Category: Blog – Tech

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Heat Maps & Visitor Trails – Make Your Website A Blazing Force!

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Night Vision For Websites – A Case Study!

A Northern California client came to us for help with increasing leads for their environmental clean-up business.  They have a pretty high volume of traffic for a small local business.  They receive 30,000+ visitors per month.  By looking at Google Analytics, we were able to see that most of the visitors are going to five blog articles discussing Carbon Monoxide and a few other home environmental topics.  InfusionSoft is operating in the background, collecting leads, but leads were only trickling in, perhaps just a few per week.  We could also see that only 1/6 of users who started the Request A Quote form were completing it.  Two thirds of their site traffic comes from the East coast (3000 miles away), and Southern California, so does not represent potential clients.  The site has an average on page time of 6 minutes with a bounce rate of 90%.  How odd!

What would you do?  This is the fun part of our work:  playing detective.

Our first objective was to follow the rule that it is cheaper to get business from existing clients than to go out and find new ones.  Rather than trying to bring in new traffic, we wanted to try to convert more of their existing traffic, and monetize the traffic from users who are geographically not potential clients.  The client would be overbooked if they had 40 projects in a month.  It certainly should be possible to convert 40 users out of 30,000 into customers!

The Never Ending Form

The first thing we did was ask the client about the request a quote form.  Why were people dropping off?  How long is the form, we asked?  Six pages long was the reply.  When they created the quote form, they were concerned that they would be flooded with requests, so they made the Request A Quote form intentionally long, and required a response for every single question so that only someone who really wanted a call would go through the trouble of filling it out.  They certainly were successful in deterring responses!  Isn’t that thought process just adorable?  We have seen this many times.  “Make the user really try hard to reach us because then we know that for sure they want our help so that we don’t waste our time with people who aren’t going to turn into customers”.

We recommended using a short form first, and if calls did in fact start flooding in, THEN adjust.  We replaced the six page form with a five question form.  Within a week the number of form completions doubled.   We are testing this short form and then will test an even shorter form.

By utilizing Google Analytics and heat map technology we were able to determine that there was too much of a barrier to collect qualified leads, and shortened the form, plus removed the annoying pop-up.  The high volume of traffic is mostly comprised of actual human users who find the content extremely relevant and compelling.  They are not potential clients for the services offered due to their geographic location, but it should be possible to provide additional value to them by making recommendation for trusted products this generate a bit of additional income through affiliate and referral agreements.

Bounce Rate And On-Page Time

The next piece of the puzzle is this high number of visits to six of their blog articles.  The articles receive several hundred visitors per day.  An SEO analyst had told them that the traffic was all bots.  We disagreed, based on what we saw in the data and “sensed”.  But how do we know for sure?  How can we solve this mysterious data showing long on-page times yet a high bounce rate?  It appeared from our initial examination that these are real users who land at these blog entries, read the ENTIRE thing, and then leave.  We didn’t think they were bots.  But to try to engage with these anonymous users, and to know for certain that they are real, we had to learn more than we could get from Google Analytics.

This is where the heat maps and user trails come in.  What we learned was incredibly valuable.   When we studied reports made on the  carbon monoxide blog article, a stunning 75% of users scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page reading carefully and slowly.  By recording over 100 user’s movements, we were able to see that the opt-in pop-up was a huge annoyance, yet it didn’t send them running, they simply closed it and continued reading all the way to the end.  They often scrolled up to read a section again.  Folks!  We have real users here!  Plus, they find the information in the article so compelling that they read the entire thing!

Summary

By utilizing Google Analytics and heat maps, we were able to determine that there was too much of a barrier for users to request a quote.  We removed the pop-up and reduced the Request A Quote form to just a few questions.  The high volume of traffic was found to be actual humans, who find the information in the article very compelling and relevant.  They are not potential customers due mainly to their geographic location, but it should be possible to engage them in other was such as through affiliate agreements or referrals to businesses that are located in their area.

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Alignable Spam – How To Delete Alignable

Is Alignable pilfering your email list?

Alignable will trick or mislead you into giving them access to your contacts and then will spam them daily and relentlessly in your name for months.  Already a victim?  Here is how to escape.    If you haven’t accepted an invitation but are getting spammed, select “unsubscribe” immediately and don’t look back.

My Story!  Does This Sound Familiar?

One morning on June 21, 2017 I received an email from one of my favorite clients.  Her note said that she wanted to refer clients to me so had added me to something called Alignable.  The email sounded so friendly that I thought that she had written it, and that she actually had a few people that she wanted to refer to us at Future Bright (We build beautiful and mighty websites.)  I clicked the “accept” button.  I had unknowingly entered the Alignable funnel and beginning immediately I was bombarded daily and relentlessly by emails claiming “you have pending referral opportunities”.  In each email was a big fat green button that said “invite”.  I realized that what they wanted was my email list.  I received no less than eighty emails in sixty days’ time.

Your E-Mail List Is Your Holy Grail!

Anyone who owns a business knows that your email list is your holy grail.  Your crown jewel.  It is to be protected, carefully used, and never ever shared.  That is why Alignable wants your list so badly!  I became nervous.  I knew that their access to my email list was just one careless click away. I wanted to end the barrage of emails, but I wasn’t sure if this was perhaps an emerging tool and didn’t want to miss out.  I read articles about the site and didn’t find any negative comments (To this day I can’t figure out how they are managing to bury complaints).  They seemed to be writing some interesting research reports…

Then, on August 21, I received an email that said,

 

I thought that Alignable was recommending that I connect with one new person.  It says “a” business connection.  Doesn’t that mean just one? The button says, “Add My Connection”.  That is just one connection right? I think back to that day and run through it in slow motion over and over, as I moved my mouse over the green button and clicked “yes, add my connection!”  Why did I press that button!!!???  They had tried and tried and tried and failed to get me to click the “invite” button, so they must have their funnel set to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, then lie”.  They didn’t mean “a” they really meant “all”.

Two days later on August 23, when I opened my email, I experienced that horror one must feel when you realize that you actually HADN’T turned the microphone off.  I received an invitation to Alignable from myself to four different email address that I use in my business.  I realized that my contact list had been taken.

I had been tricked!  I felt embarrassed, horrified, knowing that over that morning, thousands of my contacts would be receiving a super friendly fake invitation from me.   Clicking that green button hadn’t added just one contact, it gave them access to all 4,000 of my contacts and sent each of them the same friendly seeming note that I had received.  Four thousand of my contacts were about to be thrown into the same confusion and relentless emailing that I had found myself in.

My embarrassment transformed into anger.  I was furious!  I tried to call the help number on the website but got an answering machine…an answering machine!

What could I do?  I debated sending my own spam to warn everyone.  Would that do more harm than good?  How do I know if EVERYONE has been spammed?  I waited.  Maybe other folks would be smarter and wouldn’t be fooled like me.  Maybe Alignable didn’t take my whole list.  Over the weeks, I began to receive notices that someone had accepted my invitation.  Months later, I was still receiving them.  I knew then that for months people had been pestered by an auto-send email like I had been.  Six months later, a former colleague of mine approached me and asked, “do you find Alignable useful?  I keep getting invitations from you”.  I realized that he had been getting invitations from “me” for months.  I knew then that I need to write this post and send it out to my entire list.  Alignable is compiling a huge list of email addresses that they have acquired through misleading practices.  Alignable has probably now accumulated millions upon millions of email addresses.

How To Stop Receiving Invitations

If you receive an invitation from one of your colleagues, chances are they actually did not send the invitation themselves.  If you believe that the invitation is legit, simply call them to ask them if they do indeed benefit from Alignable and want to connect with you there.  If you do decide to join, be very mindful of Alignable’s unrelenting efforts to get you to allow them to grab your entire contact list.  If you do not want to take the risk with Alignable,  simply avoid all of this and click the “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the invitation.

 

How To Delete Your Alignable Account

If you have already created an Alignable account and want to go back in time to before the nightmare began, you can delete your account, but unfortunately you cannot delete the invitations that may have been sent out on your behalf.

Deletion Instructions:

Step 1:  Go to https://www.alignable.com/ and log in to your account.

Step 2:  At the top right of the page you will see several icons.  Click on your name and select “Account Settings”.

Step 3:  Click on the red button that says “Deactivate Account”.

Step 4:  You will be sent to a screen that asks if you are sure that you want to delete your account.  Click on the green button that says “Send me deactivation instructions”.

Step 5:  You will receive a deactivation email.  Follow the instructions in that email.

Your account has now been deactivated.

How To Get Alignable To Stop Spamming Your Contacts In Your Name

There isn’t a way to do this.  I AM SORRY!!!  You cannot stop them.  This is the worst part.  And it is why their business model is flawed and so horrible.   If you have experienced Alignable spamming your contacts, I would send an e-mail out to all of your clients and contacts to try to save them if you can. You can also send them a link to this article if you wish.  It is hard to admit that you made this mistake, but it is a very easy one to make, and if you don’t tell them, they will experience months of anguish.  Don’t feel bad for being duped.  I am the world’s best skeptic, especially since I am in the industry, yet even so, out of politeness to my very loved client, I was sucked in.

Good Luck!  This article gets 1000 views in Google each month, so you can be sure, you are not alone!

Wendy Louise Nog, Founder

wendy@future-bright.com

Future Bright
Future Bright Portfolio - Crossroads Cafe

Websites, Social Media, SEO

Solutions For Individuals & Small Businesses

Founder, Digital Strategist, Wendy Louise Nog
Founder, Digital Strategist, Wendy Louise Nog

We are 100% dedicated to your success!

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai

Persian Restaurant Ariana’s Kitchen To Open In Dubai

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai

 

 

My young daughter and I sat in an outdoor patio of a cafe whose entrance was piled with desserts and pastries of every color in the rainbow, and that looked out over the calming pool below.  Far below.  We were on the seventh level of cafes that line the edge of the Dubai Mall, and as we sat and breathed in the air, and wondered at the slightly orange tint that a distant sand storm gave the surrounding buildings, for the first time in two weeks, we felt totally at ease.

Our trip from California to visit family in Kolkata was punctuated by the extreme opposites that you experience when traveling anywhere in India, and we had arrived in Dubai fairly well shaken.  Being a woman traveling alone with a young girl had required a focused alertness that was exhausting.  We were very excited to have landed in Dubai, and of course had seen the Burj Khalifa as we approached from the air.  We took a pristinely clean train from the Dubai airport, exited at the great mall train stop, and walked along the never-ending corridors of moving sidewalks until we finally reached our destination and discovered a cafe where we could sit, relax, and take in this new environment.  As we sat in the sun listening to the ambient music surrounding us, I felt all of the worries, the stress of travel, the concerns about anything at all, completely melt away.  We sat there in wonder, experiencing together that feeling that can only be had in Dubai.

My purpose for visiting this incredible city was to connect with my Website Design client, Celebrity Persian Chef Ariana Bundy, who is opening a Persian restaurant, “Ariana’s Persian Kitchen” at the astonishing Royal Atlantis Hotel & Residences.  Her Persian cuisine is infused with rose, saffron, pistachios, and will feature an amazing menu of ancient recipes.  She is also renovating a 300 year old residence at a separate location to serve as a cooking school and destination inn.  Her story is one that reflects the story of Dubai.  It is a place where you can dream, and make those dreams come true.  It is a playground for architects and developers, chefs and designers, artists and travelers, and absolutely anything that you can imagine is possible, including creating a map of the world with islands.  Future Bright has been so honored to have accompanied her on this journey, and as a boutique website design agency that specializes in food, this was an incredibly special visit.

We were able to easily take Uber everywhere, and every driver we had was kind, friendly, and open to share about their origins and family.  We also felt completely safe.  Like most of the residents of Dubai, the drivers were all from somewhere else, which is very much like our residence in California.

Our gracious host Paul Hughes, husband and partner of Ariana Bundy, gave us a tour of the area around where we were staying, and it was simply mind-boggling to suddenly come upon another and yet another cluster of 100 skyscrapers.  The construction of new buildings was happening everywhere, and it was exciting to see and imagine how they would be when they were finished based on the impossible angles that seemed to be emerging beneath towering cranes.  We had dinner at Jumeirah Al Qasr, a five-star resort, and sat in a lounge overlooking the canals lined with palm trees.  The entire structure was built of beautiful marble and granite.  The food was incredibly flavorful, and the wine completely unfamiliar, which is disorienting and wonderful at the same time.

The always futuristic World Expo is to be held in Dubai in 2020, and construction has already begun, with countries building astonishing representations of their most creative architecture.  It is tempting to list all of the details of our time spent exploring the amazing city of Dubai, but it is so much more fun to discover it yourself.  We will definitely be returning, and can’t wait to taste a saffron infused ice cream from Ariana’s restaurant overlooking the salty expanse of the Persian Gulf waters.

Wendy Louise Nog, MSTMWendy Louise Nog is Founder and Digital Strategist for Future Bright Interactive, a website development agency based in Silicon Valley, CA.

WeWork Mill Valley Lounge Area

WeWork, New Coworking Space In Marin – A Review!

Conference Room WeWork Mill Valley
WeWork Mill Valley.  If the giant boulder, or the portraits of Tupac and Janis Joplin don’t make you catch your breath with nostalgia, the overall feeling of this new WeWork space in Mill Valley will at least cause you to stop & pivot in a full rotation in order to take it all in.
Future Bright WeWork Mill Valley

TASTY + MIGHTY

WEBSITES, SEO, SOCIAL MEDIA

CaNORML Leaf - Future Bright Website Design
freida banks - Future Bright Website Design
St Francis Fountain - Future Bright Website Design
Crossroads Cafe - Future Bright Website Design

WeWork, 1 Belevedere Dr., Mill Valley, CA

A mixture of Sea Ranch meets 1970’s Mill Valley meets the gig economy meets cafe/winebar culture.  These create an ambiance in the 1 Belevedere Dr. WeWork location that is both cozy and expansive, high-tech yet sand-between-your-toes.  This new addition to the now global WeWork network of shared workspace is an exciting and adventurous arrival at a fresh look for WeWork office interiors:  matching the design with the surrounding geography, history, and culture.  Perched up on a hill in one of the most beautiful counties in the world, rather than going with even a dab of black, this location has floor to ceiling glass with tons of natural light.  They are offering private offices, access to all common spaces, called “Hot Desks”, conference rooms, very 1960’s sci-fi-looking phone booths, and a gym.  HotDesks are $650 per month and include…well…a lot.  Call or drop in and ask for Cameron, and let him know that you read about WeWork on Wendy at Future Bright’s blog article!  You just might be glad you did!

WeWork's Cameron Perry and Wendy Louise Nog, Founder of Future Bright, in WeWork Mill Valley
WeWork's Cameron Perry and Wendy Louise Nog, Founder of Future Bright, in WeWork Mill Valley

It is tempting to tell all, including an off-hand mention of the speakeasy but… it will be so much more fun for you to discover the space on your own!  Marin’s native son, the eternally smiling Cameron Perry, will be in charge of you if you pop in for a visit.  You can call WeWork Mill Valley at (646) 491-9060. Bring your laptop, because you won’t want to leave, you will want to find your spot and stay for a while.  Bring your dog too just in case, as dogs are also welcome.   Spoiler alert, there is complimentary Equator Coffee and beer on tap at all times!  Do you feel like you need a reason to stop by?  Make an appointment with me (Wendy) to discuss your next exciting digital project!

WeWork Mill Valley
WeWork Mill Valley

Food & Art Blog

Future Bright Websites - Web Design In Marin

What Every Website Needs – 2019

What every website needs

Updated For 2019. Every website is as unique as the company it represents.  There are, however, certain features that need to be in place in order to take full advantage of your online presence.  Below I have outlined a list of must-haves and best practices for your website and web presence.   People are reading your websites, but so are search engines, and you need to have your site ready for both audiences.  Your needs are unique, but all sites should have these implemented at a minimum.

Pro Must Haves

AMP Pages For Mobile Phones

Structured Data & Rich Cards for Search Engine Presentation

Content Delivery Networks (CDN) for Fast Sites

SSL – Extended Validation Certificate -Contains Org Name

Accessibility & Legal

Site should have options for the visually and mobility impaired

GDPR Compliance – UN Requirement for informing users of cookies

Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions, Disclaimer (Termageddon can manage these)

Home Page Content

Logo

Tag Line/Mission Statement

Clear description of services written in text

500 Words utilizing relevant key words

Relevant Imagery With Descriptive Alt Tags

Phone # that is clickable

E-mail Address that is clickable

Testimonial(s)

Social Media Links (see below)

License #, Memberships, affiliations (if relevant)

Copyright

Call To Actions – Throughout Site

Newsletter Sign-Up

Main Product purchase link/sign up

Facebook Share

Twitter Share

Website Content

Relevant page titles (Important for SEO)

Well-written content with relevant keywords and key phrases throughout

Images with relevant file name titles and descriptions

Design

You MUST have a mobile friendly website.

Techie Stuff

Favicons and icons – multiple sizes: read here >

“Open Graph” thumbnail code – image set for Social Media

Meta Tags For SEO

Site Map Submitted to Google

Indexed with Google – verification

User name NOT “admin”

Webmaster Tools

Weekly back-up

Google Drive – for back-ups & doc storage

Google Analytics

Google Search Console/Webmaster account

Google Adwords account

Social Media Must-Haves

Facebook Business Page

LinkedIn Business AND personal

Google My Business Profile

Google Reviews

YouTube Channel

Yelp Listing for your business

 Lead management & CRM

By now, most users don’t want to have to tell you information that you should already know.  You need a sophisticated CRM system that builds a profile for each of your customers so that you can provide the customized service that they expect in a big data age.

 

 

The Future Bright So-Cast Model

To save time and efficiency, your Social Media Broadcast (So-Cast) should be automated in the following way:  when you add new content to your site, you should be able to post that content to Facebook and LinkedIn plus other social media sites with one click.  Additionally, your newsletter should be set up to link to your website so that you can easily select articles from your website for your newsletter.  You should then be monitoring your web traffic using Google Analytics and modifying your content based on that data.

Future Bright Google My Business

How To Create A Google My Business Page

Why Do You Need A Google Business Profile?

Google uses your business profile to determine your service area, and will place your business on the map so that you appear on search result maps.  Your entire profile may appear on the right side of search results.  Google uses the services that you enter to determine key words relevant to your business.  They may already have a profile for you that you have not claimed, so it is better to be in control.

We Can Help!

If you are time constrained, we can create your Google My Business page for you.  See the bottom of this page for detailed information.

How To Create A Google My Business Page

  1. Go To The Google Business Set-Up Page
  2. Log In with your Gmail/Google Email or create a new account
  3. Add information to your profile
  4. You can hide your physical address
  5. Save The Profile.
  6. Within two weeks, Google will send you a postcard via snail mail with a code.  Log In and enter the code to verify your business.

You will receive regular updates on the performance of your profile.  You will also be able to see how often your profile appeared in searches, was clicked, or was looked at on the map.

Having a Google My Business listing is so critical that if you do nothing else online, you must create a business page on Google My Business.

Having a Google My Business account achieves the following:

  • You appear on Google Maps
  • You appear on the map for search results
  • Google knows your geographic location
  • A rich media snippet is created for you business that includes the following:
    • Image carousel that you choose
    • Link to your website
    • Link to your phone number
    • Link to your address if you make it public
  • It shows Google Reviews
  • It shows Yelp and Facebook Reviews
  • Services that you list are scanned for keywords that Google uses for its search results
  • You receive free analytics showing how often you were viewed and clicked
Our Profile
Google Search Results For Google My Business
How To Make Your WordPress Website Insanely Fast

How To Make Your WordPress Website Load Insanely Fast

Updated Spring 2019

How To Make Your WordPress Website Load Insanely Fast

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow

  1.  Images are too large
  2.  Code is not compressed
  3.  Code, Javascript or plug-in errors
  4.  Site is not cached
  5.  Server is slow

Other less obvious reasons:

  • Your domain has a redirect
  • Another site on your shared server is being attacked
  • Too many elements on your site are trying to load at the same time
  • PHP version does not match the WordPress, Theme, or plug-in version
Website Assessment Report
How To Make A Wordpress Site Insanely Fast

Website Speed Tests:

Following are the site speed tests that we use.  Test results will vary vastly depending upon how busy your server is, and many other factors.  Try at different times during the day to learn more about what your visitors experience.  We try to keep a site fully rendering in under 2 seconds.  Under one second is the magic number!

The Future Bright Website Grader:
Future Bright Website Grader

Pingdom:
tools.pingdom.com/

Google:
developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Dot Com Tools:
www.dotcom-tools.com/website-speed-test.aspx

GT Metrix:

gtmetrix.com/

How To Make Your WordPress Website Insanely Fast

  1. Reduce Your Image Sizes
  2. Asset Optimization through GZIP, compression, &  minify (theme, images, scripts, and files)
  3. Implement Browser Caching
  4. Configure Your Hosting & Server Optimally
  5. Utilize a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  6. Use Cloudflare

The Details

Following are more details about the above items.  It can take 5-8 hours to implement all of these, including testing, so consider that in your cost estimates so that you can weigh cost/benefits.  It is especially important to move carefully if you are working on a live site.

Select A Good Theme – Or Build Your Own

We primarily use a WordPress theme called Patti.  We have chosen Patti because it is simple, clean, and has beautiful 20/40/60 spacing.  We specialize in creating visually stunning websites, so we needed a starting theme that felt free, airy, modern, and that is highly flexible.  We found all of these in Patti, which also allows you to use custom short-codes.  We speed test the demo version of every theme we consider.  The demo must load in under 2 seconds.  Every theme has its pros and cons.  Because we use lots of huge images, if our score on Google’s Page Speed Insights is in the green, we are happy!

Server Optimization – Your Host Provider Can Perform These Tasks

  • Choose a host that is known for being fast.
  • Have your host “Set my PHP Max Input Vars to 1540”
  • Ensure that Gzip is enabled on your server
  • If Needed, host your website on a dedicated Server (is more expensive, around $100/month)

Asset Optimization & Browser Caching Plugins

Font Optimization

If you are using Google or other custom fonts, your site can render a default font first, and then the custom or Google font.  Use the CSS below.  Note of caution:  the user will observe the transition, so if design is important to you, this may not be an option.  You can find other options at:  FONT OPTIMIZATION

/**draw text then swaps when font loads**/
body{ font-display: swap;}

WordPress Plugins

We utilize the following plugins to achieve asset optimization and caching.  I will not go over all of the settings because you will need to play around with the options based upon your particular site.  If you are working on a live site, continuously check the site to ensure that any features you have implemented have not broken your site.  Specifically, minifying CSS and Javascript can cause issues.  If your site is not WordPress, look for added widgets or features, or what ever your platform offers, for the below functionality.

WPMU – Smush

  • Compresses Images
  • Reduces all images to a maximum size that you set.  No accidental 6MB file sizes!

WPMU Hummingbird Pro

  • Analyzer
  • Weekly Report Email
  • Caching
  • Gzip
  • Asset Compressing(minify – may break your theme, use carefully)
  • Tools:  WPMU Dev CDN for JavaScript and CSS files

WP Disable – Optimization.io

  • Heartbeat at 60 or above (https://www.siteground.com/tutorials/wordpress/limit-heartbeat/)
  • Removes Bloat
  • Database Clean-Up
  • Offload Google Analytics (not always done)

Swift Performance Lite

  • Speed Booster
  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content (doesn’t always work)
  • Leverage browser caching
  • CDN Optional

WP Rocket Can take your site from 40 to 80 just by activating it.

  • A powerful, paid alternative to Swift (my other favorite), Super & W3 Total
  • Easy Activation
  • Minification
  • Caching
  • Image Load As Needed
  • Caches your site

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Many of the above plugins include CDN’s.  They also offer storing CSS and scripts off site.  We do not use those, only because it becomes challenging to keep track of everything that is going on with a site.  We simply use one CDN for the entire site.  A CDN creates copies of your site throughout the world.  Your site is then served to a user from the location that is closest to them.  Because the site is a completely cached copy, delivery can be very fast.  If you have having speed issues due to your SSL Certificate (in speed tests your domain name takes a long time to load), a CDN may resolve this issue.

There are many CDN’s to choose from.  We utilize Cloudflare.

Website Hosting Service

As hosting providers grow, their servers tend to slow.  We now steer clients away from BlueHost and GoDaddy.   If you are not in need of an enterprise-level hosting platform, there are several providers that we can recommend.

  1.  Site Ground – in our testing, an identical page loaded in 945 ms on Site Ground, and 1.6 on WPEngine.
  2. WPEngine – We started out with our agency account at BlueHost, but left due to down-time, then moved to a local partner who managed our servers at MediaTemple, but again left because of down-time issues and speed.  We are now settled in at WP Engine because of all that they offer.  We like having a managed wordpress account because the back-ups, PHP updates and WordPress updates are all taken care of. This is a big time saver, and a cost saver definitely for the client. WP Engine also caches each website, has free SSL certificates, and also a CDN.

 CONCLUSION

Sometimes finding that one thing that is slowing a site down feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.  If you go through the above list and implement them all, and you are still having issues, it may be worthwhile to hire fresh eyes to take a look.  Sometimes someone who isn’t familiar with your site can spot things that you overlook because you have looked at your site a million times.  I hope that you find this list beneficial.  Of course every website is different, and you may use only some of these options.  I wish you speed!

–Wendy Louise Nog, MSTM, Founder of Future Bright

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Future Bright Websites - Web Design In Marin

How Much Do Websites Cost? How Do I Choose A Website Designer?

Future Bright Website Company, SEO, Social Media, Reviews Management

Website Design In Marin

The home of Future Bright is in Marin County, just north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge.   The entire North Bay is a treasure trove of small businesses, artisans, entrepreneurs, writers, and socially oriented organizations.   With some of the highest living costs in the country and most of the world, hiring or buying local means paying a premium.   Organic Eggs are $12 per dozen because the hens run wild, eat bugs and, probably get massages by specially trained foxes at night.  When it comes to websites, nothing but the best is acceptable.  This is because even though there is an artisan hand-made tradition, we are within view of Silicon Valley, and websites certainly should not look hand-made!  Unless of course you are interested in Brutalism Web Design, which is an entirely different story!

Without exception, every venture or organization now needs a website.  Finding a website company or digital partner who matches your style and budget can be challenging.  Is it possible that the price of eggs in your region could determine what you should spend on a website?  It certainly seems probable that there is a correlation!

Searching For A Website Company

As you will find anywhere in the world, there is a wide range in offerings for businesses searching for a digital partner.  There also is a wide range in options and features, platforms and systems.  It can be overwhelming.  Should you let your friend build your website for free?  Should you hire an agency and spend $50k?  Should you find someone local, or hire someone that lives in an area where eggs are much cheaper?  What do you need as a minimum to have a functioning digital presence?  In addition to a website, what social media platform should you be active on, and can someone help you with that?  What is Google looking for these days?  The answer to these questions will vary depending upon where you plan to be one year from now, and five years from now, and selecting a partner means looking for someone who can be with you not just for a few months, but for a year, three years, or longer.

Before And After

Web Designers In Marin And The North Bay

Future Bright is just one member of an amazing family of  website design and development providers in Marin County.  If you Google “website design Marin” or “website design in YOUR county” you will discover dozens of professionals who are local, reliable, and who understand the unique needs of a business operating in your community.  Selecting the right partner will require considering many factors including your budget, internal resources, your design style, and your revenue goals.

Future Bright is a full-service digital agency, which means that we do the hosting, design, development, Search Engine Optimization, and Social Media Marketing.  We became full-service because we saw clients struggling to manage multiple teams.

If you are searching for a web designer in Marin or in your local area, it is because you feel that you want to work with someone that you can meet in person.  You want them to get to know you, to understand your individual preferences, and also, when you are working with someone local, you can be fairly certain that they will be reliable.   You need to determine the value of knowing your digital partner personally.  Is it important to you?  Then yes, it is worth the initial investment.  You will most likely save a great deal of time and expense working with someone in the same time zone, and also with someone who you can sit with to explain your needs.  If close proximity is NOT important to you, there are many incredibly talented web designers and developers around the world.

Selecting A Digital Partner

Creating your digital team may require pulling together multiple teams or individuals.  Perhaps you have a favorite designer, but they don’t build websites.  Perhaps you have a design and development partner, but they don’t do SEO.  You might have a Social Media Strategist who is going to take your business global.  Because the technology behind your website is critical to its success (if your site is broken it doesn’t matter how good the content is), you should choose your development team carefully.  When you are reaching out to web design and developers in Marin, it is best to not ask them to give you a quote right away.  Just assume it is going to be (In Bay Area Dollars) somewhere between $5k and $80k.  It is nearly impossible to determine the cost of a project with just a phone call.  You will get a wide range of quotes, and neither you (nor they) will be certain that the estimate is even close to the final cost.  Instead, spend 15-20 minutes having a conversation about your business and where you want to go.  Don’t try to ask them tricky questions.  Instead, ask them about some of their favorite projects, or about their team.  This will help you get a feel for each other’s style.

The two most important elements in selecting a digital partner is finding someone who has a 1. compatible communication and 2. a visual style that compliments yours.  Once you have narrowed your selection down to one or two teams or individuals, then I recommend requesting a Project Assessment from each.  This is how we now begin all of our projects.  Rather than creating a quote without knowing the details, we have carved out a piece out of our Discovery Phase budget, and offer a “Project Assessment” for $400-$600.  The result is a full report of our findings, what our recommendations are, a Scope of Work, and what we estimate the cost and timeline should be.  We then subtract that expense from the project if the client decides to move forward.  You can do this with two or three designers/developers.  You will gain valuable insight for your investment even from the teams that you do not choose.

Following are the elements that have the most impact on the cost of a project:

  • Do you need a logo and brand – and how high-end does it need to be?
  • Will you be selling products on the website?
  • Will you have a project portfolio on the site?
  • Do you need a copywriter, or will you be providing the copy?
  • Do you have an existing site, and is it on a platform that can be retained, or does it need to be upgraded or completely rebuilt?
  • Do you process information verbally?  If so, you will need to add budget for longer meetings.  This is important, so that you have enough time scheduled for you to be properly heard.
  • Do you have time to dedicate to the project, or could it potentially get put on hold due to events in your life or business?
Web Design

How Much Does Web Design Cost In Marin?

If you live in a different region, adjust pricing accordingly.  We have found that having a website built in Marin County for a small to medium sized business can range from $5,000-$50,000, with the probability of a small business with no fancy ecommerce requirements will pay around $12,000.  You should not spend less than $5000 on a website built in Marin County.  It is simply not possible to complete a quality website with the SEO, CRM & Social Media Integration that you need for a lower price.  If you have an e-commerce store, you should not spend less than $10,000, and it needs to include a Social Media Design Package with a strategy for marketing after launch.  You can find local developers who will build a site for a lower cost, but you can be certain that they will need to leave out important features or components.  If you require a specialized design, add another $5000.  If you have an ultra-modern brand, add $20,000.   You should spend about 10% of your target annual revenue to build your digital presence.  The website package should include three months of support after launch.

Probable Price Ranges For Web Design In Marin

The prices below should include all of the Critical Components that I have listed towards the bottom of this article.  These are prices for sites built for small to medium sizes businesses with sales of under $500,000.

Typical Costs:

Professional Logo & Brand:  $2000-$25,000 depending upon your needs

Single Page Site:  $3000-$5000

Five to Ten Page Site:  $5000-$15000

Five Page Site Plus eCommerce:  $6000-$30,000

A la carte Components:

Hosting & Content Maintenance:  $100-$800/month

Blog Management (upload + posting to Social Media) – $300-$500 per blog article

CRM Integration With Funnels, Drip Emails etc. $5000-$10,000 for set-up

Monthly SEO Services:  $1000-$3000 per month

Monthly Social media Services:  $1500-$5000 per month (does not include ad buys)

Critical Web Design & Development Components

Your website and digital presence should, without exception, include the following:

  • A professionally designed logo and color palette
  • A website design that is mobile friendly (responsive)
  • A website with a content management system that you can update if you wish to
  • A Key Word study with an SEO Strategist, with key words in the website page titles and content
  • Alt tags on all images that contain your business and keywords
  • An opt-in form connected preferably an advanced Customer Relationship Management System (MailChimp, InfusionSoft)
  • A load speed of under 3 seconds
  • Google Analytics, with a monthly auto-report being emailed to you
  • A monthly hosting/maintenance contract that includes backing up the site and updating components
  • Social Media presence including Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, plus others relevant to your field
  • A Google My Business registration

I hope that this article has given you some food for thought, and that you feel somewhat informed about what to expect when searching for a web design partner in Marin, your community, or beyond.  Are you wondering what website platform is best for you?  Take our visual Platform Quiz!

What Platform Is Right For You?

Future Bright Surveys

Meaningful Surveys – Engage With Your Customers

Future Bright Surveys

Engage Your Clients With Meaningful Quick Surveys

In this digital age we exist as sentient beings with digital personas.  We are connected to those digital profiles with a very strong thread comprised of our need feel seen, and our opinions heard.  We all expect businesses that work with us to anticipate our preferences, likes, dislikes, opinions and desires, because we have put them all out there.  This means that you need to be continuously taking the temperature of your relationship with your clients in a way that makes them feel unique and heard.

Giving your team, customers, and clients the opportunity to give you quick feedback will not only improve your performance with what you learn from that feedback.  You will also benefit from public reviews because so many of our decisions are based on taking recommendations from our peers.  You are also rewarded by Google and Yelp for reviews on their platform.

I would like to show you a few of the tools we use to make these micro-surveys beautiful and rewarding.

Integrating Micro-Surveys Into Your Process

It is important to identify those moments in your process where gaining insight is most valuable.  At what points do you feel your customer would enjoy reflecting on their experience?  We provide website development for many of our clients, and there are clear milestones, but also there are fuzzy milestones, especially when a project is non-traditional.  We send out our “How Are We Doing” survey multiple times throughout a project.  This also helps us see what our client’s experience has been throughout the life of the project.

Where Should The Surveys Live?

Where would it be most convenient for your team member, client, or customer to take the survey?  On their phone?  In an e-mail?  On your website?  You may need to utilize all three.  The key is making it really easy and quick to do the survey.  You also need to make sure that it is easy for your team to send out a survey.  Currently we have several surveys invitations in our CRM system embedded as templates.  This makes it very easy to select a contact or multiple contacts and send them the survey via e-mail with just a few clicks.

Types Of Micro-Surveys

  • Collecting Information
  • Using Logic To Identify Best Solution
  • Performance Rating

Should I Offer A Reward For A Review?

It is generally not a good idea to offer a reward for reviewing your services.  Yelp has a strict policy against this.

Survey Examples We Actually Use

Giving Advice Using Logic

On your own, you can only give one person advice at a time.  Creating a beautiful survey utilizing logic you can provide advice for multiple scenarios to many people 24/7. This survey has been built using Outgrow. In the beginning we needed to map out possible responses for each possible selection.   We  can tell based on the responses whether or not they need our help.

Try It!

Requirements Gathering

We are always being asked what the difference is between Squarespace, Shopify, and WordPress.  Based on our experience, there are clear advantages to each of these depending upon your product and goals.  We created this survey to answer that question, “Which Platform Is Right For Me!”   When we post this on Social Media, if someone fills it out, we learn valuable information immediately, and before reaching out to them can already visualize what they need, and what their project cost will most likely be.

Try It!

Checking In

We use this survey after we have onboarded a client or new team member.  This survey has been created using SurveyAnyplace. The onboarding process can be extensive.  The most important, however, is that the client or team member knows how to quickly get to the Future Bright Portal.  Even if they forget everything in the call, they can find it in the portal.

My favorite part about this survey is the scratch-off revealing a prize that they will receive to say thank-you.  There are ten different possible results, and some are quite special, so are set to appear only a small percentage of the time.

Try It!

Getting A Review

 

Reviews matter to Google and Yelp.  After you have delivered a product or service, you will want to know how your customer feels.  Using a “Reputation Management” system like the one that we are offering allows you to proactively gain reviews, and if the customer is unhappy, the form uses logic to collect their complaint instead of sending them off to give an angry review.  This gives you the opportunity to save the day and turn them around.

This system pulls your reviews into one dashboard, and you can respond to reviews from the dashboard.  You can publish a review to Social Media, and also embed your favorites right on your website!

We Offer Reputation Management As A Service

Future Bright Wendy Louise Nog Signature
Creatives United T-Shirt Drive

Creatives United – Overstock T-Shirt Donation Drive

Mail T-Shirts To:

Creatives United

1868 North Vista Drive

Palm Springs, CA 92262

T-Shirts For Humanity

We are thrilled to be working with our newest client, Creatives United, a non-profit organization located in the beautiful Palm Springs area.  Creatives United is on a mission to tackle some of the most devastating challenges faced by our fellow humans:  Cancer, Homelessness, Gender Equality, Autism, Human Trafficking, Animal Rights, AIDS Research and Civil Rights.

Each year Creatives United holds a T-Shirt Donation Drive, and collects overstock corporate or retail t-shirts, and also gently used t-shirts from personal closets that need clearing.  You receive a donation credit of $3 per t-shirt, and Creatives United re-sells the shirts to raise $$ for their causes.  Creatives United is also accepting Charitable Donations.

To Donate, Fill Out Form Below

Creatives United Faces

CALL US! 415-275-0970

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