About Jane Atkinson-White

I am a graphic designer and the founder of Atkinson Graphics, a creative design studio nestled in Belmont, a village near London, Ontario, in 1997. Designing captivating marketing and communications publications and websites is my area of expertise. I have more than 25 years in the graphic design industry beginning in Toronto and later in London, Ontario. As an accredited member of the Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario, the quality of design that I provide is of the highest quality. I have worked closely with some great people and organizations – from entrepreneurs, businesses of all sizes, institutions, and non-profits. Creating design projects that exceed their expectations keeps them coming back.

Is there a less costly option for small businesses wanting a mobile-friendly website?

After reading my blog post, “The Google update and how it changes the way people find your website”, you know about Google’s update on April 21, 2015 and how it favours mobile-friendly web pages and sites. The change in how Google ranks web pages on mobile devices puts pressure on businesses to convert their website for mobile use.

If yours is a small to medium sized business and you do not have a responsive website yet, the thought of investing in one can seem daunting.

I wondered if there are more affordable options available to you? If you look into it as I have you’ll discover that there are a multitude of online companies claiming that you can build your own website easily and quickly, and in some cases they even offer free websites.

Hm,m,m – easy, fast, and free – sounds fantastic! And right about now you’re asking, “What’s the catch?” I wondered the same thing, which prompted me to dig a little deeper into the options available to you.

The ‘easy, fast, do-it-yourself’ website option
I was encouraged to find that Google provides detailed “How to” information and instruction. You can create a mobile-friendly website yourself using their Web Starter Kit. They provide the necessary downloads and tutorials to help you through the process. And, that’s great, but it looks quite involved and would require a lot of time on your part.

This option isn’t helpful if:

  • you have no interest in developing your own website, and
  • your time is already maxed out doing what you do best, (ie. run your business).

Knowing about HTML5 and CMS coding would also be helpful when using Google’s numerous web developer tools. I couldn’t find that there are any fees involved. If you delve further into Google’s products and find that there are fees, contact me. I’d really like to know.

The ‘free’ website option
There are tons of other online companies claiming that you can ‘easily’ create your mobile-friendly website for free using their spectacular tools and templates. However, when I took a closer look I quickly learned that ‘easy’ isn’t pretty and ‘free’ equals ‘not many features included’. Also, the templates are rather generic and not specific to your business brand.

Some online companies seem to have the best interests of small businesses in mind, but their free website option is so stripped down that it would hardly function at all.  They admit that they offer the ‘free’ website package knowing that customers will need to upgrade to one of the paid packages which have more features. There is a monthly fee for the paid packages that you pay year after year.

Very often a free website is missing important features, such as:

  • No slideshows
  • No forms such as a contact form
  • Minimal bandwidth
  • No optimization for mobile use
  • No custom domain name (see next paragraph for details)

A custom domain name is important. It includes your company name and no other making your site easier to find and unique to your business. If you create your site using the templates and tools of an online company you may be required to have their name as well as yours in the domain.

Examples:
Custom Domain Name: www.yourcompanyname.ca
Not a Custom Domain Name: www.yourcompanyname.theircompanyname.ca

Another drawback with creating your website through an online, do-it-yourself service is that in many cases your website would have the name of the online service provider at the bottom of each web page. Ideally, it is YOUR business name that should be at the bottom of each web page.

If you want a custom designed website that is unique to your business, and a domain name to match, the so-called ‘free’ website isn’t an option.

My answer to the question, “Is there a less costly option for small businesses wanting a mobile-friendly website?”, is yes and no.

Yes:

  • if you do it yourself
  • if you don’t mind limited features and functionality
  • if you don’t mind using cookie-cutter templates that are not specific to your business,

No:

  • if you don’t want to devote the time and energy required to develop a responsive website yourself
  • if you require certain features within your website to enhance customer experience
  • if you want your responsive site to be customized for your business

This may seem rather discouraging, but only if cost is your sole criteria for obtaining a responsive website. I’m betting that, as a business professional, quality, design, and functionality are important to you. If so, there are many options for having your site optimized for mobile use. That’s a topic for another blog post.

Jane Atkinson-White designs mobile-friendly websites and attention-grabbing printed promotional materials for micro-enterprises, and small to medium sized businesses. Clients enjoy the convenience of having Jane design their projects from conception to final execution because it saves them time, frustration, and money.  For information about Jane’s design services phone 519-644-2786 or use the contact form at www.atkinsongraphics.ca and receive your free consultation.

The Google update and how it changes the way people find your website

When I first heard about the Google update a host of questions popped into my mind. I’m sure that others are wondering about it too. I will address some of the most common questions, but before I do there are a couple of terms that I want to clarify in case they are new to you:

A responsive website is one that is mobile-friendly and looks just as good on your phone as it does on a desktop computer. It is easy to read and navigate.

Ranking a website is how high or low in the listings your website appears during a Google search

1. When did the Google Update start?
April 21, 2015 marked the day that Google began to roll out their mobile-friendly update.

2. WHAT is the update?
This update boosts rankings of mobile-friendly web pages on mobile search results. In other words, if your website is NOT responsive or mobile-friendly Google is less likely to give your web pages high ranking.

3. Why did Google implement their update?
It seems like a radical change, even for Google. However, I looked into it and discovered that Google wants mobile users to have a positive experience when they access your website while on their smart phones. They also want businesses to realize that consumers access information most often on their mobile devices. Being able to do so is a convenience that people have come to expect.

4. What is Google looking for when it is ranking web pages?

Convenience for the mobile user is paramount. Google looks for the following ranking factors:
• Web pages must avoid Flash because it doesn’t work on many mobile devices.
• Text must be readable without zooming in.
• Content must be sized to the screen to avoid having to scroll horizontally or zoom in.
• Links must be large and spaced far enough apart so that they can easily be tapped.

5. What should you do?
Ideally, you should have your current website converted to a mobile-friendly site. If you want it to be custom designed and high quality, converting your site for mobile use is going to require a professional web developer.

6. How much will a responsive website cost?
The price will likely be similar to your original investment. If your website was created 2 or more years ago a developer will be starting from scratch rather than modifying your old site. However, having the same web developer convert your old website means that your photos and information can be reused and that saves time and money. On the other hand, she/he will essentially be developing 3 new versions of your website all at once – desktop, tablet, and phone – and that takes time and money. It all evens out in the end.

7. Is there any good news?

Yes. Once Google bots crawl your new responsive website your ranking will be the same on all devices and people everywhere will thank you for providing your information in a user-friendly format.

8. Any REALLY good news?
Sure. Your newly converted website will last many years. You may change some of the content over time, but the overall structure will remain the same. Mobile use is here to stay and it is not going to change formats anytime soon.

9. Do you want a little fun?
See how YOUR website shows up on a mobile phone by using Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test”. They rate how well your website does. Check it out at this link: www.google.com


Jane Atkinson-White designs mobile-friendly websites as well as printed promotional materials for micro-enterprises, and small to medium sized businesses. Clients enjoy the convenience of having Jane design their projects from conception to final execution because it saves them time, frustration, and money.  For information about Jane’s design services phone 519-644-2786 or use the contact form at www.atkinsongraphics.ca and receive your free consultation phone call.

Give your customers ‘need-to-know’ information and increase your sales.

Sharing important information about your business or organization, with the people who are most interested in what you are offering, is crucial if you want to increase sales. The trick is in deciding what information is the ‘need-to-know’ information. This can be established by asking yourself 4 basic questions. Provide your target audience with the answers and you will be rewarded with their continued patronage.

1. Who are you?

Let them get to know you and begin to earn their trust by sharing your history. Background information such as, how long you’ve been in business, your education, how experienced you are in your industry or profession, or whether it is a family-run venture – helps people become more familiar with you. Familiarity breeds trust in the minds of your potential customers. Once they trust you they are more likely to turn to you when they need your services or products.

2. What do you sell?

You may be providing an exceptional service or a high quality product, but you need to tell people about it before they will buy it. It’s not enough to say that you are a consultant or that you sell shoes. Describe the unique qualities of your consulting services or the shoes in your store. Tell people what your service or product will do for them and how it is better than what your competitors offer. This is your chance to really shine! Educate them about how your organization, your product, or your service works. Once they feel knowledgeable about what you’re offering they can make an informed decision, and you make a sale.

3. How do clients purchase what you are selling?

Your customers need to know your sales process. Explaining how to buy your products and services is an important step towards making a sale. Invite them to visit your store where they can make a purchase in person. Direct them to your website where they can buy on-line. Ask them to call you for an appointment or fill out a message form on your website and connect to your business. Regardless of the process, you need to be very clear about the step(s) required so that consumers can make their purchase.

4. Where can they find you?

Make sure that you include contact information so that customers can readily connect with you to make a purchase. Have your phone numbers, email address, website, and address prominently displayed on all of your promotional projects. Where there is space, such as on your website or print materials, like catalogues, posters, and brochures, include a map showing your exact location. Make it convenient for customers to find you and they will bring their business to you.

Knowing what information your market requires before they will buy your products and services is key to making more sales and enjoying greater success. The next question is, how do you deliver that information to the consumer? But, that is the topic of the next blog. Stay tuned…

How does your website look on a mobile phone or a tablet?

Can people read it without having to zoom in? Is it easy to navigate on such a small device?

These are important questions to ask yourself because you might be missing out on sales if your website is not mobile-friendly. Over 73% of the population first access a website on their mobile phone and they are making purchasing decisions while on the go. If they visit your website and it is too difficult to use, they could become frustrated and move on to someone else’s.

When I refer to a “mobile-friendly website”, what I am really talking about is a “responsive website”. A responsive website is one that automatically changes the way it looks according to the device in use. This means that the website looks a little different when viewed on your desktop computer compared to how it looks on a tablet or a mobile phone.

Today, with Adobe’s new and powerful web design programs like Dreamweaver, or other popular web design programs such as WordPress, responsive websites are much more readily available. These are exciting times for both designers and their clients!

If you already have a website, it probably isn’t responsive. It might look spectacular on a desktop or laptop computer, but taking a look at that wonderful website on your phone isn’t nearly as impressive. In fact, it is teeny-tiny making it difficult to use.

And that’s a problem, because you don’t want to drive ‘would-be’ customers away from your website when they need it most.

I should address a couple of concerns that might have wormed their way into your mind while reading this article. You may have already invested a lot of time, effort, and money into your website and now I’m telling you that it isn’t effective for the millions of mobile phone users who are making purchasing decisions.

Concern 1
Why are you only finding out about this now rather than before you had your website designed and launched?

Answer
In the last 2 years there has been an explosive increase in users of mobile devices. Prior to this, most of us weren’t really aware of a need to make responsive websites. Oh sure, some designers created websites that showed in the upper, left area of your desktop monitor in an attempt to make things look better on phones and tablets, but there just wasn’t the knowledge or the need – until a very short while ago – to target web design for mobile use.

The truth is, we are collectively, and quickly, becoming very mobile device savvy. Statistics indicate that society is relying on them more and more for information about everything. You want your website to cater to these people. According to CBC news, on September 23, 2013, Apple sold 9 million new iPhone 5S and 5C handsets in 3 days. That’s THREE DAYS! And, it is predicted that by the end of 2017, according to CCS Insight’s, over 6.6 billion mobile phones will be in use world wide. Is your website ready?

Concern 2
If you already have a website, can it be changed into a responsive website?

Answer
Yes. If you have a website, and it isn’t responsive, the solution is to have it optimized for mobile devices. Often this involves design alterations so that the site automatically responds to the device in use. However, the overall ‘look’ – that is, your brand – can be maintained during the optimization process. If your website is ‘old’ and looking dated, it is probably time for a complete design change anyway and now is the perfect time to take advantage of having it created as a responsive site.

In conclusion, it is important for businesses to gear much of their selling power to users of mobile devices. Your customers should be able to find out about your products and services easily when they access your website regardless of which device they are using. For those of you who do not have a website, but plan to invest in one, make sure that you ask your designer for a responsive website and that they have experience in creating this type of site.