Website Design and Development: Optimizing Your Firm’s Online Presence

Too often, companies see their websites as strictly another way for potential customers to access information about their firms. While this is important, it leaves out innumerable nuances that can ultimately mean the difference between landing a client and lamenting the one that got away.

Pre 21st century, the word “encyclopedia” could loosely be defined as follows, “A book, or set of books, that divulge a large array of information in the form of alphabetically arranged subjects.” Today, the term can be expressed more simply as, “What people used to find information before the advent of the Internet.” For your business, this means that the days of potential customers sifting through Yellow Pages or their local newspapers to find providers of desired products are over. The hard reality is that if your firm’s website fails to appear on the first page provided by an Internet search engine, such as Google or Bing, you will lose out on a tremendous number of customers. Fortunately, there are a plethora of things that even the most technically inept can accomplish that will help their firm’s website rise to the top and, once there, display information in a way that will put their firm in a position to succeed, and stay there.

A Millennial by happenstance, I am obligated to know all there is when it comes to optimal website design and development and increasing online presence, as well as all other things technology. More earnestly, as somebody who has led the renovation of their firm’s website from the analysis of the old website’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, through the design phase, all the way to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) review and the website’s relaunch, I feel my suggestions can truly help your firm navigate through today’s online medium.

Website Design and Development

Like with any other form of general communication, determining your target audience is the first step to take when designing, renovating, or adding content to a website. Largely, this will consist of your existing clientele, potential customers, and future employees. For example, if you run a law firm, the overall aura of your website should be professional, strong, and timeless, as those looking for your services want a lawyer that has experience, acts professionally, and will ultimately win on their behalf. When a user browses through your firm’s website, it should be as if they are being taken on a tour of your corporate headquarters. This is likely the first time the user will have an interaction with your firm, and you want to be sure to leave a positive first impression.

When it comes to websites, this first impression is more important than the popular idiom might indicate. A wealth of statistics show that if a website fails to properly load within a couple of seconds, the majority of people will exit the page. The following are several steps that can be taken to simplify your site and increase its speed:

  • Use multimedia in moderation: While images, videos, and other moving parts can be powerful marketing tools, too many can hinder your site’s loading speed. The same can be said for images and videos with large file sizes.
  • Utilize plugins, but be aware of their implications: Plugins are add-ons that increase the functionality of websites. However, too many can be a detriment to site speed.
  • Implement a caching tool (cache plugin): When somebody accesses a website that has a caching tool, data will automatically be saved for when that user returns
  • Reduce HTTP requests: HTTP requests consist of anything that the browser and server must communicate to one another in order to load a site. This includes things like images, scripts, videos, etc.

Though the above suggestions will help to decrease your website’s loading time, it is equally important to note that developing the ideal tradeoff between your site’s interactivity and speed is something that will take time to determine. Once your site is live, be sure to run regular performance tests in order to continually improve this ratio. There are a variety of free tools online to accomplish this.

To establish a practical navigational layout, there is a simple question that can be asked to help you and your design team properly structure your firm’s website. First, think of the person, or people, you know whom have the most difficulty when it comes to using computers (in my case, my parents). Could they use this? If the answer is “no”, then work to simplify the overall structure and navigational properties of your website. Browsing through the websites of those in your industry, or related industries, can help with this. Looking at the websites of your direct competitors can also be useful, as they will almost always have strengths and weaknesses that differ from your own site’s.

Lastly, your website should be configured in a way that is mobile friendly. Studies have consistently shown that a large portion of website views come from mobile devices, regardless of industry. This means that your firm’s website should be able to load quickly and display information cleanly on a mobile device.

Search Engine Optimization Standards (SEOs)

As your development team incorporates increased functionality into your firm’s website, as well as additional content, a top concern should be hitting on what are called Search Engine Optimization Standards (SEOs). The significance of SEOs cannot be exaggerated, as they are how many users will find your firm’s website. As alluded to in the opening, the ability of your firm’s website to match up with SEOs put in place by Internet search engines will determine your website’s page ranking when users search for specific terms. For example, if I type “legal assistance” into Google, SEOs will decide if your law firm’s website appears on the first or fifth page. There are many ways to go about improving your website’s SEOs, but it is important to note that these standards change from time to time. Despite this, there are several criterion that will likely remain relevant for the foreseeable future.

Before we get started on improving the SEOs of your firm’s website, it is first important to understand how search engines analyze your website. The way search engines gather data is by using “spiders” or “crawlers”. Essentially, a search engine will “crawl” through the various pages on your website using accessible links in order to gather an assortment of information. This includes through the main pages and from sub-page to sub-page where available. That being said, primary navigation that makes sense, as well as a variety of internal links back and forth between pages, is beneficial for users and improving SEOs. Additionally, broken links should be searched for and eliminated, as this will cause frustration for users, and could potentially hurt your SEOs.

Utilizing keywords and popular search terms throughout your firm’s website is typically one of the most important factors in developing a sound strategy for your SEOs. The first step in this regard is to perform an analysis to see which terms are used most often in your industry as a whole, by the current iteration of your own website, and by the websites of your direct competitors. Changing headers, sub-headers, and content on your website to match these terms is highly recommended, but this is only the beginning. Terms with a high ranking should also be placed within URLs of specific Web pages. This will help users and crawlers know what the page in question is about. In addition, they should be embedded within the ALT tags of images, as crawlers are unable to “see” images if there is no information attached to it on the back end. The titles that appear in search engine results, and the meta-descriptions that appear beneath them, should contain valuable, but relevant, terms as well, and they should remain concise. The overall logic behind SEOs is to reward websites for making sense to the general user and to display pertinent material based upon what is searched for.

Overall Online Presence

A common misperception about generating a wide online presence is that it can be achieved by simply creating social media accounts. On the contrary, creating accounts is not a be-all and end-all. While utilizing specific types of social media based upon your firm’s target market is a wise move, there is much more to it if your intention is to grow your online presence. Various social media accounts should be used to drive a variety of traffic to your website, as different social media websites attract difference users. Additionally, like your website itself, these accounts must be active in order for them to be beneficial. Used correctly, your firm will be in a better position to grow its overall online presence. As a bonus, linking these accounts to and from your website is positive in terms of SEOs.

Other ways in which firms increase their online presence is by posting jobs on job boards, publishing articles in industry magazines, and taking other proactive measures to simply remain “in the news.” In the end, the best way to increase your overall online presence, regardless of the forum, is to remain active.

Going Forward

Going forward, your firm must remain proactive. This is true in regard to all aspects of online resource utilization. In order to capitalize on your website work, an analytics tool (such as Google Analytics) should be used to see how many people are accessing your site, where they are looking, and how long they are staying, among other metrics. This is the only way to see, in real time, if your marketing campaigns are effective, your SEOs are optimized, your social media efforts are worthwhile, etc.

The importance of a strategic website in today’s digital age cannot be overstated. If your firm follows these tips, you will be in a better position to not only grow your online presence, but your consumer base as well.

*This article was originally published by Forefront Magazine in their 2016 Q3 issue.


Freedom Isn’t Free

240 years ago, a small gathering of men came together to declare the birth of a new nation. It was to be a nation where all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This weekend, let us remember the sacrifices of those men, and the thousands more whom died to secure our independence. Our victory then was not guaranteed, just as a secure future for us is not. We live in an age where the current administration refuses to acknowledge that we are at war, one presumptive nominee for a major political party is being investigated by the FBI for criminal wrongdoing, and the other manages to sneak back into the news cycle by spouting continual nonsense.

George Washington claimed that America’s victory in the Revolutionary War was little short of a standing miracle. We as a people cannot sit idly by and let that miracle go to waste.

Freedom isn’t free.

SpaceX set for Falcon 9 dual satellite launch | NASASpaceFlight.com

SpaceX will launch its sixth mission of the year Wednesday, with a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a pair of communications satellites – Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS-2A.

(You can view the webcast here)

Source: SpaceX set for Falcon 9 dual satellite launch | NASASpaceFlight.com

To view the mission press kit, which includes the mission overview, information about the payload, the mission timeline, information about the launch facility, and other resources, click here.

Hubble’s Latest Discovery

The Hubble Space Telescope has contributed yet again to our understanding of the cosmos. This most recent find, as described by the study’s leader and Nobel Laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, “…may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95% of everything and don’t emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation.” The results will appear in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

The discovery reduces the current uncertainty of the Universe’s expansion rate to 2.4%. The team achieved this by studying galaxies with both Cepheid stars and Type Ia supernovae. Without getting into too much detail, the team measured about 2,400 Cepheid stars in 19 galaxies and compared the observed brightness of both types of stars. This allowed them to accurately measure their true brightness and calculate distances to roughly 300 Type Ia supernovae in far-flung galaxies. The team then compared these distances with the expansion of space as measured by the stretching of light from receding galaxies. They used these two values to calculate how fast the universe expands with time (AKA The Hubble Constant). Yes, I lied when I said, “Without getting into too much detail”.

Artist's illustration of the three steps to the new Hubble constant

Continuing with getting into too much detail, the enhanced Hubble Constant value is 45.5 miles per second per megaparsec (Or 73.2 kilometers per second per megaparsec). A megaparsec is 3.26 million light-years. One parsec is 3.26 light-years, but this is not to be confused with Han Solo parsecs. The improved value means that the distance between cosmic objects will double in another 9.8 billion years. This is about the same time frame for when the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series (You can’t believe everything you see in movies).

Back to the purpose of this post, the find is unexpected because it does not corroborate with predictions based off of the trajectory seen shortly after the Big Bang. The excess speed could be caused by dark energy pushing galaxies away from one another with greater, or growing, strength. Another possibility is that the early universe contained a new subatomic particle that traveled near the speed of light. These kinds of particles are known as “dark radiation” and include particles such as neutrinos. More energy from additional dark radiation could be the culprit throwing off our best efforts to predict the Universe’s current expansion rate based off of its post-Big Bang trajectory. The increased acceleration could also mean that dark matter possesses unexpected characteristics. Finally, it may simply be that there is more to the theory of gravity that we have yet to piece together.

The team’s current goal is to bring the uncertainty of the Hubble Constant to 1% or less. In the meantime, let’s sit back and enjoy some classic Hubble photos:

“The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons.” – Edwin Powell Hubble

New Characteristics of Light

A team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin have discovered light acting in a new way. It involves the angular moment of light, which is defined (Literature professors, please look away now) by Google/Wikipedia as, “A vector quantity that expresses the amount of dynamical rotation present in the electromagnetic field of the light. Indeed, a beam of light, while traveling approximately in a straight line, can also be rotating (or ‘spinning’, or ‘twisting’) around its own axis.” Or you can simply look at this cool picture and move on:

Read more here

To understand the significance of the new find, one must understand Planck’s Constant, and no, we’re not talking about this plank (Let’s assume he’s reading along with us). Planck’s Constant is “a constant that gives the unvarying ratio of energy of a quantum of radiation to its frequency” and that has an approximate value of 6.626070040(81) x 10-34 J•s. To simplify…h.

Until now, it has been thought that light’s angular momentum could only equal a whole-numbered multiple of Planck’s Constant. However, this new finding suggests that it is possible for photons to have half-integer values of angular momentum (I say “suggests” and not “shows” because I have not seen any duplicate studies performed by other parties to verify the results since the time of this writing on May 18, 2016).

Nevertheless, it is new findings such as this that are what propel our understanding of the universe forward, and help us develop a future to look forward to. Truly, we should all give thanks to the researchers that dedicate their lives to advancing human knowledge. To close, I would like to quote Sir Issac Newton:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

SpaceX Reshapes Rocketry

In this post, I would like to highlight a significant achievement in rocketry. SpaceX has landed the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket for the third time.

The first landing occurred during SpaceX’s return to flight back in December of 2015, when they delivered 11 ORBCOMM satellites to low-Earth orbit (View here). The rocket successfully completed it’s mission, and landed back at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1.

The second landing was achieved during a Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-8) to the International Space Station. It was SpaceX’s first successful landing on their Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS). This ship is called Of Course I Still Love You, AKA OCISLY (Explained here), and is one of two, currently. The other is called Just Read the Instructions, and is OCISLY’s Pacific counterpart. The full webcast for the mission can be viewed here.

Finally, we get to the third landing, another first. This occurred during SpaceX’s JCSAT-14 mission on May 5, 2016. This mission required a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a satellite en route to an orbit 36,000 km above the Earth in a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The launch profile required this particular Falcon 9 to undergo extreme velocities and re-entry heating. In the dead of night, the Falcon landed atop OCISLY (View here) (AND HERE)!

SpaceX is truly shaking up the US spaceflight industry, and putting serious strain on competitors such as United Launch Alliance (ULA), previously the sole provider of US launch services. With their already low costs, SpaceX is hoping to cut costs further through rocket re-usability. These demonstrations have forced the hands of the industry’s old guard in several ways, and many, including myself, are thankful. A lot can be said about this phenomenal story, but I’ll leave it at this: Keep it up SpaceX!


Seminar in Management: Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The following is an assignment I submitted for my course Seminar in Management: Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In this particular assignment, we were presented with nine videos, of which we were to select three. After summarizing the main points of each video, we were to attempt to convey how the videos could be intertwined to present a unified idea.

Global Competitiveness Report 2007 – Michael Porter

In this video, Michael Porter is interviewed and asked a series of questions related to the Global Competitiveness Report (GCR). These questions, and Porter’s responses, are as follows:

How is competitiveness measured in the Global Competitiveness Report?

Competitiveness itself is difficult to measure due to the array of aspects contributing to its determination. The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) focuses on broader policy such as macro economics, political systems, and legal systems, among others. The Business Competitiveness Index (BCI) focuses on the opposite, being things such as micro economics, business capabilities, business environments, etc. Together, you get the GCR.

Importance of GCR?

The GCR helps to identify the fundamental drivers of prosperity. The entire process itself is similar to a research process because of the fact that different drivers can be analyzed individually. The GCR as a whole is a tool for governments and stake holders to make progress at the country level. It motivates change and reveals priorities. It also informs the process of economic policy making. In all, it has a tangible impact on economic growth.

BCI role in report?

The BCI was introduced after the formation of the GCI to focus on micro economics. It looks at individual firms as important actors in economic development, and takes into consideration the environment in which they operate; processes and results are continually refined. The BCI essentially helps to get a finer look at the private sector.

BCI key findings?

There have been numerous findings, but the basics, such as infrastructure, electrical supply, etc., contribute significantly to prosperity in any country. Competition is also critically important, as well as openness to the outside world. As for regulation, it can be good and bad. It is good if regulations force firms to be efficient by setting high standards because this increases competitiveness.

Overall, a country’s competitiveness depends on what they are, developed or developing. Countries have different priorities, and it is important to understand how countries at different levels of income face dissimilar challenges to meet priorities related to them.

Gary Hamel: Reinventing the Technology of Human Accomplishment

The overarching theme of reinventing management focuses around the need to build organizations that are fit for human beings, as well as the future. To Hamel, the single most important invention in the past 100 years is management, being the tools and methods to bring people and resources together to accomplish a productive end. The problem is that tools for modern management were created as long ago as 1915, such as pay for performance, capital budgeting, task design, etc. Hamel claims that management has followed an S-curve, and the way we manage has not changed much for the past 50 or 60 years. There are three main challenges that companies face today:

Today is the first generation that needs to cope with an accelerated rate of change. We now have things changing at an exponential rate.
Hyper competition. With fewer barriers, companies must defend their margins and market position by innovating.
Knowledge is now a commodity, so knowledge advantages dissipate quickly. Companies must create new knowledge more quickly.

Companies that thrive over the next generation must address all three of these issues. A firm from India has by focusing on reverse accountability. In their case, each employee can file a ticket against any other employee, and the ticket can only be closed by the employee that filed it. If the ticket is not closed within 24 hours, it goes up to the next level of management. This makes employees as important as their managers, hence reverse accountability. The entire company culture revolves around the idea that employees are first and customers are second.

To be a management innovator, it is vital to challenge management dogma. 100 years ago, management was about solving the problem of making people do repetitive tasks over and over again. Now, management must be about innovation and getting the most out of employees. Going forward, we must learn from the fringe. Large corporations are less likely to innovate their management structure than smaller ones. The web is one place to look because of its inherent adaptability.

In all, it is impossible to build a company fit for the future without being one fit for human beings. Humans are extraordinarily adaptable, and our organizations only will be if they become fit for human beings, and better tap this quality from employees.

TEDxBigApple – Vijay Govindarajan – Reverse Innovation

The concept of reverse innovation focuses on innovating in poor countries and selling these innovations in rich countries, like from India to the USA. The two main components are as follows:

You cannot export to poor countries, you must innovate there.
Take the innovations from poor countries to rich countries.

There are 5.5 billion people in “developing economies”, making them the largest consumer base in the world. To target them, it is imperative to focus on a different demand structure than is typical. Instead of one person buying a product for $1,000, you now have 1,000 people capable of purchasing products for $1. GE is a company that has targeted this consumer base successfully. They made a portable, cheap, easy to operate ECG machine to take advantage of poorer area markets. Instead of costing tens of thousands of dollars, it costs hundreds. We now see the adoption of these machines in markets within developed countries as well. Another successful example of reverse innovation comes from a company that performs open heart surgeries for a fraction of the going USA rates. They have world class quality at much lower costs. This is because they use the equipment more, so they can charge each consumer less. To target developed nations, they are opening clinics in countries only a short flight away. There are many examples of this type of reverse innovation, and it is likely that the trend will continue to grow.

Like in any new market, an analysis of consumers’ capabilities and tendencies is critical. In order to bring the 4 billion poor into the consumer base, a company needs to make products that consumers can afford; they cannot only produce products that the other 3 billion can afford, and try to sell it to them. They also need to make products that fit with poorer nations’ cultural tendencies. For instance, if the vast majority of people in a country like warm breakfast instead of cold breakfast, it makes no sense to try to sell them cold breakfast. Companies must innovate to fit different markets instead of force what is commonly accepted in the “developed world” into new areas.

Altogether, companies must innovate much more with fewer resources. Instead of value for money, they must create value for many. Reverse innovation offers the most significant growth opportunity for American corporations, as well as for corporations from other developed countries. Having a new perspective will allow them to capitalize on it.

Relationship Between Videos

At face value, each video presents valuable insight into their intended content area. Porter discusses how competitiveness can be analyzed on both a macro and micro economic scale, Hamel stresses the importance of reinventing management for future organizations, and Govindarajan sheds light on the concept of reverse innovation. Together, these videos tell a story, starting in the present, that outlines the path to future prosperity for companies.

Beginning with Porter, we get a better understanding of the drivers of prosperity, of which competition is the predominant factor. This conclusion can be drawn in an analysis of the Global Competitiveness Report (GCR), in which individual firms play an important role. The latter is stressed more specifically in the Business Competitiveness Index (BCI) within the GCR. Although the GCR is an analysis of a country’s overall competitiveness, the BCI highlights the importance of the private sector, and how competitiveness amongst individual firms can help drive prosperity. This is where Hamel comes in. When considering how a firm can remain competitive, it is important to realize that management innovation itself has become stagnant. Companies of today and tomorrow will need to reinvent management so that they can better address the challenges of the future. To best do this, Hamel accentuates how vital it is that companies become fit for human beings. This way, they can better utilize the intrinsic adaptability of their employees, and their intellectual capacity. Finally, we reach Govindarajan, and learn of reverse innovation. Essentially, to reverse innovate, a company must be both resilient and adaptable, while remaining cognizant of new markets, and the needs and cultural differences of these markets. Developing countries represent an extraordinarily large consumer base, and companies of the future will benefit most by overcoming the challenges associated with operating in these markets. Tapping into the adaptability of employees, as Hamel suggested, will be essential.

All told, companies will always be driven by competition. If a company cannot compete, it will die. In order for future companies to not only compete, but to thrive, they will need to reinvent their management practices in order to utilize the full value of their employees. To truly become superior, a thriving firm will be able to capitalize on the largest consumer base there is, the nearly 4 billion poor people of the world, by reverse innovating.