Web Development

Web Strategy: Using Your Website To Improve Your Bottom Line

So you’ve decided that your old site is looking tired and in need of a facelift, but before you make the investment you’d like to know how it will enhance your business. Well, that depends on your business goals. Is your goal more customers? Better customers? Generating more new business inquiries? Making sure search engines can read your site? Or maybe all of the above?

Praxis can accomplish all of that, and more, with a common sense approach to website development that begins – not by showing you a pretty design (that comes later) - but by talking to you about your business objectives and tailoring a web strategy to your specific needs. Only then do we concentrate on what the site will look like as we work with you through every step of the process - from navigation structure and wireframes, to design and coding, to site launch and management – as we help you capitalize on all the possibilities the web presents.

Information Architecture: The Blueprint For Web Site Success

Have you ever wondered why some websites "work" while others don't? Or visited a site looking for specific information only to get hopelessly lost and leave the site in frustration?

Building a website is much like building a house. You can't just jump into it and start writing HTML, just as you can't build a house by simply pouring a foundation and putting up some walls.

In addition to good design and pleasing aesthetics, the key to an effective website lies in creating a strong framework, or Information Architecture, that takes into consideration who will be using the website and what they'll be using it for. This makes it much easier to organize the site’s navigation, content and conversion tools to enable users to find what they need, make an informed decision and act on it.

At Praxis, we’ve proven time and again that good, solid Information Architecture yields:

  • Websites that are easier to use.
  • Online information that is easier to find
  • Applications that meet your business requirements
  • More returning visitors and higher conversion rates

If a website that works harder to capture leads is what you’re looking for, Praxis can help.

Web Development

Web Design That Helps Get Your Company’s Message Across

In today's economy, your B2B website design has to work harder than ever - to promote your brand, deliver persuasive content and provide a compelling interactive experience for your visitors – all calculated to generate more inquiries, more leads, and most importantly – more revenue.

At Praxis, we know there’s a lot riding on your website. That’s why, before we even begin the design, we will collaborate with you to:

  • Define your business goals
  • Research your competitive landscape
  • Integrate your company brand and message
  • Learn everything possible about your target audience

We want to make sure your new website not only looks great but gives prospective customers compelling reasons to choose your products over your competitors'.

To see examples of our web design work, take a moment to view our portfolio.

Streamline Your Customers’ Selection Process With An Interactive Product Search Tool

A well-crafted interactive product search tool is a terrific way to help your B2B customers find the technical products that match their application parameters and generate inquiries.

If you want to make it easy for potential customers to match your products to their specific applications, where do you begin? The answer is to organize a product database and create a user-friendly search tool. But if all of your source material – products, specs and applications – is in printed format and not digital, this can seem like a daunting process.

Fear not. Praxis has successfully created many intuitive, user-friendly product search tools for our clients. When we embark on this process, the first thing we consider is your prospective customer’s decision-making process. In other words, what product selection criteria are most important to your customers and how they would search for it?

We try to streamline the information – which might include features, benefits and usage – for each product and get users to the search results page in the least amount of clicks. We accomplish this by:

  • Talking to your customers about how they search for and select products
  • Identifying the high level product criteria needed to narrow the search – like features, benefits, specifications, and applications
  • Organizing and programming the database, then beta testing it internally
  • Creating links in other areas of the website that point users to the product search tool
  • Making sure that the whole website offers plenty of content to support your product and company benefits, and providing opportunities to contact your sales reps directly

The custom product search tool is one of many ways that Praxis can help you enhance the performance and value of your website.

Web Development

Web Development Coding/Tagging

The user facing side of your website – the part your customers see and interact with – is only half the story. How the website is designed, built and managed is equally important, because these steps will determine a whole lot of critical activities important to your business, such as:

  1. Your ability to update the site with fresh content by stakeholders who are not code developers.
  2. Visibility of traffic sources, website engagement, and conversions to permit continuous improvement in organic and paid rankings, and ultimately, lead generation and ROI.
  3. Performance evaluation of online media, such as banners, sponsorships and direct marketing deployments which link to website landing pages.
  4. Your ability to acquire, store and retrieve visitor data from site submissions for permission marketing activities.

What are the ways a knowledgeable website development firm plans for these activities? At Praxis, we go about it like this:

  1. Administration: Discuss with our client the means they will need to manage the website, and recommend the appropriate platform for construction. If the site is simple, requires few regular updates, and can be managed by someone in-house with some limited coding capabilities, it can likely be developed in plain old HTML. If the client expects a number of staff to contribute to the website who are not familiar with code, then a content management system (CMS) makes sense. Among CMS choices, there are a number of possible platforms to choose from depending on the complexity of the site and the permission levels of the contributors. Here's a view of a typical PHP content management system for creating/editing a product page.
  2. Visibility: Every page of your website should include tracking code tied to an analytics dashboard to allow you to see all the website traffic and user behavior. At Praxis, we have adopted Google Analytics code as the current standard; however, there are other analytics programs that can provide equally good reporting functionality. By using a tool we developed specifically to share with our clients, they can easily navigate the selections and glean an enormous amount of useful data with a very low nerd-rating. Here's a sample:
  3. Media evaluation: Every online ad placement, including banners, hybrid ads, sponsorships, and direct marketing deployments that Praxis conducts for its clients gets a tagged URL that reflects these details:
    a. The tactic's name, which includes the venue and date
    b. Its campaign name
    c. Its content description
    d. Its landing page address
    After deployment, we and the client are able to log in to the Praxis media dashboard and view real-time statistics of all their media's performance, including conversions. This allows us to fine-tune the campaign message, venue and other activities according to real performance. Here's one type of report from our media tool that illustrates a range of conversion activities:
  4. Visitor data: We make sure that site submissions from visitors through forms and inquiry requests are stored in a database on the website. We provide tools for the client to access and download all this data through an administration portal. We're pretty particular about declaring the website owner's privacy policy and complying with Can-Spam rules, because, after all, the last thing we want to do is alienate a potential customer! The graphic below shows how visitor data is stored on a website with tools to easily manage and export it.

Building A Website For Measurable Performance

We're often asked why it costs so much to build a website when there are web developers out there offering to do it for a lot less. There's a long answer and a short answer.

The long answer: B2B clients expect a lot more from a website than a simple online capabilities brochure; they expect and – in fact – require performance in the form of ROI: Organic traffic from high rankings! Engagement! Leads! This requires research and study so we understand how an individual company's prospects behave, how they search, what interests them, and what can trigger a call-to-action. We also build in flexibility, so as we gain useful information over time we can make adjustments to the website to continually improve those metrics.

The short answer: This can be a maddeningly complicated process for an executive who needs a new site yesterday.

Building a website is a lot like building a house, and it proceeds along similar paths. First, much like an architect, we talk to the client to understand their objectives, get a sense of the design they're looking for, and ideas on how to represent their brand message. Sometimes we do deeper research, talking to other company stakeholders, customers, representatives, and even potential customers to get a better picture of competitive advantages, strengths and weaknesses, and positioning clues.

Next, we conduct keyword research to develop a better understanding of current rankings for search terms, competition, frequency, and other data. And from this we can recommend a navigation strategy for the new site that will provide the basis for a long-term search engine optimization program.

Next, we develop wire frames -- blueprints, if you will -- for the new site, depicting how all the major elements will lay out and interact with each other. The wire frame also indicates the engagement and conversion funnel, so everyone gets a sense of how the visitor is guided through the site to an eventual action.

Once the wireframes are approved, we begin the process of design, i.e., the graphical user interface (GUI). We may go through several iterations of design before we hit the nail on the head, but we are usually pretty close the first time out because we've done a lot of homework first.

After the design is completed and approved, we transition the project from the architect to the builder. Our web team converts the GUI to templates and publishes them inside the appropriate platform, typically a content management system. All the walls are fleshed out, the wiring and plumbing (links) are connected, bells & whistles (user tools) are programmed, and the site is ready for furnishing.

Once this is done, we can start publishing! And when I say "we", I mean everyone. This is where we can really start to pick up speed, assuming everyone has the contents available to publish, such as copy, art and photos.

Oh, wait. This is where we usually hit a wall. Who wants to publish crummy old photos on a brand new website? And don't you really want fresh, updated copy instead of that outdated text from the old site? With careful planning, the copy and art can be collected after the design is complete while the templates are being created. This saves a lot of time.

Once everything is done, we go through a series of checklists and tests, perform some final optimization techniques, then turn on the switch. Voila! A new website. Done, right? Nope, not quite. We have a few things to do right after launch, such as set up webmaster tools, create a site map, test all the forms and databases, and check all the functionality. We also set up the client's media dashboard so they can monitor site statistics using a unique login.

Over the next several weeks and months, we monitor stats carefully to see how users are finding the site and engaging with it. We may make some adjustments in the short-term to improve the conversion funnel, add more goal tags to view different visitor actions, and some other things. We also provide training to engage the client's stakeholders in the project to keep the site fresh and monitor/adjust keyword rankings, so they can become less dependent on us and more autonomous going forward.

This is why a B2B company interested in website performance is willing to spend a little more time and money to do it right. Because without the research, design, programming, and tagging, you would never know how much you'd be missing. Using this method, if you're missing something, at least you can see it and fix it!

Managing Your Website's Content Without Coding

If you would like to be able to update the content of your web site any time you want without incurring the expense of an outside web developer, you need a good, easy-to-use Content Management System (CMS).

The single greatest benefit of a CMS is the flexibility it gives a site owner to add and delete copy, images and pages without any programming experience or proprietary software.

Since a continual stream of fresh, relevant content is vital to attracting and engaging more web visitors, it's no surprise that Praxis clients routinely ask us to include a CMS when planning new web projects.

Another practical feature of the CMS is that when content changes are made, the underlying code is hidden and cannot be altered. This prevents routine updates from becoming hair-pulling disasters.

Here are the basic procedures Praxis implements to create a robust, functional and user-friendly CMS:

  • Identify what types of content are needed – product specs, photo galleries, videos, news items, blogs – to determine what features should be included in the CMS.
  • Decide what CMS platform to use – custom or open source. For instance, when considering social networking features, some CMS platforms are more appropriate than others.
  • Work with client-side CMS administrator to train department managers and staff in how to operate the new CMS – and what content they'll be responsible for – prior to launch, and review any brand identity standards that may be impacted.

Web Development

Web Development User Tools

This topic could be called "Making it easy for customers to take a conversion action" because that's what user tools are all about.

There are a number of typical goals of a B2B website, but they almost always have something to do with these three things:

  1. Generating relevant traffic;
  2. Engaging visitors in your content;
  3. Leading them to take a conversion action.

If one of the most important goals is to generate an inquiry or RFQ, then we will create tools to help the visitor get there.

Here are several common types of user tools we use to encourage conversions:

  1. Product selector or finder: This allows a visitor to narrow his search for a product by using logical filters with common attributes rather than trying understand a mysterious and unfamiliar model naming system.
  2. Product inquiry cart system: At the end of a product search, we often provide a tool that populates one or more products in an inquiry form, much like a shopping cart. By filling in a few simple fields, the visitor can forward an RFQ on those selections.
  3. Inquiry request form: The most common inquiry forms include a non-specific request for information or advice ("Ask an Expert") and a product inquiry. The key is to make the form short and sweet to discourage abandonment.
  4. Sales Office Locator: If a business relies on its sales or distribution channels more so than from direct inquiries, then putting your visitors in touch with the appropriate rep in their territory quickly is essential. Regional sales office locators such as these can be designed in many ways, from interactive maps to a drop-down filter types.

Measuring Tool Effectiveness
Conversions can come in a number of forms, and we monitor them to see how well they're working. This gives us a rich history of visitor behavior which is instructive for continual improvement. They include:

  1. How many visitors originating from certain keywords open a PDF or read a technical article?
  2. What percentage of visitors use a request link a the TOP of the page versus the BOTTOM of the page?
  3. How many people linking from a newsletter sponsorship read the landing page article and take further action?
  4. How many people ask for advice?
  5. How many people request a quotation?
  6. How many non-branded searches go to the Contact page (presumably to find a phone number or look up a rep or distributor)
  7. How many people use a rep locator?

Then, there are also statistics for negative behavior, such as the percentage of people starting to fill out a form or cart inquiry then abandoning. This tells us that the form may be too complicated or too long.

So with every tool we build, we measure performance and adjust it over time to make it as effective as possible. And, in this way, we are also continually learning how to do it better on the next website.

We Have Clickthrough! Now What?

Evaluating the effectiveness of an online advertising campaign can be difficult. Sure, you're getting hundreds of clickthroughs from your AdWords Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign, or your directory, banner or e-mail promotions, but what happens to these site visitors after they've checked in? What do they do? Where do they go? What do they look at? It would be great to know more about them, wouldn't it? It would be even better to get something of value from them while they're there. But what? 
Just how do you measure the return on investment for your Google SEM buy, anyway? If you're not selling anything on your site, understanding ROI is even more of a challenge because traffic doesn't necessarily translate to customers. In this case, you first need to determine what value you want from your site visitors before you can build a conversion objective into your strategy to compare with your investment.

Sounds complicated, right? Well, Google has helped to make it a little easier. If you are running an AdWords campaign, Google gives you the code to record "conversions", that is, folks who come to your site through their SEM keyword (or any other campaign), and who perform a pre-determined value action. Still, you need to figure out what constitutes that value action (conversion) before you set up the tracking code. With a Google campaign, you can actually measure the conversion effectiveness of single keywords in your program, an enormously powerful tool for tweaking your ongoing SEM buy for maximum effectiveness.

Taking the example of recording conversions on a non-e-commerce site, let's say that a site registration is the predetermined value action. So, anyone who comes to your site from a paid campaign (i.e., Google AdWords), and registers (for whatever reason) is recorded as a conversion. Excellent! Now, Google's dashboard will translate your conversions into an ROI (number of conversions divided by the cost of the campaign). However, to determine if the campaign is worth the investment, you still have to decide what each conversion is worth. Once your Google conversion program is running, you can extend your tracking to virtually any other campaign, using additional code from Google. In this way, you can measure and evaluate ROI for e-mail promotions, other SEM campaigns (Yahoo, MSN, etc), banners, or even paid directories such as ThomasNet or DirectIndustry.

Here's what Praxis can do to help you achieve your online marketing goals:

  • Assist you in implementing a viable Google AdWords SEM campaign
  • Help you to determine what will constitute a conversion action within your site
  • Set up the necessary additional pages to record the conversion (a “Thank You” page, for instance)
  • Acquire the code from your Google AdWords account
  • Test and deploy the Google conversion tracking code
  • Once the Google code is working, download additional code to install in other campaigns

If you know what results you want, but you're unsure about how to set up and manage your campaigns, or simply don't have the time or manpower, call Praxis to help.

Streaming Video: Moving Content Captures More Attention

Click here to link to our portfolio and view this video.

Streaming media is video or audio content sent in compressed form over the Internet and played immediately, rather than being saved to the hard drive.

With streaming media, a user doesn't have to download a file to play it. Because the media is sent in a continuous stream of data it plays as it arrives. Users can view streaming media though their media player and pause, rewind or fast-forward, just as they could with a downloaded file, unless the content is being streamed live.

Here are some advantages of streaming media:

  • Allows content deliverers to monitor what visitors are watching and how long they are watching it.
  • Provides an efficient use of bandwidth because only the part of the file that's being transferred is the part that's being watched.
  • Provides the content creator with more control over his intellectual property because the video file is not stored on the viewer's computer.

Praxis recommends streaming media clips to clients who have a complex product or technology to demonstrate. Streaming media is also an ideal way to present customer testimonials or offer virtual tours of a facility. And with a little advanced planning, production can be surprisingly affordable and the end result will look very professional.

Best of all, streaming media technologies have improved significantly since the 1990s, when delivery was often choppy and uneven. Although the quality of streamed content is still dependent upon connection speed, we've had a good deal of success producing and publishing web videos for our B2B clients.

Is Your Site Sticky? Tips For Keeping Web Visitors On Your Site Longer.

The best websites not only draw visitors in, they also have sticky content – the glue that keeps viewers on the site longer, reading multiple pages and interacting with more areas of the site. This type of engagement encourages conversion actions – and isn't that what all site owners ultimately want?

In general terms, site stickiness is about how much time a visitor spends within your domain, investigating the content you have provided. Stickiness is often measured in minutes per month viewing specific content-rich pages. A good bottom-line measure of your site’s stickiness can be reflected by the number and quality of conversion actions taken.

Here are 5 proven tools to improve the stickiness of your website:

  • Engaging Multimedia Websites that combine text with pictures and videos increase the time your prospective customers stay on the site. Videos paired with compelling content inspire visitors to continue learning more.
  • Landing Pages For Specific Search Terms If your company serves multiple audiences, try creating targeted landing pages to convey specific information based on your visitors’ unique search terms. For instance, if you offer web presses and offset presses, it’s perfectly OK for the home page to discuss both. However, there should also be specific pages dedicated to each press type, designed to drive targeted traffic to the most relevant product information. The more targeted the information on the landing page, the more time the people that land there will spend.
  • Relationship-Building Offers Many web searchers are seeking fast and reliable information. If a website features a compelling landing page and encourages visitors to sign up for further news or updates, companies can continue to build a relationship using email marketing. Many sites accomplish this by offering something valuable at no cost, such as a free report or case study.
  • Online Interaction Forms Offer contact forms, calls to action and user forums whenever feasible. Users who have just a few minutes to search for information can easily sign up to request more information, obtain a free sample or free consultation. User forums let visitors know how many others are making use of the product or services, and if feedback is good, this information can be an added incentive.
  • Easy Social Sharing If your website features relevant articles to your niche audiences, users will want to share them on social networks. Even on B2B websites, this is a terrific way to capitalize on the social nature of human beings by incorporating widgets that allow users to automatically post content to their social networks.

Taking advantage of some or all of these techniques will improve your site stickiness and reduce the number of visitors landing on your site and quickly bouncing away.