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October 2006
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December 2006

Using 40 Million Dollar Words

Recently, an old web project came up in discussion.  Like any web site you work on, you learn something about a client and their services.  One would think after 25 hours of web development and reviewing a client's thoroughly their copy that I could tell other people about this client. In fact I can tell people what field the client specializes in, but I can't tell you any other details. Their web site copy was so far above my head, that I don't fully understand what services they offer.(My genius has been questioned by a few people - including myself - but still.)

Too many company web sites use "corporate verbiage" or other high end vocabulary for their web copy.  Remember that the user might not always use the same words or phrasing.  Web writing, like your web site, should be clear, concise, and simple.  There is no benefit in writing above the average comprehension of your users. In most cases being a vocabulary scholar confuses users and makes retaining information from your site difficult.   How many sites do you visit regularly because the writing is extraordinary?   I'm guessing not very many, if any at all.  You probably visit sites that provide high quality content.

Your site will keep people coming back if it offers high quality content that is easy to read.  Use a conversational style of writing.  Be informative and interesting at the same time.

Additional Resource:
Lower-Literacy Users

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Getting Listed In Search Engines

Have you ever been tempted to use a "Submit Your Site" service? Such services promise to get you listed in hundreds of search engines.  Unfortunately, it isn't always that simple.  They get your money and you end up wondering "what just happened?"

I would like to save you some time and money in regards to getting listed in search engines for new sites.

Don't bother with all the extravagant site submission tools, especially paid submission and inclusion.  You'll spend too much time filling out forms and laying out cash with few measurable results.  Most searching is done on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL.  Those sites account for approximately 90% of the Internet search market.   Thus, there is no need to "Submit to over 100, 250, or 1000+ Search Engines instantly!"

The best way to get search engines to find you is by getting another site to link to your site. Links from other sites to your site (Back-links) are worth a great deal. Recently a friend and I launched a web site. We were able to get indexed in Google in about a day, without submitting our site.

Google controls almost 50% of the search market as of the summer of 2006.  I start with optimizing for Google when posting a new site. You need to start with some links going to your site.  As opposed to spending a great deal of time searching for other sites to link to your site, use an existing site.  Most people have friends that maintain a personal web site. Ask him or her for a back link to your site. 

Make sure whatever site you get a link from has a Page Rank of 4 or 5.  A simple utility for determining Page Rank is the Google Tool Bar.  Higher Page Ranked Sites are visited more often by Google's search spiders.

Blogs and Forums
Consider leaving a comment on a blog or forum with a link to your site.  Most blogs and forums allow you to link your site when leaving a comment. Net etiquette note: In your comment, DON'T ask people to visit your site. Just make an honest comment to the post and leave a link to your site.   

There is one site that is worth submitting to: the Open Directory Project (OPD), better know as  You need to be approved by an one of their editors to get into the ODP.  On occasion this can take a while, but you're index with higher quality sites.  One common mistake many people make is not getting listed in the proper category.

Visit the submission page for more information.

Keep building links to your web site!  It will save you the trouble of getting found by search engines. And you'll get better search engine rankings.  One of the biggest measures of where you fall in the search engine rankings is the number of links to your site.

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Your Company Logo Online

Have you ever tried to track down another company’s logo for a project? 

Such a scenario is created when companies are trying to cross promote brands, advertise, or are involved with sponsorships.  Perhaps you are on a tight schedule and you needed another company's logo hours ago

Having been through the experience of tracking down logos on numerous occasions "painful" is the first memory that comes to my mind.  The real fun begins when you are forced to redraw another company's logo because you can't find an acceptable version online.  You can spend hours doing something that should only take minutes or isn't even your responsibility.

Most people try to get another company’s logo via the web. Unfortunately the web is not an acceptable place to acquire a high quality version of another company's logo. My reference to "logo quality" specifically pertains to the resolution of a company's digital logo.  Low resolution logos look sloppy and unprofessional.  Many people try to pull logos directly off another company's web site.  Doing this is not good business practice.  Web graphics are rarely more than 72 dpi.  This might be suitable for very low quality printing, but not for brochures or high quality marketing packets.  Don't use a low quality version of another company's logo.  It diminishes the quality of that company's brand.

Online Media Section
Currently, most companies don't provide any way to easily access their logo online.  Your company web site should have an online media section.  As a security precaution, consider having the media section password protected.  You don’t want everyone on the web having access to your company logos or branding pieces. At a minimum have high quality versions of your logo in various formats available online for downloading. Formats should include:

  • Vector images .eps, .ai, or .pdf. 
  • Bitmap images .gif .jpg. or .tif.

Here is a link for more information on Bitmap versus Vector images

You should include at least one version of your logo in vector and bitmap formats.  Provide a version of your logo with a transparent background. This is useful for web purposes. For printing purposes be sure you include black and white versions of your logo.  Some companies include style and usage guides on proper use of their logo. Make sure you adhere to their recommendations. 

Save yourself and other companies countless hours of frustration by having a high quality version of your company logo online.  It saves times and money for all parties involved.

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The Client (Customer) Isn’t Always Right

Properly serving clients is by far one of my greatest challenges when it comes to doing Internet consulting.  Where do you draw the line between doing what’s right and doing what a client requests?  This specifically pertains to requests that go against good Internet practices.

Last year, I lost a prospective client because I took a hard stance on their request.  In my professional opinion what they were requesting was not in line with their online goals or good web standards. 

The person wanted me to do some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work on their web site.  Nobody could find their web site searching with Google. They insisted on having a Flash animation on their home page. At the time they had no back links or HTML text on the home page. Both of these are important to proper SEO. I told them it would be a liability doing all Flash on their home page without concentrating on back links, page titles, proper search keywords, and HTML text. They further insisted on Flash and I responded again with my concerns.  I wasn’t about to take their money for something that would not benefit their business online. Because of my stance they decided to use someone else.

Many clients or perspective clients can get caught up on the latest and greatest Internet trinkets.  Trinkets are synonymous with cool web sites.  People see something neat or cool on a web site and want the same for their web site.  My belief is that it is more important to have a useful web site rather than a "cool" web site.  Google is our favorite example.  There is nothing cool about Google, except that it is easy to use and is worth billions of dollars.

This forces me to ask the following: Are clients paying you to do what they request or are they paying for your skill and experience?  When a client insists on doing something that won’t benefit their site what do you do?

You should always treat the customer professionally and provide them with the best service possible.  Deliver them value in everything you do.  But, I don’t believe you should do something the customer requests because they are “paying you to do work for them.” 

Work with people who value your opinion and take your expertise for all it’s worth.  My favorite clients are those who give honest feedback on our advice and willing to try new things with their web sites. They are also the same people whose sites outperform the sites of people demanding something their way.

Why do you have a web site?

Have you ever asked a small business owner why they have a web site?  Based on their response, I can quickly tell if a company is knowledgeable about the online world.  There are far too many companies that have a web site for all the wrong reasons.

My web site philosophy is centered on B2B and B2C web sites.  I don't hold personal web sites to this standard.  I encourage everyone to have fun with their personal web site.  But don't forget to balance your fun with usability and design standards.

B2B and B2C web sites need to be held to a much higher standard.  Personal web sites usually don't have to worry about a bottom line.  Whenever I ask a business owner, "Why do you have a web site?"  I usually get the following answers:

  1. "We have a web site because someone inside the company thought it would be a good idea."
  2. "Our competition has a web site, so we need a site."

The above justifications are probably two of the worst reasons to have a web site.  Yet, most small business owners and companies respond with similar justifications.

Your company web site should be based on fundamental business practices.  My core beliefs about a company web site follow these key objectives:

  1. "My web site saves our company time"
  2. "My web site saves our company money"
  3. "My web site increases our company's revenue and profitability"

They key objectives listed above are what I encourage every business owner to accomplish with their web site.  In tandem with these key objective, the smartest companies can outline a set of online strategies and goals.

In 3G Marketing on the Internet by Sweeney, MacLellan, and Dorey, you can find their recommended  "Formula for e-Business Success."  It looks like this: "The Right e-Business model + The right Web site + The right Web site traffic (and lots of it) = e-Business Success."

Are you accomplishing your key online objectives?  If not, it might be time to rethink your online strategy.  The information presented above is only the "tip of the iceberg."

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The Written Word

Here is an honest admission: I've never been the best at writing thank you cards.  But, I also believe it is never too late to start.  There are some good friends of mine from Florida who inspired me to write on this topic.  They do an excellent job of sending hand written birthday cards to all their friends year after year.

What do birthday cards and the Internet have to do with one another?  Everything . . . well almost!

In today's chaotic world of Internet, movies, TV, radio and everything else, it becomes easy to forget the simple things in life.  Hand written cards are becoming a lost art.  For most people, it is far easier to open up our email program and write a thank you letter.

Be different! If someone does something above and beyond the norm, send them a written thank you card.  The positive impact of a written card is far greater than any email. You can achieve far more impact with less words.

Here is what someone told me after receiving a written thank letter: "Thanks for the card, I didn't think people did that any more."

If you get a chance, write a hand written thank you card. 

Additional Resource:

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Web Usability: The Importance of Balancing Content and Graphic Design

In the web development world, supremacy battles are waged between visual designers and those who create content.  Visual design is the work of a graphic designer.  When I talk about "content," I am specifically referring to text or the written word.  Unfortunately, when a good balance isn't maintained, it is the user of the web site who ultimately loses out.

It is said that content is king in the online world.  Relevant high quality content is the one universal that every user seeks.  In today's video blogging and picture sharing world, it is more difficult to find high quality content.  Content becomes the first thing compromised on a web site. This is because of the need to post anything online regardless of quality.

In Robert Bly's book, The Copywriter's Handbook, an excellent point is made about content and graphics.  Mr. Bly points out a web site should be able to stand on its own without any graphics or pictures. 

You can't do much online without the following text: click here, buy now, login, search, etc.

Does it Make Sense without Graphics?
To illustrate the point, do this short exercise:
Go to and search on your favorite web site.  I'll use "Yahoo" as my example.  When the results page appears, don't click on the link.  Look at the description of the page you are searching.  Under the link to the page and description, you should see a line like this: - 74k - Cached - Similar Pages

Click on the Cached link for your results.  Doing so will bring you to a page showing when the site was last viewed by Google's spiders.  Within the block of text that comes up there should be a link for, "Click here for the cached text only."

Finally click on the cached text link.  This will display the page without any graphics. 
Can you understand  your favorite web site without any graphics? 

Graphic Design
"Don't I want my web site to look good?" My answer to this is a resounding yes!  But, you need to be careful and not go overboard with graphics. Users enjoy visiting visually appealing web sites.  Visual appeal goes beyond just pictures on a web site, it encompasses all aspects of graphic design.  This includes, but not limited to the following elements: navigation, pictures, typography, etc.

Does your web site portray a consistent look and feel?  A uniform design and layout complements and reinforces user comfort and appeal.  Yet, many graphic designers confuse visually useful design with the opportunity to showcase their artistic skills.  The need to be artistic has little benefit or value for the client or users.   

A few years ago Flash driven web sites (all Flash and no HTML) were all the rave.  It was a time when multimedia and graphics were in overdrive.  Today there are far fewer Flash driven web sites.  Users have shown that they won't tolerate web sites with irrelevant visual design. The same thing applies for irrelevant content.  An appropriate use of pictures, animations, and graphic elements should complement and support the transfer of information.  The best graphic designers are those that strike a good balance between visuals and information.

Strike a Balance
Your web site should balance visual appeal with information. Effective web sites achieve a balance between useful information and a rapidly loaded aesthetically pleasing design.

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What is Web Usability? And Why You Should Care . . .

When I tell someone that my specialty is “Web Usability,” the response is usually a confused look.  To most people web usability is a foreign concept. Yet, usability is a critical component of any successful web site.

What is web site usability and why is it important to my web site? Web usability focuses on making web sites simple and easy to use. If a web site is simple and intuitive, people enjoy their online experience. If the web site is complex and convoluted, people can't use the web site effectively.  How often do you return to a web site that is difficult to use?

Ignore the Experts, Listen to Your Users
Contrary to what many “experts” might tell you, it is not the web site developers who should be determining the content of your website.  The users of your web site should determine your content. Users dictate the online path they wish to travel and what information is important to them.  Many web sites become extinct, because developers believed they knew better than users what type of content should be included on the site.  Developer and Artist centric design still runs rampant in on the Internet.

Hitting a HOME RUN
When it comes to usability, we subscribe to the concept presented by web usability guru Jakob Nielsen.  His concept is older, yet still holds true today.  In his book, Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, Nielsen’s concept is summed up with the acronym HOME RUN. The most successful sites have High quality content, that is Often updated, with Minimal download, are Easy to Use,  Relevant to the users needs, Unique to the to online world, and Net-centric to corporate culture.

HOME RUN is a simple methodology, yet highly effective. Make sure you hit a HOME RUN with your web site.

Additional Resource:
Jakob Nielsen's

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Proofing your Work On Paper

There I was ... in the beautiful town of Hasselt, Belgium.  If anyone is looking for a nice getaway just east of Brussels, this is the place to go!  In the middle of winter the smell of Belgian waffles fills the streets.   On weekends, people from all over Europe come to Hasselt's wonderful boutiques to shop.

I was in Hasselt to keynote at the European Air Show Council Convention.   After my presentation, I was feeling really good about the information delivered to the delegates.  A British gentleman approached me afterward with a few comments.  He pointed out an error on one of my slides.  My first reaction was, "is this guy joking with me!?!?"  My presentation had been proofed several times. "There couldn't be any mistakes."  But, there was indeed a grammatical error on one of my slides.  It was an embarrassing moment.  I spent weeks preparing my presentation. It had been double, triple, and quadruple checked.  How did I miss such an obvious mistake?

Has something similar ever happened to you?   Or, have you launched a brand new web site, only to have someone email you about a mistake?  It happens far more often than we'd like to admit.

I believe the problem is that too many people try to proof their work on the computer screen.  Our eyes are not optimized to proof materials on a monitor. Computer screens induce significantly more strain on our eyes.

What's the solution?   Proof your articles, web sites, or presentations on paper.  Print a hard copy, grab a pen, and check your work.  I can read something a dozen times on the screen and completely miss a simple mistake.  When I check it on paper, it's much easier to detect errors.

Be sure you build redundancy into your proofing.  After you've completed any corrections, enlist the help of friends.  Send friends an email and let them check over your work.   In many cases, your friends will take some time out of their work to help.  For them, it might be a nice break from their daily routine.  Your friends are looking at your work with a fresh set of eyes.  When you look at something too many times, it becomes routine and you easily miss mistakes.

In conclusion, be sure you review a hard copy version of your work.  After you've completed your review, get some friends to help you double check the work.  In doing so, you can probably save yourself some embarrassment in the future.

Additional Resource:

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"The Most Fun You Can Have with Your Clothes On"

Do you do something so amazing that other people don't believe it could be true?

This video has never been released to the public until now!

We are all passionate about something.  Here is a video that nicely sums up my biggest passion, flying! Some of the most unique experiences in my life are courtesy of my aviation adventures. In the flying world, I get to be my alter ego “Az.”  Most of my friend's don't believe half my air show stories.  I assure you, "Hollywood can't make this stuff up!"

“Az” doesn’t enjoy straight and level flight.  He craves flying inverted, looping and rolling, while having his body slammed against the seat at 4-7gWhat's "g"? (off-site link)

I’m very thankful to the people who have provided me a path to such a unique journey. Most of my adventures come courtesy of the air show experience. The air show industry can be summed up in one sentence: “It isn’t about the airplane you fly, but it is all about the great people you meet.

The clip comes from my friend, “Wilbur.” The theme is FOD (Foreign Object Debris) in the cockpit.  You don’t want any FOD in the cockpit. If you are spinning around or upside down, it can become a danger.  There is nothing like getting a piece of FOD in your eye, and trying to keep your airplane under control.  Regardless of some occasional FOD in the cockpit, Wilbur was able to do some pretty amazing things and remained the consummate professional.

In the video, you will see Wilbur zoom down the runway, inverted, going 400 MPH, all of this at 150 feet off the ground. Did I mention in some instances he’s only a few feet from his wingman?  "Wilbur" is a testament to the people who give so much to provide us our freedom. Currently, Wilbur is serving on the front lines in Iraq.

What is the business lesson?

If you can make your passion part of your work, you’ll never complain about going to work or how long you have to work!

Additional Links:
Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team
(Canada's only civilian formation aerobatic team.)

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