Rule #1: Improve your landing page

Posted by: on Monday, February 27, 2012

I posted this blog back in June of last year but this is still a topic "du jour".

Non Profit Web designA non profit websiteshould always be in a state of improvement and trying to enhance the user's experience while browsing. The more engaged your readers and members are, the more likely they are to come back in the future.

Here is what you need to do to improve your Landing page:

  • The 4-7 seconds rule
    You have about that much time to have them stick around on first visit or....move on and never come back. The decision will be strickly based on visual appeal. Do this test: ask someone to look at your site for 7 seconds then ask them to tell you what the site is about. If they can say describe what you do, then you nailed it.
    Your website needs to communicate visually what you do.
  • People do not read
    We know that from studies: people do not read on the web, they glance, gravitate to keywords, buttons, but, not really. Your words are mostly pointless, unless they are keywords, in bold and few of them. Large chunks of text will mostly be ignored. Look at your site and see if there is any areas of your site using too many words, could you replace some of the words by an image? Remember that an image can say a thousand words!
  • Web credibility
    A survey was recently done and asked people how they rated the credibility of a website from most important to least. Number one by 46% was the design quality, number two was the layout of the page by 28,5%. Name recognition came in with 14.1%. Don't rely on your name alone, it won't be sufficient to keep them browsing. Does your web design look professional? if not, it's time to upgrade.

  • Less is more
    I see too many websites with way too much information on the home page. Looks like the board couldn't agree on what needed to be on the home page and as a result...everything ended up there! Bad idea. Think from two point of view: what are the top 3 areas that are most important to the organization or the business and what are the top 3 things people will go on your website for. Design your layout & graphics around that. The rest should be an interior page easily accessible from the navigation menu. Avoid the multiple navigations all over your landing pape...on the left column, in the header, in the right column, in the footer...oh my! Keep it to one main navigation.

  • Hire a professional designer
    A professional designer that caters to your industry that is. There is most likely a designer with a great deal of expertise in your industry or business type. If you are a non profit member based organization, it would make a lot more sense for you to hire a web designer that specializes in non profit websites.
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Lessons from a Fiasco

Posted by: on Thursday, February 23, 2012

If you are like me, you watched the recent drama between the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Planned Parenthood with a mix of horror and morbid curiosity.  Think what you may about either organization, itís unfortunate to watch such large, successful organizations tarnished. 

This was a great learning opportunity, though, on the dangers of letting your organization get off mission. Without getting mired in the details, I thought it important to highlight some lessons I was reminded of from the kerfuffle and how to avoid them before they happen:

  1. Avoid Cognitive Dissonance:
    Your donors have an image of who they think your organization is and thatís why they give you their financial support.  Organizations should be doing everything in their power to not upset that opinion.  Stick to your mission statement. Thereís an old saying; ďThere are two things you don't talk about in mixed company; religion and politics...Ē  For religious and political organizations, this is obviously a non-issue.  Otherwise though, itís likely that your donorbase comes from a diverse background and you should do your damnedest not to stir your supporters.

  2. If You Disregard #1, Have a Good Reason:
    And explain it!  Not every move a nonprofit makes is going to make everyone happy at every turn, but it is pretty easy to know in advance when you are making a potentially risky move.  Your donors are naturally pre-wired to agree with you; if your decision making is sound, you should be able to explain your moves in a way that donors will be able to understand.  Be consistent and ACCURATE when explaining it!

  3. Know Your Donor:
    The reasons that people give to your organization are probably wide-ranging, but there are likely some trends regarding who and why people give you their support.  Immerse yourself into their world, so that you are better aware of what potential pitfalls you might face with changing or new initiatives.

  4. Help Your Donors Know You:
    Your financial house should be in clean enough order that donors should have no doubt where their donations are going.  The more explaining you need, the less compelling your offer seems.  This can be taken to various extremes, but itís always good practice to let donors know where and how their dollars are helping.

  5. Know Yourself:
    This is one of those leadership issues vital for the long term success of any organization.  There are often short term incentives to move a small, monetarily insignificant project to your forefront.  However, itís very important that these short term pushes donít trump the long-term goals of the organization. Iíll give an example: An emergency need on the periphery of your organizationís work is gaining media attention, so you shift communications to highlight your work on that issue.  The short term dollars gained are a boon for the organization, but you are also attracting and renewing donors that donít necessarily support your primary mission.  Itís important that efforts be made to shift back on topic.  Otherwise, you risk cultivating a database of donors that arenít compelled by the body of your work.

(This is a blog re-post: original source:

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Email Signature for Dummies

Posted by: on Thursday, February 23, 2012

Someone just recently asked me about this blog I originally wrote back in March 2011, so here it is:

After receiving several emails last week, I was reminded how more often thant not, email signatures are done poorly.

Email Signature for dummiesMany people want their signature to reflect their personality, provide pertinent information and more, but they can easily go overboard.

Others have none, just their first name at the bottom of the email. If you want to call them or go to their'll have to dig.

Why are email signatures important? They may be boring and the last item on your list of things to get right, but they affect the tone of every email you write.

Email signatures contain alternative contact details, pertinent job titles and company names, which help the recipient get in touch when emails are not responded to. Sometimes, they give the recipient an idea of who wrote the email in case it has been a while since they have been in touch. 

Here are some tips on how to create an email signature that works.

Be Concise
Start by adding your website link to your signature. In many cases, more than half the traffic a website gets, comes from emails....talking about easily improving your SEO by simply adding your website link!!

An email signature shouldn’t double the email’s length, so make it as short as possible (3-4 lines is usually enough). Don’t get into your life story here. The purpose of a signature is to let them see who you are and how to get in touch with you.

Make Sure to Include…

  • Your Name,
  • Your Title,
  • How to get in touch with you. (Phone, Email)
  • Your website

No need to include...10 different ways to get in touch with you. The rule should be, less is more; and then they’ll know which way you prefer to be contacted. Go to 3 or 4 lines, with a maximum of 72 character per line (many email applications have a maximum width of 80 characters, so limit the length to avoid unsightly wrapping). An optional fourth line could be your company address, but use caution if you work from home.

Antoine Dupont
(561) 272-8567

Don’t Include…

  • Personal Twitter, 
  • IM or Skype details;
  • Your home phone number or address (unless you want to be called by international clients early in the morning);
  • The URL of your personal website unless its relevant to your business like a blog;
  • Random quotes at the bottom;
  • Your entire skill set, CV and lifetime achievements in point form.

Random quotes are fun for friends, but you risk offending business associates with whom you don’t have a personal relationship. Unless you want clients contacting you while you’re watching Lost, don’t share your home details far and wide.

Also, don’t share your personal contact information with your corporate partners. They certainly won’t be interested in it, and you may not want them to know certain details about you. However, mentioning your corporate Twitter account or alternative means of contact in your signature might be useful, in case your correspondent is not able to get in touch with you by regular email.

Images And Logos
Let’s get this out of the way now: your entire signature shouldn’t be an image. Sure, it will look exactly how you want, but it is completely impractical. Not only does an image increase the email’s file size, but it will likely be blocked before being opened. And how does someone copy information from an image?

Any images should be used with care and attention. If you do use one, make it small in both dimensions and size, and make it fit in aesthetically with the rest of the signature. 50 x 50 pixels should be plenty big for any logo. If you want to be taken seriously as a business person, do not make it an animated picture, dancing dog or shooting rainbow!

Most email clients store images as attachments or block them by default. So, if you present your signature as an image, your correspondents will have a hard time guessing when you’ve sent a genuine attachment.

Don’t Be A Fancy Pants or Cutesy
While vCards are a great, convenient way to share contact information, in emails they add bytes and appear as attachments. It is often said that you shouldn’t use a vCard for your email signature, because as helpful as it might be the first time you correspond with someone, receiving it every time after that gets annoying. Besides, the average email user won’t know what it is. 

If you do want to provide a vCard, just include a link to a remote copy.

Cutesy images or colors, heart shape, etc can be counter productive if the recipient finds it annoying, keep this for your private email account.

What About Confidentiality Clauses?
If your emails include confidential information, you may need to include a non-disclosure agreement to prevent information leaks. However, good practice is never to send sensitive information as plain text in emails because the information could be extracted by third parties or forwarded by recipients to other people. Thus, including a non-disclosure agreement doesn’t make much sense if you do not send sensitive information anyway.

Keep in mind, too, that the longer a confidentiality clause is, the more unlikely someone will actually read it. Again, check your state’s privacy laws. Some big companies require a disclosure with every email, but if you’re at a small company or are a freelancer and don’t really require it, then don’t put it in. The length of such clauses can be annoying, especially in short emails.

If you can, stay away from HTML formatting. Every Web designer knows the pain of HTML newsletters, and while HTML is supported for email signatures, you’ll likely have problems with images and divider lines in different email clients. Some nice ASCII formatting may work in some cases.

Of course, if you’re really keen to use HTML, keep it simple:

  • Make sure it still looks good in plain text. 
  • Use black and standard-sized fonts, and stay away from big, tiny and rainbow-colored fonts. 
  • Don’t use CSS. Inline HTML formatting is universally accepted. 
  • Use common Web fonts.
  • Including a logo? Make sure the signature looks nice even when the logo doesn’t load or is blocked.
  • Check how it looks when forwarded. 
  • Do all the lines wrap correctly?
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How easy are you making it for people to do business with you?

Posted by: on Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It may seem obvious to organizations that currently provide a street address, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information on their website, that if you want to make it easy for people to do business with you, you have to give them multiple ways to reach you or ask for more information.

Surprisingly, a great number of websites we see, still make it difficult for their visitors and customers to find contact information on their sites or provide just one option.

Here are few tips to help you with this:

  • Have as many options as possible for contacting you. Some people like to pick up the phone, others will prefer sending an email, you may even have someone that will want to send you their request via fax. Provide them all.
  • An 800 number might be a good idea if you do business with out of state prospect. This could help you if they prefer calling and talking to a human being and they are out of state
  • A "Contact Us" form is good but provide additional options beyond the basic First, Last & Comments fields. Based on your organization or business model, offer checkboxes or drop down selections to help your prospect narrow down their inquiry, i.e. I need some of this, this & this. It helps people pre-qualify themselves with easy checkbox so they don't have to type so much in the comments box.
  • Other forms such as "Ask a question" or "Request more information or a brochure". Some people may not want to talk to anyone....yet. All I want to know is (fill in the blank). They are either very busy or shy and don't want to be called, they just want an answer to their question. If you have that form available, then those people will use it and you will gain from it.
  • Provide several social media connection. People may feel more confortable to post a message on your Facebook wall rather than calling you directly.
  • The staff page or team page needs to include pictures, period! People want to relate to others. A surprising conclusion from two separate A/B tests: putting human photos on a website increases conversion rates by as much as double. Scientific research backs this up, saying that we are subconsciously attracted to images with people. 
  • Make a donation or make a payment should be so easy to find and to complete that your grandma could do it without asking for help. If Grandma can complete the transaction and says at the end "that was easy" then you nailed it. Also, the donation button on the home page should be so self evident that a blind man could tell you where it is. Upper right hand corner of your home page could be a good spot for it. Button color: Along with its other A/B tests, conversion rate was increased by 34% on some test site, simply by changing the color of the sign-up button from green to red!

Remember, it's all about making it easy for people to take action!

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Tips on writing from David Ogilvy

Posted by: on Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On September 7th, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo to all agency employees, titled "How to Write":

"The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. 

Here are 10 hints to help you with web content writing :

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.



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10 unexpected online user behaviors to look out for

Posted by: on Monday, February 13, 2012

When designing non profit website or a small business website, there are key user behaviors that should be taken into account. But in order to take them into account, it helps to know them.

Below are 10 of the more interesting and less well-known user behaviors that regularly occur in user testing:

  1. People have banner blindness
    People don't notice banners. It's been found in eye tracking studies their gaze literally avoids settling on any area that looks like an advert instead it seems they actively try to avoid looking at them. This effect is called banner blindness.

    Banner blindness affects most visitors, and has a startling side effect. Useful areas of the site that are overly graphically designed (and end up looking like an advert) are ignored by users as though they were adverts.

    A good way to avoid banner blindness is to ensure your site banners are mostly text, so that they look as much like useful site content as possible. If you wish push advertisments as much as possible, use text format, like those to the right hand side of Google search results.
  2. Visitors develop tunnel vision
    People who come to watch user testing for the first time are amazed at the tunnel vision participants develop when they are doing a task. An example from a recent round of user testing - The link the participants required was placed in the right hand column, next to an article, but only 2 of 8 participants found it.

    If the link users are searching for is not named correctly or not placed where they expect then they will, surprisingly regularly, get stuck. Participants simply don't notice things on the screen unless it's where they expected it to be.

    Unfortunately there's no clear way to avoid this problem. The best method to ensure you help users who've developed tunnel vision is to perform user testing on key tasks and see if they get stuck.
  3. They won't hang around on your homepage
    Often when people land on a non profit website, they're arriving with a specific task in mind. This means their tunnel vision is already on, they won't look at all the other things your site has to offer. They'll be clicking deeper into the site in no time. All the effort you spent lovingly crafting your association's web design homepage is lost. They just want to get their task done.

    This cannot be helped, it's just natural behavior. Take this behavior into account while designing a website, you must ensure that the site's purpose and content are clear on all pages. Read Design Guidelines for a Non Profit Website (pdf)
  4. People don't have patience
    If the answer is not immediately apparent, many will either give up, or look elsewhere (there are plenty more sites in the sea). In testing, participants regularly navigate to the right page, only to quickly conclude they've gone wrong and click away.
  5. People's gaze trails are manic
    While it's recognized that people tend to look at websites in a reversed 'F' pattern, it's not that simple.

    People look all over the place when they first land on a page. After an initial view, people pay more attention on the areas they feel will be most useful to them (usually the navigation across the top and down the left hand side, which encourages the 'F' pattern to form).
  6. People don't take in what they look at
    Something to bear in mind - Just because a person looked at something on a page, it doesn't mean they've taken it in or that they understand what they've seen. Often in eye tracking studies it has been shown people have looked at something, but they haven't taken it in. Read The 7 Deadly sins of non profit web design
  7. People are happy to scroll
    Any time people are asked, they say how much they hate scrolling. However in real life it's less of an issue than many claim, as users often scroll without even realising they are doing it. The key is to ensure people are aware that more page content is below the fold - don't rely on the scroll bar on the side of the screen to be enough of a clue.

    Some content on the page that starts above the fold should continue past it. Avoid points on the page where the content looks to have ended early and the page seemingly cuts off.
  8. People don't read
    When online, people read very differently than when they're reading a book or magazine. On the Internet people try not to read until they feel they're found what they are looking for, until they reach the content they need. Up to that point they scan, looking for keywords.

    What does this mean? People don't read introductory text, instruction text, navigation options... almost anything if they can avoid it. This must be taken into account during website design, and content creation.

    There are several ways to try and reduce the problem:
    • Reduce the word count of each page (ideally by half)
    • Try to remove/minimize instruction text
    • Highlight key words
    • Use lists/bullet points where possible
    • Break up text using clear sub-headings
    • Try to start each page/paragraph with the conclusion, so that users can decide whether to read the page/paragraph early
    • Use images instead of words where possible
  9. People are creatures of habit
    People don't like having to learn new ways to do things. Once users have found a way to do something, even if it's not the best way, they'll tend to do it that way over and over again. Usually they won't bother to see if there's a better way unless they find what they do particularly frustrating.

    This should be remembered if you produce a new version of an existing system. Either make sure people can still do the old methods, or be ready for annoyed existing users as they learn the new method.
  10. People are happy to click through more than 3 levels
    There's an internet fallacy that "people are only willing to click through up to 3 levels in a website". This is wrong. The real rule is that "people are willing to click through more than 3 levels in a site as long as they feel they are making progress towards their goal". The disclaimer is key, if the site flows, if it's clear where users must go next they will happily click through several levels. People don't like to feel lost. If it's unclear where to go (even on the 1st or 2nd click) they will go elsewhere.

    There's nothing more effective at driving visitors away from a site than making a user click through levels where they must stop and think where to go next. Unfortunately the only way to tell if your site suffers from this is through user tests or very careful attention to the site statistics and look at your Top Exit Pages.

Designing a is hard enough as it is, taking into account your surprisingly erratic users makes it that much harder.

Fortunately taking unexpected user behavior into account throughout the design process is a large part of the battle, it's a significant step on the way to a good user experience.

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Who is using QR codes?

Posted by: on Friday, February 10, 2012

You have probably seen them on posters, business cards and just about everywhere lately. Like most new ways to promote a business or an event, there is often a tendency to rush and take advantage of what it may have to offer. But just like any marketing tool, you should base your desicion on how to use a QR code, on factual data.

Who is most likely to scan a QR code?
According to a study conducted by Brandspark International, the 18-34 year-olds (85%) are the most likely to scan a QR Code, and it that same group, men will represent 75% of the scans. So basically, young men, between 18-34 are most likely to scan a QR Code. Does this sounds like your demographic? If yes, get moving now and add QR codes to all your marketing & promotional materials. If not, you might to consider spending your money some place else.

Think Coupons
54% of smartphone owners like the idea of coupons (aka instant discount) according to a study conducted by the "2012 American Shopper Study". A QR code is a great way to satisfy this need. However, female smartphone owners are more likely to take advantage of that compared to their male counterpart.

Have you succesfully used QR codes to promote your business or event? please share how...


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5 ways to increase attendance & participation at your events

Posted by: on Thursday, February 9, 2012

If you are charged with organizing or promoting a conference on your non profit website or company website, use any or all of the ideas below to generate interest, drive registration and keep the momentum past the conference:

  1. Email Marketing
    Start with at least an email per week to keep your attendees engaged or until you have some serious traction with social media. Don't just ask to register, add value content like an article or a blog written by one of the speaker.

  2. LinkedIn Groups
    It's free and super easy to set up. Just a quick email promoting this and see conversation start between members. You will need to start several topics but you will be surprised on how much people will interact. It will also be a great source of ideas & suggestions for what your audience is looking for...or not. Hearing about how much they are looking forward to hear about this or that is invaluable. Surveys are great, but a casual conversation between people could be very revealing.

  3. Share your photos on Facebook
    Facebook is a great platform to share photos, that's what people do most of the time anyway. Allow them to comment and add their own.

  4. Post of presentation quickly
    You can post them on your website or use Slide Share but do it quickly. Post them on the same day is awesome, 1-3 days after the conference is acceptable, 1-2 weeks later is too late. I'm still waiting for the presentation slides of a conference I attended 2 weeks ago, quite honestly, I've lost interest.

  5. Make & Post videos
    You can now take a quick video using a flip cam or simply by using your mobile phone and post it in a record time. Videos are a very powerful tool to communicate, and it's easier than ever to do so. We use a company called 12 Stars Media, you upload your videos, they make it pretty and send it back to you. It's easy to use and affordable.
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Seven habits for successful Email Marketing

Posted by: on Monday, February 6, 2012

A report from analyst firm Forrester is predicting that by 2014 companies will spend over $1.2 billion on email marketing in the US alone - an 11% compound annual growth rate.

Yet it also predicts that much of this spend will be wasted as messages are targeted inappropriately or not at all.

1. Just be Relevant.
Ensure that your customers or members are receiving information that most resonates with them. Most people are tired of generic advertising messages. Provide value, make it worth my while to read your relevant!

2. Manage Email Frequency Carefully.
Over-mailing your email subscribers can turn even the most engaged recipient off. Always test to determine the right frequency for your brand. Early Mondays might be a great recipe to end up in the Trash as people will be deleting all the junk from the weekend. Try different times and check on which day & time provides the most CTR (Click through rate)

3. Test Your Offers.
Test the water by sending a new email offer to a random subset of your recipients to determine response and relevance. Assess the offer response, adjust as necessary and then share it with the remainder of your subscriber-base.

4. Use Graphics Wisely.
Images should complement your message content, not detract from it. Make sure your use of graphics supports everything from your brand through your call-to-action effectively. Remember that a large image can push content below the fold, while excessive images can slow message loading. One small image to enhance the message is usually a good rule. Remember also that many people will be reading your email on their mobile device, test to make sure it will look great both on a computer and a mobile device.

5. Embrace Personalisation Within the Email Template.
Always look to make your messages more relevant by adding personalized, dynamic content.  If you don't know where to begin, you can start with basic mail merge fields like "first name" and move toward personalised content based on past purchases, subscriptions and other unique data to build a deeper relationship with the customer.

6. Develop a Flexible Response Strategy.
Many companies are guilty of delivering large volumes of highly relevant content quickly and then failing to deal with the responses effectively. Anticipate demand and plan accordingly. Good rule of thumb is to be able to respond within 2 hours or at least within the same day. Responding tomorrow or within the next couple of days is very 1990's, people's expectation is NOW!

7. Postcards & Flyers should be mailed, not emailed.
Most email readers will now prevent any images from displaying unless the recipient click on the "Display images" link. Don't count on it, most people will delete it without even taking a look at it. Email marketing is to send few relevant words with one or a couple of images that will invite you to click to view more on the website.

Remember to test, test & test. The numbers never lie.


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