Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Too much of a good thing is still too much

Life After Web is moving. As I’ve struggled to balance work, family, personal web projects, and life in general, I’ve decided to simplify.

I have been maintaining two blogs, Life After Web and On a lighter note…, and I love them both. The problem is, it’s too much. When I don’t have a new post, my guilt is compounded doubly. The time has come to consolidate.

After weighing the pros and cons of each blog, the software behind it, and my plans for the future, I’ve decided to stick with the URL I used for On a lighter note… . (Please take a moment to bookmark it at: http://sherrileigh.wordpress.com.) However, the title will still be Life After Web. After all, both sites are about life and the web. The two terms are rather intertwined for me, a web project manager.

I will be importing all of the content from this site over to the new URL, so you won’t miss out on any of the old posts. There is also an RSS feed there to keep you current.

Thank you for supporting this little blog. It’s quite a fun experience and I can’t wait to continue it at the new Life After Web. See you there!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Create an Effective Web Site, Part 3 of 3: You have a site, now what?

This is part 3 of 3 in a series about creating effective Web sites. In part 1, we discussed planning that should take place before you even begin building your site. In part 2, we talked about drafting your content. Today in part 3, we tackle what to do when you have a site.

Just because you have a Web site doesn’t mean you’re done. This is no time to sit back and relax. Users will not find you just because you bought a URL and slapped up a few pages. You have to promote it and you have to think about the search engines.

Think local: There are many ways to promote your Web site. Start by including your URL on all of your marketing pieces, such as business cards, brochures, and mailers. Ask your customers if you can have their email address to notify them when your site goes live.

Think larger: Join online discussions about your area of expertise. Blogs and forums abound. Undoubtedly, someone has posted a question that you can answer.

Don’t forget those search engines: First, search engines will only find you if they know about you, so submit your site addresses to all major search engines. Most likely, the majority of your traffic will come from search engines, so you will want to make sure that you have the right keywords to help people find you. The search engines will regularly "crawl" your site to find out what is on it. They will look for the keywords and phrases you used to determine what your site is about. To make sure you come up in the listings, be sure to include terms that your customers and prospective clients will be looking for.

For more information about search engines, I highly recommend Search Engine Guide. That Jennifer Laycock is one smart woman.

If you did your planning, you should have a great site which will travel by word of mouth. Visit your own Web site frequently to make sure that your content is still relevant and to add new content where it makes sense.

Above all, enjoy it! The Web is a fascinating world.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Create an effective Web site, Part 2 of 3: Drafting your content

This is part 2 of 3 in a series about creating effective Web sites. In part 1, we discussed planning that should take place before you even begin building your site. Today in part 2, we will talk about content.

Your customers will learn a lot about your business from the content of your site. Not only will the content you select be important, but the presentation and organization of that content will leave an impression as well. An organized, well laid-out site with just the right information will make your prospective customer more likely to feel comfortable doing business with you. In contrast, a disorganized site with too little or too much information may send your prospective customer running to a competitor. Content can make or break your credibility.

When it’s time to write your content, it is critical to keep your message clear. You never want to confuse your customers. Keep it simple and make sure to include the information your customer needs to know. Here are some ideas to help make sure your content is clear:

  1. Use simple words. Avoid fancy words and jargon that may confuse your customers.
  2. Avoid acronyms. Your customer may be unfamiliar with the acronym and, therefore, may not understand what you are saying. If you do use acronyms, make sure to spell it out at least once on each page. (Why each page? If you only define it on one page, and your user doesn’t read that page, they will miss it.)
  3. Use short sentences and short paragraphs. Breaking your information up in to small chunks greatly increases the clarity of your message.
  4. Use bullets and lists. Information in list form is easier to comprehend.
  5. Write in a conversational, yet professional style. A conversational style helps you keep your language simple and clean.

Tomorrow in part 3, you have a site, now what?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Create an effective Web site, Part 1 of 3: Planning your site

Planning is an important, yet often underserved step in building a Web site. Too often sites are started for the sake of having a site and then the owners do not see a return on their investment. This can be avoided by planning up front. By identifying your objective, goals, and what differentiates you from the competition, your site can be a great asset to your business.

Identify your Web goals

Determining specific goals is arguably the single most important step in creating your Web site. Without a clear objective you may find that your Web site is not adding value to your business or your mission. Your goal might be something like:

  • Increasing revenue
  • Attracting new customers
  • Reducing the number of phone calls you get for basic information like hours and location

Identify your Web audience

It is important to know who the audience is for your Web site. Your Web audience may differ from your local customer base. Knowing this will help you create content that is valuable to your audience. Before preparing your content, think about these questions:
  • Who is your Web audience?
  • Why do they need your Web site?
  • How will your Web site make their life easier?

Know your competition

Let’s face it. You have competition. You may like to forget about them, but knowing what makes your site different from your competitor’s site is important. Consider the competitors you already have identified in your daily business, but also consider what other competitors you may have on the Web. Because the internet makes this world a much smaller place, you may have a competitor for Web customers that is not a competitor in your physical location. Know what other businesses are doing on the Web.

If you're starting out with a new Web site, or if you just need to learn how to improve your site, June Cohen’s book, The Unusually Useful Web Book is a great resource. It will tell you everything you need to know to start your Web site, in plain English and short bursts of information. It is chock full of easy to understand tips and worksheets. (And I mean full- even the inside covers.) I love this book.

Tomorrow in part 2 of this series: drafting your content.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Green Web Sites Flourish

greenguidance_headeronly.jpgIn an ever-growing trend (no pun intended), I have noticed an emphasis on “green” lately that has taken root (oops) on the web. One example is sprig.com, launched by The Washington Post earlier this year. It’s sort of an online woman’s magazine with a special focus on environmentally friendly fashion, food, home, and beauty.

We live in a special time where people can explore all sorts of things on the Internet, including the environment. I’m by no means an activist or even erudite on the subject, but I do like nature and I like to think that little shifts here and there can add up to good results. The Green Guide, by National Geographic, is filled with great tips and references. I have added their Green Guidance box to this site to give you a glimpse of what their site has to offer, as well as to simply remind myself to visit their site from time to time.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Life After Web Gets A Fresh Look

Aaahhh… that’s better. Sometimes you need a change. I initially started Life After Web in February of this year to learn about blogs in the best way I know how: by doing. During this short time I realized, people really are finding my blog and, in fact, reading it. What an exciting (or frightening?) experience. It seemed like it was time to take this blog and "kick it up a notch" as Emeril would say.

What do you think of the new look? While I enjoyed the earth tones of my previous template, I was not fond of the colored background behind the body text. I prefer something a little easier on the eyes. I think this new template is crisper, cleaner, and easier to read. Hopefully, you’ll agree.

With summer drawing to a close (though work maintaining a fast pace), I plan on getting back in the swing of things with my post. My goal is three posts per week on topics such as:
• How does the Internet affect society?
• On the flip side, how does society affect the Internet?
• What can you do to make your website more effective?
• What are other people/companies doing on their websites?
• and, a sprinkling of other random musings surrounding other forms of technology.

Thank you for joining me for the first part of this journey. Enjoy the ride as Life After Web continues to grow.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

8 Random Things About Me

Deb Owen over at 8 hours & a lunch has tagged me to list 8 random things about me. This is the first time I’ve been tagged for anything, but I’m excited and ready for the challenge, so here we go.

First, the rules:

  1. Post these rules before you give your facts.
  2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
  3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names (linking to them)
  4. Leave them a comment on their blog letting them know they've been tagged!

Eight random things about me:
  1. I love random! I am good at random. My train of thought may jump the tracks sometimes, but there is almost always a method to my madness.

  2. I love language. I like beautifully written prose, descriptions that transport readers, puns, and plays on words. A professor once marked my paper down for using “maybe,” when “perhaps is so much better.” You know what? Sometimes it is better. And sometimes, it really is maybe.

  3. I am not a chef, however I sometimes make great meals by accident. Last week’s accident was chicken stirfry in a spicy peanut sauce.

  4. I was an engineering major for a year-and-a-half in college. I did the calculus, programming, computer science, more calculus, chemistry, all of it. Then, I graduated with a degree in English. No, not because it was next alphabetically. I enjoyed written communications better. All of this brought me to web project management which I’ve been doing for almost 7 years now.

  5. I understand why my dad once said, “I’m 50 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” I would like to be a web editor. Admitting it is the first step.

  6. I have a Webkinz, and I try to visit her for at least 5 minutes every day. Sure it may sound silly, but my inner child is delighted.

  7. I like the super heroines and villainesses of DC Comics: Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Supergirl. And why not? They’re strong, sassy, and, well… comical.

  8. On her list, deb owen said, “i have, without a doubt, the most awesome friends and family on the entire planet.” So I reply… you know my friends and family? Neat! ;)

Now, I tag:
  1. Dr. Lisa Tomaszewski of Physician’s Money Digest, a site which is teaching me a lot about my personal finances (even though I’m not a doctor
  2. Papa Ceph, whose loved ones might enjoy 8 random facts about Lil’ Karl
  3. J. de Vrede at J., a faithful reader
  4. Farrell Kramer at .kramer- we want to know more about the man behind the communications company
  5. Steve J, a former colleague also really good at random
  6. Pepita at ThinkingSparks, who has interesting thoughts on business
  7. Lynne Demmer at Everything’s Green who has been a little scarce lately, but hopefully she’s not gone for good
  8. Nicolae Rusan of Foresighter, another quiet one lately