Validating Your Website + New infinFX Design

Validating Your Website + New infinFX Design

I finally finished the redesign for my web development and SEO consulting company, infinFX. This is the first version of infinFX that I coded entirely in transitional XHTML and CSS.

After the site was finished, I validated all of the source code using the W3C’s XHTML Validator.

What is Validation?

According to the W3C:

Validation is a process of checking your documents against a formal Standard, such as those published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for HTML and XML-derived Web document types, or by the WapForum for WML, etc. It serves a similar purpose to spell checking and proofreading for grammar and syntax, but is much more precise and reliable than any of those processes because it is dealing with precisely-specified machine languages, not with nebulously-defined human natural language.

Why Should You Validate?

Non-valid pages rely on error correction by web browsers. Since not all web browsers are the same, while your page may look fine in one browser, it may appear smugly in another. By validating, you are ensuring your web site is fully web standards compliant and will appear (mostly) uniform across different browsers and operating systems.

Once your site has passed the validation test, you are awarded with a little validation badge that you can place on your site to show off to your readers that your page is standards compliant.

Optimizing infinFX for Search Rankings

Last week I posted an SEO Case Study highlighting some of the ways a page is made more search engine friendly. The company owner asked me to remove the company name from my blog as she doesn’t want visitors to visit my blog before her site, so that is why I reposted the article. The company web site, which was previously in Google’s supplemental index, is now ranked #2 for a search for the company name (which interestingly, is somewhat competitive as there are many companies of the same name).

Anyway, I have been working on better optimizing infinFX for the phrase “Scottsdale web design” as that is where my business is based and the local market is very competitive. I am happy to report that if you type in “scottsdale web design” into Google, I am now fluctuating between the bottom of the first page and top of the second page of SERPs. In the next few weeks, I am sure I will be ranked within the top 5 listings, consistently. On MSN, infinFX is ranked #1 for “scottsdale web design.”

Most of our business comes from referrals, so it will be provide for an influx of new clients when we start to rank well for local “web design” search results.

Coincidentally, today we received our first call from someone who found our company through Google. Apparently they typed in “e-commerce design in scottsdale” and found our web site and proceeded to call us. I quoted them a great price on an e-commerce setup and it looks like it will result in a new client. That is the benefit of SEO pure and simple – more people can find you.

Integrating a Blog into infinFX

Perhaps the biggest reason I wanted to redesign infinFX was so that it would be easy to turn a portion of the site into a WordPress template as I plan on integrating a company blog very soon. The company blog will cover general marketing and web development tips. However, I will still be posting the majority of my web development articles on this site. The blog will actually feature a few guest bloggers, so if any of you are interested in guest blogging on the infinFX Web Dev blog, please contact me.

Rewriting the Copy

The final step for the infinFX web site will be rewriting a majority of the copy so that it will lead to higher conversions. I plan on installing Interspire’s SendStudio email marketing software here soon so that I am able to follow up with prospective clients on a regular basis and distribute a company newsletter.

Premium Web & Blog Design + Guranteed Satisfaction

Finally, if anyone is looking for web site and/or blog design, infinFX offers competitive rates and and guarantees client satisfaction.

Visit www.infinFX.com for more information…

New Web Site Launched – Clearburst Wireless

New Website Launched - Clearburst Wireless

The other day I finished a new web site project which I forgot to mention. This is a web site for a retail store in the Fiesta Mall located in Mesa, Arizona. The company is Clearburst Wireless and they specialize in wireless and cell phone accessories.

The store owner, Carl, recently purchased the retail operation and was looking to have a web site developed to link to their online affiliate store. Please note, I did not create their online store, only their company web site which links to the online store. Another goal for their web site was to bring in new local customers to the physical retail location.

This site only took me a few days to create, as it is a one-pager, but I have been working on optimizing the on-page content so that it will receive as much search engine traffic as possible. I also have been adding the site to targeted web directories to create more linkbacks.

Optimizing for Search Engines

When optimizing for search engines, the goal is to use the keywords in the RIGHT places within the source code. One way that I have done this is by copying the basic home page (which contains all the relevent keywords) and creating separate pages that contain a specific keywords in the URL address, keyword as the header tag, and keyword in the page title. These pages are not linked to the home page, but to the Site Map, so that Google knows to index those pages.

Implemented the Google Maps API

Another cool thing I did to this site was use the Google Maps API to create an onpage and fully navigable Google Map that people can get a better idea of the physical location of the store.

Why Do I Mention My Projects?

A few people have asked me why I mention all of my finished projects on my blog. There are a few reasons.

1. I like showing my community the work I have been doing.
2. It creates another linkback to the new site.
3. Google crawls my site almost everyday and new sites get indexed faster if they are linked to mine.
4. It provides a little bit of PR for the company.

If any of you need wireless accessories for your cell phones, you can shop online at their store. Tell them Nate sent you! Thanks to Carl Krawczyk for the opportunity to work on this project.

Visit the web site for Clearburst Wireless.

My Web Development Process…Part 2 of 2

My Web Development Process

This is the second of my two-part series about my web development process. If you have not already read the first part of this series, please read part one of my web development process.

As you read previously, I split up my web-dev process into 5 steps:

Step #1: Finding and Contacting the Client
Step #2: Meeting the Client
Step #3: Starting the Project
Step #4: Managing Revisions
Step #5: Finishing the Project and Followup

In the first part of explaining my web-dev process, we covered step #1 (finding and contacting the client) and step #2 (meeting the client). Just to reiterate, when first meeting with a client, it is very important to go into the meeting with a detailed list of questions so you can develop the clearest gameplan possible. Henry Ford said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.” Being well-prepared is half the victory, the other half is delivering the goods.

Next, we will cover step 3, 4, and 5 of my web development process.

Step #3: Starting the Project

After I have all of the necessary details I need from the client, I am ready to begin designing the project. One of the questions I always ask my clients is what websites they like or find attractive. Often it will be a website I have already created for a previous client or maybe it will be a website which has nothing to do with their industry. Of course, it is also important to ask what about that website they like or find particularly attractive. Maybe it is the colors, the design, a bit of flash, or the imagery used. If it is the layout, that gives me a good idea what kind of layout to start designing for them, whether it be a 2 or 3 column, landscape, vertical design, etc. For example, I recently designed a web site real estate community in Alabama. The site owner especially liked this website design for it’s flash header and its simple, yet effective design:

Desert Mountain

The design which I ended up producing for the site was of a somewhat similar layout, but still has its unique elements:

Black Warrior

Fortunately, the client provided all of the copyright and imagery for the site almost immediately, so I was easily able to finish this project on schedule. Most often, the biggest delay in finishing sites is when the client does not provide the copyright on time.

My Web Tools

As far as the tools I use to design the sites: I first design the graphical layout in Adobe Photoshop CS2, and then export to ImageReady so I can slice up the design. After the initial design is completed, I use Adobe GoLive to code the site into CSS and HTML. Even though I use a WYSIWG editor, I spend 85% of my time directly editing the source code. I like to use GoLive primarily for its site management features and built-in FTP. Another reason I use GoLive is that for some of tasks, such as creating tables, it is much easier to do than by manually coding. One other great feature of GoLive is its use of components. In other words, if I change the filename of a link on one page, GoLive will automatically update that new filename every page on that site is linked to. This saves a lot of time fussing around with broken links.

The only thing that GoLive is lacking is some of the more advanced CSS capabilities that are present in the more popular web development software, Dreamweaver. Given that Adobe recently bought Macromedia, it looks like Adobe will bephasing out GoLive and further implementing Dreamweaver into their suite of creative products. I have not used Dreamweaver, but I hear it is much easier to work with CSS layouts than GoLive. As I said earlier, since I do most of my editing in source code, it will be easy to transition over to working in Dreamweaver.

As far as selecting imagery, if that is something the client requested, I use the royalty-free stock Stock.Xchng, the leading free stock photography site. That is also where I source all of my individual article header graphics from, FYI. The great thing about the Stock.Xchng is that all of the images are free of charge and free to use for private AND commercial purposes.

After the first few pages of the web site are ready for viewing, I upload the site to the client’s domain (which I host on my dedicated server) and then begin accepting feedback from the client.

Step #4: Managing Revisions

After I present the client with my initial drafts, 9 times out of 10, they will want to change some things. When I send revisions to a client and receive an email back with corrrections, I like to make those changes that same day and then write a followup email immediately. This where great customer service really comes in. Are you on top of your workload and providing timely turnarounds?

I like to focus on being very customer service-oriented, and one way to do this is always provide the quickest turnaround possible when it comes to revisions. Of course, it is understandable if the revisions are tedious and might take a few days, but I always communicate this to the client. If there is one thing I want to stress, it is that CONSTANT and CLEAR communication is absolutely necessary when working with clients. I have heard so many horror stories from clients who have previously worked with web developers that are terrible communicators, charge outrageous fees, and worst, bail on the project entirely. The easiest way to differentiate oneself from the other ten-thousand web developers out there is by providing outstanding customer service.

Step #5: Finishing the Project and Followup

When the web site is close to its official launch, I start an initial marketing process that I include in the price of all of my projects. This includes creating a Google sitemap, adding it to appropriate directories, and verifying all of the on-page content is fully search engine optimized. SEO is something that many web development firms charge much extra for, but I like to do all that I can to ensure that my client’s sites will receive as much natural traffic as possible (if that is their wish).

After that, everything is ready to go. I recently have begun asking clients for a post-project feedback, whether it be positive or negative. Testimonials are a great way to show potential clients that other people have been satisfied with your work.

That is pretty much it. If any of you need web design or hosting, contact me or visit my website for my web-dev company, infinFX.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask me. Good luck and happy developing!

My Web Development Process…Part 1 of 2

My Web Development Process

I recently came across an interesting new blog about web development and online business called Tutorial A Day. One article the author, Josh, wrote was about the process he uses when developing web sites for clients. Being that I am also a web developer and have my own proprietary process, I became inspired to write about my web-dev process from start to finish.

I understand that for 99% of established web developers, this process is already obvious and does not need to be explained. However, for those who are just starting out in web development, my goal is for this article to be a resource so newbie web developers can become better aquainted with the process of working with clients. By no means is this the definite guide to web development, just one small developer’s take on the process.

My web development process usually lasts between 2-3 weeks for each client. Needless to say, my optimal workload is 2-4 projects a time, depending on their complexity.

Before getting started, these are the steps I use for my development process:

Step #1: Finding and Contacting the Client
Step #2: Meeting the Client
Step #3: Starting the Project
Step #4: Managing Revisions
Step #5: Finishing the Project and Followup

As this is the first of a two-part series, today, I will talk about step 1 (finding and contacting the client), and step 2 (meeting with the client).

Step #1: Finding and Contacting the Client

The first step is to find the client. My web-dev business, infinFX, does not do any advertising. All of our business either comes from referrals or direct sales (face-to-face). I have one business partner who makes sales calls and occassonally does face-to-face marketing. The unfortunate thing is that direct sales are usually rare, so it is fortunate that 90% of our work comes from existing referrals.

The great thing about referral work is that most of the time it is already a done deal. People are much more likely to buy your services if someone they know already trusts you and relays that positive feeling to a potential client. I just recently started asking my clients if they would mind providing a testimonial of their experience working with me. I keep a page of the client testimonials on my company website here. Testimonials are, of course, a great way for potential clients to see that other people have been happy with your work.

Step #2: Meeting the Client

I like to meet clients at coffee shops because they provide for a nice and casual environment. Not to mention, most coffee shops have WiFi access, so I can show the client my portfolio and other website I have developed.

Anyway, when first meeting and talking with the prospective client, I like to ask them what their goals are for the web site. Are they looking for an informational site for their existing clients? Or is this a site they are going to attract new business through? For example, if it is an e-commerce website for a small retail shop, their goal would be to expand their business and attract new clients. However, if their website is going to be primarily informational, such as for a real estate community, their goal would be to increase brand-legitimacy and reach new clients who may have not known about their business beforehand.

Throughout this initial process, I am also taking notes and thinking about how I can not only meet, but surpass their expectations. For example, if the client is looking to attract more business, I will talk about how this is achieved, such as through search engine optimization or supplementary marketing campaigns.

Whatever the client’s goals are, it is important to clarify them and take notes. To best understand their needs, this is the list of questions I ask my clients during the initial sit-down meeting (in no particular order):

  • What other websites do you like or find especially attractive?
  • What colors do you envision for your website? (If they are not sure, have them choose 2-3.)
  • Do you already have imagery you want to use?
  • If not, would you like us to select imagery? (Get some examples.)
  • When will you provide informational content (copyrighting) to us? (Within a week is best.)
  • Would you like to have any email addresses set up for others members of your business?
  • Do you already have a domain registered? (If not, talk about this process.)
  • Do you have a logo you would like us to scan? (A digital copy would be better.)
  • What is your time frame for having this project ready?
  • Will you need frequent updates? (If so, talk about the benefits of content management systems, if that is something you offer.)
  • Are you looking to reach new clients or just serve as an informational resource for existing clients?

After I have collected this information, I am ready to start the work process. In the next part of this series, I will talk about how I start the project, as well as what tools I use and how I manage the workflow. You can read part 2 of this series here.

New Project Finished – Cultural Media Collaborative

Cultural Media Collaborative

I just finished a new web site for a non-profit organization in New York City by the name of Cultural Media Collaborative.

Cultural Media Collaborative, Inc. is a production organization dedicated to creating films, television programs, DVDs and live events, specifically designed to increase and enhance public awareness of music, art and culture.

They are doing some amazing work and have just finished an interesting piece entitled, “The Resurrection of Gustav Mahler.”

Their web site took a while to finish, but the president and artistic director, Jason Starr, is very pleased with the result.

Here is what Mr. Starr said about my work on the project:

infinFX and its artistic director Nate Whitehill did a magnificent job designing and constructing our corporate web site. With their seemingly limitless patience, all of our stylistic and practical needs were addressed on time and in budget. Combining the eye of a visual artist with comprehensive technical expertise, infinFX created a web site that is both beautiful and enjoyable to interact with. We highly recommend them!

Thank you to Jason Starr for the opportunity to work with this wonderful organization! I wish the best of luck to them!

Visit the web site of Cultural Media Collaborative and let me know what you think.

If any of you are interested in having a professionally developed web site put together, my web development company, infinFX, specializes in web sites which are aesthetically-pleasing, functional, and optimized for search engines. We offer competitive pricing and flexible payment plans. Please contact me if you are interested.