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Archive for the ‘website’ Category

For those small business owners who have iphones, here is a great article by BusinessWeek’s Bill Snyder entitled, “Must Have iPhone Apps for Entrepreneurs.” There are over 85,000 iPhone applications and sifting through all 85,000 may be somewhat changeling, so Snyder points out 10 helpful iPhone applications that many small business owners can benefit from using. Snyder mentions that these applications are designed to solve specific small business problems and that they are inexpensive and easy to use.

Here are the author’s top 3 must-have iPhone applications for small business owners:

1) Credit Card Terminal: This application processes credit-card sales on the spot without any extra hardware.

2) Jotnot: Use this application to take a picture of any document, whiteboard, or receipt, use the built-in cropper, and store the image with your other photos and/or attach it to an e-mail. It turns your iPhone into a mini-scanner.

3) Roambi: Allows you to produce colorful spreadsheets, graphs and reports that are compact and easy to read on a small screen.

The remaining seven applications on his list include: Pc2me, Harvest, Package Tracker, Smarter Agent, Quick Office, Nexonia, and Salesforce.com.

What do you think about these iPhone applications? Can they be of any help to your growing business? For more information about these applications, visit: http://www.apple.com/downloads/ and let NSSEA know your thoughts!

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By Emily Raij, Maupin House

 In October of 2008, I offered a round-up here of tips and strategies for redesigning your company website since Maupin House was in the process of doing just that. Well, almost a year later, we are finally launching our new website. It doesn’t necessarily have to take that long, but after some design drama, we decided to slow down and take the time to get exactly what we wanted. Looking back at the checklist I offered, I can say we followed our own rules but also learned a few things along the way.

 Layout: In addition to a clean, uncluttered site that makes good use of space, the following should be clearly communicated on your Website: your company name/logo, what you do, the goal of your site (sales), a user/customer testimonial, and the features of your site. One suggested layout is to put your goal in the upper left corner, your company name/logo centered and close to the top of the page, the customer quote and what you do below the logo, and features on the left sidebar. Drop-down menus help prevent a content “dump” and long lists while keeping features organized.

What we learned: Even after we thought we had the new design down, we saw it still needed some tightening up, so we got rid of unnecessary clutter like photos and extra space in our masthead, made sure our logo and message were visible at the top of our homepage, and de-cluttered our dropdown menus.

Content: What should those “features” be?

E-commerce: If you’re selling something, it should be easy to access the retail portion of your site. Customers should also be able to view their shopping cart and log into their account quickly.

Contact information: This can be a listing or a Web form users can submit that offers a drop-down menu of choices (questions or comments, submit a product review, sign up for e-newsletter, submit a product idea, request a catalog, book an author/trainer, etc.).

What we learned: Customers have to be able to contact your company easily and get what they want. So, we added a “Connect with Us” box in the top right corner that includes links to our blog, conference schedule, author guidelines, specials, upcoming products, and social-networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and LinkedIn). Right above that box are big, clear buttons to contact us, view your shopping cart or account, learn more about our company, and get questions about ordering/shipping and returns answered.

 Flair: Don’t overdo it, but consider one or two snazzy features like a rotating banner, widget, or Flash component.

What we learned: A blogroll widget and a media box for podcasts and videos were what we wanted to highlight. Since both of those features take up some space, they need to be on opposite sides of the page. And they still need to mesh with the rest of the site’s design. We kept the look of the media box simple but still made it easy to make a selection with brief titles and clear thumbnails for all videos. A pop-up player keeps customers on our site but makes it easy to exit the video and continue browsing.

 Free stuff: Consider putting all your free downloads on one page in addition to individual product pages. Keep the freebies organized by category or media type (podcasts, videos, PDFs).

What we learned: Our website designer made it easy for us to add downloads from our new products by having the list automatically generate. Features like this that prevent you from having to constantly update several pages every time you add a new product are invaluable. We also decided to include a “press room,” where we announce awards, include downloads of all our press releases, and offer fliers on how to book our authors for speaking engagements.

Following a plan helps ensure you’ll be happy with your redesigned website, but be flexible and expect to change things throughout the process. Our new site goes live November 5th, so please check it out and offer feedback through this blog or www.maupinhouse.com. And, of course, feel free to share your website tips as well!

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Rebecca Haden, A Plus Educational Supply, Harrison, Arkansas

May can be a slow month for educational supply, in terms of sales and walk-in customers, but it’s never a slow month for the workers. This is the time to get new products in, get the store rearranged, get the catalogs out, and get ready for the influx of back to school shoppers.

Is your online store ready?

This May, we at A Plus Educational are updating the old Website.  Here’s how it looks now:

oldwebsite

Cute, right? But we are changing it to this:

newwebsite

Even cuter.

How can you tell when it’s time to make a change in your Website?

First we need a cautionary statement. The industry wisdom says that your happiness with your Website starts out high and then falls as you sort of get tired of it. Your customers’ happiness with your Website starts out medium, and then rises as they get to know and like it. So you shouldn’t change just because you’ve gotten tired of it on a personal level, or because you feel like a change.

Here are good reasons to make a change:

  • When it’s not performing the way you’d like it to. If you don’t get the results you want from your Website, it makes sense to change it. The last big change in the A Plus Website tripled our online orders. Talk to an SEO professional to get those results, or spend some time educating yourself on the subject.
  • When you want to do more. In our case, we want to be able to sell our e-books and other special local products, as well as items from the stock catalog. We couldn’t do that with our old Website.
  • When your site is technologically outdated. The internet changes, and the standards for web pages have changed. If you have a website that was built five or 10years ago, it won’t look right on everyone’s computer any more. The longer you wait, the more people will have trouble with it, so it makes sense to get it rebuilt. Chances are, you’ll like a more modern look by now anyway.

Not ready for major changes? This is still a great time to update your online shop. Choose new featured products, make sure that your address and other contact information is correct, rethink your shipping charges or freshen up your automatic responses.

The customers are out there, getting ready to buy. Let’s be ready when they are!

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