Mobile Websites: the Dos and Don’ts

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Mobile devices are catching up so fast that it is predicted that mobile web usage will surpass desktop web usage by 2015. It has become so important, a regular website that was doing great deal of good to a business, will no longer be as yielding without a complementary mobile website. Regional businesses in particular, have something to worry about, because more than 50% of local searches are made on mobile devices.

Regular websites, resized for smaller screens, don’t make good mobile websites. So, how is mobile websites different from regular websites? What accounts to a great mobile website? Before you begin working on a mobile website, one needs to understand how Mobile Internet is different.

* Mobile phones and tablets use a relatively slower connection than conventional wired ones.

* The arena is very small; but the audience is the same.

* Mobile devices are most used on the verge of decision-making, so the experience influences the decision.

Only the essentials:

The best mobile websites are ones that deliver the best navigation experience, despite the limited real estate. So the first thing to do is to prioritize the content that would make it to the small screen. What essential can be put in, without a horizontal scroll bar, and without making the page too long.If it is fairly long, have a link on the footer to take the visitor to the top of the page without having to scroll back.

Consistency:

Your mobile website should match your regular website in appearance. This makes it look familiar to returning visitors, and establishes a connection immediately. It could be the color schemes, logo and other trademark visual elements.

Readability.

Mobile devices are most likely to be held at arm’s length. So smaller text and too many links are going to make it all the more difficult to find a speck of information. Interaction is going to be “touch”, rather than point and click. So the interactive items like links need to be touchable icons.

And Writability too. Text input fields on forms can be a pain if there are too many. It is not so easy to type using an on-screen keyboard on hand-held devices.

Speed:

Having too many images as in your regular website can seriously slow the page down on mobile devices. Use very few, compressed images.

Mobile-Specific Features:

Smart phones offer features like “Tap to call” or “send an SMS”. A visitor can touch the contact number on your website to initiate a call instantly. Features like this ensure seamless navigation, resulting in higher conversions.

These mostly are the visual elements that enhance the mobile browsing experience of visitors. There is more to this; the search engine’s side of the story. Stay tuned.


Or, get a mobile-optimized version of your website, automatically, with Zoho Sites.

5 Keys for Transitioning Your Business Online

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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizSuccessTeam. To read more from Sandra, visit her blog.

Every business can use an online presence, whether they think so or not. Save your customers time by putting together a website that showcases your products and services. You don’t have to go e-commerce (allowing customers to purchase online), however, for heavy computer users going to a static website can be frustrating.

The world is moving toward convenience at a break-neck speed. Just look at the competitive cell phone providers who tout faster browsers and cellular technology.

Faster is the new bigger. Knowing where your industry is headed is key.

Losing business to those who offer “more convenience” is something you can count on if you don’t jump on the train now. It’s the way life is headed; one would have to be blind to ignore the fast pace of the information highway.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, e-commerce sales exceeded $194 billion in 2011. This 16.1% increase is another indication that e-commerce is taking a bigger portion of market share from brick-and-mortar establishments.

So far, the categories that are not purchased online are: Gas, groceries, autos, food and beverage services. However, if you are in an industry that is becoming more competitive online, here’s a guide to help get you started.

Half-on, half-off.

No one is recommending that you abandon your physical location, if it is working for you. There are still plenty of customers who prefer to see merchandise or deal with their professionals in person. Doing both is ideal, for the time being.

Here are the primary reasons to get your business online now:

  • To capture sales from the audience that prefers to shop from their home
  • Providing online information helps the sales effort and often allows for less trained or fewer employees on-premise
  • To reduce overhead costs; the higher the percentage of online sales, the more reason to consider smaller, physical quarters and fewer employees
  • To stay competitive

Costs for creating an online presence have been reduced substantially, making it an affordable move for everyone.

5 Key ingredients for a successful online transition:

  1. Planning: Pick a start date that gives more than enough time for development (ideally, 3-months)
  2. Selecting: Find a freelance web designer or consider using a city or industry portal, from where you can post your website. There are also a myriad of services that will create your website: some for free and others for a monthly fee or a percentage of sales. (Check out our recently launched service, Zoho Sites).
  3. Developing: Develop a Content Outline and gather photos to give to the designer.
  4. Writing: Write the text you want included or hire a copywriter to work with the designer. (It’s best if you can at least write the salient points that need to be included.) Remember to set aside an area of the website for specials or information that can be updated on a weekly or monthly basis.
  5. Testing: Test-drive it for a month before going “live”.
  6. Promoting: Promote it with a discount offer for trial usage. Get feedback from the first 100 users and make necessary changes ASAP.

It’s no longer the intimidating move of yesteryear. In today’s techno-age, a website is your calling card, which provides pertinent information about your business and its products and services.  Isn’t it time to move ahead and join the Internet ranks?

Domain Names. Big Deal.

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A domain name is to a website, what SSN is to you; no two websites can have the same domain name. It is to uniquely identify you in the online space. It is essential that you do it right the very first time, because it is the only best time to do it. So, what factors should influence you in choosing a good custom domain?

1. Subdomains Vs. Custom Domains

www.yourbusiness.someotherbusiness.com is a subdomain. www.yourbusiness.com is a custom domain. Where you host your business website is the last thing your client is bothered about. He needs credibility (She needs even more). Which of the two domains look credible? Which of the two websites above would your visitor feel comfortable in sharing credit card information with?

2. Keyword-laden domains Vs. Brandable domains

Every domain name translates to an IP address that machines understand better. But domain names are for us; humans.

Domains that are easily remembered are the ones that are easy to remember. Straightforward? Short and Brandable domains create an excitement; domains like apple.com. Keyword-laden domains have their advantage as well. If you are a multi-product company, then you might want your domain to be generic, so that all your products can be marketed with the same brand value. But for single-product organizations, having a relevant keyword or an industry-jargon, in combination with a brandable name could be a great bet.

But the best part is, that there are exceptions. And plenty of room for creativity. What would you call a domain name that is an entire sentence, and is about 30 characters long? A bad domain? Before you answer, check this out!

When it comes to SEO, Google says it will treat both kinds of domains equally. So algorithmically, it really doesn’t make a big difference. Watch this Google Video. It is a year old, but should be relevant.

3. Extension

The importance of extensions is immense in Google searches. The results vary depending on you being signed in to Google or not, your region settings on your browser, and lately, the +1’s of your friends and contacts on Google. It is all a measure to display the most relevant results to a searcher.

yourbusiness.com isn’t the same as yourbusiness.org. Each extension has it’s meaning. .com is widely used; .org is for non-profit organizations; .gov the government; and there’s more. If your business is serving a global audience, it is best to pick a .com domain name.

4. Brand Establishment

As and when you choose a custom domain name for your business website, you also need to ensure that the same name is available on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other viral social media platforms. It would hurt your brand if one of them does not belong to your organization, and is posting stuff that is not just appropriate.

5. Business email hosting

When you have your own domain name, you can host your business email too, so that it reads, you@yourbusiness.com, and not you@gmail.com or you@zoho.com. The former promotes your domain name and helps in establishing an identity.

These are why picking a domain name is one of the first things you should do when setting up a business. Like falling in love, all the worse when you do it late. The one in your mind might be taken already. Hope this helps you in picking a great domain name for your business website. And business email, because business website building and email hosting always go hand-in-hand.

Announcing, Password Protected Pages on Zoho Sites

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Here’s announcing another update to Zoho Sites; Password-Protected Pages. You can now restrict access to pages on your website using passwords. This lets you share relevant content alone, with a closed group of people.

Password Protection:

There are two types of passwords to use based on the instance:

  •  Site Password
  •  Page Password

Site Password is ideal when you want to share multiple pages with a group of people. One password for all the pages, so you share only one password with everyone.

On the other hand, Page Password lets you set separate passwords for each page. With each page having its own password, there is no possibility of accessing such pages with one common password. Read our help section on how to protect your webpages.

Linking External Pages:

Another feature that accompanies password protection, is linking your pages to external links. You can now link your pages to any other external websites. Particularly, if you own multiple websites, you could link to each of them from every other website.

Both these features have been repeatedly asked for, so we are eagerly looking forward to hearing your comments on them.

Elementary SEO: All about robots.txt

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SEO is about making your pages rank higher on search results. But there are certain pages on your website which you don’t want users to arrive at from search results. The robots.txt file is used to exclude such pages from showing up in search results.

Search engines use bots or robots to crawl websites and learn about them, so that they’ll know which websites should show up for a particular keyword. Whenever such bots arrive at a website, the first thing they look for is the robots.txt file, because it contains instructions from the website’s owner. Now, there are good bots and bad bots. The bad ones especially, like the malware bots that are on the lookout for security vulnerabilities, pay no attention to the robots.txt file.

What is the role of robots.txt?

It contains two important information. Which bots are allowed to crawl this website, and which pages on this site should not be crawled.

How to create a robots.txt?

It can be created using any text-editor. The name of this file is case-sensitive, so it should be lower-case only. The robots.txt file should be put in the root folder of your website, along with the index or welcome page, so that the path of this file always is, www.yourdomainname.com/robots.txt .

It usually has two commands. User-agent is to specify the bot to which the following instructions apply. Disallow specifies the pages which are restricted.

A simple example of a robots.txt file is as below.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

So, in the example above, the “*” beside User-agent says, the following commands apply to every kind of bot that lands on this site.
The “/” beside Disallow, represents all sub-directories in the root folder are restricted to bots. That means, no page inside the root folder should be crawled, by any bot.

Here are a few examples. To permit select bots, and keep the rest out,

User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

To restrict select directories on a website from being crawled, the commands would be,

User-agent: *
Disallow: /directory/

To block files of a specific type,

User-agent: Googlebot

Disallow: /*.gif$

To block a particular directory, and everything in it,

User-agent: Googlebot-Image

Disallow: /images/dogs.jpg

Alternate method – META TAG:
You can also include a robots <meta> in the header of every page on your site. The syntax is,

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

The FOLLOW / NOFOLLOW attribute is for the links on that page. If it is NOFOLLOW, then bots should not be following any links on that page. If no meta tag is included, then it implies INDEX and FOLLOW, so there is no need to explicitly mention this.

As with Zoho Sites, you can access the crawler specification in the SEO settings page.

The commands entered here will automatically be saved in the robots.txt file of your website, and can be accessed at www.yourdomainname.com/robots.txt .

Now register your custom domains with Zoho Sites

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We have made minor changes to how you select a domain for your website. We believe this will streamline the process, and make it easy for you to choose between options. And of course, it is yet another reason for you to pick our PRO Plan. PRO users can now register their custom domain with us. When a domain is registered with us, all the mapping and configuration is automatically taken care of. The domain is ready to be used soon after registration.

When you attempt to publish your website for the very first time, you’ll be prompted to choose a unique domain name. Choose from the three options as in the image below.

Free subdomain:

This is ideal for beginners to get started with. You can learn the ropes of website building with a subdomain.

Map the custom domain you already own

Choose this option if you have an existing domain that was registered elsewhere and you want it hosted with Zoho.

Register a new domain now

Choose this option if

  • you don’t have a custom domain already
  • you are a PRO user.

By registering your custom domain with Zoho, you can escape the process of domain mapping and configuration. We handle it all for you.

Whether you choose a custom domain or subdomain, there are no restrictions on your creativity to building a great website with Zoho Sites.

 

Why Mobile Websites Matter

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Couch commerce is another term that is gaining a lot of attention in recent times, just as mobile internet. Thanks to the exponential growth of smartphones and tablets, people are no longer chained to their desktops. Both, commerce and communication, are carried out on the go. Of the consumers in your locality who web-search for a commodity or a vendor, nearly 50% are likely to do so on a mobile device. And mobile web usage has been predicted to surpass desktop internet usage by 2015. That’s how fast mobile web is taking over the browsing arena. If you still don’t buy it, eBay sells 4 Ferrari cars in a month, through mobile. So, without a dedicated website to cater to mobile internet traffic, you might lose to your local counterpart who is no better than you, but was smart enough to be mobile device friendly.

Why have a separate website for mobile devices?

Why not the same one for all devices? Mobile devices have relatively smaller screens, but their users are as potential as desktop users. That means you’ve got to deliver the same convincing browsing experience, in a much limited space. Mobile websites do just that.

The regular website, with all its images would take an awful lot of time to load on a mobile device. Despite that, the horizontal scroll bar makes it hard to navigate through the pages, and requires you to zoom in for better viewing. On the contrary, mobile websites are thumb-friendly, have compressed images, are easily navigable, and load much faster. This certainly enhances the mobile web experience of users, and lets you make the most of the rising mobile web traffic.

Websites for everyone, and every device

That is one of the best thing about Zoho Sites; it gets you ready on the mobile front, without any extra effort from you. When you publish your regular website, a mobile website is generated automatically; NO CONVERSION SOFTWARE. Both these versions believe in one URL. Prospects using mobile internet, need not access a different URL. The same URL, when accessed from a mobile device, takes the user to the mobile friendly version. See for yourself. Create your free mobile website.