Our team at Webdesigndom doesn’t just provide web services and consulting to our clients in Montreal and elsewhere but is happy to freely share some of our expertise.

So, check this Knowledge Base. Here (and in our blog posts) you can find useful, and hopefully interesting, articles and some valuable tips on web design, SEO, pay-per-click (PPC), UX, branding and other related topics – to help you make the right decisions. Not just about designing a new website but how to improve your existing one – better website structure, UX, SEO, PPC, higher rankings – all leading to more traffic and better business.

Any additional questions?  Contact us.  We’ll be happy to assist.

User Experience – Part 1: Why User-Friendliness is a Must2020-05-01T18:04:09+00:00

Good User Experience: Vital +++

Webdesigndom’s current knowledge base article series addresses users’ (= website visitors’) needs. Part One (this part) highlights the necessity of good user experience; Part Two lists some of the vital parts of a user-friendly website. Part Three will discuss something much less obvious but nonetheless very important: why does Google rank sites with good user experience higher in search results?

Let’s jump straight into Part One.

It’s pretty logical, really. Imagine Jimmy Brown has a brick and mortar store selling, say, jewelry. The store has a decent location in a respectable area, with a fair amount of potential walk-in clientele. Yet imagine that the large glass storefront is dusty, the entrance door is difficult to push open, and the inside of the store is badly lit, with 4 of the 6 large lights irritatingly blinking, or on the blink (pun intended).

To add insult to injury, selection is inadequate, merchandise is not displayed attractively, the sales staff lacks expertise and enthusiasm, or is unfriendly. The quality of items is not trust-inspiring. To top it all off, compared to his competitors, Jimmy’s prices “suck” (as do all or most of his above-mentioned infrastructure).

Well, our friend Jimmy has a major problem. The reason is bad user experience, the problem is bad sales, and the result will be a closed and shuttered store pretty soon unless he does a U-turn of attitude.

True, we greatly exaggerated. Sorry. Such a heap of negative qualities is almost unheard of. But as an illustrative example, it’ll do. And it can be applied to the ultimate “non-brick-and-mortar-store”, namely a web site. Because on websites, many of those serious flaws can actually be found.

Dusty and badly lit = unattractive graphic design.
Door difficult to open = illogical site navigation.
Merchandise issues = badly presented photography, silly search logic, inaccurate descriptions.
Sloppy service = no reply to calls or e-mails.
And so on.

The problem is that (as opposed to physical stores where blatant flaws are very obvious to all and will hopefully be fixed quickly), many websites don’t get fixed. Unattractive design? C’mon, my daughter did it, and she got an 80 in her arts exam. Site navigation? This can’t be a problem – my visitors aren’t stupid. Clarity and accuracy? Hey, my English is good!

Again, we are exaggerating. But in the case of websites, not by much. And we think the message is clear:

Good user experience is vital +++. Again: vital +++. The visitor wants to feel good. Not only about the merchandise or service she’s buying, but also about herself. She wants to be sure to have made the right choice. And even before buying, browsing can be a pleasant, classy, feel-good experience – or an unpleasant one. Just like in a physical store.

The difference is that to exit a website is even easier than leaving a physical store. So, if she’s not happy with what she sees, or is confused or frustrated, the visitor is gone. With a single click.

Good bye, Jimmy’s site. Click or tap.

And it’s also much easier and faster to find a better website than a better physical store. Within seconds. No running, no driving, no parking. Just a few clicks or taps.

Tap-tap-tap. Hello, user-friendly website. Hello, Jimmy’s competitor.

All this is perfectly logical; plain old common sense. Yet not everybody bears it in mind.

Part Two of this article will list some of the vital parts of user experience. What makes a site user-friendly ? We already hinted at a few points, but that’s not the whole story.

So, for the whole story, read Part 2: 9 Vital Signs of Great User Experience.

>>>  Or access all Knowledge base articles

User Experience – Part 2 (a): 4 Key Ingredients2020-05-01T18:04:26+00:00

4 Vital Signs of Great User Experience

In Part One of our User Experience article we were all over poor Jimmy Brown for having a very user-unfriendly store and / or website.

In this Part 2 we’ll go easier (and more positive) on him, with tips how to make his website more user-friendly for visitors. In other words, how to provide good user experience (today increasingly referred to as UX).

Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, most UX dos and don’ts  are common sense. Physical stores devote a lot of time and money to be user-friendly, so that window shoppers turn into visitors, and visitors into customers. They can spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more …) to create a great image and lure visitors inside.

The same basic logic and psychology applies to websites (of course with some very important twists that apply to online behaviour and preferences).

So we are giving you the distilled essence of our knowledge and have assembled the 9 vital points for a good UX. And to make reading them a better user experience for you [ :) ], we split them in 2 parts … 4 key must-haves in this part, 5 more in the next.

Here, then, are the first 4 key user experience guidelines.

1. A short, clear message.

According to internal research and surveys by us at Webdesigndom, this is, at least initially, extremely important for user-friendliness. Really? Would great photos and graphic design not grab a visitor’s attention first? Isn’t a picture is worth more than a thousand words?

True. Visuals attract. But on the other hand, we are all used to seeing online slogans and messages all the time. Plus, regrettably, our attention span has shortened substantially over the years. The rule “you have 3 – 5 seconds to get the user’s attention” is valid. A user wants to know pretty much instantly what your site is all about, and whether she can benefit from it.

That’s why a short, clear and meaningful message will initially grab your visitors’ attention more than a nice image which doesn’t necessarily convey a clear message. It’ll increase the chances that she’ll stay on the website (assuming, of course, that the message is relevant to her needs and strikes a chord).

That said, exceptions apply. An image can be a message on its own. Just look at those juicy steaks and pizza slices on restaurant websites. But images that can effectively convey messages without the help of words are not all that frequent (unless they show an already well known brand or item). Also, they wouldn’t be meaningful in service industries where usually all that’s shown is a group of geeks around a computer, or two people pretending to be happy shaking hands. (That said, there are of course exceptions to these exceptions, too …).

2. Clean, uncluttered layout + design.

This is very important for great user experience. But it’s not the same as beautiful graphic design. It’s more about what you’d call “comfort level”. Think of it as a simple but bright house that’s immaculately tidy. There is just the right amount of clean and functional furniture, nicely arranged, and plenty of airy and comfortable space to move around. A pleasure, isn’t it?

Compare that to a gorgeous but overbearing home cluttered with an overkill of unfriendly furniture into which you bump all the time and which makes you feel claustrophobic. Boooooh!

As an aside, Google’s earlier site layouts used to be a paragon of uncluttered (albeit graphically highly unappealing) layout. Even today, many Google pages are designed this way, and have found imitators.

3. Clear, intuitive navigation.

This is vital for good user experience. As mentioned above, website visitors’ attention span is super short. A user wants quick gratification, and a pleasant, smooth journey through the website. Just with the help of traffic signs (so to speak), but without the need to ask for directions … There is even a psychological angle to this: subconsciously speaking, he doesn’t want to feel stupid, or even web illiterate. If he can’t find his way fast, he’s gone in a flash.

Navigation doesn’t have to be minimalist. But it should be logical, clear and, well, intuitive. If necessary, some very brief guidance, sometimes as mouse-overs, can help. In this respect, we have to dilute the compliment we gave Google re. uncluttered design;  some of Google’s pages, such as Google Drive or Gmail, are not at all very logical to get around. And there are millions of websites out there (many of them belonging to large corporations with big web design budgets) which are frustrating to navigate.

Therefore, businesses (even smaller ones!) which provide a great, user-friendly navigating experience on their website, can gain a definite edge. A good web designer can make all the difference.

4Beautiful graphic design.

Finally! Yes, of course great visual appeal is vital, too. A smart web designer will be able to create not just beautiful images but the atmosphere and the visual message appropriate for a particular website. Sharp photos, naïve drawings, abstract art or blurry fantasies, hi-tech, trendy or retro – all these, and more, have their place in graphic design, as long as they intelligently convey and complement the underlying message. And, obviously, as long as it’s beautifully done and put together.

We hope you found this article useful. Did we leave anything out?

Questions? Comments? Challenges?  Reach out to us. We’re here to help.

>>>  Read 5 More Vital Signs of Great User Experience

>>>  Read the other 2 parts of this User Experience series:
Part 1:  Why User-Friendliness is a Must      Part 3:  Google Strikes Back       

>>> Access All Knowledge base articles.

User Experience – Part 2 (b): 5 More Key Ingredients2020-05-01T18:04:45+00:00

5 More Vital Signs of Great User Experience

Welcome back. If you read the first 4 Vital Signs of Great User Experience, you’ll like these 5, too (hopefully). So, here they are.

5. Great content.

Content is central to any website. Good content is relevant, informative, gives the message and tells the story. Great copy is not necessarily short, as long as it “flows well”. It should be easy to read, broken up into short, easy-to-digest paragraphs, with interesting headlines and sub-headlines. And of course, good grammar and spelling are definitely called for …

Content should also be engaging and interesting. It can be classy, funny, emotional, cute, whatever. As long as it keeps the user reading. This will make him feel comfortable (remember: it’s about good user experience!). But it should never be boring (though that could be a challenge if you sell high-pressure valves, ISO 9000-certified CNC machining software, or books on calculus …).

Interesting copy (which you can further spice up with great RSS feeds, blog posts, contests, quizzes etc.) will keep users on your website much longer, will engage them and actually make them look forward to returning. Converting them into customers won’t be far off !

Great content is also key for good SEO and higher search result rankings. We have already touched upon that subject in our Google Strikes Back article. A further article will follow in the near future.

6. Irresistible offers.

It goes without saying that well photographed, persuasively and clearly described and yes, logically arranged, items and services give excellent UX. That, plus super terms, special discounts, or time-limited offers can add up to an irresistible package. That’s from a user-friendliness point of view.

From a business perspective, a word about prices: naturally, pricing is key – though this doesn’t mean that the lowest prices are always the winners. Pricing is a chapter (or a whole book!) to itself, and a web designer who has extensive business experience can be a major asset in building a successful website.

7. Feeling safe.

If a visitor doesn’t know your company, he will want to be credibly reassured he’s dealing with a reputable vendor. After all, he will usually have to pay up front, at least for merchandise. It will help if you provide testimonials, and any memberships in business associations or Chambers of Commerce. You also need to clearly state your terms, price and quality (if applicable). Important:  an iron-clad satisfaction guarantee and a generous return / refund policy.

8. Great communication.

Imagine a visitor who walks into a store but can’t find the information she wants and can’t even get to talk to a knowledgeable staff member. We would put the chances of her becoming a customer as pretty slim, to put it mildly.

A website is no different. There should be comprehensive and detailed information in the first place. But for those who need more info, there must be a user-friendly infrastructure in place for quick, ideally instant, and, if at all possible, personal assistance. Nowadays, anything else is bad user experience.

9. First-class e-commerce (if applicable to your website).

A stable, logical, easy to navigate e-commerce system that makes it all a breeze: shopping carts, saved items, purchases, payments, shipping, returns, and follow-ups. All with confidentiality in place. And continued communication.

We guess that’s pretty self-explanatory.

We hope you found this article useful. Did we leave anything out?
Questions? Comments? Challenges?  Reach out to us. We’re here to help.
>>>  Read the first 4 Vital Signs of Great User Experience
>>>  Read the other 2 parts of this User Experience series:
Part 1:  Why User-Friendliness is a Must
Part 3:  Google Strikes Back 

>>>  Access All Knowledge base articles.

User Experience – Part 3: Google Strikes Back2017-06-23T03:34:51+00:00

User Experience – Part 3: Why Google Insists on Quality Web Design

In the past User Experience articles, we discussed in Part One the importance of a user-friendly website ; and in Part Two we listed the 9 keys for great User Experience (actually we split them up, for your better user experience [ :) ], into  4 key ingredients  and  5 more key ingredients

Part Three (this part) tells you why search engines (and like usual, we mainly mean Google) favour websites that offer good user experience. This will get a bit political (and more), and if it reads like a conspiracy or a financial thriller, the better …

Well, by “conspiracy” we don’t mean anything sinister. That would be an exaggeration. On the other hand, to say Google “prefers” user-friendly websites would be an understatement. They virtually insist that a website be user-friendly – or else it will get downgraded in search results. Of course, nobody likes “bad” websites. But to actually penalize websites for being user-unfriendly?

Why is that, and what’s their game?

Anybody who thinks that Google is just the enthusiastic, benign traffic cop of the web, is sorely mistaken. Nor are they the innovative idealists who love a perfect cyberspace, and simply want to educate a generation of web designers to create good user experience. Think again.

Google is a business. Sure, it’s very friendly (and user-friendly). Sometimes a bit controversial as it’s ambitious and powerful, but by and large very useful to billions of people; image conscious and socially aware, too.

But in the final analysis Google means business. Cold, hard business. As such, it does what’s best for itself. Now what generates the overwhelming majority of Google’s revenues? The answer is: advertising, such as Google Adwords and associated programs.

The following figures were pulled from Google’s own financial reports page, https://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html  and other relevant sources.

Total Revenue 2014: USD 66 Billion.
Total Revenue 2015: USD 74.6 Billion.
Total Revenue 2016: USD 89 Billion
Revenue 2017 (Est.): USD 97 Billion (Extrapolated & estimated by Webdesigndom)
Google Adwords revenue as a percentage of total revenue (for each of the 4 years): a whopping 90 + %. Yes, that’s Ninety. Not too shabby.

It’s for those dozens of billions of dollars that Google is so strict about the quality of websites.

Now let’s analyze this. Would a visitor spend a lot of time on a user-unfriendly website? Most likely not.

Why does Google reward good content and good user experience? Firstly, because it keeps users on the site longer. And the longer they stay, the more Google Adwords ads they will see that are hosted on that site … of course, the more ads they are then likely to click. And each clicked ad is money into Google’s coffers.

Secondly, the better quality a website that hosts those ads, the higher quality (and more costly per click) ads it will attract.

Thirdly, better traffic will lead to more sales, and more sales will lead to a higher degree of preparedness by Adwords customers to spend even more on clicks. It’s like a virtuous circle, and a win-win for everyone – not least for Google.

It’s in this context that the famous Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird “updates” by Google (banning millions of low quality websites) must be understood. Not to mention Google’s insistence that non-Responsive, i.e.: mobile-unfriendly, websites will be downgraded in search results. It all boils down to the simple principle: higher quality, user-friendlier websites equal higher Google revenue.

All that said, we won’t argue the point that high quality websites are simply better for everyone. They are. And any business should strive for such sites. After all, who wouldn’t want better traffic and better business?

From this angle, Google is actually doing something beneficial for the web business community.

Read the 2 previous parts of this series:    

>>>  Part 1:   Why User- Friendliness is a Must
>>>  Part 2(a):   4 Keys to Great User Experience     >>>  Part 2(b):   5 More Keys to Great User Experience

>>>  Access all our   Knowledge base articles 

8 SEO Monitoring Tips for 2016 – For CEOs and Managers2020-05-01T18:05:57+00:00

Webdesigndom’s SEO Follow-up Tips for 2016

This little article is not about how to plan or perform great SEO … for that topic, we’d need many, many big articles, probably a whole book! Here we’re just trying to give you (the business owner, CEO or manager) a few good tips what to look out for after SEO has been implemented.

As we repeatedly mentioned (read our SEO vs. PPC article), SEO is not a one-shot deal. Ranking progress, status and SEO quality requires constant ongoing monitoring and fine tuning, for 3 reasons:

a) Never rest on your laurels. Nothing is ever perfect. There’s always place for new ideas and constant improvements.

b) Google’s rules and algorithms can (and do) change, sometimes drastically. Websites have to adjust if they want to stay in the loop (and avoid getting downgraded).

c)  Your competitors aren’t sleeping. They spend a lot of time and money keeping and improving their good search rankings. Can you afford to stay behind?

Yes, you do need an SEO expert for the ongoing follow-up process. But website SEO monitoring, while of course not free of charge, is not necessarily expensive. What’s expensive is  not  to monitor.

Your SEO specialist, in-house or on contract, will the check the website’s dynamic progress and make the necessary changes and updates. Still, it’s good for any business owner or manager to know, in broad outlines, what’s involved. Then you can have an intelligent talk with your SEO person and address the issues that are most urgent or important for you. The list below is a decent guide but (sorry!) can’t be complete in this space.

So, here goes (in short points).

  1. Use   Google Analytics   to pinpoint any traffic problems, duration of site (and page) visits, bounce rates, etc.
  2. Keep checking and updating the keywords for which the website wants to be found.
  3. Check your rankings (on Google, Yahoo and Bing) for each of your main keywords. For your rankings in other countries, check those search engines’ international websites for results.
  4. Check the same for your main competitors.
  5. Verify how many pages of your site have been indexed, performing Google Site search. Simply type into the browser bar the following: site:www.mywebsite.myextension, adjust for your website’s details, and hit Enter. Google will display all your web pages they have indexed.   This is not a cure-all but it will give you a good idea about how well your site is structured and linked.
  6. Make sure you don’t have broken links within your website. Broken links make it a frustrating user experience for your visitors to navigate (read our article on user experience and user-friendliness), throw search engine crawls off the track, and can even hurt your site’s search rankings.
  7. Check your external links for inaccessible content. You don’t want outgoing links that are “dead”.
  8. Using appropriate tools, make sure your back links (i.e.: links pointing to your website) are desirable for you. Low quality back links can hurt your website.

We hope this little article was useful for you.

Question? Comments? Challenges? Reach out to us. We’re good listeners and are here to help.

Organic SEO vs. PPC (Pay Per Click) – Part One2020-05-01T18:02:29+00:00

SEO vs. PPC – Part One: A Basic Comparison

Even nice web sites need traffic driven to them. This is axiomatic and common sense. Yet there are still web site owners out there who believe a decent, good-looking site will automatically generate tons of traffic.

Well, they might be right if they happen to have dynamite content. Truly exceptional content that impresses the heck out of the search engines, or stuff that will go viral. Otherwise, hoping for “automatic” traffic is wishful thinking.

For how will someone searching by keywords find that web site in the first place, unless it can show up well in search results? True, there are other tools to drive traffic, too (such as e-mail campaigns; article marketing; link building; social media; blogging, etc.). But some of those tools influence search results and rankings only indirectly, or are relatively short-lived in their effectiveness.

We’ll discuss some of those “other tools” in upcoming posts and articles – so be sure to visit us regularly. (You see? Generating interest and curiosity is another way of driving traffic. It’s called content marketing).

But we digress.

Today we’ll start briefly discussing pros and cons of 2 important “traffic drivers”: PPC (mainly by the market leader Google Adwords) vs. Organic SEO. Those who already know may skip the rest. But don’t go far Come back soon.

Organic SEO is the complex science of optimizing a web site (or web page) for the desired search terms. The purpose is to attract the big search engines’ attention and “esteem”.  Very simply and briefly put, Google will rate a site that’s well optimized as relevant for those terms or keywords, and rank it higher in search results. Such search results usually appear in the middle, the main body of results pages.

Organic SEO requires expert work, patience and monitoring if it is to be successful.

By contrast, PPC is a more direct, and simpler method of attracting attention. Compared to Organic SEO it’s almost a bit crude. Yet it can be very effective. In this scenario the web site owner is an advertiser. She creates search engine ads that link to her web site, and bids for search result placements for those ads. 

The higher the bid, the bigger the likelihood of higher ranking in the ads section (usually on top or on the side). That said, the most effective and relevant keywords have to be researched, evaluated and applied, too. That is a professional task as well.

There can be thousands of “impressions” (that’s the ad’s appearance in the paid search results section, “inviting” to be clicked) but the advertiser will pay the search engine only if the ad gets clicked and thus the website visited.

Obviously, seeing a search result (SEO or PPC) cannot guarantee any clicks. And even if a click happens, it might not convert into sales. Conversions are a science to themselves. We’ll talk about that topic in a different post.

Part Two of this article will discuss the actual pros and cons of Organic SEO vs. PPC. We’ll also try to help you with guidelines which route to take. See you there.

Question? Comments? Challenges?  Reach out to us.  We’re good listeners and are here to help.

Organic SEO vs. PPC (Pay Per Click) – Part Two2020-05-01T18:02:09+00:00

SEO vs. PPC – Part Two: The Shootout

Part One of this post tried to briefly explain the most important basics of Organic SEO and PPC.  So, welcome back, to Part Two.

Here we’ll come down to the wire and compare their most crucial pros and cons. We’ll also try to give our two cents’ worth about which is the better way to go. (Sneak preview: it depends on …).


Organic SEO is a complex process. For small to medium websites, implementation won’t take months, but for high rankings to actually materialize it will take time. The speed of success depends on the chosen keywords, the competition you are facing and your website’s general SEO quality. Thus, good search results can sometimes be achieved within weeks but often take longer. Don’t forget: your competitors for the high ranking spots aren’t sleeping!

Some reckless SEO marketers claim they can get high rankings for their clients to “within a day”. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. It’s irresponsible humbug. They might use some “black hat” (i.e.: illegal by the search engines’ rules) tricks to get good rankings but those will be very short-term, if at all.

Also, Google, with its sophisticated algorithms and tools, is now much more vigilant and strict about black hat tactics. “Guilty” websites will get penalized by losing rankings. This means that instead of higher rankings, the exact opposite will happen. Ouch!

The great upside of organic SEO: if done properly, good rankings can be very stable, long-lasting and rewarding. They can greatly increase a web site’s popularity as well. Serious SEO expert work doesn’t come cheap, but for websites that are not too complex, it won’t cost an arm and a leg. Also, for SEO there are no advertising or per-click costs to consider.

Good organic SEO is a long-term foundation for success. That’s exactly what organic means: rooted in, and growing out of the website’s structure and quality. As opposed to PPC, SEO-generated rankings, visibility and traffic are solid and stable, not short-lived. (More about this just a few paragraphs further down).

However, here comes the caveat: further optimization and monitoring are crucial.  Briefly stated, SEO progress and status must be regularly monitored, and if necessary, fine-tuned and adjusted. No website can rest on its laurels. Rankings can go down, too, if a site is not properly cared for. You business owners, CEOs and managers may want to read our 8 SEO monitoring tips article, specially formulated for quick, useful reading.

Pay per Click is very different. (For the sake of simplicity, we’ll only discuss Google Adwords here, though there are several PPC tools). The Adwords system is not easy to navigate. And it’s getting more complex as new features are implemented. But it’s still simpler and less time consuming than SEO. That said, an Adwords expert costs money, too – in addition to the per-click costs.

PPC is much more direct. Clicks can start coming in within hours after an ad’s appearance. This can be great for website owners who want to see immediate visits. And because results can be fast, you can test different new ads and keywords much more frequently, and evaluate success or failure faster than with SEO. That’s a big plus.

Another plus is that Google lets you target your ads by geographic areas and, albeit not always accurately, even by demographics such as gender, age and marital status. (It should be mentioned that as far as targeting goes, Facebook PPC ads can potentially do an even better job. We’ll discuss this in another article).

Adword’s first big downside is the cost: even a small campaign of, say, $ 10-15 per day can run into hundreds of dollars per month, and even more if you raise your budget just a little. You can of course limit and adjust the cost per click and the daily or monthly budget. Also, ads can be paused or cancelled at any time – but this can then limit your campaign’s reach and the scope of success.

All that said, a good PPC expert who knows Adwords’ ins and outs will be able to strike a balance and save you a nice bit of money, while at the same time getting good results. (Yes, even a PPC campaign can be “optimized” in some ways).

Another major PPC issue is that, unlike SEO, it has a super-short shelf life. Once an ad stops running (for example due to cost considerations, company vacation, or for any other reason), the ad vanishes, and ad-generated traffic stops immediately.

Incidentally, when you read about “steady” SEO vs. “fast” PPC, doesn’t it somehow remind you of the famous fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”? (Though in real life and today’s web world it’s not certain who wins).

So – who wins the shootout?

That’s a big question. One should never generalize but we generally [ :) ] recommend a mix of the two strategies to combine the upsides of both. After all, SEO and PPC have different qualities that can complement each other very positively if professionally applied.

But which one should be predominant? As so often in business, the answer is: it depends. It depends on your scheduling, short-term and long-term expectations, your ability to target your ads. It also depends on how well you can make PPC and SEO interact. (Another brain teaser!). From a financial point of view, it will depend on your company’s budget, cash flow projections and actual cash flow. And there is more.

We’re sorry if this sounds a bit vague but there is no way assessing all these factors and generalizing, as each case is individual. There are many web- and business-related facets of this issue. We believe a SEO / PPC consultant with business expertise can secure an edge for you.

We hope this has helped a bit. Visit us again. We’ll always try to write some interesting (and hopefully useful) posts and articles.

Question? Comments? Challenges? Reach out to us. We’re good listeners and are here to help.