color in the header and rotating top slider, but the rest is mostly clean text. Really nice! (Not responsive)

Auguste HTML — Themeforest.net — By Carlo Franco

 

Acute: Here’s another no-sidebar theme, but with a lot of sophistication! It’s $40, and it’s responsive!

Acute

Web Related Job Titles and What They Mean

Understanding the nuances of a particular job title can be confusing in any industry, but with a relatively new field like Internet services, the terms seem to run together even more than usual!

A common misconception for people outside the industry is to believe that any web developer can also design your site or manage your SEO strategy. It’s a wider field than many realize, and most individuals only specialize in a few areas. Whether you’re looking to hire someone, or you’re just curious, you’ll find these common title definitions helpful!

Let us start with the foundational role of the web developer, which can really be split into two categories: back end developers and front end developers.

Back End Developer
This is your code genius – the one who can look at a page of what looks like plaintext gibberish to you and diagnose why your API isn’t functioning exactly right. Back end developers work with servers, applications, and databases to ensure that website is able to pull information from the host server and distribute it to the users all over the world. Their languages include Python, Ruby, PHP, ASP and many many more, which is why back end developers tend to have a specialty within their specialty.

Back end developers construct the functionality of the Internet, basically. So it’s good they’re around, right?

Front End Developer
In short, the front end developer is in charge of what you see and experience when you visit a website. They’ll definitely know HTML and CSS, and often a few extra languages like PHP and javascript. They’re in charge of building your design and some slightly more advanced functionality like contact us forms and cool jQuery effects. A good front end developer will also cross-test your website across major browsers and devices to ensure compatibility.

While building a design, a front end developer also needs to have a head for what makes a fast, user-friendly website, as well a good eye for design in order to render the site beautifully. Not all front end developers are also original designers, though, so that’s where there is a distinction for the role of the…

Web Designer
Some web designers are also developers, but other designers will create a layered file (in Photoshop, usually) of the site design and pass it on to a front end developer to “carve” in HTML and CSS. Even if they don’t code, though, a good web designer needs to know at least a few basics about what functionality is possible, as well as the best web practices for design.

Web Marketer
This position rarely involves any code at all, but rather a thorough knowledge of social media or SEO (or both). These are the folks who can set up your pay-per-click ads, help you develop a social strategy, and track your success with Google Analytics.

Luckily for us at LunaWeb (warning: self-promotion ahead!), our team consists of a variety of web developers, designers, and marketers who can work together to provide a total solution.

What to Do When Your Site Updates Aren’t Showing Up

www-questionsYou just spent the better part of of 3 hours updating your website’s styling or templates only to find that you can’t get the changes to show up in your browser. Even worse, your site visitors can’t see them either.

This can be an incredibly frustrating situation, but there are several things to try!

A Hard Refresh
Your first course of action is a hard refresh. This is different from a regular refresh because the hard refresh will force your browser to reload all of the files associated with that website.

Background: when you visit a website, your browser will save certain information to your local drive (usually the stylesheet, javascript files, and images) so that the next time you pull up that website, it will load faster. This generally makes the web a more user-friendly place to be, but when you’re trying to make updates, it can be a hassle.

A hard refresh will force the browser to pull all the files from the server instead of your local cache. On a PC, just press Control + F5. On a Mac, it will be Command + Shift + R.

If your changes show up, you know that they are at least active on the server, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of repeat visitors who have the site cached in their browsers. So how can you ensure that your visitors don’t pull up a cached version of your site files?

Change the Version Number
Ok, bear with me because this one’s a little harder. So the files that your browser is most likely to cache are external files that are called in your header. They’ll probably look like this:

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”all” href=”/style.css” />

or maybe

<script type=’text/javascript’ src=”/js/jquery.js”></script>

These are both files that need to be loaded in order for your page to display correctly. If you’ve made changes to one of these files, and those changes aren’t showing up for you until you hard refresh, you may want to consider changing the version number.

How do you do it? Just add “?v=2″ to the end of the file name so it looks like this:

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”all” href=”/style.css?v=2″ />

When a site visitor hits your site and your browser sees that “?v=2″ it will basically say, “Oh! We’ve never seen this before!” and load the stylesheet anew. Already have “?v=2″ at then end? Just go with “?v=3″ and so on.

Check Your Caching Plugin
Especially if you’re on WordPress, check to see if you have a caching plugin installed. Depending on your plugin, you will be able to delete the cache under Settings or maybe it has it’s own menu button on your sidebar. The purpose of these plugins is to save your site offline on your computer and your visitors’ computers to improve load time, so when you make changes, be sure to empty the cache!

Contact Your Hosting Provider
If you’ve tried all of the above, you may be facing a server issue. Get in touch with your hosting provider to let them know you’ve tried hard refreshing, changing the version number, and clearing your caching plugin (if you have one), and still aren’t seeing the changes. They may need to perform and cache clearing of their own!

Luckily, this last option is rarely needed.

6 Web Design Trends that Will Make Your Website Pop in 2014

web-designCan you believe 2013 is more than halfway over? Next year is just around the corner, and if you’re looking to meet the future with a website that says “hip and savvy,” you’ll definitely be interested in these five web trends. Embrace all of them or none and be a design rebel!

Flat Design
We’ve already written a whole post on flat design here  but this is definitely the hottest and most-hyped trend in web design. The whole idea is about embracing the 2D screen and shedding the drop-shadows and heavy textures that try to make websites look more three-dimensional. Read more about it here!

Mix-and-Match Typography
Ok, this one is tricky because many websites try, and only some succeed in successfully mixing and matching several fonts. In general, you want to stick with one font in each larger typographical category (i.e. one serif with one sans-serif, or one serif with one script, or one script with one serif and one sans-serif). Here’s a good example of three font styles mixed beautifully on the Brooklyn Soap Company site:

brooklyn-soap

Parallax Scrolling
This one is harder to explain that to just see. Check it out here or here  See how the background actually becomes and interactive part of the content when you scroll? It even helps tell a story! Coooooool.

Single Page
Instead of putting all your content on different pages, many websites these days are opting to put all their content on one page that users scroll through. This trend is often used in conjunction with parallax scrolling, but not always!

Full-width Background Images
Often displayed with text over them, full-width photo backgrounds can give your site a unique look without much work. And it’s not just for photographers! Check out the Brooklyn Soap Company again or the Paper Mill in Edinburgh.

Responsive Design
Not everyone has jumped on the responsive design train yet, and that’s okay. We’ve actually got a post that helps break down when you might want to go with a separate mobile site instead. That said, responsive design is really hot right now, and it can be just as easy (and often easier) to develop than a separate mobile site!

Intro to BuddyPress and 7 Extensions to Beef It Up

buddypressDid you know you can turn your WordPress website in a full-fledged social network? It can be private or public, large or small, and you can build tons of different functionalities into it!

The first thing you’ll need is the BuddyPress plugin. WordPress already allows users to login to your website (if you enable that setting – it’s in Settings > General), but when you add BuddyPress, users can also create their own profile, private message other users, and create groups.

That’s only the beginning, through! Here are some great extensions to BuddyPress that really boost its functionality. Mix and match them to create your own unique network!

bbPress
Want to build forum functionality into your website? This plugin makes it easy to turn your website (or just a portion of your website) into clean, user-friendly forums. bbPress also works as a standalone forum plugin, but using it with BuddyPress enables more complex user interaction, like messaging and groups.

Membership
If you’re looking to have something a little more exclusive, or even premium, the free Membership plugin from WPMU is right up your alley. The free version comes with two levels of membership, so you can restrict access to all or part of your site. It’s also fully integrated with BuddyPress and bbPress, so when someone creates a membership profile, they are automatically registered with your social network, too. (PS – this plugin is a great way to limit some parts of your site whether or not you’re using BuddyPress!)

Welcome Pack for BuddyPress
BuddyPress is missing a major component – welcome emails for your new users! This plugin adds the ability to send your new friends a message, as well as invitations to join.

BuddyPress Activity Privacy
Give your network the privacy they deserve with this plugin which will let them decide if a particular post is for everyone, logged in users, friends only, admins only, or just for themselves.

Chat
Another fantastic plugin from the great developers over at WPMU, this one adds live chat functionality to your website. When integrated with BuddyPress, your users can talk to each other directly over your site! You can also let people sign in with Facebook or Twitter to join in the chats.

BuddyPress Activity Plus
BuddyPress doesn’t come bundled with the ability for users to share links, images, or video, but this plugin makes it easy by just adding three buttons to your users’ activity streams. Now they can share YouTube videos, upload images, and share links to all their favorite sites.

Last but DEFINITELY not least…

W3 Total Cache
This one might not have anything to do with BuddyPress integration, but it’s likely that after installing all those plugins, you’re gonna notice a lag on your site. Speed it back up with this plugin that helps your site cache offline versions so it loads WAY faster!

BuddyPress is an amazing resource to create personalized social networks. Check it out!

8 Essential Principles of Web (and Every Other Kind of) Design

Monday we brought you a summary of flat design and presented many pros and a few cons of this approach to web design. We also talked briefly about skeuomorphic design, which uses more 3D elements to convey a more realistic sense of depth on a 2D screen.

These are only two of many, many styles in web design. To better understand any design, whether it be for web, print, or just art for art’s sake, we have to go back to the fundamentals.

Hierarchy
Your various pieces of content have different purposes and levels of importance, and your designs should reflect that. But it’s more complicated that just listing your most recent posts at the top since you’ll also have modules like search fields, logos, and call to actions to work in.

So how do you establish heirarchy? By using any of the below elements to help you make the most critical parts of your web design pop!

Direction
When viewing a website, most people in the Western hemisphere tend to naturally move their eyes from left to right and top to bottom – just like we read. You can either use this tendency to your advantage by arranging your content from left to right and top to bottom, or you can buck the trend and lead the eye in a different pattern by using strong elements that divert the natural pattern.

Below, you can see that Sony is using a typical web layout to emphasize important elements along the natural path of the eye.

sony

37 Signals, on the other hand, starts your eye in the center, then down and across, then back up to less crucial elements in a layout that still works because it effectively leads your eye through the design.

37-signals

Color
There’s a million different ways you can use color on your website, but the basic principle is to use the most saturated, brightest colors to draw the eye to your most important elements. Beyond that, you want to find colors that complement each other and don’t overwhelm the eye, which can be done with color tools like Kuler.

Contrast
Hand-in-hand with color is contrast, which is basically the difference in brightness, saturation, and hue of adjacent elements. For text, you want a high-contrast between the text color and background – like black text on a white background. Less important elements might be lower contrast, like a light green search field on a darker green background – still visible, but it won’t draw too much attention.

Spacing
Spacing can make a design beautiful or illegible. White space (whether it’s literally white or not) is the empty space around an element, and in general, the more white space around a particular item, the more important it seems. When trying to pack a lot of information on one page or above the fold, white space is often sacrificed, leaving the design looking cluttered and visually confusing. Consider your spacing carefully!

Similarity
This is usually an easy one for web designers who’ve taken the time to make even a rudimentary branding plan. Some elements of similarity will be universal across the site – like rounded corners or drop shadows, while other similarities, like a specific color or shape used in just a few places, can denote that these places contain similar content or functionality.

Dominance
Usually relating to size, dominance is another way to establish your hierarchy. Larger elements are obviously the most prominent, but the most colorful or bold (as in text) will also draw attention.

Texture
A textured background can add depth and character to your site, while a textured element like a button can be visually appealing in comparison to a flat background. Use textures sparingly, though, as too much texture can be overwhelming.

Honestly, web hierarchy could have another post all it’s own… so I guess we’ll go get to work on that!

What Is This Flat Design Trend Everyone’s Talking About?

Design trends come and go, but flat design has really taken the digital world by storm. It’s suddenly everywhere!

It makes sense – flat design is all about embracing the 2D screen to make the most of that canvas. Let’s look at a very popular current example – Microsoft’s Windows 8.

windows

Windows has captured some of the most important qualities of flat design: minimalist interface, solid blocks of saturated color, creative typography, strong lines, no shadows, and few or no gradients (besides the user-set background). Websites with a flat design look modern and bright, plus from a development side, they’re much easier to create than designs that rely on more background images and embellishments.

Hand in hand with the simple “look” of flat design is a whole philosophy of user interfaces. Namely, they should be hierarchically structured (the most important content is front and center) and the overall site navigation is as simple as possible.

Let’s look at what flat design isn’t, too. Contrasting the solid blocks of color in flat designs, skeuomorphic design is a more realistic approach to websites. This method employs bevels and shadows to create a more 3D look – especially on interactive elements like buttons. Here’s a good example of skeuomorphic design versus flat design from Apple:

ios6-7

On the left we have the current iOS 6 home screen, and on the right is a proposed version of the upcoming iOS 7 home screen. The icons on the current version have clearly visible bevels, shadows, and gradients to imply a 3D button.

By cropping out these extra 3D details, iOS 7 presents an interface that looks simpler and cleaner. Flat websites also tend to have faster loading times. Consider this: for those 3D effects, textures, and gradients, a designer has to use a background image. In flat design, a square can be filled in with color just through code, which is much faster for your browser to process.

As a last plus for flat design, it’s much more adaptable to mobile, since blocks of color can be easily re-proportioned to any size on a screen. Images are much harder to scale down effectively.

All this said, flat design is not necessarily better than skeuomorphic design. It largely depends on your audience. After all, the most important thing is that your viewers can easily navigate your interface and recognize a button as a button. Since gradients and shadows are common indicators of interactive elements (like buttons), a good flat designer has to compensate for that well-known call-to-action queue with an intuitive interface.

If you’ve got a simple, relatively small content driven website, though, you might consider jumping on the flat design trend!

6 Email Etiquette Guidelines to Improve Your Correspondance

email-marketing-smaller

We use it more than the telephone, we’re more addicted to it than Twitter, and it can be more frustrating than autoplay music on a website. Email truly is one of the most revolutionary forms of communication in history, but it seems like we’re still pinning down the etiquette of this correspondence medium.

Emails often fall victim to a strange problem – we write them so fast in the name of efficiency that we don’t get our point across. This necessitates another explanatory email, and the motive of efficiency is negated.

Allow us to propose a new email philosophy: it might, in fact, be more efficient to take more time with our emails (at least a little more) to ensure that we really communicating. Here are six guidelines that will help you get the most out of your emails without sacrificing too much time.

Lead with the actionable item.
Email users often just read the subject line of an email before they decide how to file it, so if you bury your call to action in the very last sentence, it may not get addressed right away.

When in doubt, use proper grammar.
Punctuation and capitalization do make sentences easier to read and comprehend, but you don’t need to be a grammar Nazi. If you choose not to adhere to the strict rules of the English language, make sure your words and abbreviations are completely comprehendible to your reader. If there’s any question, go ahead and write it out properly. Miscommunication is less efficient than taking the extra time to type acronyms out and add commas.

Use “Reply All” sparingly.
Ever been annoyed that you got attached to an email thread that everyone is unnecessarily Replying All to? Don’t be guilty of doing the same. Consider if everyone needs to be CC’d on your reply before you press send.

Never ever ever send an email with (no subject).
Your email’s subject is like a newspaper headline – it’s your key to making your recipient think this is important or even worth reading. A (no subject) email is basically the same as saying “this doesn’t matter.”

Don’t go overboard with your signature.
We’ve got a whole post about this! Email signatures are really fantastic for getting your contact information out there, but refrain from loading it up with 2 images, 3 phone numbers, and 8 social media buttons. It makes your emails heavy (data-wise), and the chances are slim that your signature will look clean in all email clients.

But do include a signature!
Your email signature should be much like your business card – brief and relevant. Really pare it down, and consider the avenues through which you want people to contact you. Try to limit your email signature to three ways of contact (i.e. phone, email, and Facebook).

The most important component of your email is your message, so our overall point is to make sure that your primary message is front and center in your email.

Four Things You May Not Know You Can Do With Google Analytics

Google Analytics is some pretty powerful (and thankfully, free) software that can provide you with amazing insight into your website and your audience. When you know more about how people navigate your site, and even how they get there in the first place, you have the information you need to substantially increase your traffic.

Despite Analytics being a free tool, most website owners never bother to install it, and of those that do, many of them never even glance at their dashboard to find the hidden jewels! So let’s break it down for you. Here are the top four more useful things you can glean from your Analytics.

Determine your organic search keywords
If you’ve been crafting an SEO strategy, you know that your “keywords” are the specific search terms that you are targeting – which is to say that you’d like your content to show up when someone searches those keywords. Analytics can offer some insight into what people are actually searching to reach your website, which can really help you determine what keywords you’d like to target in your strategy.

keywords

Track your current traffic
This feature is especially useful if you’ve just made a big announcement or are offering a special deal! You can see how many people are on your site, what pages they are browsing, how long they’re staying on the site, and even how they are getting to your site.

real-time

Find your Exit Pages
An “Exit Page” is the last page a user visits before they navigate away from a site. This can be really helpful for discovering which pages are turning your viewers off. It’s worth looking into those pages to see if you can make them more engaging so people don’t leave!

exit-pages

Discover who’s on mobile
Ever wanted to know how much of your traffic is from users on mobile devices? Analytics has a page for that. The numbers are probably higher than you might think, which is why we recommend mobile compatibility for all websites.

mobile

Actually, Analytics will go even deeper and tell you what kind of mobile device your users are on.

mobile-2

This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what data Google Analytics collects and the applications for that data. We’re happy to help if you want help to install Analytics or to dive into the meaningful information to make effective action.