Change is only constant in this world. Till 19th April 2017 the site was in its fresher university graduate version with HTML structure. The only professional feature in was that it was built on Twitter’s bootstrap framework to give proper mobile and tablet optimized view. Compared to its predecessor website this one didn’t set
meta viewport with fixed width. The viewport sets the width of the web page it is supposed to be rendered. Since viewport is not set the site can ask width from the browser and render itself according that dimensions. This along with HTML 5 tech made the site much more bearable than its previous ones as it rendered according to device. Despite the major professional feature, the site still felt lacking more power. Also I hated the idea of using FTP client to push the local draft to the server every time a change was made.
(Read more: How I built SKDRDP site from scratch. A Chronicle on bootstrap version of site.)
The site due to its professional bootstrap framework helped me in running it from Diwali of 2014 till April without much hiccups. Unlike codecademy course that tipped me in building it, this time it was sites of our subsidiary Jana Jagruthi and Bhajana Kammata that blazed the path for the CMS powered site. Also my personal experience in running my own WordPress site and SKDRDP’s blogs gave me an idea about what to expect from the CMS’s. Compared to HTML I did find these CMS’s to be more restrictive, but they also opened the world of plugins and widgets which could accomplish complex things effortlessly without requiring extra coding knowledge.
For me the site’s journey can be split in 3 time zones. The prologue gave important learning which has lots of bearing on the current site. The present chronicles the capabilities of the site, and current trends. The future projects the trend to tell where the site should go.
1. The prologue:
Every site has 3 levers that control it. The first one is its domain panel where you set parameters regarding name servers, domain records and other domain management things. The 2nd lever is site’s cPanel. This one manages server’s hosting environment. The 3rd lever is of site’s CMS system. If it doesn’t have CMS then it will be FTP controls.
In the initial years due to my own inexperience the cPanel and domain controls were not accorded much importance. With building of website of Bhajana Kammata in month’s time, I came to know what all can be done if one controls all the 3 things. Domain controls security aspects of site too, as one needs to order for Static IP for SSL certificate from here only. cPanel is place where one installs certificate after its issued. After these 2 only one can enable SSL on his CMS. Similarly lot of things like CDN, Caching require one to use these 3 things excessively.
(Read more: The levers that control your website. Explanation of above concept.)
1.1 Website’s Data Era: Analytics
The next thing after taking control is setting up of monitoring systems. The monitoring system of site visitors is called as Analytics. Google is one of the famous provider of that service. Analytics helps webmasters like me to understand visitor dynamics over various metrics and dimensions. In short metrics are numbers like bounce rates, visitors, time on site etc… Whereas dimensions are context specific and shows based on report. In case of geography report various dimensions will be different countries a visitor belongs too. In case of traffic source report dimensions will be referrals, social, search, direct etc.. Analytics requires one to place the tracking codes on each page of the site. Since CMS have powers to create pages on the fly, plugins are needed to make this easier.
(Read more: Decision Making and Google Analytics. Explains various features of this profound tool)
1.2 Social Era: Building Social Media Infrastructure
Once analytics is set up and running properly the next one to come are communities and followers of the website. For this a social media strategy needs to be in place. For that website content need to be made shareable. Which means images must be of higher quality. There has to be compelling headline and some excerpt accompany article, which would display on social media sites and search engines. And not to mention role of share buttons play in this regard. This sets basic social infrastructure on the website.
The social media picks image called featured image for display on their sites. This image is the representative image for the article, hence it has to be appropriate. One can use high quality stock images too for this featured image. Since its featured image, the resolution and quality of image cannot be skimped at all. In an article, first impression is always made by image featured and the title of story. This quality constraint of website means images shared on whats app or ones pasted in word document will always become low quality images to be featured images. This also results click not happening at all despite compelling headline and excerpt.
After the image and headline it will be excerpt that decides whether user wants to read or not. Hence its worth while to get the first impression right by featuring a high quality image, a compelling headline and a custom drafted excerpt for the article. Note that Yoast SEO plugin allows custom excerpts for the different networks like Facebook, Twitter and Search Engines. Once can write custom excerpts for article by using excerpt dialog box in WordPress. if its not displaying then use screen options drop-down in new article window to display this box.
2. The present:
As described in previous sections. The major learning were controlling 3 levers, analytics and sharing friendliness. All these things were present in past site too. The presence of above 3 factors aided in brand building of SKDRDP. The current site now shows off a full sized images, sharing is easy for blog articles and success stories. All these things have some underpinning for being there. Without further ado lets dive into rationale for larger images, call to actions etc..
2.1 Role of Websites and Analytics
Many companies view website as dummy information source, a white elephant, expense center. But in reality, its an asset in social terms. If a company needs to build its credibility its expected to have its own up to date website. In internet world website is the face of the company. Social Media add digital marketing arm to a company along with website. Websites having blogs are considered as engaged in content marketing, and shows off soft-skills a company has.
Since website is part of marketing campaign, like every marketing campaigns it should be tracked for effectiveness. And in tracking the things that play important role are the campaign reach, campaign engagement and campaign conversion. Likewise a grand purpose every campaign has relative importance given to reach, engagement and conversion metrics. For example, if campaign wants online sales to be maximized it needs to focus on conversion numbers. If building awareness about the company is important then reach has to be higher. The tool used for measuring these is analytics package. But the first thing is defining problem statement – what you want to achieve.
In case of this website, It was set way back in March 2014 to increase the reach.
Reach of website and that of company grows only if it gets visibility in mediums that have larger audiences. The mediums can be paid mediums, owned mediums or influencing mediums. Example of paid medium is advertising medium. Owned medium can be blogs, news letters etc… Social media is type of influencing medium, even search is another influencing mediums. Apart from medium it needs to be focused that awareness building requires retention of the user on the site. So the analytics is used to make things friction free for the user.
2.2 the game of Images, CTA’s
Analytics can help you tell about friction points in user experience. But there is one such thing which is always visible and done very badly by novices. That mistakes happen in images and call to action aspects. In a quest to reduce image sizes novices reduce the resolution to such an extent that microscope is needed to view the image. Also novices totally ignore the Call to Actions on images which is the thing that generates all the engagement on the site.
If one observes all the big websites be it of apple, or amazon or others. The first thing they see is a large image covering the face of website. The image contains a small Call to action to get the person act on it. This CTA and large images have set themselves as standards for websites. If an image is too small, it will look ugly and pixelated on larger screens. Images sent from whats app and MS word suffer from this problem. To manage the size of images, these programs chop off the quality. The site image must not fall below Full HD resolution i.e. 1920 x 1080 which is impossible to get on apps like whats app, MS word.
2.2.1 Image thumb rules:
To aid people here is list of thumb rules to be observed with images:
The images sent has to be directly taken from camera and editing must be done by person supposed to post it to the site or his team.
The person taking image must only ensure image being taken is not shaken up badly making restoration of it difficult. This rule doesn’t apply for professional photographer.
Images are better shared to the web manager via dropbox, google drive or by mail attachments. Things like Facebook, Whats App, MS Word should not be used at all. Internal company tools for sharing are most preferred if they don’t alter the images.
Facebook, whats app, flickr, google photos,twitter are better mediums to reach end consumers of images and data.
Whenever images goes thorough a conversion it always loses some quality. hence its best to avoid conversion of image into other forms in inner works and transfers. Some image conversions are – image file to website image, image file to printed photo, image file to whats app photo(highest loss of quality), printed photo to scanned image.
2.2.2 Call to Action (CTA):
The CTA is also an integral part of website. It can be used to inform the visitor, or make him buy your product on your site, and many more. Every professional website has it, and every novice website doesn’t have it. If site is for information purpose then CTA will normally be embedded in the image itself. If site wants to drive an action on the site itself, then the CTA will be separate from the image and highlighted – to make the user conduct the action. And as quoted earlier the CTA to put comes from what one wants to achieve with the site i.e. vision statement.
3. The future:
In the previous section I explained about role images, CTA and analytics play in the website. These things lay a solid foundation for engaging the visitors of the site. But often times we want our site to advertise and sell our products too. The roles of advertising and e-commerce will bring out additional complexities in site design. The pre-requisite for e-commerce is HTTPS being enabled by default. It also helps in getting the site being HTTP 2 compliant leading to faster site. Advertising and e-commerce being more important branches, even analytics focus on these aspects too. The Goal tracking is an analytics feature which is used for digging deeper into e-commerce sales funnel.
3.1 The advertising play:
The advertising has 3 players in the fray. The Advertiser, The Publisher and Ad Network. In case of company blogs they do not carry advertising but they might be keen to host images of products of their on their sites side bars and related content etc.. to boost visibility. So in case of company blogs, the advertiser and publisher will be the same, hence they wont be needing an external ad network. If the above 2 are different then only ad network is needed. One such example of ad network is Google Ads. Under Google’s Adsense program a publisher can allow google ads on his site. Google in that case will manage ads on that site by displaying ads of advertisers who have signed up on it ad network via its AdWords program. Similarly sites like Bing, Facebook, Twitter too have their own ad networks to manage ads.
The billing of of ad networks also varies a lot. Some charge for every click received on the ad called as Pay Per Click (PPC) model. Some bill based on impressions i.e. displaying of the ad. Its called as PPM – Pay Per 1000 Impressions. M in PPM is based on roman letter for the number 1000. Since these ads require one to pay for acquiring the customers this falls under purview of Paid Media. Also this paid media which is accessed by an ad network also has really good click through rates, making it ideal for e-commerce sellers. Ads on these networks are categorized as Text ads and Display ads(image ads). Normally text ads have PPC billing and Display ads have PPM billing.
Normally companies advised to be signed up as advertiser on ad networks despite having their in-house content marketing platforms. Its so because the digital advertising provides a much better click though rates.
3.2 The commerce on internet – e-Commerce:
Before beginning on e-commerce, its important for the sites to implement a robust security infrastructure for the website as it involves real money being used in transaction. Its recommended for e-Commerce sites to have HSTS and HTTPS enabled to prevent troubles. HSTS stands for HTTP Strict Transport Security which enhances security level of HTTPS protocol. The word HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. With these 2 implemented, an e-commerce seller could go knocking on doors of payment gateway.
(Read More: Website loading: Basics of Authentication and Encryption – Part 2. Explains about security)
The work of payment gateway is to link the e-commerce seller to the customer’s bank. And this entire process of making 1 transaction happen is a series of handshakes, and the entire transaction would fail if one of handshake fails. To visualize this process, when a customer enters his bank details and checks out the seller first sends the bank details to payment gateway. Then payment gateway redirects customer to bank’s server for customer to log in. After logging in transaction processing server processes the transaction and gives transaction confirmation message which is passed all the way back to the seller. If one has experienced e-commerce transaction he would know a timeout or error any 1 of this step would lead to entire transactions being failed. For this service the PG’s charge money for transactions routed by them to sellers.
3.2.1 Goals and conversions:
Since the transaction process happens on external websites, analytics will focus a lot on check out and thank you pages for goal tracking. These pages mark the end of sales funnel and carry a monetary value for each transactions. Its also considered as successful conversion as session which started by logging in to the website ended in converting into sales. In this regards analytics packages help one to identify hard and soft conversions.
When a user is supposed to be made aware of product in marketing terminology its called as generation of lead. soft conversions measure these leads. Events or URL tracking can used for soft conversions. Its also ideal to assign a value for soft conversion called as goal value. Some soft goals can be signing up for news letter, using a promotional voucher etc…
A hard conversion is like actual sales which is supposed to have a direct financial impact. In case of banks this goal will be of closing loan account by paying off last EMI rather than loan disbursal. In case of e-commerce seller it will be thank you page which is loaded after transaction is completed. The value attached to successful sales is normally set to be the sales amount of transaction. Also a hard conversion can have a sales funnel to track how users are proceeding with the sales process. In this each step of the process will have a goal attached to it.
In this we read about making sites mobile friendly, analytics, role of social media, the game of images,CTA, advertising, and e-commerce. All these are considered as basic building blocks of a site. Unfortunately these things are not part of university curriculum. Hope you enjoyed reading through this huge article which gives the bird’s eye view on the world of websites.
(Article cross posted from Harry’s Tech Space.)